Ele Fountain talks about MG novel Melt

Ele Fountain talks about her new Middle Grade release Melt, which is out now with Pushkin Press.

Melt is an Arctic adventure. It’s the story of two teenagers from very different backgrounds. When their worlds collide on the melting ice, friendship, courage, and ancient knowledge are what they must rely on to survive. 

How does climate change play into the plot?

The moods and power of the weather in Melt, almost transform it into the role of ‘character’ within the story. It is also holds the key to a major ‘twist’!

What kind of research did you do when writing it?

I researched seasonal sea ice, Inuit stories and traditions, Arctic flora and fauna. I also became briefly expert in how far a snowmobile can travel on a single tank of fuel, and how to fly a light aircraft – and the best way to cook Bannock bread.

What approach did you take to talking about complicated topics, either political or scientific, for younger readers?

Kids notice everything – far more than we often prefer to acknowledge. They know something about most big, complicated topics. Books can help to piece those fragments of information together. They can offer a safe framework within which to explore and question big topics, something solid which can be revisited or discussed with others if they choose.

What are some of your favourite books about climate change?

Breathe by Sarah Crossan and The Last Wild by Piers Torday

Can you remember when your journey with environmental activism started?

When I moved to Ethiopia, the country was experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades, followed by some of the worst flooding. The human cost, the failed crops, the loss of livestock and wildlife were evident in both country and city. The nature of climate change – not just as global warming, but as climate chaos – truly hit me for the first time.

Why is it so important for you personally to see the environment discussed in fiction?

Fiction can provide a context and a narrative for subjects which may otherwise feel more abstract.

Can you share a quote from the book that you hope will resonate with readers?

The bonds which connect people and nature are beginning to fray. Something precious beyond imagining, is coming apart.

What message do you hope your young readers will take away from your work? What steps would you like them to take to be more involved in environmental activism?

That you’re never too young to have opinions about big issues. You’re never too young to make a difference. That the small actions of many can achieve more than a few grand gestures by those in power.

You can find out more about Melt here.

Ele Fountain worked as an editor in children’s publishing where she was responsible for launching and nurturing the careers of many prize-winning and bestselling authors. She lived in Addis Ababa for several years, where she wrote Boy 87, her debut novel. It won four awards and was nominated for nine more, including Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Her second novel LOST published to critical acclaim earlier this year.

Where to Place Climate Change in Fiction: Background or Centre Stage? by Anne Charnock

During lockdown, I have revised a story-in-progress to take account of our COVID-19 pandemic, and I know I have not been alone in doing so. I have shifted the setting of my novel to a time, post-pandemic, when my characters are resuming their ‘normal’ lives. The pandemic is still in their thoughts, suppressed for the most part, but breaking through at unexpected moments. It struck me, while making these revisions, that the pandemic and climate catastrophe, despite occurring on different timescales, share the key characteristic of being global emergencies, affecting everyone, wherever we live.

Amitav Ghosh states in The Great Derangement: Climate Change and The Unthinkable that climate change evokes a sense of the uncanny. “No other word comes close to expressing the strangeness of what is unfolding around us.” This is exactly how we feel during this pandemic. And in both emergencies, the people worst affected are those with least room for manoeuvre, whose livelihoods are insecure, who cannot spend their way out of a crisis. During today’s manifestations of our climate crisis—from wildfires to floods—we have witnessed that many people cannot adapt to a hotter/wetter/stormier world. They cannot buy a property on higher ground, or afford air-conditioning, or legally emigrate to a kinder climate, or… Well, the list is long. Many people will stay put, for a lack of options, and adapt as best they can.

During lockdown, hoping to gain an insight into how writers respond to extraordinary events, I read The Love-charm of Bombs—Lara Feigel’s account of writers living in London during the Second World War. She describes the war-time experiences that informed Henry Green’s Caught, Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day. For these authors the cataclysm of war and the blitz took centre stage in these works of fiction, enriched with autobiographical detail. The reader is placed inside the blitz with falling masonry, and incendiary bombs falling in the street.

I also read A Month in the Country by J L Carr, winner of the 1980 Guardian Fiction Prize. This tells the story of a soldier demobbed from the First World War who accepts an art commission to restore a church fresco in rural Yorkshire. The character’s wartime experience stays in the background, but it’s painfully clear to the reader that he is suffering from shell shock, and his world has changed irrevocably.

So, centre-stage or background? Where should we place climate change when we write fiction?

Both, I would say, can work brilliantly. But it’s a choice we make at the outset. I’ve been writing fiction around the subject of climate change for twenty years. In two of my novels, the climate references sit in the background since the novels are tackling other subjects primarily—feminist themes in one case (Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind), and the role of future reproductive technologies (Dreams Before the Start of Time) in the other. Climate had to enter the mix, I decided, because both novels are set in the near-future. How could I inhabit the future without depicting the now-inevitable environmental and ecological changes? I couldn’t, And, more to the point, I would not want to.

By contrast, in my most recent novel, Bridge 108, I imagine a post-Brexit England later in the 21st century, when soaring temperatures and wildfires around the Mediterranean Rim are forcing people to migrate north from southern Europe. This novel is set in the same world as my debut, A Calculated Life, in which the north west of England, known today for its high rainfall and damp climate, has become a region of citrus and olive groves. In Bridge 108, I follow a young climate refugee who leaves Spain, becomes separated from his mother, and is trafficked to England where he works as a modern-day slave. Climate catastrophe is therefore the motor for this novel, but the wildfires and drought happen off-stage, visited in flashbacks.

I chose to focus the storylines in Bridge 108 on how state institutions and unscrupulous citizens are exploiting the refugees, and how the climate catastrophe affects different strata in society. Some people are coping just fine, whereas others at the bottom of the economic pile are struggling. And in order to portray these diverse experiences, I opted for a mosaic form, with multiple voices, which conveys the notion that individuals can be both victim and oppressor.

I am fascinated by the range of literary approaches to our shifting climate. An early classic, which I read many years ago, is J G Ballard’s The Drowned World, which depicts a climate endgame. Sea levels have risen, London has drowned. More recent examples of similarly dystopian endgames include Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, which describes the survival spirit of people living in a part-submerged Manhattan. Taking a different tack in The Ministry for the Future, Robinson opens the novel with a visceral depiction of a great Indian heat wave in which 20 million people die. What follows is the story of a new United Nations organisation, The Ministry for the Future, which fights on multiple fronts to reduce carbon emissions.

Climate change takes centre stage in these novels, as it does in John Lanchester’s The Wall, Vicki Jarrett’s Always North, Cynan Jones’ Stillicide and Omar El Akkad’s American War, to name a few.

