Happy Monday, friends! Today I have the honor of participating in Maribeth Barber‘s blog tour for her debut novel Operation Lionhearted, and I’m so excited to share a Q+A with Maribeth herself! It was so fun to come up with these questions, and I loved getting a glimpse into the heart behind Operation Lionhearted.
But before we get into the questions, here’s a little bit about Operation Lionhearted, which releases in just nine days!
Synopsis: Lindy Tremaine is proud of her work with the Meridian Intelligence Department. Clever, courageous, and armed with an uncanny intuition, she is determined to protect the planets of the Kellan Star System from villains and schemers, even if it means going undercover as a fashion journalist. Tragedy, however, lies beneath Lindy’s self-possessed demeanor. She is an empath, a native of the war-torn Valya, and the man responsible for her mother’s death—the former prince Rael Navorre—still rules her home planet with an iron hand. Haunted by fragmented memories of bloodshed, Lindy refuses to revisit Valya or embrace her heritage, preferring to invest in her career and her adopted family. But now Lindy and her best friend, Jo Camrin, have received the most daunting assignment of their MID careers: they must protect Valya’s exiled royal family during peace negotiations with Rael. Committed to this mission despite her fears, Lindy soon uncovers a web of lies and technological horrors…as well as the best-kept secret in the Star System.
Maribeth is running a giveaway from today (October 4th) until 11:59 PM Tuesday, October 12th. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Operation Lionhearted, and Maribeth will announce the winner on her blog on October 13th (US entrants only). Make sure to enter through the Rafflecopter link here!
That’s not all though. You can also preorder the e-book copy of Operation Lionhearted at the discounted price of only $2.99! Be sure to grab your copy quickly because the price goes up on October 14th.
All right, without further ado, let’s move on to the questions!
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I wrote my first story in a Disney World hotel room when I was five years old. That little tale, centering on the family of Victorian dolls in a sticker book my mom gave me for the road trip, began my lifelong addiction to storytelling.
2. What is your goal as a Christian fiction writer? What do you hope readers take away from your stories?
I want my life and writing to reflect the truth, goodness, and beauty found in Jesus. As author Madeleine L’Engle put it, “We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”
I want the same to be true of my stories, even if they’re set in fictional worlds where Jesus is never explicitly mentioned. If my stories remind my readers that 1) truth is absolute, 2) that goodness triumphs over evil, and 3) that beauty (the glorious fruit of truth and goodness united) will save the world, then I’ve done my job as a storyteller.
3. What inspired you to write Operation Lionhearted?
Well, I was obsessed with Star Trek at the time, but I was also recovering from a painful, bewildering breakup. In my need to step away from the fantasy concept I’d brainstormed with my ex-boyfriend, I began searching for something new . . . and came up with the mental image of a clever but secretive young woman and her spunky grandmother in a Star Trek-inspired world.
4. Who inspired the character of Lindy Tremaine? Would you say she’s similar to you in any way?
Nichelle Nichols and Zoe Saldana’s joint portrayals of Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura had a huge influence on Lindy’s character. I love Uhura’s professionalism, her sass, and her steely defiance against boors and tyrants alike. I hope Lindy reflects that same strong but elegant femininity!
Are we similar? Well, we both have Imposter Syndrome and neither of us quite know what to do when we find ourselves at the center of attention.
5. Which character from Operation Lionhearted is your favorite and why?
I’m pretty sure Jo is my favorite. I made myself giggle more than once while writing her dialogue, and I’m always delighted when readers say how much they enjoy her, too! But I also love the fact that Jo is as wise and perceptive as she is funny. She’s very good for Lindy, who would probably be way too serious without her.
6. If you could visit any planet in the Star System, which would it be and why?
Honestly, I’d love to visit Meridian and go to Whitesmith, where Lindy and Nana live. I love its “small town in New England” vibes.
7. What was your favorite part about writing Operation Lionhearted?
The conversations! I realized while writing this book that I thoroughly enjoy dialogue, and the banter between Lindy and Jo astonished me. I had no idea I could write that sort of thing!
8. What was the hardest part?
Figuring out the politics of Rael Navorre’s post-revolution Valya. I knew Rael had been groomed/influenced by manipulative authority figures before lashing out against his family, but I had to figure out the motivations of those authority figures, how they were still influencing Rael, and who would benefit from Rael’s totalitarian system.
9. Science fiction can be a tough genre to write with its futuristic technology and weapons. What did the research process for Operation Lionhearted look like?
Thankfully, I’d pored over the tech and weaponry of Star Trek for a year before I started writing—but I had to make sure I wasn’t “hitching a ride on the back of their truck,” as the old Southern saying goes. So I spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking at non-Star Trek spaceship designs and then designing my own. I also read countless articles on sci-fi weapons and technology, deciding which ones I would adapt/rename for my needs and which ones I’d actively avoid (like transporter beams).
10. What inspired the theme of facing one’s past in Operation Lionhearted? Is that something you have wrestled with yourself?
Facing one’s past often means embracing one’s true, God-given identity first. Questions like “Who am I, really? Why did God put me here? How is He growing me in this trial? Am I loved? If I am, what could I accomplish in the strength of that knowledge?” are questions I’ve wrestled with all my life. Over the years I’ve realized that I resonate with (and write!) characters who ask the same questions, and Lindy Tremaine was no exception.
11. What authors have inspired your writing?
Tolkien and Lewis are easy answers, but Diane Duane (who wrote some of my favorite Star Trek novels) and Marissa Meyer (author of The Lunar Chronicles) had a lot of influence as well.
12. What did your writing process for Operation Lionhearted look like? Did you plot it or pants it?
I wrote the first four chapters by the seat of my pants, then created a “skeleton outline” that I more or less followed for the rest of the book. But I was still completely shocked by the REALLY big plot twist/character reveal that happens towards the end of the novel. Lindy and Jo never saw it coming, and neither did I—not until I was actually writing it!
13. What is the most important thing you learned from writing Operation Lionhearted?
I CAN WRITE A BOOK. I’ve done it—I’ve fulfilled a childhood dream—and that means that I have the tools within me to write another one. I just have to get my Inner Critic to shut up. She’s a terrible bully.
14. You’ve mentioned before that it took you several years to write Operation Lionhearted. What advice would you give to other young writers who are feeling discouraged by how long the process is taking?
Take your time and strive for excellence, but also trust your instincts. There will come a point when you simply can’t do anything more to your story. It’s ready either for beta readers, an agent, or a final audience. I knew I’d reached that point when any further editing would’ve stripped my story of everything that made it alive.
15. Are you working on any new project? If so, can you share a little bit about it?
I am working on a new project; it’s been on my heart for a year and a half, and it’s probably the most daring thing I’ve ever written. I tend to keep the details of new stories close to my heart while they’re still in early development, but I can say that it’s much more epic and magical than Operation Lionhearted, and that its roots are deep and ancient.
Thank you so much for this interview, Kristianne! Your questions were a delight to answer, and it’s been an honor to be featured on your blog!
I hope you enjoyed Maribeth’s answers as much as I did! I’ve been following her blog for a while now, and I always come away blessed by her wisdom and encouragement. She’s such a bright light on the Internet!
If you’d like to follow along with the rest of the blog tour, here’s all the information you need!
Stay tuned for my review of Operation Lionhearted coming next Monday. I had the opportunity to read an e-ARC of it, and I have only good things to say about this beautiful, epic story!