Good morning, ladies, gents, and distinguished guests. *tips hat*
It really is sweater weather in my corner of the world. The winds are blowing, the leaves are dancing off the trees, and I’m trying to get my hands on every pumpkin flavored coffee and/or pastry that I can before the season disappears. Call me basic, but fall will always be my favorite season.
As many of you noticed, I neglected to post this Monday, but it was for a very good reason.
This week is the official blog tour kicking off the release of Maribeth Barber’s Operation Lionhearted, and today I’m here with an exclusive author Q&A.
I can honestly say that Maribeth is my best friend. She’s someone I’ve been able to confide in deeply over the last few years about so many diverse topics, and the openness of our friendship is refreshing. Our conversations on aesthetics, hagiography, writing, politics, poetics, theology, and even Star Wars have been so meaningful, and I’m so thankful for her and everything that she’s been to me. And now—talented soul that she is—she’s written her debut novel: Operation Lionhearted.
For fans of adventure and science fiction novels, Operation Lionhearted is sure to pique your interests. I was given an ARC as an opportunity to read the book before its release, and the story is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Creative, adventurous, and also quite humorous! Here’s the synopsis for your reading pleasure:
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.
To introduce this brand new story and its author to you all is my greatest joy. I came up with some interesting questions for Maribeth about her writing journey, and she’s given me some fantastic answers.
EB: How old were you when you first started writing?
MB: I was a precocious little 5-year-old when I wrote my first story. I was supposed to be taking a nap in a Disney World hotel room, but my mom had given me a sticker book full of Victorian dolls for the road trip . . . and rather than sleeping, I wrote a story about those dolls. (And yes, this probably says as much about my love-hate relationship with sleep as it does about my childhood creativity.)
EB: What are your personal storytelling poetics? Why do you write stories, and what do you aim to accomplish with them?
MB: I write because, quite honestly, I can’t help myself. During my teens and early 20’s, I was always writing something. Even during a bleak period in 2019 when writing felt like chipping away at a mountain with a toothpick, I ached for the old, familiar joy of telling myself a story that captivated my own imagination.
But I also want my stories, whether they’re my own novels or my fanfiction, to reflect the truth, goodness, and beauty found in Christ. More often than not, they’re set in fictional worlds where Jesus is never explicitly mentioned. But if goodness triumphs, truth is embraced and upheld, and beauty—the merging of truth and goodness—is celebrated, then I’ve accomplished my greatest storytelling goal.
EB: Operation Lionhearted is clearly a science fiction novel. Is science fiction the only genre you usually write, or do you enjoy writing others?
MB: Between Operation Lionhearted and all my Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Star Wars fanfics, I’ve written a lot of sci-fi! I’m very comfortable in this genre, but I’ve recently branched out into some fantasy and contemporary fiction, too.
EB: I really believe we write ourselves into our stories. How do you see yourself in Lindy, or how has your own story influenced Lindy’s?
MB: Originally, I think I tried to make her everything I wasn’t. She holds people’s feet to the fire, she’s strong and athletic, she takes risks, and she looks men in the eye and they say “Yes, ma’am!” But as the story developed, Lindy also came to share some of my deepest griefs and hopes. She’s betrayed and/or deceived by people she trusts, yet comes to a place where she embraces her truest identity and rests in the love of her friends and family. Those are all things I experienced either right before or during the writing of this story, and I think that probably comes through.
EB: Lindy and Ethan reminds me so much of Star Trek’s Kirk and Uhura! Were they inspirations for each character respectively?
MB: (*laughs*) Interestingly, there isn’t a canonical romance between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura . . . though that’s never stopped me from shipping them! But yes, they did inspire my characters. William Shatner’s Kirk influenced Ethan, while Lindy is heavily inspired by Zoe Saldana’s Uhura.
EB: Coming off of that last question, if you could cast anyone as Lindy, Jo, Ethan, and Rael in a film, which actresses/actors would you choose?