However, I also find myself drawn to novels that take a more oblique approach. The Inland Sea (2020) by Madeleine Watts is set in 2013 and draws a parallel between the protagonist’s self-destructive tendencies and our self destruction as a species regarding climate catastrophe. The Last Migration (2021) by Charlotte McConaghy merges eco-fiction with a psychological mystery as the protagonist tracks the migration of Arctic terns, paralleled by her own tendency to take flight, to move on, an instinct to leave people behind. And in Ghost Species by James Bradley, we encounter a remote and secretive research centre where scientists are reverse-engineering and resurrecting extinct species, including a Neanderthal child, against a backdrop of encroaching wildfires.

And perhaps a less obvious example of climate change fiction is Sarah Moss’s Summerwater set in a Scottish holiday park, with rain lashing throughout the novel, with the suggestion that even for Scotland the rain is worse than it ought to be.

These novels add to a growing body of fiction that relates to climate—from Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour, and Richard Powers’ The Overstory,  Amitav Ghosh’s Gun Island, and Helen Marshall’s The Migration (which brings together both climate change and a pandemic).

There’s no right or wrong here. Each writer assesses their writing strengths and deploys them to best use, as we each embrace the responsibility of addressing this existential threat in our own small way, while also attempting to engage and entertain the reader.

You can find out more about Bridge 108 here.

Anne Charnock is the author of Dreams Before the Start of Time, winner of the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award. Her debut novel, A Calculated Life, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award and the 2013 Kitschies Golden Tentacle award. The Guardian featured Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind in “Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2015.” Anne’s novella, The Enclave, won the 2017 British Science Fiction Association Award for Short Fiction. And her latest novel is Bridge 108 (2020). Anne’s writing career began in journalism, and her articles appeared in The Guardian, New Scientist, International Herald Tribune and Geographical. She studied environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia, and holds an MA in fine art from The Manchester School of Art. She was active for over ten years in the Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral Project in Cheshire, before moving to the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

Anthea Simmons talks about YA novel BURNING SUNLIGHT

Anthea Simmons talks about her new release Burning Sunlight, a climate change YA novel out this month with Anderson Press about teenage activists.

How do themes of the environment play into your plot and the lives of your protagonists?

The environment is absolutely front and centre in Burning Sunlight. It is the issue which brings Zaynab and Lucas together, causes tensions and conflict between Zaynab and her father and Zaynab and her head teacher. It drives the entire plot and the excitement and danger that goes with it.

When did you get involved in climate-activism, and when did you decide to incorporate it into fiction? 

I’ve been involved in campaigning for access to opportunity for minority groups and, over the last four years, helping to lead a large grassroots group attempting to stop Brexit through democratic means.

I could see that Brexit was a licence to follow the Trump model and start trashing environmental protections and food standards and reneging on emission reduction promises, so in that respect I’ve been involved in climate-activism indirectly.

I attended one of the big Climate Strike demos in Exeter and saw the army of passionate, committed kids with their heartfelt, hard-hitting banners and placards. I could identify with their single-mindedness. I am a pretty driven, outspoken and impatient person and don’t believe in sitting on the sidelines. Apathy and passivity are the enemies of truth and democracy. I don’t ever want to feel that I didn’t try everything, do everything I reasonably could. That’s how it is for Greta and the other climate champions and I, in my smaller way, am like them when it comes to campaigning.

I decided to write a story about young activists after that march and I chose to have my heroine, Zaynab, come from a country that is already being hit hard by climate change and the impact of what we do in the West.

Why did you choose to write about climate change? What other themes intersect with climate-change within your book?

When you hear young people say that they find it hard to plan their futures when they do not think the planet can survive or that they would not dream of having kids of their own because Earth is trashed, you have to speak out and to find a way to celebrate and champion the young people who are trying to make a difference.

By having Zaynab come from Somaliland, I was able to tackle some other issues that matter to me, too. Racism, for example. Do you remember that photo of a group of young climate change activists taken at Davos and cropped by the newspapers to exclude Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate, leaving only the Europeans? That horrified me, so Zaynab is a young person of colour and a Muslim and from a part of the world people know very little about. She also represents women and children who suffer disproportionately from the impact of the climate crisis.

The novel also deals with grief, bereavement and the challenges of leadership, of motivating others.

What do you hope readers walk away with after reading your book, especially in regards to climate change?

I hope it makes them want to do something or to do more. I hope it helps them to put the need for action, however small, on the agenda in their homes and schools and with their friends. Activism can be very lonely, because not everyone has the guts or the energy or is prepared to commit to the same degree. Your own commitment can make other people feel as though they are failing, or just put them off. It’s a lesson Zaynab has to learn. Not everyone can go at her pace or be as brave or speak in public or inspire others as she does, but everyone who wants to can make a difference. Lucas, for example, is quiet and shy, but he grows in confidence and also acts as a check on Zaynab when her zeal could backfire. 

It’s not all deadly serious, though! They do have a laugh, too! And, without spoiling the plot, they have a pretty hairy time of it once they decide to thwart a greenwashing scandal. I found it exciting to write, so I hope people find it exciting to read!

What are your hopes from other climate-fiction books that appear in literature?

That more kids and young people are engaged and mobilised in the campaign and that their pressure is felt by parents and older generations and that pressure builds so that politicians and corporations deliver on their promises. There is no planet B. This is it. Our house is on fire and we are running out of time.

Anthea Simmons lives in Devon with her polydactyl cat, Caramac. After a successful career in the City and a spell of teaching, she finally knuckled down to write at the insistence of her son, Henry. She is the author of Share, The Best Best Baby, I’m Big Now, Lightning Mary and Burning Sunlight. She is editor in chief for online citizen journalism paper, West Country Bylines, and campaigns on a range of issues including electoral reform and rejoining the EU.

Climate Change in the News

Climate Change and Fiction Zoom panel with League members Julie Carrick Dalton  and Angie Hockman – 6th May with Books and Books @ the Studios

Jury acquits Extinction Rebellion protesters despite ‘no defence in law’ [The Guardian] – Six Extinction Rebellion protesters have been cleared of causing criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters despite the judge directing jurors that they had no defence in law, and even if they thought the protesters were “morally justified”, it did not provide them with a lawful excuse to commit criminal damage. But the jury of seven women and five men took seven hours and four minutes to acquit them of both charges. Before reaching their verdicts, the jury had asked to see a copy of the oath they took when they were sworn in. Thanking jurors for their “care and attention”, the judge said: “This has been an unusual case.”

MI6 ‘green spying’ on biggest polluters to ensure nations keep climate change promises [Sky News]

Wealthy nations ‘failing to help developing world tackle climate crisis’ [The Guardian]

Climate change: Net-zero cannot be achieved by planting a few trees or keeping lights switched off a bit more [Sky News]

Teaching Resource: Worksheet for The Stone Weta

The Stone Wētā by Octavia Wade is a dark, near future thriller that follows a group of female scientists. These scientists are part of a secret network which aims to gather and share scientific information regarding climate change. The scientists must avoid detection by their respective governments or face dire consequences.

The members of the secret network know little about each other but they all share a common goal, to research and share information about climate change in societies that ignore, deny, or prosecute climate change activism. Each character faces their own dangers throughout the book. Political forces attempt to uncover their identities, stop their research, and even assassinate them. 

