Red Desert

Dear readers, tonight we deviate from our usual Friday schedule, in order to celebrate the 40 year anniversary of the an important event in human space exploration – Viking 1 became the first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars!

The following interview was originally published in Italian as “Intervista ad Anna Persson” on, and is republished here with permission.

Translation by Eric Klein.

Interview with Anna Persson

For several days now I am immersed in the lives of the creatures encased in what you call books. For days I come into contact with the entities in them and I interact with these entities, I can participate in their stories, the events that the imagination of the authors pour on the pages, whether they are digital or not.

My name is Lok and if you have followed me you know that I can do this and more.

Today I got in touch with Anna Persson, the main character of the Red Desert series by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli. Anna is a friendly person yet reserved, it was not easy snatch two words from her. Since I’m not human I tried to be as empathetic as possible, trusting however on her curiosity about space and the endless creatures it hosts.

Warning, the following interview contains elements that reveal the events depicted in the books of Red Desert (they are called spoilers, aren’t they?).

Hello Anna, nice to meet you. A first question to start the interview, how are you? I mean after that bad story about Melissa…

Hi, Lok! Well, actually, I can’t say how I am. Physically I’m feeling great! Don’t you think so? (She laughs and winks coquettishly. Then her face clouds).

Lately I’ve been going through a difficult period. Nine years have passed, but sometimes it seems only yesterday that she’s gone.

Although for a long time I refused to admit it, she has left a void that I still have difficulties to overcome. It is as if she had taken away a part of me and I still keep a part of her. It’s the only way I can describe it, but it is still very far from what I feel. The strange thing is that in some ways I feel stronger than before, less undecided, more rational, but I realize that I have lost a part of my recklessness and I’m not sure it’s a good thing.

Let’s start from the beginning of your journey. Once you arrived on Mars, how was the first awakening in the Red Planet?

(She opens her eyes wide). Oh God, the first awakening was in a bed that was not mine. The fact that I was on Mars was the least of my worries. I hated myself for having passed through that door the night before and later I got angry with the wrong person. I heaped upon him all the fear I felt. (She twists her hands, seems about to be moved). Looking back at it now, I feel so stupid. (She smiles). But was it really me? They seem memories from other person.

What was the first thing you did, when you just arrived on Mars?

After entering the station, we helped each other to take off our suits. I couldn’t believe we were finally there, inside Station Alpha. I was so upset that I could not release my helmet. (She laughs). Robert gave me a hand, otherwise I would still be there. (She laughs harder). As soon as I took it off, I took a deep breath of the air in the station. It smelled good. I remember that I thought it reminded me of the mountain air, pure and subtle. I lingered a little more than I should, and in fact the others had already got rid of their suits and were leaving the dressing room. Oh, no! I didn’t want to be the last one. I finished removing it and started running. Oh, how fun running on Mars! I had already experienced that gravity in the fitness area of ​​the Isis, but doing it on the planet, along a corridor, was great. A bit less when I missed the “manoeuvre” to enter the meeting room and ended up on the ground. (She takes her hands to her face). I looked up and guess what? Hassan was looking at me. And he was laughing, the bastard! (Now she has a dreamy look and smiles to herself). But I was so happy that I started to laugh, too. In short, it was a really funny situation. He offered me a hand and I let him help me to get up. Then I heard the pop of the champagne cork and, when I turned to him, Hassan had already moved and was fiddling with the audio system.

If you weren’t able to return to Earth, how would it have ended between the two of you? Would you have survived Melissa? Or would you have become an integral part of that entity?

I have asked myself many times questions like this: “What if …?” But you know, the point is that it had to go this way. Melissa wanted that we returned to Earth, it was her plan since the beginning. We were pawns. Instead, things would have been different, if that day I had not suggested Robert to go sampling to that far site. It wasn’t necessary at all. We wouldn’t have found the blue mineral. Whenever I think about it, I feel responsible for what happened to him. (She shakes her head, saddened). My damned spirit of competition, no, my jealousy. Oh, I was jealous, that’s what it was. If we hadn’t gone so far, Robert wouldn’t have come into contact with the virus. (She hesitates, sighs). Well, it would have happened anyway through the water samples from Dennis and Michelle, but things would’ve gone differently. They would be alive now.

(She has tears in her eyes. She clears her throat). Back to your question, well, in which case some of us would’ve certainly become part of the Melissa’s collective, but at least two would be back to Earth somehow. She wanted to go there.

If you could go back to Mars, would you?

(She cracks a nervous smile). In a way it is as if I’d never left. I’d be lying if I told you I wouldn’t go back, but at the same time I’m frightened by the idea. Not so much by the idea of ​​going there. It’s the sole thought of being shot into space that terrifies me. I know, it makes no sense. I’ve lived for many months in a spaceship. When I left Earth, the moment of the launch was fantastic. In my total recklessness, I had no fear. Now, every time there is a launch, I haven’t the courage to follow it on TV. Can you believe it? Especially if I know that Hassan is up there…

How is the life of Anna today?

(Suddenly she seems to rejoice). Oh, a great life! (Her tone, however, is sarcastic). No, seriously, I cannot complain. I still work at UCLA, students look at me with admiration. And, let’s face it, a bit of curiosity, too I know they wonder how I can just be 44. If they did know… there would be anything but admiration! (She laughs). Anyway, it is a quiet life, all things considered. (She rolls her eyes). Sometimes a little too quiet.
Really, it’s not that interesting, I assure you.

If you do not want to talk about Jan, it’s fine, but tell us about Hassan. By now you are much more than friends even if you didn’t see each other often…

Friends? (She smiles and blushes a bit). Hassan and I have never been friends, not really. Much less are we are now. (She turns serious again). For a while we met rarely, especially in the last year. You know … (she gestures) … Jan and I were trying to have a baby.
Anyway … (she shakes her head, biting her lower lip). After London, well, we started to see each other a little more often (she winks at Lok).

We have seen that your relationship with Amina and her family became stronger and stronger, but it seems that you aren’t able to feel part of that family. How do you live with this bond?

I must say, at first it was strange, but now it isn’t so bad. This thing of having a large family is a bit strange. Unfortunately, they are pretty far. I see Amina very often, because she lives in Los Angeles, but my father, Leila, and my brothers are still in Italy. But I often speak with them by videoconference, especially with Ahmed. He was the one who had the most difficulty of all to accept me. We looked at each other with suspicion (she mimics the concept with her eyes and a grimace), then strangely the distance just brought us closer. While we could hardly stay in the same room in person, it seemed easier to talk while being on opposite sides of the ocean. We were both very curious and we have become, say, friends. Still for me it is strange to think that I also have two brothers, apart from Amina. Every time I think about it, this thing amazes me. In a positive way, I mean.

Would you do it all again?

There was a time that I regretted running away with the rover that morning, but now, looking back, seeing how it went and, above all, thinking about what might happen in the future (she smiles), I guess I would do it all again.

I am sure that the best is yet to come.

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli is the author of the science fiction series “Red Desert” set on Mars and of the thriller “The Mentor” (November 2015, AmazonCrossing). You can find more information in English about her works on

The Red Desert series comprises of Red Desert – Point of No ReturnRed Desert – People of MarsRed Desert – Invisible Enemy and Red Desert – Back Home.

Next week will be a member of a truly alien race, from the furthest reaches of the galaxy. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right), via Twitter or like our Facebook page to be notified when the next interview is posted.