Friday, March 6, 2015

Weathering the Weather in Jersey -- Jen Doktorski


I’ve been thinking about the weather a lot these days. And it’s not just because schools are closed and it’s snowing while I write this. Yes, it’s been a tough winter in New Jersey, “But at least we don’t live in Boston,” as our school superintendent is fond of saying every time there’s a delayed opening or a school cancellation. During tonight’s global connect phone call to inform us schools are closed again tomorrow, he said the kids who shovel his driveway wanted to know what kind of benefit package he’s offering.

Hope the spring thaw happens before he quits his job in education to become a stand-up comic. Sounds crazy, but you never know. The weather can have a profound effect on people’s moods and actions. On some level, we both know and fear this. Why? Because the weather is something we can’t control. Not that we don’t try. We tune into 24-hour weather channels, download weather apps to our phones, and watch the evening news all in the hopes that knowing what’s coming will somehow give us an edge; take the wind out of Mother Nature’s sails. And sure, hearing the weather forecast can help. We can throw an umbrella in our tote bag, or reschedule a flight. But sometimes weather conditions are so intense, so extreme, that not even legendary meteorologist Jim Cantore can prepare us for the trouble headed our way.

That’s the premise behind my upcoming YA novel THE SUMMER AFTER YOU AND ME. Set at the Jersey Shore during the first summer after Superstorm Sandy, the book follows 16-year-old Lucy Giordano as she tries to rebuild her life in the barrier island town of Seaside Park in the aftermath of the devastating hurricane. She’s also attempting to forget “the big mistake” she made with her longtime crush, Connor, the part-time neighbor boy who spends summers “down the shore.” The pair share an intense connection on the morning of the storm, but afterwards Lucy is left reeling. In her heart, Luce knows a smart girl like herself shouldn’t have crossed the line with a player like Connor. But she couldn’t help it. Why? Blame it on the storm of the century, which certainly earned the title "Super."

Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane in history. It had sustained winds of 75 miles per hour, an eight-and-a-half foot storm surge, and winds spanning 1,100 miles across. It affected a total of 24 states with New Jersey and New York being among the hardest hit. Twelve people died in New Jersey, 2.7 million were left without power, 37,000 primary residences were destroyed or damaged, and 8.7 million cubic yards of debris were left in the storm’s wake.

I used to wonder why we gave human names to storms, but after living through Superstorm Sandy and experiencing her effects in both my hometown, where schools were closed for nine days, and witnessing the devastation in and around the shore town where we spend our summers, I now know why. Victims of that kind of senseless destruction need someone to blame. A storm of that magnitude certainly feels like a “someone,” and when I wrote this latest novel, I wanted Superstorm Sandy to feel like another character.

I also hoped to convey a picture of the real Jersey Shore that I know and love. One that I feel has been misrepresented by reality show transplants, and that sadly has been forever changed by Superstorm Sandy.





14 comments:

  1. I loved your book, Jen, and Sandy most definitely seemed like a character in it. So very excited on your release of The Summer After You and Me this month, and holding you to your promise of buying me fish tacos and margaritas Down the Shore...

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    1. Thanks, Jody!! Fish tacos and margaritas, ahhh....:) You got it!

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  2. As a Jersey girl myself, I can't wait to read your book. Sounds awesome! Let's hope spring comes ASAP!

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    1. Thanks, Margie!! They're saying the weather may break next week, let's hope so. If you're interested in an e-galley, just let me know. :)

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  3. I was a Jersey girl for only a year, but it was long enough for me to appreciate the beauty of the Garden State. (The traffic's a whole other story ;-) I found your depiction of Superstorm Sandy so interesting in TSAYAM. As a historical fiction writer, I'm fascinated by the way people remember the events that make headlines, and Lucy's story was a great example of how personal these things are.

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    1. Thank you, Courtney! Yeah, the first time I drove cross country I was struck by how I probably encountered more traffic in NJ than I did for the entire rest of the trip, until I hit San Diego, that it. :)

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  4. Sandy visited my home, too, and knocked out our electricity. I still remember the howling wind as the storm went over our heads, and all the flashes in the air that night: lightning? Exploding transformers?
    What's remarkable about this is that I live in the Philadelphia area. A glance at the map will show just how far inland Philadelphia is, just how far from the Atlantic. Yeah, Sandy was big.

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    1. That wind was unbelievable, Jenn. I sat on the couch all night listening to it and praying our giant oak trees didn't come down.

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  5. Yes! The Jersey shore is definitely a character in TSAYAM. Congrats on your book, Jen!

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  6. So excited for THE SUMMER AFTER! And hurricanes, oh my. It wasn't a super storm, but Ike took a direct hit on us here in Houston in '08 and it was awful enough. The aftermath is still noticeable in places, even after all these years in between.

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  7. Thanks, Joy! I remember Ike. All hurricanes are scary and have a way of making us feel helpless.

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  8. THE SUMMER AFTER YOU AND ME sounds amazing because of the relationships and what you are doing with the setting and how they work together. I LOVE stories like that, especially stories about rebuilding. Also what you said about naming the hurricanes really resonated. I've never lived through one, but I feel great empathy for those who have on the East Coast, in New Orleans, in Houston and Florida and around the world. You are right, giving the storm a name does allow the placement of blame.

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