The Stone Wētā explores the importance of science and politics co-operating to tackle issues brought on by climate change. It highlights the essentialness of policy-making in accordance with accurate data and the political obstacles faced in enacting the strategies needed to combat climate change. Octavia Wade makes it clear that as long as climate change science is muted, economic and social policies will continue to ignore the growing issue.

The following worksheet is meant to guide classroom discussion surrounding the impact that governments and policy have on science (and vice versa). I suggest that it be used in a high school social studies, science class, and/or a university setting. The questions are age inappropriate for younger audiences but could be tweaked for discussions in a mature junior high class. 

Happy teaching!

Marina Ekkel

You can download a PDF of the worksheet here, or read the questions below.

Learning Objective – Discuss and understand the impact that politics and society have on science.
1) The Stone Weta follows a group of scientists who are forced into hiding because of their scientific discoveries concerning climate change. Scientists who have made breakthroughs that go against societal norms have often been persecuted and/or isolated. Galileo, for example, was forced into house arrest by the catholoic church for writing that the earth revolved around the sun (it was strongly believed that the earth was the centre of the universe at this time). Which other scientists were punished or isolated for their discoveries and/or writings? Why?
2) If you discovered a major scientific breakthrough, that went against the norms of society (or even the law) would you share it with others at the risk of being persecuted? Why or why not?
3) What are the dangers of keeping major scientific discoveries a secret?
4) Is there a specific case where it would be beneficial to keep a scientific discovery a secret? Why or why not?
5) What is an example of a policy and/or law responding to an issue raised by climate science? What was the outcome of this law?
6) What challenges are policy-makers faced with when enacting environmental legislation to help combat climate change?
7) What are the dangers of enforcing laws and policies based on bad (or wrong) science?

Rewilding and our connections with the natural world by Nicola Penfold

My first book Where The World Turns Wild came out in February last year, just as the COVID-19 crisis was building. Readers contacted me to say how struck they were by eerie parallels with the dystopian nightmare we were all living through: the virus there wasn’t (then) a vaccine for; the locked down cities; the (brief, it turned out) breathing space the natural world had been given from our carbon-spewing cars and planes.

In the UK, it was a record-breaking sunny and dry spring, and one of the few things we could still do was take daily walks for essential exercise. We sought out places that brought us comfort: parks, rivers, woodlands, beaches (for those lucky enough to live within walking distance of the sea). There’s a whole host of reasons why and how the natural world is good for us (anyone interested in the data should read the influential, and beautiful, Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need The Wild by Lucy Jones). Most of us didn’t need the evidence, we knew it instinctively. COVID had made us worried and sad and lonely, and we knew the wild spaces would make us feel better.

Did the birds really sing louder last spring, or did we just notice it more, without the roar of traffic and the daily grind? Lots of people said (often guiltily, acknowledging the horrible death toll and the horrendous stories coming out of the COVID wards) that it was nice to slow down. It was nice to have the chance to discover local green spots and learn our environments better. We felt reconnected to the natural world.

At least that’s the story we’ve told ourselves. There were also many for whom it was the opposite – people stuck at home all day, with vastly increased screen time. Playgrounds were shut. Children were told off for playing outside. It wasn’t nature rambles all round, and there was an uneasy tension between those who lived close to local beauty spots and wished, understandably, to keep outsiders out, and those from grey, urban places who just wanted a couple of hours respite in the wild.

When writing Where the World Turns Wild a few years ago, in my innocent, ignorant pre-pandemic state, I was just hungry for a new and exciting landscape to explore. The disease in my book (carried by ticks, too mutable for a vaccine) was just a plot device. It was like the princess pricking her finger in Sleeping Beauty and everyone sleeping for a hundred years. The disease allowed me to imagine a world with the humans taken out for a while. Because what I really wanted to write about was rewilding.

We hear the word all the time now – rewilding our gardens, our parks, our balconies, our road verges. There is of course an actual defined meaning too. A bigger, more scientific meaning that defines a progressive approach to conservation. Rewilding Britain says rewilding is “the large-scale restoration of ecosystems to the point where nature is allowed to take care of itself. Rewilding seeks to reinstate natural processes and, where appropriate, missing species – allowing them to shape the landscape and the habitats within.”

Most rewilding advocates take care to emphasise the role of people. Rewilding isn’t just what’s good for our landscapes, to help mitigate the huge climate and biodiversity crisis we are facing, it’s what’s good for us too.

Rewilding Britain talks about sustainable futures, jobs, communities, tourism. It’s also about a state of mind and a way of living – living wilder, our senses more fully engaged, more connected to our hunter-gatherer past. This desire for a wilder existence is compellingly described in George Monbiot’s Feral, first published in 2013, and a seminal text on rewilding. Rewilding, Monbiot writes, is not just about reducing floods and erosion and stopping the spread of disease (COVID-19 wasn’t the first virus caused by the pressure humans put on the natural world, and won’t be the last). Monbiot writes about “the sense of freedom, of the thrill that comes from roaming in a landscape or seascape without knowing what I might see next, what might loom from the woods or water… It is the sense that without these animals the ecosystem is lopsided, abridged, dysfunctional.”

This is the kind of landscape I wanted to write about. Something vast and unexplored, with secrets corners and unexpected encounters. Something so wild it could be dangerous. And I didn’t want to have to make the setting the Amazon rainforest or the Serengeti or some other place I’d never been. I wanted to write about landscapes close and familiar to me, but make them wilder. Like going back in time, except I didn’t go back, I went forward instead. Fifty years after humans have been locked up in cities, shut away from the natural world.

Nature has taken care of itself.

My characters meet lynx and wolves (released from old wildlife parks). But even more common creatures like wood pigeons, rabbits, squirrels, are more thrilling in the un-sanitised wild world of my book. Juniper and Bear, a sister and a brother, see everything with fresh eyes, because they’ve been locked up for too long without any of it.

“Anyone who lives in a city will know the feeling of having been there too long,” Robert Macfarlane writes in his 2007 book, The Wild Places. “The gorge-vision that the streets imprint on us, the sense of blockage, the longing for surfaces other than glass, brick, concrete and tarmac….”

As COVID restrictions ease, people are flocking back to the green and blue spaces they love, excited to leave urban homes behind, but inevitably we’re already hearing stories about litter in parks and on beaches, and crowds, congestion, damaged footpaths, wildfires. Now so many of us have a hunger to explore the wild, will it stay wild?

Rewilding must continue as a real integral part of the “green recovery” so many people are clamouring for, and which our planet is so desperate for. The truth is we need a heck of a lot more wild places, protected, restored, funded, connected, and some close to all our towns and cities, so everyone gets access to somewhere wild. Indeed our urban spaces themselves need to incorporate the wild. Like Singapore, the “garden city”, with its vertical gardens, green roofs and interspersed parks, rivers and ponds. The possibilities are exciting and heartening, if we are bold. I love hearing plans like those from Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, to reimagine the site of the old Broadmarsh Shopping Centre as a green space – to make a natural oasis right in the beating heart of the city, with woodland, wetland and wildflower meadows. All our towns and cities need such plans, to bring nature in, so we can all live alongside it again, for our own sakes and the sake of the wild.

