HM Waugh is the author of books for children and young adults. She’s also an environmental scientist, and educator with a love of wild places and high mountains. This has led to icy feet and sunburnt cheeks in magical countries like New Zealand, Nepal, Bolivia and Switzerland. She has studied dolphins in New Zealand and rare plants in the Wheatbelt, and worked in mining and construction projects across Western Australia. Her latest book is Mars Awakens, the unputdownable first book in a duology.
From the publisher:
Raised in two colonies on Mars each long ago abandoned by Earth, Dee and Holt have been brought up to hate even the idea of each other. But when a mysterious object crash-lands on a far-flung plain, they are both sent to investigate and their fates intertwine. Together they must battle epic storms and deadly bioclouds while unpicking the web of lies they have been told about their planet.
What brought you to write a book set on Mars? Did you need to do much research before you began writing?
I love space and the idea of going to other planets, and we’re so close to being able to send people to Mars – kids reading my book could absolutely be a part of this – that one day the idea to write a book based on Mars just popped into my head. Mars is a real place, so I did have to do a lot of research. Not only about the Mars we know – like its gravity and size and moons and what it looks like from the surface – but also into the Mars we could create. The plants we would need to make wax and rope and clothing. To feed the population. To stabilise the planet. It was a lot of fun!
What’s your favourite unusual fact about Mars?
There are so many! I think one of my favourites is how rovers have been detecting strange levels of methane (like fart gas) on Mars. And recently they discovered rocks on Mars that contain substances that, on Earth, can be created by methane-producing bacteria. Did Mars once have life? Does it still?
Dee uses kites to travel long distances across Mars on her own. What gave you the idea? Did you test a prototype or put trust in your imagination?
The kites came from an epic brainstorming session. I knew Mars was too big to walk around, so I needed some low-tech way for Dee and her colony to travel long distances. And what did Mars have going for it? Much less gravity than Earth so you can leap higher and run faster, and some serious windstorms. And I thought about sailboats, and umbrellas in storms, and kite-surfers, and combined them all to create the Martian kites. I did not test this out! I’m not even sure they’d work on Earth? But I did use my experiences doing things like sailing, skydiving and ziplining to create the feel of kiting with the wind.
If there was a callout tomorrow for volunteers to move to Mars – would you be tempted to put your hand up?
Absolutely! Try out for all the things. What’s the worst that could happen? Either I don’t get selected and I’ve lost nothing, or I do get selected and get to decide whether to accept the place or not. If it was a one-way ticket I honestly think I’d find it very hard to say goodbye to my family. Maybe they could come with me?
Can you tell us something about your next writing project?
Well, obviously, my next project is Mars Book 2 and I’m not giving away any spoilers! Beyond that, I have ideas simmering away in my head for a new project and I’m just letting them develop. It can take a while for the right collection of ideas to come together, and then I suddenly know I’ve got the ingredients for a book.
Mars Awakens is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.
Enter the author’s short story challenge! The winner will have a character named after them in the sequel to Mars Awakens. (Entries close 31 May 2022.)
Do you live in Perth? Book a ticket to the 8 May launch of Mars Awakens. Meet the author! Eat crickets, like Dee!
Read our 2019 interview with HM Waugh about her first children’s novel.
Visit HM Waugh’s website for more about her and her books.