Today’s guest is the fabulous author of How to Pack for the End of the World, Michelle Falkoff. Keep reading to learn more about the book, the author, and how to enter the giveaway.
Researching and Writing about the Outdoors, from a City Dweller
As a child of the suburbs who fled for city life as soon as I was old enough, I’ve often joked about how little I know about the natural world, about my black thumb that would kill plants if my cat didn’t eat them first. It’s nothing I’m proud of—that’s where the jokes come from, as jokes tend to do—but rather something of which I’ve always been aware, and something I’ve always wanted to change. The confluence of three things has made me realize how dangerous that lack of knowledge is, how important it is to learn more about our environment, and how fun the process of learning can be.
First is, as I’m sure it is for many people, my growing fears surrounding climate change. We live on a planet that is informing us in no uncertain terms that if we don’t change how we interact, we will no longer be welcome. This growing awareness over the years has had an impact on me, particularly with respect to how I vote and how I shop.
Second, when I started writing a book where one of my characters shared these fears (Hunter, in HOW TO PACK FOR THE END OF THE WORLD), I realized I didn’t know nearly as much as I wanted to about how to make my voice heard on issues of climate change, nor did I understand the physical world I lived in nearly as well as I’d like. When writing sections centering on a character who loves woods and survivalism (Wyatt), I happily dove into research about living in the woods and subsisting on plants and mushrooms and berries, and it was a joy to get to know my characters through their obsessions.
And now here we are, living in a pandemic, where the best way I can find to stay safe, healthy, and contented is to take long walks in my Chicago neighborhood while the weather is good. While the research I’d done for the book had been very much internet-driven, I’m finding now that I’m taking some of the things I learned through those books and bringing it with me outside. I’m getting better at identifying plants and trees (not much better, but a little bit!), and I’m much more aware of where the sun is at any given time and how that affects how things grow.
I have a tremendous amount to learn, but I’m excited about the process, and I’m grateful that this kind of learning is part of being a writer, at least for me. My books allow me opportunities to research and discover all kinds of things that had previously felt beyond me, and it’s been comforting to channel some of the questions I have about the world into my fiction. My latest book in particular has allowed me to research topics that feel very vital to me right now: climate change, of course, but also activism, the use of nuclear power, the social safety net, our collective reliance on the internet. Researching topics doesn’t mean resolving them, of course, but tying the research for my books to topics that are meaningful to my life has been a wonderful experience for me. While I wish the world were slightly less complicated so my present obsessions were a little less weighty, I’m comforted in that my research is relevant to both my book and my life, and that it’s encouraging me to spend more time outside.
Michelle Falkoff is the author of Playlist for the Dead, Pushing Perfect, Questions I Want to Ask You, and How to Pack for the End of the World. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently serves as director of communication and legal reasoning at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
Connect with the author: website ~ twitter ~ instagram ~ goodreads