And then can we start talking about bringing lynx back?

10 Wild Reads

Here are some of my children’s and young adult recommendations, for books which connect you with the wild.

Nicola Penfold was born in Billinge and grew up in Doncaster. She studied English at St John’s College, Cambridge. Nicola’s worked in a reference library and for a health charity, but being a writer was always the job she wanted most.

Nicola writes in the coffee shops and green spaces of North London, where she lives, and escapes when she can to wilder corners of the UK for adventures. She is married, with four children and two cats.

Nicola’s first book Where the World Turns Wild is out now with Little Tiger Press, and a second book Between Sea and Sky is due to be published on July 8th.

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Emma Shevah talks about her new Middle Grade eco-adventure

Tell us about your new book.

How to Save the World with a Chicken and an Egg is narrated by Ivy Pink Floyd, animal communicator, and Nathaniel Breakwell, an animal- and routine-loving boy with Asperger’s who has been brought up by his grandmother. After his grandmother’s death, Nathaniel goes to stay in Southwold, Suffolk, with his eccentric, confusing mother, and meets the equally odd Ivy, a fostered girl with a ‘difficult past’, chicken friend wedged under her arm and a dog daddy who follows her everywhere. Both Nathaniel and Ivy are committed to animals and saving the world, but it’s hard to know what to do when the world is huge and you’re not even a teenager yet, and neither is great at making friends (human ones, at least). But when the impossible possible happens one night on the beach (let’s just say it involves a leatherback turtle and a lot of rumpus), they learn two important lessons: one, saving the world means doing what you can when you can, and two, none of us can do it on our own.

How does climate change play into the plot?

It’s central to the plot: both Ivy and Nathaniel want to save the planet, but they do it different ways (neither of which is very successful). Ivy talks to creatures and tries to help them, although their human owners are not very compliant or believing, and she mainly fails. Nathaniel tells everyone he meets fascinating facts, but this seems to drive them away instead of persuading them to change their habits or be his friend. The ‘impossible possible’ is actually impossible at the moment but with sea temperatures rising, perhaps one day it could actually be possible.

What kind of research did you do when writing it?

I read books on animals and animal behaviour; I read about and watched documentaries about animal communicators; I read books by ecologists and emailed turtle professors and experts about leatherback eggs, and their transportation, incubation and hatching. I contacted Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society and the Leatherback Trust (only the first of those organisations was helpful!); I researched fostering, Asperger’s, and the Seri tribe in Mexico, and returned to Southwold to ride around on a bike and see where there were and weren’t lampposts, and what views you could see from e.g. Gun Hill, which meant walking around near people’s houses and taking photos like a suspicious stalker. I also did lots of internet searches for animal facts, mucus and saliva – if you’d seen any of my searches at that time, you’d have been very concerned about me.

What approach did you take to talking about complicated topics, either political or scientific, for younger readers?

I usually consider the benefits and drawbacks of being optimistic or pessimistic about a subject and how this might affect young readers. David Wallace-Wells begins his book, ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ with the line, ‘It is worse, much worse, than you think.’ I’m not sure I could start with a similar message for kids.

If we think it’s too late to change our habits and create positive climate change, we won’t be motivated to do anything, but if we think it’s all fine and dandy, we won’t be motivated to make any changes or take action. I wanted kids to feel that although they don’t have jeeps or skills, they can help, and they can make a difference. With first person narrators, the political and scientific topics are limited to what the narrator might know, being an eleven or twelve-year-old child, so that frames how you present that information and what you include. Ivy doesn’t understand the scientific jargon the scientists use so she paraphrases it; Nathaniel would understand it but children only have the information taught to or discussed with them and often not the whole comprehensive picture, so this changes how you write it. I also wanted to highlight autism, different types of families, and feeling abandoned by a parent, and these are also serious subjects. I tend to use humour a lot to balance it out.

What are some of your favourite books about climate change? (fictional or non-fiction!)

I love Carl Safina’s books: he’s an ecologist and scientist and is a poetic, insightful writer who shares his deep love for the natural world in every haunting and beautiful sentence he writes. The following are less about climate change but ‘Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?’ by Frans de Waal; ‘The Unexpected Truth about Animals’ by Lucy Cooke and ‘Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness’ by Peter Godfrey-Smith are all great reads.

Can you remember when your journey with environmental activism started?

I can’t say it’s a ‘journey’ or when it might have started because it’s just always been important to me. I’ve always deeply loved and felt profoundly connected to this planet and its creatures, and all of my actions are related to my experience of being here and sharing life on Earth with the people and creatures that are also here, have been here before me, and will be here after I’m gone. I think if you love the Earth, your whole life is – or should be – an act of activism. It’s just so hard in the modern world to walk the walk. I get on planes and I buy veg in plastic because it’s hard not to. I drive if I’m really tired and I know I could do more but I’m also running a home and a family, and two careers, one of which is ridiculously demanding. I’m not perfect – none of us is – but I really do care.

Why is it so important for you personally to see the environment discussed in fiction?

This is the biggest problem we face. I tend to write about what bothers me, and this bothers me hugely – I can’t not write about it. I know it also bothers other people, and kids have growing anxiety about climate change and what they’re inheriting, so it needs to be addressed and I feel compelled to offer them hope, even if it feels (and maybe is) hopeless.

Can you share a quotation from the book that you hope will resonate with readers?

This part can be found towards the end of the novel, when Nathaniel is talking to a scientist called Irina about some baby turtles that have just hatched and swum out to sea:

‘It’s too late, isn’t it?’ I asked quietly.

She paused, checking what I meant. ‘For them?’

‘For the planet.’


She paused, then added, ‘Those tiny hatchlings have so little chance, but they do everything they can to survive anyway. And that’s what we need to do. We can’t lose hope. The odds against us are enormous, but we have to do everything we can. And keep doing it. You understand me, right?’

You can find out more about How to Save the World with a Chicken and an Egg here.

Emma Shevah is half Thai and half Irish, and was born and raised in London. She holds a BA Honours in English and Philosophy from the University of Nottingham and an MA with Distinction in Creative and Professional Writing from Brunel. She is the author of Hello Baby Mo!, an early reader published by Bloomsbury, and four Middle Grade novels published by Chicken House: Dream on Amber (2014 – winner of the Odyssey Award), Dara Palmer’s Major Drama (2016 – optioned by CBBC), What Lexie Did (UK)/Lexie’s Little Lie (US) 2018 and How to Save the World with a Chicken and an Egg (2021). She currently lives in Brighton with 50% of her four children and is Head of Year 13 at Roedean.

