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This blog was featured on 03/02/2020
Meg Little Reilly on Insanity, Place & Cli-Fi
Written by
She Writes
March 2020
Written by
She Writes
March 2020

Meg Little Reilly broke into the publishing scene in 2016 with her debut book We Are Unprepared trailed in 2018 by Everything That Follows. Before “getting serious about writing books,” the avid environmentalist worked for President Obama as deputy associate director at the White House Office of Management and Budget and, before that, as a spokesperson at the U.S. Treasury.

“I’ve been writing all my life and in the last couple of years at the White House I began doing it with discipline, but it was pretty nuts. I wrote between 4 and 6 a.m. and then got on the 8 a.m. White House communications call. Writing is a passion and a compulsion, and takes a little bit of insanity,” she says.

This excerpt was originally published in Publisher’s Weekly. Read the full interview here.

In her first two books, she writes about moral complexities in vivid metaphor, and The Misfortunes of Family (February 2020) promises to follow suit. In her upcoming politically-charged novel about the competitive adult sons of a retired senator, closely held family secrets begin tumbling out under the pressure of the spotlight.

“I’ve always been writing,” Reilly said. “But it never occurred to me that being a writer was a viable career path. I thought it would just be a hobby. It was actually easier to write a book while working in the White House then while having small children,” she said.

This excerpt was originally published on The Citizen. Read the full interview here.

On Place

Reilly said in an interview with The Citizen that one common thread for her novels is the presence of the natural world. The books take place, respectively, in the Northeast Kingdom, Martha’s Vineyard and the Berkshires. Her first two novels have strong environmental components and Reilly said a sense of place is essential to her work.

“I’m from a small town in southern Vermont called Brattleboro, but we have a little family cabin in the Northeast Kingdom that I’ve been going to for years. It’s a remote place with a quirky mix of inhabitants and the landscape is positively stunning. The Northeast Kingdom really lives up to its enchanting title. The best thing about writing this story was that I got to stay there in my head for a long time.”

This excerpt was originally published in Book Reporter. Read the full interview here.

On Genre

Some have referred to Reilly’s work as “cli-fi,” a fairly new term used to identify fiction that deals in some way with climate change themes.

“I didn’t know the term when I began writing this book, but I’m happy to be a part of this emerging trend. I believe, however, that climate change isn’t a niche issue, but something at the center of our economic, social justice, cultural and security concerns. In other words, I’m not convinced that literary fiction with a climate theme needs any qualifiers at all,” she told Book Reporter.

Reilly uses apocalyptic narratives – particularly in We Are Unprepared – to tell her stories, and was recently asked to address society’s collective fascination with stories about mass disaster and social collapse. To that she replied:

There’s something so primal about considering how to survive without all our stuff and the minutiae of everyday life. It’s just you, the people you love, whatever deity you may turn to, and your scrappiness. It’s clarifying. And fiction is a safe, accessible way to tap into those essentials.”

This excerpt was originally published on Book Reporter. Read the full interview here.

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