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The Storm Within: An Interview with J.A. Adams, author of Bomb Cyclone and Pillars of Salt

Adams Mondello

Author J.A. Adams, PhD, is currently retired in Northern Colorado after teaching English for sixteen years at Louisiana State University. She is the author of Pillars of Salt. Inspiration for her latest novel, Bomb Cyclone, came from Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and addresses the effect of the resulting unrest on a Ukrainian American émigré and the beautiful spy sent by the SVR to acquire the bomb coordinates in his possession.

You can buy Bomb Cyclone here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

I wrote most of Bomb Cyclone before I decided on its title. The story begins with the fall of the Soviet Union, followed by the agreement that Ukraine should return all nuclear weapons to Russia, an agreement Ukraine now regrets. My protagonist’s father, Sr. Lieutenant Bronislav Kravchenkos, was on a navy artillery vessel returning small nuclear bombs to Russia when their ship was hit by a bomb cyclone out of North Africa, rolling several bombs into the Sea of Azov. All but one bomb was recovered.

As situations deteriorated in Ukraine after the fall, Bronislav moved his family to the U.S. When his son Mykola grew up, and as Russian aggression was building in Ukraine, Mykola traveled to Ukraine to search for the lost nuke before the Russians or Russian Separatists found it and used it as a dirty bomb against Ukrainians.

The idea of the search for a bomb lost in a bomb cyclone struck a chord, and my husband suggested using that name for the book. I pondered the name for a while. When I shared it with my editor, he also liked it, so the decision was finally made. The cover depicts the storm as well as the sinking bomb and signals to the reader that all is not well.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

My husband and I had been discussing Timothy Snyder’s book, The Road to Unfreedom. Snyder, history professor at Yale and author of several history books, explains that Putin’s source for Ukrainian aggression was the 19th-century philosopher, Ivan Ilyin. Ilyin’s Russian history book circulated in Russia after the Soviet fall in 1991, and Putin claimed this author as his “authority on the past” (18). In brief, Ilyin believed Russia’s birthplace was in Kyiv, Ukraine, hence Putin’s obsession with returning Ukraine to Russian rule. Putin had no legitimate reason for invading a sovereign country and returning it to Russia. Many, including Snyder, have warned that Russia’s aggression won’t stop if he succeeds in Ukraine. Russia, Snyder says, is already fighting a cyberwar of misinformation with the U.S. and Europe to gain support for Russia in the war and Moldova fears it may be next in Russia’s sights.

As we watched events in Ukraine unfolding exactly as Snyder predicted, I was moved to study the inevitability of the current war and the possible future implications.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

I was interested in Ukraine’s new president’s attempts to move the country toward democracy and wanted to create a timely account of the unmarked Russian soldiers moving into eastern Ukraine following their illegal annexation of Crimea. My goal was to explore the feelings of Ukrainians and how unfolding events were affecting their lives. Most meaningful to me was eliciting empathy for the individual struggles of my characters during the upheavals and tragedy that actual Ukrainians were enduring over the long buildup toward the inevitable war. I hoped that such a portrayal would reveal the humanity of victims of such aggression and enhance more impersonal news reports we were getting of situations on the ground.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

My perfect readers would see beyond the divisive politics of our times and open their hearts to the struggles of innocent people living in a sovereign nation under attack. Those readers would be able to humanize the daily struggles of victims on the other side of the world, about whom they might otherwise simply read objective reports or glance at headlines in the newspaper or online. I hoped they would come away with a deeper understanding of humanity embroiled in a war for no reason other than greed and skewed beliefs. Ideally, they would realize the danger to other European countries if NATO were to stop supporting Ukraine.

How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?

If you’re getting tired of rejection slips from giant New York publishers, discovering a team of experts willing to guide your every step to a professionally published book is a breath of fresh air. I encourage writers to try Atmosphere Press. From providing me with editing services and cover art design to locating well-known reviewers to provide professional reviews of my book, their excellent staff guided me through the process. I signed up for optional promotional packages and let their talented team provide visibility for my novel. I felt respected by the entire team throughout the process: Nick Courtright, founder and PhD writer, his brother Evan, sophisticated website creator, Bryce, experienced editor and writer, Ronaldo, cover designer extraordinaire, Cammie, publicity director, Hayla, publicity manager, and the list goes on. I feel as though they are personal friends—their patience and dedication to an excellent final product was helpful and sincere. They seemed to want me to succeed. A super professional team!

You can buy Bomb Cyclone here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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