December 21st, 2018
I asked Cheryl where she would like to chat:
The recycled air feels cool, and the atrium hums with the voices of friends meeting during their work break. Rubicon is a busy place, but the atrium’s offer quiet sanctuary away from the stress of running an aging Mars settlement. The booth is 3-D printed bamboo composite. It is cool and smooth to touch, clean and simple. The bamboo privacy screen will help to give us a bit of seclusion while we talk. I sip my tea, waiting, plucking a stray thread from my cream-colored tunic. I haven’t thought about coffee in a while, but I long for it now. It was so long ago that the supply ship came from Earth, and the coffee never lasts longer than a few weeks, at best.
I gaze upward to take one last look at the sky far above my head. Life in an underground city is tough in 2128, but not as tough as living on the surface of Mars. Up there, the planet becomes a deadly enemy. Down here, away from the radiation, bitter cold and toxic atmosphere, we can enjoy the natural light filtering down long solar tubes. It pools in soft ambiance all through the atrium, casting silvery shadows and giving everyone the exposure they crave to the daylight we would miss without these amazing halls. I worry that this will all be destroyed soon. The scuttle mission is coming. Rubicon’s time is running out.
Laura Mae: Hello Cheryl! How was your day today?
Cheryl Lawson: I’m great! Looking forward to the holidays. Thanks for having me.
L: You’re very welcome! Any plans for the upcoming holiday?
C: As there’s only the three of us, we usually spend a quiet, fun morning unwrapping gifts, then work on prepping a delicious lunch. We’ll do a Skype, or two, with family to wish them and then we chill out.
L: That sounds fun! Sounds like my family, actually. A lot of my family lives in different states. It’s great you keep in contact with them!
C: We have family all over the world – from America to South Africa, and as far away as New Zealand!
L: Oh wow! That is a long way. But I’m sure the visits are super fun! Have you put some time aside to write in the chaos of the holidays though?
C: We have a few visits, here and there – they’re always a blast! As for writing, I realized a short while back, that I was a little burned out. I decided to take most of December off and regroup around my editing/revision of my current MS in January. I already feel more refreshed than I did, this time last week, so I think my break is working! Yay!
L: Wonderful! Sometimes you just have to walk away and come back with fresh eyes. I’m glad you were able to see that. 🙂 Even though you’re taking a break, would you mind telling us a bit of what you’re working on?
C: The break is a good thing, for sure. I’m currently working on the follow up to my first sci-fi novel, We Are Mars. The second book in the Rubicon Series is entitled, Storm at Dawn. It picks up the story started in We Are Mars and brings its own action, drama and thrills. I’m about two thirds of the way through the first draft revisions.
L: Nice! I love action stories! You mentioned this is your first fiction novel. What was it that you’ve also written and why the change to sci-fi?
C: The very first book I wrote was a creative manifesto. It’s non-fiction and it’s a book that articulates my thoughts around the creative process. My background is graphic design, and I worked in marketing and advertising for years. I then wanted to try being a visual artist – photography and art – but I had no vision. What began as a way to cement my process, turned into a book. I sell it under my married name – Cheryl Bezuidenhout. Once I got Authentic Creativity out of my head, I suddenly discovered I had the desire to write a fiction story, and sci-fi has always been a draw for me, so I felt it was a natural fit as a jumping off point.
L: I love that! So I’m curious now, can you tell me what We Are Mars is about and what might have inspired you to write that particular story?
C: We Are Mars is about a settlement on Mars in the near future, and their struggle to overcome life-threatening disasters that befall them. I took the trend that has been developing for a few years in space travel – the desire to go to Mars – one step further, and asked myself, What if they succeeded? What would it look like and, most importantly, what could go wrong? When I had the roots of those hypotheses, I began to flesh out a story around a set of characters that start off in the hum-drum routine of maintaining an antiquated settlement, before all hell breaks loose. They have to put aside their differences and work towards a common goal of survival, against the clock, and against unseen forces that want them to fail.
L: Very interesting! I really like that idea and I feel a lot of people would be wondering about that same thing; about living on Mars. You said sci-fi has always been very catching for you. Do you have a favorite book then or series?
C: I’m partial to Michael Chriton’s sci-fi thrillers. I believe his stories have had a big impact on how I write. I love the way he incorporated science and built characters. He was, also, not afraid to bring the action. I enjoy some of the classics to – HG Wells, Jules Verne’s stories and others. I like some of the current sci-fi authors too, and I’m partial to Andy Weir’s stories. I’d love to be in that league. It’s something I aspire to.
L: That’s so great! Do you have any favorite literary characters then? Perhaps from the same series?
C: Neil Gaiman’s, Coraline. Hal from Space Odyssey – sinister and malevolent.
L: Oh Coraline! I love that movie. Why her?
C: I relate to the character. She’s different.
L: She is indeed. Something about her eyes… hmmm… Haha! Cheryl, what would you say your favorite part about writing is? And your least favorite if you have one.
