top of page

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

science fiction and thriller author

I read Point of No Return a little while ago, along with the Red Desert series, an original saga set on Mars (and also Earth). I enjoyed the books very much and I wrote a nice, quick review here.

Since then, I've been curious to learn more about the author herself.

As It turns out, Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli lives in Italy and writes thrillers as well as science fiction. She has built her career upon two languages, Italian and English.

Amongst many other things, how does she manage it all?

Well, don't take my word for it...

Meet the author and learn directly from her in this very insightful interview!

Interview With Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli,

Author of Science Fiction and Thriller

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, Italian science fiction and thriller author
Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What first got you into writing?

Hi Nicolas, and greetings to your readers! As you see, I have three names (!), but everybody calls me simply Carla. I’m Sardinian; I live in Cagliari, which is the capital of Sardinia (an Italian region, but also the second largest island in the Mediterranean).

I started imagining stories as a teenager. I had the impression that by writing them somehow they became true, at least in my mind, since the memories they generate are even more vivid than those of what happens to me in real life. It’s a feeling that I still have today and it’s the reason why I write.

Since I am a cinema enthusiast, I initially enjoyed writing screenplays. My very first attempt at a screenplay dates back to when I was 17 and it was inspired by Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (and Burton is still my favourite director). Later, I switched to fan fiction. I started writing one about Star Wars in 1998 along with other Italian fans that followed a newsgroup and a chat on mIRC with me (nobody uses this stuff anymore now!). Unfortunately, we never completed it.

Then, in 1999, I tried my hand at a fan fiction of the movie The Mummy, the one by Steven Sommers with Brandon Fraser (by the way, I have a poster of the film two metres high right next to the desk, while in front of me there are those of the Back to the Future Trilogy). It was an alternative sequel to the film The Mummy Returns. This fan fiction, which is in Italian, still exists and is available as a free ebook in several retailers (originally published in 2012).

It wasn’t until 2008 that I started writing my first original novel: L’isola di Gaia (The Isle of Gaia). I completed it in December 2011, but then I only published it in 2014 (available only in Italian, for the moment): it was my seventh published book. In the meantime, between 2012 and 2014, I had written and published the Red Desert series and the crime thriller The Mentor. They were originally published in Italian and later translated in English.

Red Desert, by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

We know you online under the nickname Anakina. Is it related to your real name at all, and if not, where does it come from? How and why did you choose it?

It comes from Anakin Skywalker, better known as Darth Vader. As I said, I’m a Star Wars fan, but only of the classic trilogy! Anakina was my nickname in the Italian Star Wars fan community in the late 90s and early 2000s.

On your LinkedIn profile, you introduce yourself as an “Author, Scientific & Literary Translator, Biologist, Science Communicator, Teacher”. How do you reconcile all these activities?

I dedicate myself to each of them at different times. First of all, “biologist” refers to my degree in biology and the professional order to which I still belong, even if I have not practised the profession for some time. However, I use my knowledge in this field in my other activities, in particular as an author, scientific translator, and science communicator.

I work as a lecturer at the University of Insubria, where I teach a self-publishing class in October. I deal with scientific communication through my social channels and sometimes on my blog. All the rest of the time is devoted to translations and everything related to being an independent author.

Kindred Intentions, by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli
As an author based in Sardinia, Italy, do you write primarily in Italian? How do you handle things like translation, multilingual publishing, and marketing?

Yes, I write in my native language, but I use English on a daily basis in my work and private life (I often read books and watch films and TV series in English). Furthermore, English is everywhere on social networks and on the web.

I take care of the first draft of the English translation of my books, then the text goes to an editor and a proofreader. As for the publication in English, the tools are more or less the same. There are a few more publishing platforms to consider, but otherwise the process is identical. What really changes is promotion. I obviously have a separate site in English and I plan all marketing activities separately. The English language market offers a lot more promotion opportunities, but at the same time it’s much bigger, so it’s more difficult to stand out.