A Letter to my Children by Cara Hoffman

Author Cara Hoffman shares a letter for her climate-anxious children.

Dear Creatures,

Yesterday I put on my mask and met a friend and we walked together in the National Forest. The leaves had begun to turn yellow and orange and red. The sun was shining through the branches We saw TOADS and chipmunks and blue birds. We heard owls and woodpeckers, wind blowing through the treetops, small animals skittering over dead leaves. The forest was bursting with life and it made me want to write you a letter.

I know this can be a scary time. There are fires in California and hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. Polar ice caps are melting. The weather is changing and the land where people and animals live is changing. Adults are worried and kids are too.

I have a few important things to tell you about climate change.

The first is this:

No matter what anyone says—it is not up to YOU to personally fix this frightening problem. Climate Change is not YOUR fault, or your parents’ fault. The environment didn’t get this bad because you used a plastic straw.

The environment is in danger because large companies have not listened when groups of people asked them to stop polluting the air and the water and the land. This is because they think the air and the water and the land belong to them.

The most important thing you can do right now to help the environment is

DON’T think like they do.

Plants and animals have their own lives. The earth doesn’t belong to you or me or an oil company anymore than it belongs to a cricket or a tree or a frog.

Right now, the National Forest Foundation is replanting trees everywhere in the country from Florida to Alaska. Their goal is to plant fifty million trees to repopulate the forests. Trees filter carbon out of the atmosphere and help clean the air. Forests help filter and supply water, and provide homes for animals of all kinds. More than 400 species depend on national forest habitat, including humans.

YOU and your family, and your friends and their families, can help plant those trees so that National Forests can exist in the future. This page will explain how you can help.

The climate activist Greta Thunberg wrote recently in her book No One is Too Small to Make a Difference that “The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and the solutions. All we have to do is wake up and change.”

Many people have worked hard for those changes. Activists have told the world who the polluters are. Scientists have invented new ways to clean the air. Whole countries have promised to stop using coal and gas. We don’t know if they will keep their promises or not. They have broken them before. Together we can make sure they keep them. But right now YOU can make a promise to yourself and to the other creatures on this planet. You can promise to never believe the earth belongs to people.

People belong to the earth. And we need to remember that, because there’s no where else for us to go.

See you in the forest,


You can find out more about The Ballad of Tubs Marshfield here.

Cara Hoffman is the author of Running, a New York Times Editor’s Choice, an Esquire Magazine Best Book of 2017, and an Autostraddle Best Queer and Feminist Book of 2017. She first received national attention in 2011 with the publication of So Much Pretty which sparked a national dialogue on violence and retribution and was named Best Suspense Novel of the year by the New York Times Book Review.

Climate News

World’s Revolution are seeking talented authors from all walks of life to submit climate fiction stories to our first anthology, set to release Fall 2021.They pay $0.01 per word for accepted stories, up to 10,000 words, for climate fiction with a fun science fiction/fantasy twist. The stories should also reflect themes of climate justice and an understanding of the intersectionality of the climate crisis. https://www.theworldsrevolution.com/submissions

Join Zoom writing sessions on 27th April and month onwards with Writing the Climate

Rewilding our cities: beauty, biodiversity and the biophilic cities movement [Guardian]

NFTs Are Hot. So Is Their Effect on the Earth’s Climate [Wired]

Climate change has impacted agricultural productivity growth by 21% since 1960s [Sky News]

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Lauren St John talks about KAT WOLFE

Science writer Isabel Thomas talks to the acclaimed Middle Grade author and founder of Authors4Oceans, Lauren St John, about her books.

Isabel: Congratulations on the publication of Kat Wolfe on Thin Ice, the third adventure in the Wolfe and Lamb mysteries series! What can readers expect if they are discovering the series for the first time? 

Lauren: Writing Kat Wolfe Investigates, the first book in the series, was one of the most enjoyable, fun experiences of my life. In the opening chapter, Kat Wolfe, the daughter of a busy city vet, encounters a burglar. What happens next changes their destiny. But after they move to the Jurassic Coast and Kat opens a pet-sitting agency, her very first client disappears under suspicious circumstances. Kat’s new best friend, American Harper Lamb, joins Kat in solving the case. They’re assisted by Tiny, Kat’s wild cat, and other unruly animal friends.

Isabel: What can fans expect from the third instalment?

Lauren: In Kat Wolfe on Thin Ice, a series of unfortunate events result in Kat and Harper finding themselves alone in a snowbound cabin in America’s Adirondack wilderness with a snowstorm moving in. When Kat realises that she might have been the last person to see a missing girl, presumed kidnapped, she and Harper get on the case, helped by a team of huskies and a naughty racoon.

Isabel: Each Wolfe and Lamb adventure deftly weaves in environmental and conservation issues. Was this tricky?

Lauren: Conservation and animals are so much a part of my daily life that I focus on the plot and adventure first and I think the nature parts of my book come sort of naturally. The only book where I’ve found getting the balance right hard was Kat Wolfe Takes the Case, where extinction and climate change are intertwined with the plot. I wanted the book to have lots of hope and humour in it too. Fortunately. Kat’s pet-sitting agency allowed me to put it a mischievous python and other funny animal characters. One of the things I love most about animals is how strongly individual and full of personality they are if you take the time to get to know them. I’ve known a lot of funny animals, including pythons, and have lots of memories to draw on.

Isabel: Tell us about Wave Riders, your new standalone novel, out on June 10th.

Lauren: Wave Riders is about twelve-year-old twins, Jess and Jude, who live a dream life sailing from one exotic destination to the next with their guardian, Gabriel Carter. But after Gabe vanishes and a storm smashes everything, they’re left orphaned and alone. When a wealthy, glamorous family offer them a home, everybody tells them they’re the luckiest children in the world. But the Blakeney’s stately mansion is full of secrets – secrets that seem entangled with the twins’ own fate. As they race to uncover the truth, Jess and Jude must confront their deepest fears. How do you solve a mystery when that mystery is you?

Isabel: As well as being part of the Climate Writers’ League, you launched Authors4Oceans to campaign against single-use plastic. Why do you think the words of authors in particular can have such a powerful impact on readers’ awareness of environmental issues? 

Lauren: I think that stories have the capacity to move and inspire children in a way that no amount of dry news articles or facts can do. I vividly remember the impact books such as Black Beauty, Paul Gallico’s The Snow Goose or Patricia Leitch’s For Love of a Horse or The Summer Riders, all of which have strong themes around compassion not just towards animals and the natural world, but also humans. To me, social justice and environmental justice go hand in hand. In my experience, people who are cruel to animals or chop down rare forests and use bee-killing pesticides are cruel to humans and vice versa.

What’s so powerful and wonderful about the writing of some of our Authors4Oceans members – I’m thinking of authors such as Gill Lewis, Piers Torday, Nicola Davies and, of course, Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris, who created the magnificent Lost Wordsis that they tell moving, exciting stories that also change minds and hearts. I’ve tried to do the same with my White Giraffe series and through books like The Snow Angel. I’m hugely hopeful that young readers of today will grow up to make the world a better place.

