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  • Max Sinsheimer

SOLD! Mars on Earth (by Mark Johanson)

The ink has now dried on my first sale of 2023, a travel memoir by the fabulous freelance journalist Mark Johanson!


Mars on Earth is set in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, a thin sliver of camel-colored hills, wind-whipped dunes, and desiccated salt flats squished between the thrashing Pacific and colossal Andes. It is the driest non-polar desert on earth; there are weather stations tucked into its thirsty core that have never once recorded a single drop of rain. Its landscapes are so alien that NASA uses them to test instruments for Mars. And yet, it is anything but lifeless.

Copyright Mark Johanson

Mars on Earth follows American journalist Mark Johanson on a 1,200-mile journey deep into the Atacama. It begins in Santiago as the 2019-2020 protests churn through the streets and spread across Chile. To understand the passions driving a million people to march on the capital, and to strengthen his relationship with his Chilean partner, Felipe, Mark leaves Santiago on an adventure through the Atacama. It is a place that mystifies even many Chileans, but its people are at the heart of a social movement that may rewrite the nation’s constitution.


Along the way, Mark climbs 14,000 feet onto the Andean Altiplano, dives into the kelp forests off the Pacific Coast, and traverses a lithium-rich salt flat whose existence is ironically threatened by the Green Revolution. But it is the people who really bring the Atacama to life. Mark meets a copper miner who was buried alive for 69 days, travels to the ancestral homeland of an Aymara chef, stays with a family of llama herders, and attends a memorial service for “the disappeared,” victims of the brutal military coup that toppled Salvador Allende in 1973. At the very center of Mars on Earth are the voices of Chile’s marginalized communities, including working class, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, and immigrant Venezuelan and Haitian communities.

Copyright Mark Johanson

Mark's stories have appeared in Travel + Leisure, National Geographic, Newsweek, GQ, Food & Wine, CNN, BBC, and other distinguished publications. He has coauthored a dozen Lonely Planet travel guidebooks.


Here is the Publishers Marketplace deal memo:

This is my first sale to Rocky Mountain Books, a Canadian publisher based in Victoria that got their start publishing guidebooks for hikers, climbers, and skiers, and have more recently repositioned to publish a wider range of adventure travel, outdoor lifestyle, and environmental consciousness books.


Congratulations to Mark and Don!

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