Shari: Here at MG Book Village, we love to encourage and support debut authors. Today we introduce Cliff Lewis and reveal the cover for his book We The Future, which will release April 18, 2023 from Jolly Fish Press.
Check out the book’s synopsis below:
I’m from the future. We need you.
Ever since he learned about climate change, twelve-year-old 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?
Shari: Hello, Cliff. Thanks for sharing your cover reveal with us! What was it about this topic that prompted you to write a book about it?
Cliff: If you’d like to know about the inspiration for WE THE FUTURE, I’ll kindly ask you to buckle up. It’s kind of a wild story.
Not long ago, my small Pennsylvania city was rocked by a congressional campaign with so much enthusiasm and community that it started attracting national media. Climate activists from as far Australia rolled into town and set up operations to help get out the vote. My family got swept into this campaign, and we wound up offering our house as a staging location for canvassers.
Next thing we knew, we had a whole crew of young climate activists sharing in our traditional election-season chili while they helped the campaign reach thousands of voters in our community. And I’m telling you: These folks worked like they were running out of time. They hurried everywhere they went, but not like a workaholic. More like an ambulance.
I’d cared about the climate crisis before. Heck, more than half of my roof was covered in solar panels. But I’d never really seen how the climate fight could reach beyond my house, my car, my individual lifestyle choices. Those activists showed me what it looks like to team up and fight for big solutions to a big problem—fast.
A few months later, my memory of that campaign sparked the idea for a story about an anxious, asthmatic boy who teams up with a girl from the future to launch a climate strike big enough to rewrite history. I drafted this story at a climate activist’s pace, filling every spare moment with writing, even dictating large portions of the book into my phone during my daily jog. In three months, WE THE FUTURE was finished, which may not sound that fast to some authors, but for me it felt like I’d stretched the very fabric of space-time to get it done.
Shari: What can you tell us about your main character(s)?
Cliff: When we meet Jonah at the start of WE THE FUTURE, he’s wracked with anxiety about the future of life on earth. After learning about the true dangers of the climate crisis, Jonah has tried to make a difference the only way he knows how—by obsessively cutting himself off from every modern convenience that could possibly contribute to carbon emissions. But Jonah’s climate-hermit-life gets pretty lonely, and eventually it gets pretty deadly when Jonah tries to raise the world’s awareness by attempting a dangerous YouTube stunt.
But, just in the nick of time, a pink astronaut from the year 2100 shows up to save Jonah’s life and show him a better way to make a difference. Sunny has lived through the very worst of the 21st century, so she takes the climate crisis even more seriously than Jonah does. But somehow Sunny’s version of fighting back is more joyful and hopeful than anything Jonah could’ve possibly imagined.
To set her plan in motion, Sunny gets Jonah to assemble a Crew of climate organizers, all from his own seventh grade class. They recruit a future poet laureate (Paco), a future White House chief of staff (Rashi) and a former best friend of Jonah’s (Gideon)—whose future has yet to be written.
So, after struggling for so long in this lonely one-man climate fight of his, Jonah is about to learn that saving the world is never a solo mission.
Shari: The cover was designed by Cynthia Della-Rovere, and illustrated by Carl Pearce. Let’s take a look!
Shari: What are your favorite elements of the cover?
Cliff: I can’t stop staring at this cover for two reasons: Reason 1 is the color, and Reason 2 is the Crew. WE THE FUTURE is about a new generation rising up to take on the climate fight, which called for a cover that looked absolutely nothing like yesterday’s environmentalism. Earth-tones and leafy greens were out; we wanted this cover to feel like fire—the fire inside our five heroes and the fire they’re staring down. So that’s the color. Then there’s the Crew. I get chills whenever I look at this final artwork because, even though Jonah and the Crew are threatened by billowing pollution before them and rising floodwaters behind them, these kids show up looking like the fiercest force on planet Earth.
Shari: What types of readers will be drawn to this story?
Cliff: With all due love and respect to science, WE THE FUTURE is not a science book. So no reluctant reader is going to feel like they’re eating their vegetables while they read it. WE THE FUTURE is pizza kind of book. It’s a hilarious, heart-warming, time-bending adventure. So young readers who couldn’t care less about the climate crisis will still have a blast reading about the time-traveling mischief, the screaming goat that sounds exactly like Chewbacca, and the creepy ice cream truck driven by a pair of vengeful 22nd century inventors. If these readers finish the book with a newfound grasp of climate science, I offer my sincerest apologies.
Of course, plenty of young readers already care quite deeply about the climate crisis. Perhaps right now, some of them are feeling like Jonah, overwhelmed by the enormity of what’s at stake. WE THE FUTURE was written for them, too. Because this book isn’t just about the climate. It’s about activism—and specifically a form of activism called “political organizing.” With Sunny as our guide, the novel takes readers on a thrilling crash course through the community-building, soul-expanding work of collective action. This book will tell the climate-conscious young reader what Sunny tells Jonah early on: “Only you can save the world, but you’ll never do it alone.”
Shari: Thank you so much for joining us today! I love the premise of your book! Where can readers find out more about you and your writing?
Cliff: I’m @heyclifflewis on Insta, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok. My TikTok is mostly videos of a little dog named Pippin, but Pippin is a very good boy and I’ll be posting more about WE THE FUTURE in the months ahead, so you should still follow me there if you want. I also have a website at heyclifflewis.com.
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.