A Hot Mess: An Interview with Author Jeff Fleischer

Over the next several years, the world can expect to see some drastic changes thanks to the climate crisis. A Hot Mess: How the Climate Crisis Is Changing Our World by journalist Jeff Fleischer takes an informed, approachable look at how our world will likely change as a result of our actions, including suggestions on what we can still do to slow down these unprecedented effects.

November 15th is National Recycling Day and to prepare for this holiday we’ve invited Jeff Fleischer to answer a few questions. Read on to discover Jeff’s research process, the most impactful moments of the writing process, and his hopes for young readers.

Describe the research did you do for this project and where you found your best resource. 

This book grew out of a project I began in 2008, when I received a journalism grant to work abroad for a year reporting on climate change and its impact on the island nation of Tuvalu. That research involved interviewing experts and people affected by the situation, as well as reading lots of books, scientific reports, news articles, and other sources. There was no one best resource, but a mix of them. That held true when I started working on “A Hot Mess” as well; I used hundreds of sources and kept adding to that number throughout the writing process.

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while researching or writing the book?

Probably the most surprising thing was the COVID-19 pandemic happening during that time. And, unfortunately, seeing many of the same dangerous patterns we’ve seen with climate change play out there too, from general anti-science activism to disinformation trying to convince people it was a “hoax” or overblown, to a failure to take the problem seriously early making it worse, to many people dying unnecessarily.

What was the most challenging part about this project?

Trying to decide which of the hundreds of examples of climate impacts to use, and trying to keep the book as up to date as possible while knowing there would be a long gap between turning in the manuscript and the book arriving in stores. Also, writing while in lockdown and working from home all day was a major challenge.

What was the most powerful or meaningful moment you had during your writing process?

Probably writing the introduction, and getting to use some of my personal experiences in Tuvalu years ago as a way to bring readers into the book.

Spread from A Hot Mess describing CO2 emissions

Climate change is a tough subject and often comes with a sense of “ecological grief” as species, habitats, and homes disappear. How do you stay hopeful while researching and writing about climate change?

There’s no sugar coating that things are bad and likely going to get worse, but the only option we have is to limit the damage and fix what we can. There are now several battles lost that can never be reversed—but the war isn’t over. People should be sad, but they should also be angry. All of this was preventable, and bad actors did everything they could to make sure we didn’t prevent it. And they’re still at it; it’s crucial that they fail. Luckily, we’ve already seen a lot of young people who get the stakes and have gotten involved in trying to make things better. They’re the best source of optimism, and hopefully this book can play a small role in getting even more young people engaged.

What do you hope readers will learn from reading your book?

For young readers or just readers who aren’t familiar with the subject, I hope they come away with a better understanding of the science, as well as how the impacts of climate change around the globe are connected.

What upcoming projects are you working on now?

This has been a big year for me—I got married, moved into a new house, and have this book out—so I’m only now starting to think about next book possibilities. I am shopping a completed short-story collection, a children’s picture book, and fiction stories, and I’m always writing shorter things, but the next new book isn’t decided yet.

Praise for A Hot Mess

“A wealth of information and an engaging approach are certain to have a lasting impact.”—Kirkus Reviews

A Hot Mess is an unvarnished introduction to climate change that’s refreshing about sharing the supporting science.”—Foreword Reviews

“Engaging with a capital E, Readable with a capital R.” – YA Dude Books

Connect with the Author

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