Meg Little Reilly describes herself as a “writer, environmentalist, quilter, aspiring banjo player, hiker of mountains and swimmer of lakes.” Before “getting serious about writing books,” she worked for President Obama as deputy associate director at the White House Office of Management and Budget and, before that, as 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. Reilly’s early morning novel, We Are Unprepared, is due from Mira in August. What the novel’s characters are unprepared for is a devastating super storm. It threatens to destroy a marriage, a rural Vermont town, and the Eastern Seaboard when it hits, but the storm’s destruction actually begins months earlier when fear of its arrival infects lives and spreads like a plague.

For Reilly, who was raised in the woods in rural Vermont, writing the book was “a way to grapple with my own anxiety about our changing Earth. I wanted to write about climate change, but in a subtle way, as no one wants to be lectured in a novel. I wanted to write about how fear threatens our relationships on a societal and personal level. How do we live with a grand fear looming all the time?” She chose a catastrophic storm because “it seems to be the only time we really appreciate the urgency and proximity of the situation. I’m interested in how fiction can move the needle on public opinion, and I think books can help connect the dots between all the irrefutable facts about climate change and the people suffering under it.”

Reilly, who lives outside of Boston with her husband and two young daughters, is preparing for what she describes as a “robust book tour” and is working on her next novel, a “fast-paced suspenseful story with big issues at its core and a strong sense of place, but,” she promises, “the similarity to the first book ends there.”

She’ll be signing ARCs of We Are Unprepared at the Harlequin booth (2240) today, 3:30–4:30 p.m., and tomorrow, 10:30 a.m.–noon.

This article appeared in the May 12, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.