Oregon's Famous Exploding Whale

Crafting an engaging intro is a difficult task for any writer. You need something attention grabbing, but also relevant that will promise the reader what's going to happen in the rest of the pages. If you lose someone during those crucial first sentences, the odds of them coming back are next to nil.

I knew Chasing Lightning had to have a stellar hook, not only because it's my debut novel, but also because it's the start of a series where I've already outlined 5 books. I wanted action, but also a sense of Ina's irreverent personality. Bonus points if I could also somehow incorporate the Pacific Northwest, since the book's setting plays a central part to the series.

Enter Oregon's famous exploding whale. So famous, in fact, that Florence, Oregon just opened a park named (I am not making this up) Exploding Whale Memorial Park.

The story goes that in 1970 a 45-foot, 8-ton whale carcass washed ashore and the Department of Transportation had to figure out what to do with it. They didn't want to bury it because it could get uncovered. No one wanted to cut it up. So that left a final option: dynamite. Half of ton of it to be precise. People gathered on the beach for the event, including a local reporter, thinking it would be fun to watch.

And they were shocked, absolutely gobsmacked, when large chunks of whale blubber flew everywhere. A car parked over a quarter mile away got flattened in the aftermath. Everyone left with whale bits on them, but miraculously, no one died or even got injured.

It's a bit of local lore that gets a chuckle out of most people. I remember watching the original grainy report with my office co-workers over a decade ago, still relatively new to Oregon, and cackling it up at the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation.

And that's why, when you pick up Chasing Lightning, you come across these intro lines:

"I do not recommend striking a whale corpse with lightning. You will regret it."

It not only sets up Ina's magical world and her looming disastrous escapade, it's also an Easter egg for those of us who live here in the Willamette Valley.