MB: Lindy looks like Zoe Saldana, albeit with a head full of long, dark, curly hair. Ethan may have been inspired by William Shatner’s Kirk, but he looks more like Chris Pine in Star Trek Beyond. I imagined Jo as a young Winona Ryder, and Rael as Don Cheadle (sorry, Rhodey). I should also mention my beloved Frank, who was inspired by Simon Pegg’s Benji in the Mission Impossible film franchise.
EB: If the story of Operation Lionhearted could be embodied in a song (either pop or classical), which would you choose?
MB: “Yellow Flicker Beat,” Lorde’s song for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, is definitely Lindy’s “fight song”—but Bastille’s “Laura Palmer” is perfect for her inner awakening to the truth of who she really is.
EB: There are so many exciting, suspenseful, and humorous scenes in Operation Lionhearted. I wonder, which was one of your favorites to write?
MB: Okay, this is gonna sound weird, but the scene where Lindy walks in on Ethan in the bathroom may very well be my favorite. It’s such a Natasha Romanoff thing to do. She’s full of righteous indignation at that point, and she knows he’s gonna have his back to her anyway, so she just marches in to talk to him without anyone eavesdropping and scares the lily-liver out of him. I adore that bit.
EB: I know you’ve been writing this for a long time. You’ve called it a “labor of love” in our past conversations. How long exactly has it been since you first started writing Operation, and how does it feel to finally share it with the world?
MB: I started writing Operation Lionhearted in October 2016, exactly 5 years ago. On the one hand, finally sharing it with everyone is exhilarating! On the other hand, moving into a new season (and new stories) after devoting so much of my energy to this book is a bit terrifying.
EB: One of my favorite characters in Operation Lionhearted is Lindy’s best friend, Jo Camrin. What or who inspired your creation of Jo?
MB: Oh, I love Jo, too! I giggled so many times writing her dialogue. But she isn’t there simply for comic relief: she’s quite wise and knows Lindy better than Lindy knows herself. I took inspiration from other intuitive, witty sidekicks like Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy, Iko in The Lunar Chronicles, and Sherlock’s John Watson—but I also see the influence of a few kind, clever friends of my own.
EB: This story is so full of hope, courage, and adventure. If there’s one thing you want readers to take away from Operation Lionhearted, what would it be?
MB: Facing the grim, heartbreaking chapters of our own stories is terrifying—but we each have an identity rooted in the goodness of a sovereign Creator that is deeper and more enduring than our pain. Once we embrace that, then we find true freedom. This is the underlying theme of Lindy’s story, and I hope it gives my readers courage in their own lives!
EB: What would you tell readers who have yet to read your story? What’s something un-spoilery that you can tell them before they go into it?
MB: While this is considered science fiction, it is NOT complicated or science-y. It’s “soft sci-fi.” You do not need a degree in rocket science to enjoy it. In fact, if you enjoy other soft sci-fi stories like Star Trek, The Lunar Chronicles, or Marvel movies, then I think you just might like Operation Lionhearted.
And that’s a wrap, my friends.
Maribeth, it was an absolute pleasure interview you and write about your bloody brilliant novel on my blog. Three cheers and one huzzah to you, my friend!
You can pre-order Operation Lionhearted on Kindle here. If you pre-order the ebook before October 14, the price is discounted at $2.99. On and after October 14, the price will rise to the normal sale price: $5.99. Furthermore, the paperback option is not currently available for pre-order, but it will go on sale October 13 on Amazon for $15.99.
You could win a free paperback copy of Operation Lionhearted to call your own. Maribeth is hosting a giveaway over on her blog, A Writer’s Tale, that is currently running until Tuesday, October 12 at 11:59 CST. The giveaway is only for U.S. residents, and the winner of 1 (one) paperback book will be announced on release day: October 13. Click here to enter the giveaway.
Furthermore, there are more articles surfacing both this week and next from some amazing writers. If you’re interested so far, please do investigate some of the others contributing to the blog tour below:
Do you plan on reading Operation Lionhearted? What are your thoughts so far? Feel free to comment below, and if you haven’t yet, head over to Maribeth’s blog and subscribe for more updates on Operation Lionhearted and fortnightly posts on art, film, and storytelling.
Until next time, friends, hasta luego. 😉