Interview with Mary Turzillo – Author of MARS GIRLS + Giveaway

Don’t forget to read to the end for an International giveaway!

Welcome to my stop on the Mars Girls Blog Tour, hosted by Apex Books! In case you missed it, I reviewed Mary’s exciting science fiction story about two young girls and their adventures in space yesterday, and you can read my review here.

Today I’m thrilled to welcome author Mary Turzillo to the blog, who was kind enough to answer some of my questions!

Welcome to the blog, Mary! Can you please introduce yourself to my readers?

Hi,  I am so honored to be a part of Books, Bones & Buffy.  I am a Clarion grad, and that’s where I met my husband, NASA scientist and Hugo- plus Nebula-award-winning Geoff Landis.  As to my personal career, I won a Nebula for my 1999 story, “Mars Is no Place for Children,” which is the prequel to Mars Girls. I also won the Elgin award for Lovers & Killers, and another half of an Elgin for my collaboration, with Marge Simon, Sweet Poison.  I’ve been nominated for the British Science Fiction Association Award, the Pushcart, the Rhysling, and the Dwarf Stars.  I’m working on another Mars novel, A Mars Cat and his Boy, plus a memoir about being called at the last minute to fence in the World Veterans Championships in Germany.

Your 1999 Nebula award-winning novelette Mars is No Place for Children features the main character of Mars Girls, Kapera Smythe. What made you decide to continue Kapera’s story in a novel, and after such a long time?

My dear departed friend, a brilliant and strong-minded librarian named Evelina Smith never had a biological child.  But I gave her Kapera as an imaginary child.  And when you work with a character long enough, you feel a connection that doesn’t go away.  I keep filling out Kapera’s story and her life.   In “Seeds” (Trajectories, Hydra, ed David Creek, 2016) a slightly older Kapera donates her personality to a robot parenting a successful exoplanet colony while the real Kapera continues her mundane life at home on Mars.   Kapera is also in “Zora and the Land Ethic Nomads,”  The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, ed.  George Mann,  Solaris,  2007.  Her personality and the particular issues of her life always fascinate me.  I sometimes dream of her.

Mars seems to be a favorite setting for you! What is it about our fiery neighbor that compels you to write stories?

Mars is first and foremost a beautiful object in the night sky, red and bright.  If I knew nothing about it, I would still be fascinated.  When I was eight years old, I used to walk a dirt path from my granny’s house to my mom and dad’s, and when I wasn’t finding trilobites and arrowheads, I was gazing at the sky.  I have always been fascinated by space travel.  When Geoff and I first got together, he gave me a fabulous birthday present — a trip to Pasadena to witness the landing of Mars Pathfinder.  With him, I went to conferences on Mars, most particularly the Mars Society, of which I am a founding member (not a BIG distinction — there are about a thousand of us).  I have got to meet and converse with Dr. Robert Zubrin many times.   I think we will colonize Mars.  I visualize the problems and triumphs that future humans will experience there.  It’s enough like Earth, and close enough, that we just have to go there and put down roots.  We will have families.  We will make a civilization.

One of the things I enjoyed about Mars Girls is the offbeat language you’ve developed. For example, on Mars, the word “years” is “mears.” It definitely gives the reader a feeling of otherworldliness. Was it a deliberate choice to come up with a slightly different language for people from Mars?

Let’s see: I am pretty sure “mears” is my own coinage.  I’m not sure how Martians will keep a calendar that can be understood by Earthers, but I own a beautiful Mars calendar that has 24 instead of 12 months. *  “Sols” (meaning a Mars day, almost an hour longer than ours) is standard in the Mars exploration community. I make up a word, and then it seems as if it ought to be a common word.  “Martial” and “Martialle” are like Mister and Missus.  Cuy are actually an earth rodent which is roasted for a snack in Ecuador and Colombia.   I have been to areas where they are eaten, but never actually tasted one.  Not sure I could.  I figure Martians would grow small animals for food, particularly if they reproduced fast.   I’m working on the cultivation of naked mole rats in a future Mars novel, but for research, not food.

Sure, people on Mars will slowly evolve languages from the English, Spanish, Japanese, Hindi, Mandarin or whatever they spoke on Earth.  Language changes to fit the environment.

* James M. Graham and Kandis Elliot, MILLENIUM MARS, a calendar of the Martian year.  Institute of Implied Sciences, 814 Powers Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin.  But I don’t think it is still available.  I’ve looked all over for a source. 

In addition to writing fiction, you are also a published poet. I have to admit I wasn’t even aware that “speculative poetry” existed! I’d love to hear how you came to write both poetry and fiction, and whether you have a preference for one over the other.

