Saturday, June 14, 2014

All Authors Blog Blitz

This week, I am doing something a little different with the blog, participating in an All Authors Blog Blitz. We are all authors, and we are all hosting another author on our blogs. C-Desert Rose hosted me and I am really really excited to host Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, of Italy. As if that isn't exciting enough for this Alabama girl, we share long term interest and involvements in the space industry as well, and we all know what happens when you throw space geeks together. We talk books and space both, what could be better! I am so excited to have her here. With that, I introduce:

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

You’ve maybe noticed that I have a long name. Well, this is my real one, not a pen name. I’ve decided to keep it all because it’s something unique, but all my friends just call me Carla.

I’m an Italian independent author, a literary, technical, and scientific translator, and a biologist. Actually I’m not working anymore as biologist, but I’m using my education in the field in both my translation and writing work. I worked as researcher and professor’s assistant at the University of Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy) until 2004, then I started my own business, called Anakina Web (the name coming from me being a huge Star Wars fan), in the remit of which I currently take care of my writing related jobs, including translation, as well as web design.

My work time is almost evenly split between creative writing and translation, though I’m currently focussing a bit more on my writing career. I’m the author of a successful science fiction series in Italy, titled “Deserto rosso” (Red Desert), including four books. It is a character driven hard science fiction series about Mars colonisation, thanks to which I’ve been mentioned on Wired Magazine as one of the ten best Italian self-publishers. It brought me to be a guest at the Salone Internazionale del Libro in Turin, the most important Italian book fair.

I’ve also recently published a crime thriller titled Il mentore (The Mentor), and I will publish my next science fiction novel in November.  
My science fiction series is also going to be published in English. The first book, Red Desert - Point of No Return, is due to release on June 30th. I’m currently arranging an eventual publication in Spanish for the next year.

On Space:

As a biologist, my specialisation is ecology. This branch of biology is about the connections and interactions between living and non-living elements in nature. That applies to our planet, of course, but not only. In fact, it has a lot of points in common with astrobiology for what concerns the origin of life and the conditions that allow life to spread. The two branches are tightly interwoven. Lately I’ve taken some online classes on astrobiology and I’m currently trying to improve my knowledge in the field.  
That fact and my interest in astronomy and aerospace, which I’ve had since I can remember, is partly the reason why I like science fiction too, brought me to become a space exploration enthusiast, in particular for anything that concerns Mars. The Red Planet is the nearest celestial body being similar to our own planet and potentially having the conditions to host life (in the past, in the future, but even right now). I’ve followed and am still following with great interest all the robotic Mars exploration missions.   
My name is one of those brought there in a chip on board of Curiosity (yes, it sounds like I’m fan of her, but actually I am!). I’m eager to see more missions being able to discover more about the past of the planet, when it was covered by oceans and maybe gave origin to life. But I’m even more eager to see humans get there and colonise that new world.

On Space and Writing:

Both aspects of my interest in Mars drove me to write Red Desert. The triggering factor for me was reading Dr. Robert Zubrin’s books, in particular The Case for Mars and his novel First Landing. I started toying with the idea of an astronaut driving all alone on a rover in the Martian desert, in the middle of nothing, and I wondered why he/she was there and where he/she was going.  
I started from that image in my mind to tell the story of Anna Persson, a Swedish exobiologist (an astrobiologist specialised in speculating about life on other planets) and a Mars coloniser, who at the crack of dawn leaves the safety of Station Alpha and secretly escapes with a rover into the desert with enough air for a little more than two sols (Martian days). Why is she escaping? Where is she going? Does she want to kill herself?  
The story is about Mars exploration and colonisation, so there’s a lot aerospace science in it, but also about exobiology, as it speculates on the possible existence of some very simple (microscopic) life forms in the Red Planet, how and where they might exist. It’s hard science fiction for a great extent. I tried to be faithful to actual science, though the story is set 50 years in the future so it left a lot of room to the imagination concerning technology
This is surely an entertainment read, but one of my ambitions is to leave something in the reader when they close the book, even to instil some interest on Mars exploration. I’m an Italian representative of a non-profit association called Mars Initiative, whose purpose is collecting funds to be given to the first project that is going to put humans on Mars. I hope my book will increase the interest of my readership on the importance of this topic for human progress. And I hope to do so by letting them get closer to the Red Planet, feeling its calling, and understanding why it is important that humans get there soon.  
But, of course, there are other appealing aspects in the series: there’s a lot of adventure, suspense, characters’ feelings (including love, of course), even social topics, like the respect for diversity applied on a various range of fields, from religion to race … and more.  
Finally, it is characterised by my favourite theme that you can find in all my literary work: the subjectivity of good and evil. In my stories aren’t real heroes nor villains. Everything is mixed, like in real life. Everybody thinks for themselves and those they love. In fact the protagonist is an anti-heroine, heavily flawed and not willing to become a heroine. Whenever she does something dangerous that may seem heroic, she never does it for “saving the world” but just to save herself or someone she needs (because that person is just useful to her or she loves them and therefore can’t do without them), and this is what makes her human. This is what made most of my readers like the series, even if some of them disliked her attitude.  
Available on Amazon
Anyway to appreciate the characters and the story, you need to read the whole series.  
Red Desert - Point of No Return is a novella, a two-hour read, but it is less than ten per cent of the whole series. It follows Anna’s journey in the Martian desert. While she’s driving the rover aiming to a place we don’t know, she recalls her past and through her memories we understand who she is and why she is on Mars.  
The novella ends with a cliff-hanger urging you to know more. Fortunately the second book will be published in September and it’s a real novel, which shows different point of views on the story and unveils a part of the mystery upon which Anna has stumbled during the mission and which was the reason of her escape in the first place.  
So all you have to do is put on your own suit, lock your own helmet and get into the rover with Anna. The journey will start on June 30th.


I linger to admire the sky that’s turning from salmon to a dirty, pale blue, as the sun drops into the canyon. Its light has become so feeble that I can stare at it without being blinded. I begin to distinguish some stars eastwards. Deimos, the farthest satellite, shines a little bigger than a star just over my head, whilst Phobos seems to come greeting it.
As the solar disk crosses the irregular horizon of Valles Marineris, there it is, a little higher and westward. An azure star sparkling in the twilight. Earth.
I can’t be too specific about this excerpt for avoiding any spoiler on the story. Anyway, I think this one is the most moving part of the novella. It was moving for me to write it. We find Anna watching the sunset in Valles Marineris, in the canyons. She is alone in a very difficult situation, yet she is overwhelmed by the beauty of the sight. Her nerves break when she finally recognizes Earth in the sky. This is when she starts regretting her previous actions and wishing she could change them.

Anna is a very uncertain woman. That’s partly due to her past, which is slowly unveiled all over the series. She changes her mind continuously in normal conditions. And now she is alone in a desert planet for two long days. That’s bringing her to the limit.  
While focussing on her feelings in the attempt to make the reader identify in her, I take this occasion to show science and try to imagine how a sunset would look like on Mars, based on the videos and photos coming from Opportunity and Curiosity.  
I think these two paragraphs show well the two souls of Red Desert, the scientific and the human one. If you want to know more, you will just have to read Red Desert - Point of No Return
As said, it’ll be out on June 30th on Amazon and all major retailers, but it may be pre-ordered on Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes. I’m launching it at only $0.99.  
All updated information about the series can be found on my blog under the tag “Red Desert”:
My official English website is, where you can get in touch with me via social media, read my blog or subscribe to my newsletter and be the first to know about a new release.

See you on Mars!

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