Isabel: What sorts of feedback do you get from readers on the environmental, conservation and sustainability themes in your books? 

Lauren: The best thing about being a children’s author is receiving letters and emails from kids who have been inspired to save wildlife and/or the environment after reading my books. I’ve been a children’s writer just long enough that some of those kids are now adults and have gone on to become wildlife cameramen or volunteer on game reserves or study environmental science. It’s so utterly lovely and inspiring. Nothing makes me happier.

Isabel: I first fell in love with your writing in The One Dollar Horse. I loved the detail of a single-parent family lovingly cooking ambitious meals without most of the ingredients because they were unaffordable. It captured something I remember very fondly from my childhood – so much love despite tough circumstances.

Lauren: Oh, I’m so glad you enjoyed The One Dollar Horse! That series and The Glory, my standalone YA horse book, have a special place in my heart. I loved writing and researching them. Growing up on a farm in Zimbabwe, I used to dream of being an eventer, so writing those books was a joy because I sort of got to live out my dreams vicariously. The bond I had with my own horse, Morning Star, who was my best friend when I was a teenager, inspired The One Dollar Horse. I could totally relate to Casey Blue’s love for Storm, the horse she rescues. I could also relate to her struggles to realise her dreams against all the odds and with no money in an expensive and sometimes elitist sport.

As far as possible, I want the characters, places and adventures in my books to feel authentic, so I’ve always tried my best to travel to the places and have some of the experiences I write about. I went to the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique to research Dolphin Song, rode a palomino mustang through the snowy mountains of Wyoming to research The Glory and took a five-day RYA (Royal Yachting Association) course to learn to sail in order to be able to write the technical bits in my new book, Wave Riders.

Isabel: When you’re building characters and their traits and habits, how much do you draw on people you know in real life? 

Lauren: Some of my villains have characteristics of baddies I hear about, read about or encountered when I was a journalist. Politicians, spies, spoilt celebrities or hapless burglars or whatever. I never consciously do it with the good people in my books, although in some cases I’ve probably drawn on the essence of people I’ve known. For instance, Mrs Smith, Casey Blue’s teacher, is definitely influenced by some of my favourite elderly friends.

Kat Wolfe, like Laura Marlin and Tariq or Makena in the Snow Angel isn’t inspired by anyone in real life. She just sort of arrived fully-formed in my head one day. Within a week, I felt I knew her. That said, I’m sure there’s bits of me in her.

Isabel: I often find that when I’m writing middle-grade non-fiction, such as This Book is Not Rubbish, or This Book Will (Help) Cool the Climate, I’m led and inspired by the young people I know and work with – they have as much to teach me as I do them! Do you go through a similar process when crafting your novels?

Lauren: I definitely agree about young people having as much to teach me as I do them. More so, in many cases. I am in awe of incredible Dara McAnulty, author of Diary of a Young Naturalist, and of my fellow Born Free Foundation ambassador, Bella Lack, who is writing her own book. They give me hope for the future of the natural world.

Isabel: The last year has been very tough for so many reasons. One of these for me is the worry that environmental awareness has taken backwards steps, compared with the end of 2019 when the School Climate Strike movement had given it so much momentum. We see this in big ways (e.g. the postponement of the COP26 climate conference) and a million small ways – for example plastic masks tangled in hedgerows and floating in rivers have become an everyday sight.

Lauren: You’re absolutely right about the pandemic derailing the climate change movement and I’ve been absolutely horrified at the amount of litter and plastic in the fields and woods in the beautiful area where I live. The slump in fortunes of many companies and the block on travel also means that the funding of many environmental charities has been slashed or stopped altogether.

Isabel: What would your message be to young people thinking, what next? 

Lauren: Being in lockdown has given many people the chance to appreciate nature in a way they’ve never had the chance to do before. People are taking ‘birdsong’ classes on YouTube and making bee hotels and watching otters and raptors on livestream cameras. It’s amazing. Hardly anyone is flying, which hopefully is cutting pollution too. Those things give me hope.

When The White Giraffe was published in 2006, I realised that conservation was completely missing from the curriculum of most UK schools. I approached the Born Free Foundation about working on a schools project called Animals are NOT Rubbish to get kids and teachers thinking about endangered animals. It’s been incredible to see the picture in schools change since that time.

Personally, I think that conservation and climate change should play as big a part in the curriculum as maths or English. Unless we address those things as humans, we’ll have no future. However, it’s also wonderful seeing children and schools embrace those things in a huge way. All credit to Greta Thunberg and the school strikers for standing up and demanding that grown-ups, governments and companies change their habits and thinking in order to save our world.

Isabel: You’ve previously written about becoming an ‘overnight success’ after 10 years of hard writing graft! There is this ongoing paradox in this industry that loves debuts and yet also values the work of established writers who have really honed their craft.

Lauren: You’re absolutely right; it is an ongoing paradox. I love reading debut authors and the energy around new voices and dazzlingly original ideas, but it’s important to celebrate experience too. After all, writing is one of the few professions where you should, theoretically, get better as you get older.

Isabel: What are your tips for establishing a long and successful writing career?  

Lauren: My career has had so many ups and downs and years and years of struggle that, before I wrote The White Giraffe, I spent a couple of years trying to figure out how else I might make a living. I’m so grateful to the readers who’ve supported my children’s books over the years, and feel so grateful that I’ve been able to do what I love. To anyone considering being a writer, my advice would be to write the books that are in your heart, as opposed to those that you think publishers might be buying, and put everything you have into them. Children, especially, read between the lines. They know when an author really believes in their story or feels deeply for their characters and they respond to that.

Isabel: Thank you so much Lauren! And just before you go, which books have inspired you recently? 

Lauren: I adored Gill Lewis’s A Street Dog Named Pup (out in April) and Hilary McKay’s The Swallow’s Flight (out in May). Both are beautiful, stunningly well written books. Highly recommended.

Kat Wolfe on Thin Ice is out now. Wave Riders is published by Macmillan Children’s Books on 10 June 2021.

Lauren St John grew up surrounded by horses, dogs, cats, a warthog and a pet giraffe on a farm and game reserve in Zimbabwe, the inspiration for her bestselling White Giraffe, Laura Marlin and One Dollar Horse series. Kat Wolfe on Thin Ice, her third Wolfe & Lamb mystery, will be out in January 2021. Lauren is an Ambassador for Born Free, a Patron of Mane Chance Animal Sanctuary and the founder of Authors4Oceans, a coalition of children’s authors campaigning against plastic pollution and dolphins in captivity.

Isabel Thomas is a science/nature writer and the author of several books for young readers that explore human impact on the natural world, including Moth: An Evolution Story, Fox: A Circle of Life Story, This Book is Not Rubbish and This Book Will (Help) Cool the Climate.