I wrote my first poem when I was in second grade.  My mother kept the original copy of it <sigh>.   My mother was the fantasy/poet in my life; my grandmother was the scientist/mathematician.   Mom introduced me to Poe; my grandmother to The Book of Knowledge, a child-oriented encyclopedia with woefully out-of-date science in it.   My father was an inventor and engineer.   Neither my mom nor my grandmother actually worked in the fields I mention, but both wrote poetry.   I read Poe avidly and wanted him to be not dead so I could marry him.

Here’s a link to the Science Fiction Poetry Association.  Explore.  Heck, join the fun.

You mentioned your husband Geoff Landis is a scientist. It sounds like you have an excellent built-in research resource right at home! Do you draw on his expertise in the field for story ideas?

Is that a serious question????  He is a wonderful source of all things literary and scientific.  He takes me to fabulous conferences where I learn of cutting-edge research on planetary exploration, exobiology, 3-D printing — a new adventure almost weekly.   I have to restrain myself from waking him up at night to ask questions.  One of the most glorious weeks of my life was when we went to the OZMA 50th year anniversary, a celebration of the search for alien life.  I met Frank Drake!  You know, the Drake equation guy!  (

What is the most exciting thing for you about the upcoming publication of Mars Girls?

That’s a tough question to answer, because I really don’t know how the book will be received.  What I hope for is that a lot of young people will read it and say, “Yeah, I could do that!  I could live on Mars and be part of how humanity spreads through the universe.”  And I hope they want to read the next one, A Mars Cat and His Boy, which I am just putting finishing touches on, and a darker novel about Kapera’s father and mother Isidis Rising, which is finished but in a state of editing chaos.

But to answer your question, it will renew my enthusiasm for humanity’s drive to grow and explore.  That is a constant, an ongoing value in my life, and I hope this book allows me to share it with lots and lots of people, not just kids, but people of all ages.

What’s next for you, as far as fiction goes? Now that Mars Girls is about to be published, are you currently working on something else that you can share with us?

Well, I mentioned A Mars Cat and His Boy and Isidis Rising.  I have a lot more to say about how I think Martian colonization will go, but I also want to write about fencing.  I have a horror story about a phantom foilist; that one has been lingering at an editorial office a nail-biting time, and I have a rough draft of a memoir about fencing as an outlier.  And poetry, lots of poetry, which I can’t seem to stop writing even though it interferes with my fiction-writing, fencing, low-carb cooking, farmer’s market cruising, travel, hanging out with my nephew and grand-nephews, etc.

Wow! I love your energy, and I have to say I’m a little jealous:-) To conclude, please tell us three things about you that we might not know.

  • I once played Goneril in King Lear
  • I’ve climbed Mt. Whitney and Black Elk peak and crossed the Grand Canyon on foot leading a bunch of Kent State students.   We performed a scene from King Lear at the top of Whitney: “Blow winds! Crack your cheeks!”
  • My sister Jane Turzillo ( is also a writer. Totally different stuff.  She writes historical true-crime.

Thanks Mary, this has been a blast!

About the author:

MARY TURZILLO‘s 1999 Nebula-winner,”Mars Is no Place for Children” and her Analog novel, AN OLD-FASHIONED MARTIAN GIRL, are read on the International Space Station. Her poetry collection, LOVERS & KILLERS, won the 2013 Elgin Award.  She has been a finalist on the British Science Fiction Association, Pushcart, Stoker, Dwarf Stars and Rhysling ballots.   SWEET POISON, her Dark Renaissance collaboration with Marge Simon, was a Stoker finalist and won the 2015 Elgin Award.   She’s working on a novel, A MARS CAT & HIS BOY, and another collaboration with Marge Simon, SATAN’S SWEETHEARTS. Her novel MARS GIRLS is forthcoming from Apex.   She lives in Ohio, with her scientist-writer husband, Geoffrey Landis, both of whom fence internationally.

Geoff and Mary ponder the question: what would it be like to fence in zero-G? and: What about if we were cats fencing in zero-G?

Find Mary & Mars Girls:  Amazon | Facebook | Livejournal | Apex Books – Preorder | Apex Twitter | Apex Facebook

Ready for the giveaway? One international winner will receive an e-book in your choice of format of Mars Girls. Giveaway runs through June 17th. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

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Posted June 2, 2017 by Tammy in Author Interviews, Blog Tours / 8 Comments


8 responses to “Interview with Mary Turzillo – Author of MARS GIRLS + Giveaway

  1. Great interview! I find Mars fascinating too, although admittedly I don’t actually know that much about it from a scientific perspective. The development of language on Mars in this book – and the evolution of a new dialect – sounds really cool. I’m also excited about the potential for some stories about fencing!
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    • Tammy

      I wish I’d asked her about the fencing, she has so many interesting things she enjoys that I didn’t have time to touch on all of them:-)

    • Tammy

      I agree, I think it’s rare to end up with someone who has exactly the same passions as you, so kudos to them for combining their loves and strengths in creative ways!