by | Aug 2, 2023 | Karna Small Bodman, The Writer's Life | 7 comments

By Karna Bodman

Have you ever had a disaster at your home, one that could be featured on that HGTV show, “Help, I wrecked my House?” We have a summer home in Southern California. It turns out that while we needed rain to replenish our reservoirs, we certainly didn’t want the incredible downpours that inundated our area, destroyed the roof and ruined our bathroom, among other things.

Flooding disasters

I’ve been working with repairmen and insurance agents for months now since the roof, mirrors, walls, counter tops, tub enclosure, faucets, and valves all have to be replaced. While trying to write in the midst of the chaos, I thought about how a calamity might inspire a story. And I JUST got this photo of the street in front of our DC home after last night’s storm. If we only have a minor roof leak there I will be amazed!

Besides dealing with rainstorms here, we’ve had to deal with hurricanes at our other home in Florida from time to time. Thinking about hurricanes reminded me of a story involving a gigantic one. It’s the bestselling book, The Perfect Storm, written by Sebastian Junger. That thriller was made into an award-winning film starring George Clooney. Described as “The storm of the century,” it is based on an incredible confluence of events that wreaked havoc in the North Atlantic and took the lives 6 men – a crew that was never found. The author recreates what might have happened to those crewmen and how valiantly they fought to survive. Junger uses time and pacing similar to Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air about a disaster on Mount Everest.

Natural disasters

Hijacking disasters

I also want to recommend our own Rogue, K.J. Howe’s award-winning books on kidnapping and hijacking. Her novel, Skyjack, is the story of an international kidnap expert escorting two children on a plane from an orphanage in Africa to adoptive parents in London when the jet is highjacked. We all can recall instances of hijacking around the world in past years which, of course, led to so many security checkpoints at airports. K.J. told me that the specific inspiration for her thriller was the June 27, 1976 hijacking of an Air France Airbus by a group of Palestinians demanding the release of affiliated militants imprisoned in Israel. The plane was carrying 248 passengers. It happened at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The Israeli Intelligence Agency, Mossad, put together a complicated rescue plan that was pulled off in the dead of night at the Uganda airport – an amazing story.

Finally, when I wrote one of my thrillers, Castle Bravo, it was based on the “threat” of a catastrophic event. The Major General in charge of our missile defense systems worldwide told me that what “keeps him up at night” is the possibility of our enemies developing a small nuclear device they could put on a delivery device (one as simple as a Scud Missile) – and their intent is to shoot it off and detonate it 50-100 miles up in the atmosphere over our country. That explosion, called an Electro Magnetic Pulse, wouldn’t kill people on the ground; however, it would “fry” all of our electronics so we would have no computers, communication, transportation, refrigeration, sanitation. As the General put it, “This would set us back to the year 1910 and don’t think our enemies aren’t considering it.” In fact, a few years ago the leader of North Korea was quoted in The Wall Street Journal making just such a threat saying he “could destroy the US electricity grid using an EMP.” I simply had to write a book about it and pray it never turned into an actual disaster! 

Catastrophic disasters

Have you ever experienced a calamity? Did it somehow inspire any of your writing? And are there other thrillers based on actual disasters you have read that you would like to share? Let us know, and thanks for joining us here on Rogue Women Writers.

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Lisa Black

    Totally unfair that you had to deal both with the rain damage in CA and then hurricane Ian aftermath here in FL!!

    I have a tropical storm complicating matters in The Deepest Kill, out next spring, but that’s as extreme as I’ve gotten. So far.

    • Karna Small Bodman

      Exactly, Lisa – not only CA and FL – but the current trouble in DC too. Waiting for the estimate to repair our roof there!

      • Jenny Milchman

        Yikes! But yes I can imagine that being fertile ground. And great choices in Reads.

  2. Chris Goff

    Your bathroom looks a mess! The idea for my novel in progress starts with a real-life disaster. Makes for great fiction!

    • Karna Small Bodman

      Keep us posted, Chris, on when your next novel comes out – can’t wait to read it!

  3. Alex Kava

    Oh, Karna, it’s bad enough when it’s one! Not two!

    Growing up in Nebraska I’ve experienced the threat and aftermath of tornadoes. Even outran one on the Interstate once. That’s tricky. Don’t ever do that! In Desperate Creed my K9 handlers and dogs search for survivors after an outbreak of tornadoes in Alabama all the while trying to dodge more. It’s probably my scariest book, and it didn’t even include a serial killer.

    • Karna Small Bodman

      Outrunning tornadoes – Jeez, Alex. It’s interesting that your thriller was based on your own experience…great story!!