In the wake of Hurricane Ian, with massive recovery efforts now underway, a new novel by Hartwick resident Jeff O’Handley is particularly relevant.
“Powerless,” Mr. O’Handley’s debut work, was published by Breaking Night Press in August. The inspiration for the story came, ironically enough, while driving through a hurricane.
“I had to pick my daughter up at her friend’s house. At one point, an image popped into my head of the road flooded out. I asked myself, ‘What if I couldn’t get to the house to pick her up?’ It was a terrible thought,” Mr. O’Handley said. “It also seemed like it would make a great story. Once I started writing, it took a lot of twists and turns and changed quite a bit, but that’s where it started.”
Mr. O’Handley said it took nearly two years of drafting and revisions before he felt ready to pursue publication. He sought a literary agent, revised the manuscript some more, and wrote other manuscripts. Persistence finally paid off.
“I’ve been working toward this for a long time,” Mr. O’Handley said. “I’m very excited to have this book out in the world and I hope it’s the first of many. I’m also grateful to the people at Breaking Night Press for giving me this opportunity.”
“Powerless” tells the story of Kevin Barton, his wife, Monica, and teenage daughter, Kelly, whose lives are upended when a mysterious event wipes out virtually every modern convenience. Left without lights, phones or cars, the Bartons and their small, rural community must scramble to meet their basic needs. Compounding their problems is the presence of their daughter’s best friend, Dina, who has been stranded in their home. As supplies dwindle, tensions rise—both in the Barton family and in the town in which they live.
“One of the things I’m exploring here is the question of how do we decide who we take care of? Who is family, who is not? What is our obligation to others in a crisis?” Mr. O’Handley said.
An Interview with
Author Jeff O’Handley
Q: Your book’s disaster theme seems particularly relevant in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Are there ways in which your storyline parallels Ian and the resulting destruction?
A: The “disaster” that brings about the loss of power in “Powerless” doesn’t come with widespread destruction or loss of life. Rather than a major event that leaves people picking through the wreckage and trying to put their lives back together, this starts more like someone throwing a switch. No homes are lost in massive floods, fires or winds, but people have to figure out how to rebuild their lives—and society—in a world that is different.
That being said, many of the characters in the book feel powerless not just because they’ve lost electricity, but because they feel they’ve lost control of their lives. The story is really about how they deal with that, how they get that kind of power back. I think that anyone who has lived through any natural disaster can relate, whether it’s hurricane survivors or pandemic survivors.
Q: Do you have family and/or friends affected by Ian?
A: Yes and no. We have family and friends in Florida but none in the direct path. I can’t help but think that everyone there has been affected in some way, however, even if they were well out of the path.
Q: Can you tell us more about “Powerless” and what you hope the takeaway is for your readers?
A: I didn’t set out with any particular agenda in mind when I started writing “Powerless,” but I’ll say that every time the power goes out, or the Internet goes down and we’re left in the dark, figuratively and literally for a few hours, I think about how fragile the whole system is. So many things in our day-to-day lives depend on electricity and microcomputers and wireless communications that a large-scale failure of any one system can really put us in a bad spot.
Think of me the next time the lights
“Powerless” is sold in paperback, e-book and audiobook formats. Further information is available at jeffohandley.com and at breakingnightpress.com.