C: My favorite part is story development – that first phase of discovering the plot and building up the characters. It’s the most creative part of the writing journey for me. After that, I try to keep everything – more or less – to the plot, but if I’ve built a good outline, it’s a lot of fun. My least favorite part is revision. It is the repetition that reduces the story to stacks of words that I dislike about revision. It pulls apart my vision of the story, reducing it to the sum of its parts. Once I’m through the initial corrections though, I feel better about it all again.
L: I hear you on both fronts. Revising is so tedious! But it is worth it in the end. Haha! When you get into mode of diving into the story, do you need anything around you in order to stay focused like coffee or a type of music?
C: I’m pretty flexible about what I need for writing. Mostly, I need the headspace. I don’t drink coffee – developed an intolerance to it – so, I always have a cold cup of tea somewhere on my desk – haha! As for music, it really depends on what I’m doing. I can work with or without it. If I do have something playing, it has to be instrumental. I love epic movie scores and game scores, so Two Steps From Hell, and the like, are on my writing playlist. The heavy drama of their music plays nicely as a dramatic score for my sci-fi action scenes. The creepier stuff is good for composing the thrills.
L: I love it. I feel the same about coffee. I like it, but I love tea much more. Haha! A movie scores are the best. Since you have a few books published, are there any regrets or anything you wish you would’ve known earlier that you can share with us? – So that we may not make that same mistake?
C: Regrets… I wish I’d started writing sooner. That’s about it. I LOVE writing and I’m glad it found me and has taken up residence in my head and my heart. What I wish I’d known sooner… That there was a style guide – lol! I now have one and won’t pester my editor with dumb questions anymore. Being an ‘accidental’ writer, I had no idea, most of the way through We Are Mars, that there was a reference I could use for all those niggles about where to punctuate and how to structure the book correctly.
L: Interesting. Yes, style guides are very helpful! I’m actually expecting one to my house any time now and I can’t wait to use it! And I’m curious what you mean by ‘accidental writer?’
C: Well, I came to writing by chance. I had stuff in my head I needed to ‘dump’ – Authentic Creativity – and when I was done, I had the makings of a book. I realized then that I could, actually, do this and enjoy it! It happened to me. I didn’t seek it out. I’m glad for it, though. It has saved me and given me a new lease on my creative journey.
L: That’s so great Cheryl! I’m glad that you are doing what you love! As far as reading goes, would you have any favorite tropes or least favorite?
C: Least favorite is the Messiah trope. I don’t really have a favorite. I like stories that end well. Not necessarily ‘happy’ endings, but ones that make sense and come to a satisfying conclusion. An example is, Stieg Larssen’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – and the rest of that series. I guess, I like the rebel takes the lead and rediscovers themselves trope – lol!
L: I like that. Not everything is a happy ending! That’s not realistic! Haha! Alright Cheryl, thank you so much for chatting with me, I’ve loved it so much! Would you mind leaving some of you wise publishing wisdom behind for new authors?
C: Thanks for hosting me! I’ve really enjoyed answering your questions. As for wisdoms…
I think that to be a writer, all you need is a writer’s heart, a dictionary and an idea. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not a writer because you’ve never done this before. Stick to it, follow through and make a book. The rest is up to the readers.
L: Very good! Thanks again, Cheryl! I look forward to seeing your sequel!
C: Thanks! I look forward to getting it done!
Cheryl Lawson lives in Kamloops, BC, Canada, with her husband and son. Cheryl grew up in South Africa, moving to Canada in 2006 when her son was just a year old. They settled in the lower mainland of BC, before moving, in 2017, to Kamloops.
After a long career as a graphic designer, photographer and artist, Cheryl began pursuing writing, full-time, in 2014. She released her first non-fiction book in 2016. When she is not writing, Cheryl continues to pursue her passion for nature through her art and photography. She has recently exhibited a selection of water colour paintings at a local, Kamloops Gallery and volunteered time as an editor for the BC Lapidary Society’s quarterly magazine, the BC Rockhounder.
For the people of Rubicon, Mars is Home – hostile and unforgiving – but still Home. When Rubicon is taken by surprise by an unexpected and deadly threat, it’s a race against time and a desperate fight to stay alive.
Jax and Dana, Ridley and Chuck, Lenny and Maliyah all stand on opposite sides of a class divide, battling passions and tensions in equal measure. But can they work together to avert a disaster? Could the fundamental differences between them be the key to their survival, or to their destruction?
To make matters worse, unsettling events on Earth put the entire Mars Mission at risk and Rubicon – with little choice left – declares its independence. The news of this is not welcomed by powerful politicians that devise dubious plans to shelve the settlement, once and for all.
Mistakes are made, allegiances shift and lives hang in the balance. No one can be trusted as allies become enemies and the true nature of life on Mars is revealed – One wrong move, and it will be your last.
Her non-fiction book, a manifesto of her career as a creative professional, is entitled Authentic Creativity, How to Make the Most of Your Creative Intent, Strategy & Perspective. It is penned under her married name, Cheryl Bezuidenhout.
“We Are Mars” is Cheryl’s first fiction novel.