*glides in the blogsphere wearing a long swooshy coat and peers at all of you over the top of my
*immediately melts into a puddle of sweat*
Hello, friends. I hope this blog post finds you all having a lovely Wednesday and that you’re currently experiencing comfortable weather, whatever that may mean to you. Here in the Deep South, we’re in the midst of what I call The Most Infuriating Time of the Year: it’s officially autumn, the leaves are just beginning to turn, the mornings and evenings are crisp and cool… but the middle of the day still has all the coziness of a wet cotton blanket in the hands of a deranged lunatic determined to make sure you never draw breath again.
It’s been a hot (heh. literally.) minute since I updated the blog, and I apologize to the handful of commenters who left messages that have yet to be approved or responded to within the last few months. The last seven months have been a time of new experiences for me, starting with graduation and the first summer in 12+ years I was able to spend simply enjoying myself with no thought of studies or essays or assignment deadlines soon to return. Towards the end of summer, I was hired for my first job, and life has been a blur since then. It’s been a mostly good blur, though; after just a few months of being a full-time homebody with no greater goals or purposes aside from my sewing projects, I was feeling pretty pointless, and having a steady schedule is something I need to get used to before college.
Hopefully, I’ll be sharing a more detailed and introspective personal post with you all pretty soon, but today I come bearing an entirely different–and likely far more enjoyable–gift: an author interview with a dear friend and very lovely human, Maribeth Barber, whose debut novel, Operation Lionhearted, releases October 13th.
For those of you who don’t already know about Maribeth and her book, here’s some more info:
Her planet’s future is at stake…but her past is on the line.
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.
(I’m still not over how positively gorgeous that cover art is)
I first met Maribeth a few years ago on Twitter (partly because her Twitter handle at the time was a Doctor Who reference, and specifically a reference to Clara Oswald, and I had recently fallen irretrievably into my Whoniverse obsession). I quickly learned that we were something of kindred spirits: both born-and-bred Southern girls with homeschooled backgrounds breaking out of our molds of ‘safeness’ to explore the full depths of imagination, creativity, and faith. And we had several fandoms in common!
To be honest, Maribeth has been an inspiration to me since I met her, and I’m very thankful God led our paths to cross when he did.
As soon as the call went out for volunteers to help with Operation Lionhearted‘s blog tour, I jumped on the sign-up list–I am so excited for this novel and for Maribeth, who’s already been on my ‘favourite people’ list for a while, to officially join my ‘favourite author people’ list as well! 😀
Alright, I’m done gushing now. 😂
Please give a big round of virtual applause to Maribeth, and enjoy the Q&A!
Q: First, a quick introduction: give us 10 adjectives to describe yourself, and 10 more to describe Operation Lionhearted! Then feel free to share any other information about yourself and your book that you think my blog readers would be interested to know.
A: What a lovely way to begin an interview! 10 adjectives to describe myself…I’d have to say introspective, imaginative, idealistic, anxious, loyal, disciplined, organized, friendly, nonconformist, and intellectual.
I’m a small-town Southerner who loves stories about homebodies, underdogs, and royalty—a strange mix, perhaps, yet these are the characters who really resonate with me. I’m also the oldest of nine kids, a homeschool graduate, and a hobbit at heart—and Operation Lionhearted is my debut novel!
Q: Inspiration is a huge part of being a creator of any sort—and it seems to me that the very act of creating any type of art, and especially storytelling, is a circular process—consuming good stories makes us want to tell stories that will then inspire more people who will go on to tell stories of their own.
What would you say your biggest inspirations are? What other stories (or other sorts of art!) made you first want to become a writer, and what first stirred up the desire to share this specific story with the world? Do you have any hopes for how Operation Lionhearted will inspire your audience when they read it?
A: From the time I was very little, books and movies were a huge part of my life. Some of my earliest memories revolve around films like The Little Princess, Ever After, The Lion King, The Sound of Music, and Anastasia. In fact, I recently re-watched Ever After for the first time in 20+ years, and afterwards told my mom, “This movie is why I am the way I am!” I now see, with absolute clarity, the profound influence that that movie—especially the character of Danielle de Barbarac—had on me both as a woman and as a storyteller.
My desire to share this specific story, Operation Lionhearted, was born about halfway through the first draft. Not only was it the first story I’d ever written that just might be publication-worthy, but I had poured into it everything I loved about so many stories: a strong but kindhearted heroine, a chivalrous and stalwart hero, political intrigue, identity issues, rebellion against tyrants, and humor. I hope my readers find themselves with renewed courage and resolve in the midst of hardship after reading it.
Q: Authors usually seem to find that they put bits of themselves into the characters they write, so do you feel this is true of Lindy Tremaine and the rest of the cast of Operation Lionhearted? In what ways do you feel like your characters reflect yourself (or if you don’t think this is true, in what ways do you feel like your characters are very different from you?)
