I’ve been lucky enough to get a short interview with JP Cawood after the release of her debut novel, Love from Mars. Unfolding over the course of two years, the book presents a tense, character-driven romance told from multiple points of view. Emma is a determined reporter who hopes to launch her career by covering an upcoming effort to colonize Mars. Ryan is sweet, thoughtful, and about to leave the planet for good. But when the two meet at a press conference sparks fly, and both of their plans are interrupted by a whirlwind romance neither one had counted on.
Read on for a Q&A with the author and a short excerpt from the book.
An Interview with the Author
Writing Radically: What was your main inspiration for Love from Mars?
JP Cawood: When Mars One announced their plans to colonize Mars, I thought about how cool it would be to apply. Then I began to ponder what it’d be like if someone I loved went. Then the actual story came to me in a dream. The entire story played out like a movie as I slept. When I woke up, I rushed to write it down. That became the bones for my outline, but the story was further fleshed out over five drafts.
WR: Can you describe your creative process?
JPC: I tend to get my story inspiration in one big burst and then I rush to write it all down into an outline. Then I flesh the outline out further before writing my first draft. I don’t censor myself on that pass, that’s what rewriting is for. I found beta readers to be invaluable in offering an outside perspective for me to course correct how the story lands. I wrote the majority of the book over a six-month period while I was living in England, and I loved to walk down the river Thames when I was stuck with a scene.
WR: You’ve written a character driven story with a lot of distinctive personalities. Which one was the most fun to write? Which was the most difficult?
JPC: I really enjoyed writing the Martian Six because they are a cast of characters that thrive in a reality TV setting. I’ve worked in TV development for the past ten years and have created and executive produced a few reality TV shows so I was able to draw on that experience. I found Ryan’s character to be the most challenging because I wanted him to be someone readers would fall in love with. It was hard to give him flaws because deep down I wanted him to be perfect. In my mind, he is perfect – like how you ignore the character flaws in the ones you love because you see them through rose-colored glasses.
WR: Love from Mars breaks free from genre expectations and sets itself apart from other romance novels with a bittersweet ending. What influenced your decision, and what considerations went into pulling this off?
JPC: The flow of the story felt very natural to me, and I wanted it to feel true. Love stories have their ups and downs, and people/characters learn and grow the most when their journey has immense challenges. I think The Notebook is a good example of a romance with a bittersweet ending that really works, and I hope Love from Mars touches readers in a similar way. No matter what happens, loving someone completely changes us for the better.
WR: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
JPC: The whole process can be really intimidating and perhaps the hardest part is caring what other people will think about what you’ve written. I think it’s important to have a target audience in mind and a feeling/idea that you want to convey. It’s great to get people’s opinions along the way (like beta readers and such) but it’s also important to stay true to what you want to say. Try not to worry about the people that might not like it. Have the confidence to keep going anyway. Don’t let fear of rejection get in the way.
An Excerpt from Love From Mars
Butterflies hatched in Emma’s stomach. She wasn’t sure if she was ready to know what life was like without the stabilizing pressure of gravity. Her mouth went dry and her head started spinning. Blood rushed to her face and her breathing quickened. What if I throw up all over him?
“Don’t be nervous. I’ve already done it once this week, and it’s amazing! There’s nothing else like it. Trust me.” Emma cringed at the request for blind trust, and she gripped the side of the seat as the plane lurched forward. They taxied on the runway for a minute or two and then took off into the air. Emma told herself it’d be just like any other flight as they climbed to twelve thousand feet. She leaned over Ryan’s shoulder to look out the window as the plane broke through the pillowy clouds. She could smell him again and having him close relaxed her. Ryan plugged his nose, made a funny face, and blew out to de-pop his ears. His playfulness put Emma at ease.
“As a kid, my family didn’t have much money, so I was seventeen when I got on an airplane for the first time.” Emma wasn’t sure why she told him that. She just felt comfortable around him.
Ryan nodded and laid his hand next to hers on the armrest. The plane continued its ascension, soaring high above the town below. The higher they went, the more Emma forgot about the Man on Mars project, her pending deadline, and the promise she made to herself about Ryan.
“Prepare for the first parabola,” the pilot said over the loud speaker. A moment later, the nose of the plane dipped up dramatically toward the heavens, pinning Emma and Ryan to their seats. The double gravity they experienced as the plane climbed upward felt like a ton of invisible bricks. Emma was self-conscious of her facial skin that sucked toward her skull. Her eyelids fluttered to stay open. As the plane reached the top of its arch, it straightened out and plunged back downward. The pressure stabilized and lifted. Once they were on the decline, the flight attendant nodded to Ryan and he unbuckled his seat belt.
“What are you doing?” Emma asked as she looked over to see Ryan floating out of his chair. He instantaneously flew five feet up and did a summersault effortlessly through the zero gravity air that now enveloped them. Ryan spun around and extended his hand out to Emma. He looked like a real astronaut, floating through space. Emma nervously unhooked her safety belt and reached out to take his hand. Her body lifted gracefully into the air like a trained ballerina. Her face cringed with uncertainty as she glided toward the ceiling of the aircraft. Her body slammed into Ryan’s and she held onto him for safety. Emma wrapped her arms around his muscular waist, and her hands grazed his tight abs underneath his shirt. They twirled through the atmosphere, their bodies pressed together. They laughed at the weightless sensation. Without gravity pulling her down, Emma was free from the heavy burdens of life for the first time ever.
“May I have this dance?” Ryan asked. He grabbed her hand and twirled her around. All fear melted away as they slow danced, floating magically above the ground.
Emma locked eyes with Ryan as he rocked her body side to side. She avoided making eye contact with him earlier, but now she was drawn in to the point of no return. Her inhibitions floated away as he spun her around, suspended in air.
“On the pull,” the pilot said over the speaker.
The plane dove back upward. In a flash, Ryan and Emma were pinned to the ground through the sheer force of returned gravity, which doubled in strength. She landed on her back. He landed directly on top of her. Emma was thankful for the gravity that held their bodies together like glue. She lost herself in his soulful eyes as he lay on top of her. Chest to chest, heart to heart, they laughed as Ryan tried to fight the powerful exertion of the atmosphere that pulled them together. He rolled over onto his side and lay next to her until the plane dipped back down, offering them another chance to experience the weightlessness of outer space.
Now more confident, Emma drifted back upward and pirouetted through the air. Ryan clapped for her. They laughed as they played around like kids in the deep end of a swimming pool. Without her feet touching the ground, there was nothing to hold Emma to any promise she made to herself about Ryan. She grabbed his hand as they soared through the empty airplane cabin together.
Thirty-seconds later, the plane propelled back upward, and they descended down to the mat. Ryan didn’t land on Emma this time, but she’d wished he had. She wanted his warm body pressed against hers. They stared at each other with their bodies pinned to the ground, and then like magic, they floated back upward.
They circled one another as they moved through space. Ryan orbited around her like the sun, spraying her with rays of attention. He grabbed her hips and swayed to an imaginary song. Emma had never experienced anything like this, and the rest of the world faded away as they danced through the air together. She felt light. She felt free. She felt high. Caught up in the moment, Emma wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed herself against him. She kissed Ryan passionately, and he gladly kissed her back. His lips were so soft and he tasted so sweet.
The full book is now available on Amazon. Check it out here!