From a practical point of view, I dedicate different periods to the publication in Italian and English. At the moment, for example, I am focusing on the imminent publication of a trilogy of thrillers in English, while on the Italian market I am working to improve the image of my brand, both in terms of the publication of new editions of my books and improvement of my web presence. Furthermore, I am experimenting with new organic and paid promotion tools specific to the Italian market.

What books have influenced you and your writing the most? What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read? What book are you currently reading?

There are so many. As for science fiction and the inclusion of scientific topics in my novels in general, my biggest inspiration has undoubtedly been the works of Michael Crichton. In many of his books there was a scientific concept at the centre around which a story was then built. And at the end of the reading you always find yourself having learned something.

As for the Red Desert specifically, one of the readings that influenced me is First Landing by Robert Zubrin, the founder of the Mars Society.

I really can’t tell you which book was the most interesting one for me. There isn’t one in particular.

I’m currently reading Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton. His novels are not hard science fiction like mine, they are definitely very soft, but they are an example of a wonderful world building.

I have read some of your amazing science fiction, and I know you write crime stories and thrillers as well. What is your approach to genre? Do you have a favourite, and why?

I am an omnivorous reader. I don’t have any particular favourite genre. I love books that make you feel inside the story, in the characters’ heads, that involve you and really make you believe that the story you’re reading is really happening, that the characters really exist somewhere in space and time. The only genres I really don’t read are romance because the ending is too obvious and fantasy because my scientist mentality prevents me from appreciating an excessive detachment from the plausibility of reality.

Why is the science fiction genre so important and popular at the moment? What do you think about that and how do you see the future?

Is it really? I think it depends on the country. In Italy science fiction is a niche genre. I am obviously referring to fiction, to novels. Italian science fiction readers are relatively few and often nostalgic for the great authors of the past, which makes life difficult for publishers of this genre. On the contrary, science fiction films and TV series are more widespread. I don’t know what in particular makes this genre so popular, perhaps the fact that the advancement of today’s technology makes us already feel inside a science fiction film and maybe we want to imagine how all this could evolve.

But often science fiction is nothing more than a metaphor of the present, a way to make its fans reflect on the real problems in our everyday reality and that we cannot see and recognize as such, while they appear evident in the extremism created by fiction.

The Mentor, by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli
What does your writing process look like? Do you have a writing routine or ritual? Where do you do most of your writing?

I usually start with a conflict, around which I build the idea of the story. And immediately I take notes (strictly on paper) to fix the key points of the plot. As time goes by, if I decide to continue developing that idea, I think about it, take note of all the things that come to mind, related to the settings, the characters and the development of the narrative. When I have enough material, I organise it in an outline, where I write down the order of the scenes to be written. But I’m not totally a plotter, because when I then start writing, that outline tends to change, the development of the story can take different paths, but what doesn’t change drastically is the end.

When I start the first draft, I try to write at least 3-5 days a week. I make sure I have at least 5 free hours per writing session, as this is the time I need to write about 2000 words, which is the length of a scene on average. I usually prefer to write in the evening or at night, because that way I don’t get disturbed. But it really depends on the type of book.

I tend to set realistic deadlines and always respect them.

I usually write at home, in absolute silence, in front of my desktop pc, preferably in total solitude. Sometimes I happen to write on my laptop when I’m away for a few days (in the city where my partner works), but I much prefer to do it at home.

What is the hardest part of being a writer, or of the writing process?

For me the hardest part is actually writing! What I love most about writing is having written. And without a doubt the happiest moment is when I finish the first draft, as at that point I can say that my fantasies have finally come true.

A book does not really exist until the first draft has been completed, so the whole time I write, especially during a writing session, is very stressful for me. Sometimes I have to literally force myself, even if I would rather be tortured than write (to be honest, writing is a form of torture for me), but, if I make the commitment to write a book, then I have to finish it and I have no peace until that happens.

What role does research play in your writing? What research resources do you recommend?