A: It’s definitely true where Lindy Tremaine is concerned. When I started writing her, I think I subconsciously made her everything I’m not: strong, quick-thinking, athletic, unafraid to stand up for herself, and completely engrossed in a high-risk career. But over time she also developed some of my own insecurities and longings, which made her much more relatable and vulnerable.
I also suspect that Mariamne Navorre—the haughty, tradition-bound Princess of Valya under Lindy’s protection—reflects some of my worst flaws. Not only does she hate asking for help (*cough*), but she can also be very suspicious and cynical (*coughs again*).
Q: Themes are a huge part of storytelling, so I’m really curious to know what themes you find most impactful and inspiring in storytelling, as well as what you’d say the main themes of Operation Lionhearted are and why you chose them. Was choosing your themes ever a deliberate decision, or were you totally unaware of them yourself until they suddenly appeared in the story of their own accord?
A: I was unaware that Operation Lionhearted had a distinct theme until I attended a writing conference three years after I began writing it. James Rubart, a novelist and writing teacher, explained during his seminar that every individual resonates with certain themes; if they’re a writer, they often weave them into their own stories. Sitting in that seminar, I realized, firstly, that I gravitate towards characters who claim the victory after finally embracing their truest identity—whether that’s Luke Skywalker announcing, “I am a Jedi like my father before me,” or Peggy Carter bravely declaring, “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter.” My second realization was that I’d already written Lindy Tremaine experiencing the same thing! Her embrace of her true identity finally gives her the strength to do what needs doing!
Q: Speaking of things appearing in a story of their own accord: without giving any spoilers, can you tell us if there was anything (other than themes) that did that in Operation Lionhearted? Any characters (or ships? *wink wink*) who just jumped right into the manuscript and demanded to be included without your prior planning?
A: Hah! Well, I always knew the romantic (sort of romantic? Pre-romantic?) relationships would be part of the story. But there is a Giant Character Identity Reveal in the third act that left me completely gobsmacked. Even in my outline, I never planned on this character having this amount of significance—but I was writing that particular scene when it hit me: “Oh my gosh, he is [REDACTED].” I’m pretty sure I squealed—both in delight and in shock.
Q: Alright, I know a lot of those questions were pretty deep. Now it’s time for a purely fun question! I’ve seen you mention a couple of actors you envisioned playing the characters of Operation Lionhearted while you were writing the book. And I always love seeing what faces an author was imagining their characters wearing when they wrote them. So can you share your fancast for the MCs with us?
A: I love this question! Operation Lionhearted was heavily inspired by my love for Star Trek, so I knew right from the get-go that I envisioned Zoe Saldana (AKA Lieutenant Uhura in the reboot films) playing Lindy Tremaine, and Chris Pine (especially as he looks in Star Trek Beyond) playing Ethan Granger. Jo Camrin, meanwhile, looks like a young Winona Ryder, Frank Gridley like Simon Pegg (which always shocks people, for some reason), Don Cheadle as my villain Rael Navorre, Angela Lansbury as Margaret Tremaine (AKA “Nana”), and Halle Berry’s Storm (from X-Men) as Mariamne Navorre.
Q: And since we’re heading into Cozy Season right now, can you share with us a few of your favourite Comfort Things you’ve been enjoying lately? (films, TV shows, books, podcasts, foods, drinks, etc—whatever you want to share!)
A: I recently rewatched Disney’s live-action Cinderella, and it is undoubtedly one of my favorite comfort movies. I also re-read The Enlightenment of Bees by Rachel Linden—one of the sweetest, gentlest, yet most impactful novels I’ve ever enjoyed.
But autumn also means we get to enjoy everything apple and pumpkin, and it means I get to split persimmons with my mom every morning as part of our breakfast! Autumn is my favorite time of the year. I should definitely start calling it “Cozy Season.”
The paperback edition of Operation Lionhearted releases on October 13th, and you can pre-order it at this link. Preorders for the ebook version are also available, and until October 14th, you can get it on Kindle for only $2.99! Starting October 14th, the Kindle price changes to $5.99.
Additionally, Maribeth is hosting a giveaway, which you can enter by following the link to the Rafflecopter form here: enter to win a free paperback copy of Operation Lionhearted!
There are lots more posts coming from many more very cool bloggers happening this week and the next, and I’ll be here again in a week to share my own review of Operation Lionhearted. If you’re interested in checking out those other posts (and I highly recommend that you give them a look), here’s a handy-dandy little schedule for the rest of the blog tour:
And that’s it for my post today! I hope you all have a lovely rest of your week, and like I mentioned before, I’ll be back next Wednesday to share my own review of Operation Lionhearted!