Putting a Narrative Loop around the Future by Nicky Singer

Many moons ago, I asked my friend Tom Burke, then Director of Friends of the Earth, what he really thought would happen if we failed to get to grips with increasing global temperatures. ‘Well,’ he replied, ‘you’d better be prepared to go to Scotland and take a gun’. The image stayed with me – but I didn’t know how to write the book he was telling me needed to be written. The subject was too big, too disempowering – people’s eyes glazed over when you mentioned it.

Years later, a chance encounter with a real climate-change story (melting ice-graves on the Arctic island of Herschel) gave me a way in to the subject and I wrote a play –Island – for the National Theatre, which I later re-wrote as a novel. The book made the Carnegie longlist and was routinely called ‘beautiful’, ‘calm and magical’ and ‘full of wisdom’, but somehow the Arctic setting meant that, for most people, the drama was just too far away – both geographically and emotionally. Not our problem.

Then came the migrant crisis – and the hardening of attitudes and borders. And now the girl with the gun came back to nag me. Might her story intersect with this new anxiety? And why were we so anxious anyway, so lacking in empathy? I began to think it might be because for us in the north (in Europe particularly) the migrant is almost always ‘other’, as we are not the displaced, the ones forced to travel. So here was my challenge: could I finally bring this story ‘home’? Write about a very near future where one of those displaced people could truthfully be you – or me?

The result was The Survival Game: the girl with the gun, Mhairi, and the story about what she’s prepared to risk – or sacrifice – to get to safety in a climate changed world. It seems that this story has hit harder (published in numerous territories, already optioned for film etc) but it ran into the sand in America. Six major publishers put in bids, offering eye-watering amounts of money – but only if I’d change the ending. I refused. Disney didn’t seem quite where we’re headed.

But I thought I’d check in with my friend Tom again. He now heads up the independent climate think tank E3G. He doesn’t think we’re headed for Disney either, in fact the only change in his advice re Scotland is to get there quicker and take some friends. I got out my list of additional climate questions. ‘Let’s talk about story,’ he said. ‘Story is the only thing that matters. Facts don’t persuade people, stories do.’

I didn’t need asking twice. So, what does Tom want from story makers now? 

He explained it like this: about 5000 years ago a guy turned up on Salisbury Plain and told the subsistence farmers there a story. The farmers had a life expectancy of about 20-30 years and were beset with forces they couldn’t control; wild beasts, pathogens, raiders, extreme weather events etc. Plenty to be getting on with. But whatever the storyteller said, made then get up, walk 150 miles to the North West, dig up a bunch of huge stones and drag them back to the Plain, erecting them into what we now know as Stonehenge.

What on earth did the storyteller say?

In terms of time and technology, the achievement of those farmers is, Tom suggests, equivalent to the mountains we must move to save ourselves from climate catastrophe. Only instead of persuading a bunch of farmers, we have to persuade the 8 billion people currently on earth. And we don’t have a story.

So – I hazarded, you’re saying, as writers, we’ve failed in our job?

Yes, Tom said. (He doesn’t get to address governments about this stuff without being straight talking.)  Put another way, the sci-fi dystopian stuff, is only half of the job. In order to create a better future, Tom believes we need to be able to imagine it first. We need to have an image as strong as the Garden of Eden to aim towards. ie it has to be aspirational, something as big as god was before the death of religion or as reason before the demise of the Enlightenment. A story, if you like, outside all normal boundaries.

Piece of cake, eh?

I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking it too. What Tom actually wants is a Good News story and ‘as any fule kno’, good news is death to story makers which is why eg Paradise Lost is a marvel and Paradise Regained – isn’t.

Just before anyone throws in the towel here, let me (or rather Tom) re-cap on timescale and context. Unless we’ve seriously decarbonized by 2050 then we’ve had it, not as a species (some of us will survive, of course) but as a civilization. It’s already beginning to happen (increased tribalism, nationalism, rats in sacks) but it won’t come with a label on. Another of Tom’s stories (hey, why doesn’t he do this job himself?) is the Persian Carpet analogy: the pattern on a carpet in an area of high traffic gets worn away. But not at the same rate everywhere, for a long time, there will still be islands of colour among the faded bits, and you’ll still be able (just) to imagine the pattern. Then, one day, a seemingly small erasure will tip the balance. Substitute order/disorder for pattern and fray and you get the picture. This, incidentally is why Tom thinks the scenario in The Survival Game is ‘just a matter of time’ because there’s an island of functionality (Arran) and many patches of fray on the journey from the Sudan. Meanwhile, as a comparator, no-one will be going on holiday to Southern Spain or Italy in 50 years’ time. It will be too hot to be pleasant.

So – back to the challenge. What’s the story? Can we make ‘a narrative loop around the future and make it accessible’? We’ve unlocked the secrets of the cell and the atom but not the nucleus of wisdom.

So – one helluva big story needed and not much time. Who’s up for it?

You can find out more about The Survival Game here.

Tom Burke is the Head of Climate Change Think Tank E3G

Nicky Singer has written four novels for adults, two books of non-fiction but most of her recent work is for young people. Her first children’s novel Feather Boy won the Blue Peter ‘Book of the Year’ Award, was adapted for TV (winning a BAFTA for Best Children’s Drama) and then commissioned by the National Theatre as a musical with lyrics by Don Black and music by Debbie Wiseman. Her new novel The Survival Game is a migration road-movie about a girl with a bullet-less gun and what she’s prepared to risk – or sacrifice – to stay alive in a climate ravaged world. If you want to join the conversation about how to keep our planet beautiful and our future bright, check the #ChooseLovetoSurvive campaign.

Climate Change in the News

Stopping Carbon Pollution by 2050 Would Add $1 Trillion to the Economy [Gizmodo]

Global Action Is ‘Very Far’ From What’s Needed to Avert Climate Chaos [NY Times]


Video panel: League founder Lauren James talks to climate activists Dr. Sinead Collins, Laura Lam and Dr. Johanne Vad, whose work looks at animal behaviour around oil rigs

Teaching Resources

Are you an educator or librarian? We’d love to hear how you teach your students about climate change, to help guide our work in the future. You can fill out a survey here.

See below for a book-related teaching quiz about water resources.

Memory of Water, written by Emmi Itäranta, explores a setting in which clean water is a scarce and controlled commodity. The book is set in a post-war Finland which has been taken over by a foreign power. Rising sea levels, war, and other environmental factors have eradicated many sources of water. Access to clean water is limited and under military control. The possession of any secret water source, such as a well or a spring, is a crime punishable by death.

The book is written from the perspective of seventeen-year-old Noria as she takes over the responsibilities of tea master from her father. A position which will force Noria to know of, and protect, a secret spring. A spring her family has taken care of for generations. After the death of her father, Noria must decide whether to keep the spring safe or go off on her own in pursuit of knowledge.

