Saturday, August 18, 2018

Ned Tillman pens a YA cli-fi novel titled ''THE BIG MELT'' -- [a short interview]

Ned Tillman in the interview box today!

See his website:

Author of:
The Chesapeake Watershed, and
Saving The Places We Love
and a YA novel titled -- The Big Melt

QUESTION: How to categorize the novel? Cli-fi? Sci-fi? Spec fic? SFF? Fantasy?NED: I call THE BIG MELT a YA cli-fi novel although people of all ages seem to get it and like it. I just wanted to be sure it was accessible to teenagers as well. There are surreal scenes in the book to keep in engaging and to challenge the reader to what might really happen. Most find them entertaining and I think they help present all views on what we are doing to the earth. I refer to it as a piece of contemporary fiction with a touch of fantasy and hope. I have targeted teenagers with two 18 year old protagonists, but bring together a cast of adults that represent a full range of viewpoints on climate change – warts and all.

QUESTION: Marley and Brianne, both 18,
face a  series of climate catastrophes that descend on Sleepy Valley. What are they? Floods? Hurricanes? Heatwaves? What
 NED: Invasive, forest destroying beetles and a tidal wave of overly aggressive kudzu vines and melting streets and roof shingles

algae blooms and lakes that effervesce methane
amd strong winds and raging fires
and storm surges and Harvey/Florence style flooding.

3. The Big Melt challenges us all to confront what is rapidly becoming the greatest threat of the 21st century. What is this threat called?
 NED: The widespread and unpredictable impacts of a rogue and constantly changing climate.

4. This is a work of contemporary fantasy fiction about the not-too-distant future. In what way is the novel fantasy fiction? Like LORD OF THE RINGS? or is it sci fi or is it specfic or can it be called cli-fi?

 NED: I clearly think it is cli-fi -- but the challenge, as you well know, is that too few people know what cli-fi is, so they keep asking for more clarification.

NED ADDED:: The science in the book is good – but I do exaggerate at times. But that is why teachers love it. In the discussion guide I ask what is real and what is a bit surreal in my settings. It challenges all of us to think what actually might happen. I also offer the response of animals who live in Sleepy Valley. You tell me if that is fiction or just my perspective of how they will react.

5. Have you heard of a new YA novel coming out this October from  Neal Shusterman? It is called''DRY,'' about water shortages in the West with teenage cast. 

NED:  It sounds like one I should read. Will put it on my list. I have found that many ''cli-fi'' novels and news articles are ''after the fact discussions'' of dystopian worlds. ''The Big Melt'' could happen tomorrow and much of it will if the readers don’t all start taking action.

6. Who published the book and who was your agent and who was your editor?

My publisher of my first two non-fiction books (The Chesapeake Book Company) does not publish fiction novels, and I did not to wait for a conventional publisher to publish it – the issue is way too timely. So I published it myself through South Branch Press. Ruth Karcher was the developmental editor and Jenny Margotta was the copy and line editor. Nan Barnes did the interior and covers of the book.

7. What kind of PR and promo will do for the book? radio interviews on local radio and NPR? TV interviews local? print newspaper interview? bookstore signings? blogs? Twitter tweets? facebook updates? 

 NED: I have a fair sized platform. I will have a strong web presence and am lining up podcasts, blogs, and interviews. I have 30 talks lined up so far. I have a book launch scheduled for October 15 and hope to have 100 people there. Am building a SM team of supports to help spread the word. Am hoping to hit a few home runs with teachers. Am a featured speaker at the National Science Teachers Association annual meeting in Washington D.C. in November. They sent their info flyers out to 150,000 teachers. I will have a series of 1 on 1 with any teacher who is interested following the talk. Plan to give away books to any school system who decides this would complement their programs. My previous books have paved the way for me in science teaching circles. Would love to get NPR, etc. 

8. When did you first start thinking of writing this book, what year? Has reality caught up with the novel now in the summer and fall of 2018?

NED: I started to write this book in July 2016 after 10 years of trying to push a climate change agenda on the local level. I had decided we have to reach far more people. I wish I could have gotten it out earlier. There is no time to lose. So I am full on promoting the book now for at least the next year or two.  I did have to up my ante – with the extreme nature of storms that have occurred in that period of time – Harvey, Maria, and Florence, and the discovery of the beetle, and the extreme heat in AZ, India, and Australia.

9. Does anyone like TRUMP appear in the novel as a politician or govt leader?

NED:. Oh Yeah. The characters in the book who is head of the town council and Ed and Sam Perkins are all climate deniers – in their different ways. They are key to the plot and the challenge.

10. Do you have a sequel planned?
 NED: I did leave the ending wide open and I think people really want to know what happens after the protagonists leave town..

============= REVIEWS

A charming story and an inspiration to action
Marley and Brianne just graduated from high school and are looking forward to an exciting future, but when extreme weather events wreak havoc on their little town of Sleepy Valley and elsewhere, it brings a very different kind of excitement, grave consequences for the town and the rest of society. As Marley and Brianne step in to help their neighbors weather the immediate crisis, riding Marley’s skateboard to deliver supplies to stranded townspeople, the young people also ask, “What can I do?” to help address the bigger problems. With help from people like Jim, the local meteorologist, Doc, their high-school science teacher, and Max, the “quintessential park ranger, as well as his inspirational “inner voice”, Marley, with Brianne, their friends, families, and neighbors learn how people gathering facts, making plans, and speaking up can make a difference. 
Ned Tillman is an award-winning environmentalist who has written extensively in the field of environmental stewardship. In The Big Melt, Tillman has turned to fiction to deliver the same message: our earth and the life it sustains are under great threat, but there are steps we can take locally and globally to address the problems. The book is focused for a young audience but certainly can be read by all ages and is definitely the kind of work that can inspire and motivate readers to get involved. An Afterword contains specifics in Ten Steps for a Cooler Climate and a Discussion Guide. The pattern of actions Marley and his allies take, though, can easily be generalized and could also inspire activism on other issues that concern the average citizen. His message is a good one and a very timely one, that “politics” is not a dirty word; our political system is how things get done, and, as Marley’s aunt Betsy says, “We need a seat at the table….We need to be part of the solution.”
As I read this book at the end of the very unusual and extreme summer weather of 2018, I wondered whether Tillman, who began the book almost two years earlier, had a crystal ball, but sadly his tale is just a not unreasonable extrapolation of “if this goes on….”
The Big Melt is near-future speculative fiction with some charming touches of whimsy, like Joe, Marley’s inner voice, who motivates and encourages him when he needs it most. I will not spoil Tillman’s fun by telling you who Joe is, but I can predict with confidence the identity will give you a laugh.
Despite its very serious subject, there are a number of nice touches of humor throughout the book, like the description of the mess in Ranger Max’s office: “His office paperwork would pile up on his desk until it slid to the floor. It then flowed out the door, where it was read and recycled by a family of fungi living in the soil just beneath the wooden steps.”
Certainly The Big Melt could have been a dystopic book, but ultimately Ned Tillman believes that people getting involved and working together CAN make a difference. The ending is upbeat and guaranteed to make you smile. 

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