Often my stories are inspired by things I read or watch. It’s as if the research took place before the creation of the story. I’m talking about scientific articles, documentaries, travels, visits to museums, and personal experiences of various kinds. While doing these things, I am unwittingly researching a story that I have not yet decided to write.

However, once I start jotting down the first notes, I dig deeper, and of course I turn to search engines, especially Google. To study the settings, my reference is always the street view of Google Maps, which allows me to explore the places where my characters move and give their actions a certain authenticity, even for stories set in the future. In the latter case, I imagine what kind of development these settings will have had, but I still need visual feedback to give voice to my imagination.

For specific details, I check the bookmarks on my browsers of the same articles that I read and that inspired the story for starters. From there, I start to delve into the details on the websites, for example, of space agencies in the case of hard science fiction.

Another great starting point can be Wikipedia, not only for the articles on the various entries, but also the links to the sources.

Furthermore, part of my research derives from reading novels by other authors that deal with one of the central themes in my story or that are set in the same places.

In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer? What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing?

Success is something that each of us must define for ourselves. We have to ask ourselves the question: what do I want to achieve with my books? As for me, the answer is: I want to publish books that I can be proud of from all points of view. I think it’s the most important thing, because, only if you are really (and honestly) satisfied with your work, you’re able to find in yourself the strength to learn how to promote it and bring it to the level of diffusion you want. But, above all, even if you never manage to reach that level, nothing and no one can ever take that satisfaction away from you.

Do you favour traditional publishing, or self-publishing? What’s your favourite and least favourite part of publishing?

I am proudly an independent author. I love being in control of the publishing process, choosing my collaborators and developing the promotion strategy.

In the past I worked with AmazonCrossing, the imprint of Amazon Publishing that deals with translated fiction, for the publication in English of one of my thrillers (The Mentor). It was an interesting experience for my public image and from an economic point of view, as my book reached the top position in the Kindle Store in the US, UK and Australia, but I was not entirely satisfied with other aspects. Working with a traditional publisher, especially a big one like Amazon Publishing, for which you still tend to be just a number, is an experience made of limited involvement in the preparation of the book (in my case in the translation, which in the end presented several critical issues) and in the promotional stage (I’m convinced that different marketing choices more adhering with the actual sub-genre of the book would have led to better results in the long term), and very difficult communications with the people who work on the project.

Such a situation would be acceptable only in the face of higher economic rewards. That is to say, if the publisher is willing to pay a substantial amount of upfront royalties, they should do their own thing. That’s because my work would be adequately rewarded. But when that doesn’t happen, they should work more closely with the person who knows the book most then everybody else: that is, the author.

In the field of self-publishing, probably the part I love least is the preparation of the interior of the print edition. It’s a tedious job that takes a lot of time, especially for complex books with many chapters. One of the parts that I like the most, instead, is working on the cover. Finally seeing the external appearance of the book is the final proof that the book really exists!

What is the title of your current work in progress? Can you tell us a little about it?

I’m not writing anything new at the moment, but I’m dedicating myself to publishing the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy in English, namely the new edition (with a new translation) of The Mentor and its two sequels: Syndrome and Beyond the Limit. The three books are psychological crime thrillers and will be released on 30 November 2022, 28 February 2023, and 30 May 2023 respectively. The story takes place between 2014 and 2017 in London and follows the relationship between a Scotland Yard forensic detective and a serial killer who works with him and to whom he is much attached. Such a relationship will lead him to accept his darker side and finally become the person he was always meant to be.

Tell me about your latest book. What do you hope readers take away from it? What inspired the idea for the story?

The last book I published (two years ago) is a science fiction novel in Italian titled Nave stellare Aurora (Star Ship Aurora) and it’s the fifth and last part of the Ciclo dell’Aurora (The Aurora Saga), of which Red Desert is the first. This novel brings together all the main characters of the saga on a long journey outside the solar system using the technology of an alien entity. The story is nothing more than a metaphor of the continuous search for happiness that is often seen as the destination we are moving towards, without realising that we are already living it, since happiness is the journey itself.