As clean water becomes an ever-scarcer commodity in our world, Memory of Water invokes a sense of alarm within its reader. The dystopian setting that Noria is forced to contend with seems like a not-so-distant future to the modern reader. How much water are we using? And how long can we continue to take clean water for granted without repercussions?

Although the idea of clean water running out is uncomfortable, it is important to address. It is especially important to take note of how much water we are currently using, so we can find ways to eliminate practices that waste and/or deplete our fresh water supply. 

Test your knowledge of water usage within the UK by taking our quiz!

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Angie Hockman discusses the Galápagos in her new Romance

Two authors inspired by travel in their work, YA author Angela Kecojevic and romance author Angie Hockman, talk about Shipped, a delightful romance novel with a heart-warming climate twist which is out now with Gallery Books. Kecojevic also talks about her forthcoming novel Train, published later this year.

OK, so let’s talk about Shipped. This was delightful escapism at its very best. The way you combined conservation topics with romance was a breath of fresh air, and the gorgeous book cover screams at days we can only dream of (at present!). Shipped has a truly exotic location. Can you tell us what drew you towards the setting of the Galápagos?

Sure! For my day job, I manage conservation and education programs for Lindblad Expeditions, a small-ship expedition cruise company, and a few years ago I had the great good fortune of traveling to Galápagos on a Lindblad voyage. I was familiar with the islands and the opportunities they afford to have up-close-and-personal encounters with wildlife, but I never imagined how profoundly the experience would touch me on a personal level. To have the chance to hike amongst endemic marine iguanas and past nesting waved albatross, snorkel with endangered Galápagos penguins, spot giant tortoises roaming in the wild, and more…and have the wildlife not be afraid of me…it gave me this feeling of being connected to nature and the larger world—a feeling that hasn’t left me. The Galápagos is one of the most special, unique places on earth, which is why I was inspired to share it with readers through the setting of Shipped.

Pictures by Angie Hockman

Henley Evans, your ambitious heroine, delights at sighting a giant tortoise in the wild. In your ‘acknowledgments’ section you talk about the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galápagos National Park Directorate’s Tortoise Breeding Center. Can you tell us a little more about this?

The story of Galápagos is (sadly) one of destruction: early sailors hunted the famed giant tortoises to near-extinction. But the story is also one of immense hope. Scientists at the Charles Darwin Research Station—along with nonprofits, government leaders, the Galapagos National Park Directorate, and community members have undertaken extraordinary efforts to preserve native and endemic species like the Galápagos giant tortoise, and it’s because of these efforts that you can find giant tortoises thriving in the wild on certain islands today. It’s an inspiring example of what a tangible, positive impact people can make when we choose to take action.

Shipped is set aboard a cruise liner (Seaquest Adventures). As Henley finds herself falling in love with her new (and often challenging) environment, she makes a powerful decision to try and take the company in a different direction: eco-tourism. This may still be a new idea to many travellers. What is eco-tourism and how does it benefit our planet?

Eco-tourism is travel, most often to wild or remote places, that promotes responsible exploration and conservation of the natural world. The travel industry on the whole gets a bad rap (for good reason!) for its negative impacts on the environment. But travel can be done sustainably and responsibly, and there are eco-tourism companies out there leading the way. Lindblad Expeditions (the inspiration behind my fictional cruise line in Shipped), for example, is a carbon neutral expedition-cruise company that has been committed to sustainability, responsible travel, and environmental conservation for more than 50 years. So if you want to travel, but also want to do so respectfully and sustainably while contributing to preservation of the environment, choose eco-tourism!

In Shipped, Henley and Graeme battle with the expectations and stresses of everyday life. Yet their priorities change as they find themselves falling for the beauty of the Galápagos and each other. As an author, and having researched the environmental work that takes place on the islands, what effect has this had on you in today’s world?

Learning about the incredible conservation work in the Galápagos—and witnessing its successes first-hand—has made me more hopeful for the future. I think it’s easy to get sucked into the endlessly bleak news cycles of devastation and destruction, but the fact is that the future of the planet rests in the hands of people. We can have a better tomorrow…if we choose. Even seemingly small, everyday choices like reducing single-use plastic consumption, recycling, and opting for sustainable goods and services (and voting in elections!) can add up to making a big difference if enough people join in. And that’s a very hopeful, empowering thing.

Conservation efforts are clearly dear to your heart, and this shows throughout Shipped.  Do you have any more adventures lined up for Henley or are you working on something new?

I’m currently working on something completely new! My next romantic comedy, Dream On, is coming out from Gallery Books in summer 2022, and follows a woman who wakes up from a coma with memories of a picture-perfect boyfriend who isn’t real, only to meet him months later. This one takes place in Cleveland, Ohio, so quite a bit closer to home than the Galápagos! After Dream On though, I would love to return to the world of Shipped—if not in a sequel, then perhaps in a standalone rom-com set in another wild, remote part of the world…stay tuned!

Authors are always looking for new and exciting ways to highlight conservation and climate issues, often taking us on adventures spanning all four corners of the world. Yet what about the earth beneath our feet? This still remains uncharted territory.  Whilst Shipped takes place on a cruise liner, my upcoming novel, Train by Angela Kecojevic, uses another form of popular travel to raise awareness on climate change.

Inspired by Jules Verne’s 1884 classic novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth, I wanted to explore a frozen planet, often referred to as a ‘snowball’ planet. The idea that Earth’s core could be habitable led me to the creation of a high speed train that would break through Earth’s crust and explore its depths.

Train focuses on a group of international teenagers summoned to the only remaining train station in the world: Station X. Here, they must train for survival. Their mission: to fix a dying planet. Their destination: the centre of the earth. Train will be published by the Untold Group later this year.

Angie Hockman is a RWA Golden Heart Award® winner. Her professional background includes stints in law, education, and eco-tourism, but these days you can find her writing romantic stories, enjoying the outdoors with her family, or dreaming of her next travel adventure. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, young son, two cats, and one ornery golden retriever.

Angela Kecojevic is the author behind award-winning adventure park Hobbledown in Surrey. Two YA novels are upcoming with the Untold Publishing Group, including Train and Arc. She has also written ‘The Laughing Shepherd’ (OUP 2020) for the Oxford Reading Tree programme. She lives with her family in Oxford, working as a school librarian.

Climate Change in the News

Why oil giants are swapping oil rigs for offshore windfarms [The Guardian]

Here’s how to talk with your kids about climate anxiety [Grist]

PhD opportunity to produce a commercially credible TV drama script, working with themes from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals  [BBC Writers Room]

Renewable Energy Had a Record-Setting Year Despite… All This [Gizmodo]

I Was a Climate Change Denier – This Is Why I Changed My Mind [Vice]

A Glimpse of America’s Future: Climate Change Means Trouble for Power Grids [NY Times]

What is a billionaire’s role in saving the planet? [Grist]

The Climate Fiction Writers League is still looking for volunteers: a graphic designer and a curriculum developer! Check out our opportunities at Jointly Earth.