Climate change is something we’re all dealing with and reading about. We the Future is a book that tries to change history with a big strike. This week TBR and Beyond Tours is hosting a tour for this book and my stop today is an interview with the author – Cliff Lewis. Keep on reading to find out more about the book and read about the author!
Genre: Middle Grade
Publishing date: April 18, 2023
I’m from the future. We need you.
Ever since he learned about climate change, Jonah has dreaded a weather-beaten future where not even his asthma medication can save him. Luckily, a girl from that future arrives just in time to throw Jonah a lifeline.
Sunny traveled back to the 2020s with a mission: help Jonah launch a climate strike big enough to rewrite history. To do it, he’ll have to recruit his entire school before Halloween. Why so soon? Sunny won’t say. But how can Jonah win over 600 classmates when the only thing he dreads more than the end of the world is talking to other kids?
What inspired you to write We the Future?
A couple of years ago, my family volunteered our house as a staging location for a local congressional campaign. To lend some much-needed backup support, the campaign sent a small crew of youth climate organizers to help us run canvases out of our living room. Meeting those activists was the spark for We the Future. I was amazed by how relentlessly they worked. They moved like they were running out of time. So, as soon as I stumbled into the idea for a novel about a time traveling climate activist from the year 2100, I decided to write this book with all the relentlessness of a youth climate activist. I filled every possible moment of every possible day with writing this book, even drafting pages via voice-text during my morning jog. I finished the first draft in less than 3 months—which, for me, was ridiculously fast.
What has been the favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
Making friends. I have met so many incredible authors through online writing communities since I drafted We the Future. It blows me away how supportive some of these folks can be, even when we’ve never met face-to-face. It’s also been so moving to see how my local friends, many of whom I met during that congressional campaign, have circled around me and invested so much time and labor into helping me blast this book into the world. For example, a few months ago I started planning a simple, modest book launch event, and it somehow snowballed into a huge community festival hosted in an indie movie theater with two musical guests. We called it Future Fest, and it was easily one of the best days of my life.
If you were a character in We the Future, what kind of character would you be?
I am 100% Jonah—the anxious, asthmatic narrator who isn’t afraid to give a big speech but really clams up when he has to start a meaningful conversation with another kid. I think there are a lot of Jonahs in this world, and that’s why I put him at the center of the story. But every Jonah needs a crew of friends like Sunny to give him a friendly push. I’m fortunate to have quite a few Sunnys in my life.
Describe We the Future in five words or less.
Time-traveling climate activism
What is your favorite quote from We the Future?
My favorite quote is from the last page, so that’s a bit of a spoiler. I’ll give you my second favorite quote instead: “I’m from the future. We need you.”
Those are Sunny’s first words to Jonah when she arrives in the 2020s after traveling back from the year 2100. To me, it’s a powerful line because it sets off the whole weird, heartfelt adventure of We the Future. But it also carries deeper metaphorical meaning.
When we fight for big, structural changes to turn the tide on this global crisis, we’re not just fighting for polar bears (rare and precious as they are). We’re fighting for human beings—people just like you and me. The only difference between us and them is that many of them will be born sometime after this decade. But they’re real, and their lives very much depend on what we do in the 2020s.
What do you hope readers take away from your story?
I hope this book will provide a remedy to the climate anxiety that plagues so many kids today. Jonah’s fear of climate change at the start of the book may seem extreme, but it’s becoming all too common globally. 75% of young people around the world report feeling frightened when they think about the future—just like Jonah.
In We the Future, Jonah finds a powerful way to manage these feelings, and it has nothing to do with time travel. Jonah discovers the power of community. He finds his Crew. When that 75% of kids around the world team up with one another to fight for a future they deserve, they can trade their feelings of isolation and hopelessness for feelings of solidarity and power. And that kind of people power is exactly what we’ll need to rewrite the 21st century.
Could you give us 5 random facts about We the Future (think the story, writing, publishing, anything that comes to mind)?
- There’s a bunch of recruitment scenes in We the Future, which were heavily inspired by heist movies like Oceans 11 or the Fast franchise—where someone hatches a longshot plan and assembles a crack team to pull it off. I just replaced safe-breakers with political organizers.
- Once she’s arrived in the 2020s from her home decade of the early 2100s, Sunny is low-key obsessed with tasting “extinct” foods like chocolate, bananas, and maple syrup. Her first meal in our decade is a big plate of banana-chocolate waffles.
- Before Jonah learned about the climate crisis, he’d spent a few years obsessing over his extensive collection zombie apocalypse survival plans.
- Since writing this novel, I have continued to write via voice text while running in the mornings. It has become my preferred way to knock out a first draft. I call it cardio-drafting!
- The story features a screaming goat who looks and sounds remarkably similar to Chewbacca.
If the interview made your curious about the book, click here for the full tour schedule. There are more bloggers and bookstagrammers talking about We the Future this week.
About the Author
Cliff Lewis is a time-traveler from the 1990s, presently parked in the 2020s. He’s a professional writer, a hometown story-slam winner, and a keynote speaker living in Pennsylvania with his wife, their two kids, and a little dog named Pippin. In his spare time, Cliff volunteers for local progressive organizations, which once led to a crew of young climate activists devouring all of his family’s traditional election-day chili.
It’s always interesting to see people come together to fight a cause they’re passionate for. Thank you to Cliff Lewis for taking time and answering my interview questions!