I cannot give you details on the actual plot as it would contain huge spoilers on Red Desert (already available in English) and the following parts of the saga (which sooner or later will also be published in English).

Red Desert, Point Of No Return, by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli
I had the honor of meeting Anna Persson on Twitter. She’s the main character in your Martian series, Red Desert, and she introduced me to your work. Can you tell me a bit more about her? What is she looking for, and what happens to her? Where can I find her nowadays?

Anna is a controversial character, one that readers somehow love to hate. She is impulsive, she knows no half measures, she is full of prejudices, she is a fickle person, an anti-heroine, but at the same time she knows how to be strong when circumstances require it. She is looking for her own place in life, a purpose that is not trivial, but she probably doesn’t know what it is either. When she’s offered to be part of the first colonisation mission of Mars, she thinks she has found it, but leaving her life on Earth behind (including the man she loves and something terrible she did) turns out to be anything but the solution to her problems; since they are part of her, she drags them within herself and can only get rid of them by facing them.

In the meantime, however, she finds herself living on a desert planet with four other people. Two of them die, one seems to have gone mad, and she doesn’t trust the fourth at all. And so one morning at dawn she decides to leave the safety of Station Alpha to drive into the Martian desert. Why did she decide to do it? A crazy act? No, something urged her to do it, something she discovered and that stimulated her curiosity, but to find out what it is you have to read her story!

Where is she today? Well, nowhere, as her story takes place starting from fifty years into the future, but if we moved forward a century, we would find her on an unknown planet a few light years from here, about to embark on a new adventure.

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, Science Fiction and Thriller Autho
Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli is an Italian science fiction and thriller author. She has lived in Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy) since 1993, earning a degree in biology and working as a writer, scientific and literary translator, and freelance web copywriter. In the past she also worked as researcher, tutor and professor’s assistant in the field of ecology at ‘Dipartimento di Biologia Animale ed Ecologia’ of the University of Cagliari. She has written original fiction since 2009. In 2012-2013 she wrote and published a hard science fiction series set on Mars and titled Deserto rosso. The whole Deserto rosso series was also published as omnibus in December 2013 and hit No. 1 on the Italian Kindle Store in November 2014. Deserto rosso was published in English, with the title Red Desert, between 2014 and 2015. It includes the following books: Red Desert - Point of No Return, Red Desert - People of Mars, Red Desert - Invisible Enemy, and Red Desert - Back Home. She also authored three crime thrillers in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy (2014-2017), an action thriller titled Affinità d’intenti (2015), five more science fiction novels (four of which are in the Aurora Saga together with Red Desert), and a non-fiction book. Her crime thriller The Mentor (Il mentore, 2014, book one in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy) was first published in English by AmazonCrossing in 2015 and became an international bestseller hitting No. 1 on the Kindle Store in the USA, the UK, and Australia in October 2015. A new edition of The Mentor is expected by the end of 2022. Affinità d’intenti was published in English as Kindred Intentions (2016). She’s also a podcaster at FantascientifiCast (an Italian podcast about science fiction), an Italian Representative of Mars Initiative, and a member of the International Thriller Writers organization. She’s often a guest both in Italy and abroad during book fairs, including Salone Internazionale del Libro di Torino (Turin Book Fair) and Frankfurter Buchmesse (Frankfurt Book Fair), local publishing events as well as university conferences, where she gives speeches about self-publishing and genre fiction writing. She has also taught a class on self-publishing at the University of Insubria (Varese, Italy) since 2016. Her books were reviewed or recommended by national magazines and newspapers such as Wired Italia, Tom’s Hardware Italia, La Repubblica, Tiscali News, and Global Science (magazine of the Italian Space Agency). As a science fiction and Star Wars fan, she is known in the Italian online community by her nickname, Anakina. English official website of Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli: Red Desert: Kindred Intentions: The Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy:

Red Desert, by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

bottom of page