Author Interview: Peter Cawdron

Today I am interviewing Peter Cawdron, author of the new science-fiction novel, Retrograde.

◊  ◊  ◊

DJ: Hey Peter! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Peter: Thank you for having me. I’m an Australian scifi writer specializing in hard science fiction, although I detest the term “hard.”

There’s nothing hard about good science fiction, rather it simply adheres to reality as closely as possible. For me, that makes it more plausible.

A lot of science fiction boarders on fantasy, with “science” being rather loose. As an example, in one of the new Star Trek movies, Kirk (on Kronos a dozen light years away) calls Scotty (in a bar on Earth) to ask him an engineering question. In reality, faster-than-light communication isn’t possible. Rather than giving Kirk a phone-a-friend lifeline, I would have had him lament his inability to call Scotty for answers, and science his way out of trouble. Not only would that make the story more plausible, it would make it more interesting. So for me, hard science fiction provides plenty of natural challenges to be overcome.

DJ: What is Retrograde about?

Peter: Have you ever watched a science fiction film and seen the characters do something dumb, like take their helmets off on an alien world (only to become infected by something)? Yeah, well, if it’s obvious to us that’s stupid, can you really imaging a scientist or astronaut being that clueless? Me neither. So RETROGRADE asks the question, what would shake the most highly trained, and experience explorers in all of history? If they were prepared for every eventuality on Mars, what’s the one thing that might shake them? What’s something they could never prepare for? For me, the answer was, a disaster on Earth.

RETROGRADE explores how scientists and engineers would deal with war breaking out between their countries back on Earth, examining where their loyalties lie.  

DJ: What were some of your influences for Retrograde?

Peter: Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN certainly influenced the setting and the scientific approach to the story, but beyond that, it was inspired by novels like Kim Stanley Robinson’s RED MARS, and Ben Bova’s MARS (GRAND TOUR), which are both highly plausible depictions of life on the fourth planet in our solar system.

DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them? 

Peter: I’m not a big fan of the alpha male hero. As much as I love DIE HARD, I can’t get behind stories that simply transplant stereotypes into other settings. I didn’t want to write MISSION IMPOSSIBLE IN SPACE or FAST AND THE FURIOUS ON MARS, so I set about crafting realistic people struggling with the unknown, faltering when faced with uncertainty. Hindsight is 20/20, but that’s a rarity in life, so I think it should be rare in fiction. I wanted characters that would learn, make mistakes, regret choices, and do the best they could regardless. For me, that makes them compelling, as I could see myself struggling if I was faced with the same dilemmas.   

DJ: What is the world of Retrograde like? 

Peter: RETROGRADE is set on Mars, so it was fun to dispel a lot of myths about life there. If you watch most TV shows or movies, you get the idea it’s like living in a desert, only you have to wear a spacesuit. In reality, the bitter cold is astonishingly harsh, dropping to temperatures that make Antarctica look like the tropics. Even with heating elements, the cold would seep through an astronaut’s boots over time.

The gravity on Mars is closer to that of the Moon than it is to Earth, so astronauts would be able to bunny hop like they did on the lunar surface, but inside their base, without the weight and bulk of a spacesuit, gravity would be down right weird. A pen would fall like a feather. Walking would be difficult, as we rely on Earth’s gravity pulling us back to the ground with each step. That would still happen, but at a much slower rate. Life there would always feel a little surreal, and I’ve tried to capture that in RETROGRADE.

DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Retrograde?

Peter: I reached out to a number of scientists and engineers while working on the novel, including the awesome Dr. Andrew Rader from SpaceX, who has a YouTube channel and Twitter profile where he looks at the science of life on Mars. Dr. Rader graciously agreed to write an afterword talking about the challenges that face Martian explorers, and I think that helps enrich the story, as it gives the reader some great takeaway points to think about. I also got to run some of the technical aspects of the story past one of the NASA flight controllers for the International Space Station. So I count it a privilege to have met leading scientists and engineers while writing this story.

DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?

Peter: I hope they come away with a deeper appreciation of how precious life is on Earth. We’ll make it to Mars, but it’s not the dreamy romantic frontier portrayed in the media. Colonizing Mars will take a herculean effort. Life there will be harsher and harder than anywhere on Earth for decades after we first arrive. Don’t expect any cruise ships in our lifetime.

DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Retrograde? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?

Peter: The tension within the novel comes from the uncertainty of not knowing who to trust when the world is falling apart around you. The main characters struggle for clarity, and they make mistakes. There are plenty of things they’d do differently in hindsight. I hope readers see that and realize life is what we make it. We can’t relive the past, but we can learn from it and change course in the future.

DJ: Now that Retrograde is released, what is next for you?

Oh, I’m a writing tragic. I’m always working on 4-5 stories simultaneously. At the moment, I’m writing…

  • RE-ENTRY — the sequel to RETROGRADE about the fallout after the events in the novel
  • 3ZEKIEL — a First Contact novel set in the jungles of Africa, and yes, that’s a deliberate typo in the Biblical name Ezekiel
  • APOTHECARY — a First Contact novel set in the Dark Ages
  • LIES INC. LLC — a story about time traveling assassins
  • PHOBOS — a mining disaster set around one of the moons of Mars
  • DÉJÀ VU — a First Contact novel set in the 22nd century

As you can see, the only form of writer’s block I suffer from is made from 78% cocoa (dark chocolate is the bomb).  

DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?  

You can find me on the interweb in a number of places.

DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Retrograde that we haven’t talked about yet?

Peter: Yes. I’m honored to have two Hugo Award winning authors offer endorsements of the story. They’re both legends in science fiction, so it’s humbling to have their support.

“Science fiction as it should be. Retrograde combines realistic characters with depictions of Mars as our explorers will one day find it in a powerful story. A must-read!” — BEN BOVA, Hugo Award winner, and author of the Grand Tour series

“For lovers of Andy Weir’s The Martian, here’s a true hard science-fiction tale set on the red planet–a terrific blend of high tech and high tension, of science and suspense, of characters and crisis.”–ROBERT J. SAWYER, Hugo Award winning author of Red Planet Blues

Oh, check out the cover art, by Hugo Award winning artist Elizabeth Leggett.

RETROGRADE

The international team at the Mars Endeavour colony is prepared for every eventuality except one—what happens when disaster strikes Earth?

Mankind has long dreamed of reaching out to live on other planets, and with the establishment of the Mars Endeavour colony, that dream has become reality. The fledgling colony consists of 120 scientists, astronauts, medical staff, and engineers. Buried deep underground, they’re protected from the harsh radiation that sterilizes the surface of the planet. The colony is prepared for every eventuality except one—what happens when disaster strikes Earth?

RETROGRADE is available from all major book retailers in electronic and physical form.

DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!

Peter: Thank you for having me on your blog

◊  ◊  ◊

*** Retrograde is published by John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and is available TODAY!!! ***

Buy the Book: 

Amazon | Barnes & NobelGoodreads | Kobo

◊  ◊  ◊


About the Book:

The international team at the Mars Endeavour colony is prepared for every eventuality except one—what happens when disaster strikes Earth?

Mankind has long dreamed of reaching out to live on other planets, and with the establishment of the Mars Endeavour colony, that dream has become reality. The fledgling colony consists of 120 scientists, astronauts, medical staff, and engineers. Buried deep underground, they’re protected from the harsh radiation that sterilizes the surface of the planet. The colony is prepared for every eventuality except one—what happens when disaster strikes Earth?
.
.


About the Author:

Peter is an Australian science fiction writer, specialising in hard science fiction.

Hard science fiction is a misnomer as far as categories of literature go, as it sounds harsh and difficult to understand, but that is far from reality. Hard science fiction is simply plausible science fiction, fiction that is written in such a way as it conforms to the known laws of science, and that makes it more interesting, as there’s no magic wand the protagonist can wave to get out of trouble. Peter’s forays into hard science fiction could best be described as informative science fiction or enjoyable science fiction.

Peter is a fan of such classic science fiction writers as Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton and their influence on his style and story lines is readily apparent. You can follow Peter on Facebook or Twitter or find him posting some interesting tibit on his blog http://thinkingscifi.wordpress.com/


 

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

One thought on “Author Interview: Peter Cawdron

  1. pcawdron says:

    Reblogged this on THINKING SCI-FI and commented:
    Here’s an interview I did about the launch of RETROGRADE this month

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: