By DANIEL BREEZE
Rummaging through my computer files the other day, I discovered notes I had made during the early stages of creating the novel We’re Having a Heat Wave. I was surprised that the notes pinpointed the day and hour the idea for the novel occurred to me:
“Notes on Weather novel
"Idea for a novel I had while taking a walk between 4 and 4:25 this afternoon, Monday, August 15, 1994.
“In one small area, or metro area, of the country (should be a wintry area), a frustrated TV weatherman is tired of all the ridicule and scorn heaped on him when the weather forecast is totally wrong. Starts with him at some event, maybe, like a baseball game which is rained out and he gets taunted. Jokes -- the only job where you’re paid for being consistently wrong. And back at the station, too ... Tells his girlfriend of his frustrations.
"Later, when he’s alone working on weather graphics at the weather station, gives vent to his frustrations, and asks God why He does that to him? The weather is such a mess. Give me a crack at controlling it. See if I can do a better job. I’m tired of getting all the blame and none of the responsibility.
"Maybe lightning strikes or something, and his computer screen turns very bright for a few seconds, then he hesitantly tries using it. On his TV forecast late night, Playfully says ... ... it would be 83 and sunny tomorrow (now 12 and snowy). Others say, right, Albert. Well, that’s probably about as accurate as most of the weather forecast (happy talk). Albert tries to climb over the desk and strangle him as weather goes off the air. Watch it, Albert, or you’ll be out of a job.
"Doesn’t think any more about it. Next morning gets up and when he gets outside discovers it is unusually warm.”
And so on. The major thrust of the story is in those notes typed on that first day. Originally, the weatherman was named Albert. Then Barry. I finally settled on Jerry Sheldon.
One aspect of the story I wrestled with is whether Jerry communicates with God Himself or one of God’s helpers. A few days after the original idea occurred to me, I tackled this aspect of the story. After the weatherman’s forecasts caused flooding, he sits down at his computer and there is a message waiting for him:
First drafts of the novel, written over a few years, began with Jerry in Miami, where he had flown because a hurricane was about to slam into the city; Jerry wanted to be in the middle of the action. In the fall of 2009, I decided to knock out the Miami chapter and refer to the Miami hurricane only briefly.
* * *
After the novel was published, and I was looking for some angles to promote it, I discovered that among Mark Twain’s many observations on the weather was a speech he had delivered to the New England Society’s Seventy-First Annual Dinner in New York City on Dec. 22, 1876:
"I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don't know who makes that, but I think it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk's factory who experiment and learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are promoted to make weather for countries that require a good article, and will take their custom elsewhere if they don't get it."
Twain noted that spring seemed to have the worst weather, especially in New England. He said he had counted 136 different kinds of weather in a 24-hour period. And he noted, “The people of New England are by nature patient and forbearing, but there are some things which they will not stand. Every year they kill a lot of poets for writing about ‘Beautiful Spring.’ These are generally casual visitors, who bring their notions of spring from somewhere else, and cannot, of course, know how the natives feel about spring”
(c) 2010 McNeil and Richards. All rights reserved