Jeff Kelland  –   Championing Truth Through Fiction

Addressing Inequality and Environmental Crisis Through Art

Jeff R. Kelland discusses his novel The Dying Party, addressing climate change, societal collapse, and the disparity between rich and poor, driven by extensive research and a passion for impactful storytelling.

Jeff  R. Kelland, a 65-year-old Canadian author, embodies a profound concern for societal welfare and a fervent passion for the written word. With an extensive background that includes innumerable essays, magazine articles, editorials, poetry, and prose, Jeff has made a significant mark in various publications. His academic achievements, which include a first-class honours B.A. in philosophy and German, a Master of Science in Community Health from Memorial University’s School of Medicine, and a ground-breaking thesis, further underscore his intellectual rigor. Beyond his written work, Jeff is a sought-after public speaker for numerous national and provincial causes and conferences, a visual artist, and a veteran singer-songwriter and entertainer with over 40 years of experience.

In this interview, Jeff delves into the inspirations and motivations behind his novel The Dying Party, which addresses the urgent themes of climate change and societal collapse. Following the publication of Grace Ungiven, Jeff turned his focus to the increasingly pressing issue of climate change, driven by the realization that humanity is failing to meet climate goals and is, in fact, losing ground. His extensive research, spanning over a year, revealed the alarming truth that time is running out, compelling him to write The Dying Party and its prequel novella Two of All People.

Jeff shares insights into his meticulous research process, ensuring that the scenarios in his novel are both scientifically plausible and emotionally impactful. He discusses how his personal concerns and empathy for those already suffering in equatorial regions influenced his writing. Furthermore, Jeff emphasizes the crucial role of fiction in raising awareness about climate change and motivating readers to take action. He candidly discusses the challenges of depicting the stark disparity between the rich and the poor through alternating storylines that offer a realistic portrayal of the crisis.

In exploring the psychological impact of climate change on humanity, Jeff reflects on the future for our children and grandchildren, dedicating his work to his own grandchildren. After poignantly addressing the Catholic clerical child sexual abuse crisis in his first book Grace Ungiven, and then tackling the climate change crisis with The Dying Party, he points to the lack of progress. Jeff’s realization of humanity’s failure to protect its own children has profoundly changed him, and he hopes that The Dying Party will serve as a catalyst for greater awareness and action.

What inspired you to write The Dying Party and explore the themes of climate change and societal collapse in such a detailed and personal way?

 After writing and publishing “Grace Ungiven”, I thought there could scarcely be a topic that needed a light shone on it as much as the Catholic clerical child sexual abuse and child sexual abuse in general. But coming to realize that we aren’t meeting our climate change goals, and that we are in fact losing ground, I decided to do some research on the matter. This stretched into more than a year, and it wasn’t long before I realized that we are running out of time. There could be nothing more serious than the loss of all of humanity, so I decided to write “The Dying Party” and its sequel novella “Two of All People”.

 Can you share some insights into the research process for the novel? How did you ensure that the scenarios depicted were both scientifically plausible and emotionally impactful?

 The research involved discovering that we have made no progress whatsoever on benchmarks set by the Kyoto Protocol and the other efforts to reach consensus and spur action. It also looked at the early results of the newest research into the many ominous changes taking place in the world and humanity as we move ever closer to disaster. I must admit that my own concerns became a factor, which allowed me to empathize with people already suffering in equatorial regions, and prognosticate about future scenarios as the situation worsens.

 How do you envision the role of fiction in raising awareness about climate change and motivating action among readers? What impact do you hope The Dying Party will have on its audience?

 As a writer, I have to believe that the arts are and always have been our best means to consider and understand issues, to generate solutions to what faces us at any given time, or to at the very last raise awareness. While I needed to be realistic about the kind of impact one book can make, I felt the seriousness of the matter demanded a depiction of “the worst that could happen”. It was dirty job, as they say, and it is not what people want to think about (which is the problem) but somebody had to do it.

How do you balance the portrayal of the stark disparity between the rich and the poor with the personal stories of your characters?

Given that my research shows that one of the factors causing climate change and keeping us from effective, pro-active solutions is the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, I decided to portray this with two separate alternating story lines – one about the plight and limited options of a handful of the less fortunate who have no choice but to accept their fate, and one about some people among the rich and powerful who will not accept it and are trying to save themselves somehow. This made for a more realistic story while providing valuable insights into the full range of possible scenarios the crisis holds for human beings.

 What research or real-world events influenced the development of the novel’s depiction of a future ravaged by climate change, and what inspired you to explore the psychological impact of climate change on humanity in Two of All People and The Dying Party”?

 It was not research or any real-world event that influenced me to depict a future ravaged by climate change, nor to explore the psychological impact of climate change on humanity. The birth of the project and the impetus for research came about when considering the future for our children and grandchildren, and the book is dedicated to my own grandchildren. Most troubling of all, however, is that the subject of my first novel Grace Ungiven as well as the subject of “The Dying Party”, and the lack of any progress being made on either of the crises they address, show us that we are in effect abandoning our own children – abandoning Catholic children to the wicked wiles of the Catholic church’s patriarchy on the one hand, and abandoning all our children and grandchildren to a short and horrific future on a deteriorating planet. I would never have thought it of us, and the realization that this is what we are doing has changed me personally.

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