Joining today for a special interview is Rachel Bach, author of the Paradox series. Today we’ll be talking about her newest release, HONOR’S KNIGHT, the world of Devi Morris, and writing in general. Be sure to check out a couple of awesome ebook giveaways at the end as well.
Welcome to Lytherus, Rachel!
Thank you for having me!
Every writer has their own unique style of creation. Can you share a bit about how the writing process works for you? Are you an outliner or not? Do you start with characters or plots? Ect.
I outline everything. There’s just no other way to keep track of everything that has to happen! My actual plotting happens in a 5 step process. The nitty gritty details can be found on my blog, “How I Plot a Novel in 5 Steps,” but the general gist is that I start by writing out what I already know (ie, all the cool details that inspired me to want to write this book in the first place), and then I start methodically filling in the blanks until I have a book.
There’s more to it, of course, but that’s the basic idea. Some books, especially later books in a series, take a lot more planning than others due to their complexity and whether or not I have to also lay down plots for future books, but the general process is always the same.
Also, just because I plan my books doesn’t mean I’m a slave to my outline. No one has all their best ideas at once. When I have a great idea for a different way to do things mid book, I’ll often just jump the rails and see where it takes me. That’s part of what makes writing so fun!
Before we dive into the Paradox series, you’ve also written a fantasy series under a slightly different name. Would you say those are a good fit for fans of your science fiction?
The Legend of Eli Monpress was my first series, and I definitely think Devi fans would enjoy it. It’s much lighter-hearted than Devi, and a bit goofy at times, but the humor in both is the same. Also, the Eli books get much darker and more serious as the series progresses, so even though the first book, The Spirit Thief, might feel a little too light, just hang in there. Things get heavy.
Plus, there are some really killer swordfights. Devi gets the biggest brawls, but the Eli Monpress series has all of my best duels.
Your Paradox books walk a fine line between Military Science Fiction and Space Opera, leaning toward the later mostly because of your amazing cast of aliens. You have wildly different races with clear and consistent cultural differences. How did you go about developing these separate species and figuring out how they would mesh with humanity?
The aliens were actually the easiest part. Like most authors, I love creating different cultures and then smashing them together. I knew right off the bat that I wanted two vastly different human cultures, because too often in SF, humanity is represented as this homogenous lump. I also wanted to show cultures that functioned completely differently on a fundamental level from our own, like the Aeons’s flock mentality that stamps out individuality, or the Xith’cal’s rigid clan culture that was both incredibly animalistic yet also sophisticated enough to produce moon sized tribe ships.
Unfortunately, the breakneck speed of plot and Devi’s own lack of interest kept me from going as deep into the culture and history of my other races as I would have liked, but I worked in tidbits everywhere I could to try and show a glimpse of the massive universe building I did for this series. I’m actually planning another series of novels set in the Paradox world specifically to explore the secrets I didn’t get to in Devi’s story. There’s so much cool stuff still waiting!
It’s going to be hard not to keep repeating the words clear and consistent when asking about your books mostly because that’s difficult to achieve in speculative fiction. But the laws that govern your universe and the many historical, political, and social facts are remarkably – well, clear and consistent! However, they aren’t always obvious to your protagonist. How did you keep track of who knows what when and also make people’s wrong assumptions make sense in the context of their understanding of the world?
This is where all that outlining and plotting I mentioned up in the first question comes in to save the day. Generally speaking, the book the reader sees is just a scratch on the surface of the work an author does. I’m not just talking worldbuilding, either. We have to know where everyone is all the time, what they’re doing, and why. This especially true in a series like this one where the mystery is half the game. A great deal of the tension in HONOR’S KNIGHT comes from Devi trying to figure out what’s going on, and because of this, the strategically revealing information was every bit as important as the plot itself.
Now, maybe there are authors who can keep all of this in their heads, but I’m not one of them, especially not over three books. I couldn’t have gotten through HONOR’S KNIGHT without solid planning and clear organization. I even made myself a giant cheat sheet outlining who knew what when to make sure everything fired when it was suppose to. Even knowing I could go back and fix things, it was still a massive planning effort to make things look effortlessly clear and consistent, and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to hear you say I pulled it off!
Right now there is a much needed call for diversity in genre fiction, but often that can result in characters or plotlines shoehorned in instead of allowing them to be represented naturally. However, your books are probably the most diverse space opera I’ve run across in forever, yet everything is extremely organic. Is this something you deliberately crafted in or would you say that it simply came from the style of story you are telling?
I had diversity in mind from the very beginning, and I think that was the key. I didn’t have to shoehorn anything in, because the plot and world were designed from the ground up with diversity in mind. I did this not only because we need a lot more diversity in SFF, but because diversity is reality.
The real world is full of people of every kind, shape, sex, opinion, and orientation all trying to make their way, and we’re only one planet. When you take that into account, the idea of an all white, all straight galaxy is even more unbelievable than ships piloted by talking birds. That’s why diversity wasn’t a choice for me, it was a requirement for the sort of truly believable second world setting I wanted.
There are also no real instances of people doubting Devi’s capability because she’s a woman. Is that cultural, specific to the Fool, or because the mech suits level the playing field so much?
I mostly think it’s because no one with an ounce of self preservation instinct would dare imply Devi is at all incapable of doing whatever she wants to do. I mean, Cotter tried in book one, and she nearly took his head off. Not figuratively, either. She was literally inches from ripping through his neck.
Devi’s temper aside, though, I was aiming for what I thought would be a realistic depiction of how women would be treated in a military society like Paradox where everyone serves a mandatory two years in the army and powered armor use is as much a part of the culture as cars are to Americans. Paradox is a very macho culture that values strength and aggression, so of course there would still be dicks who look down on women as physically inferior, but the real difference is that women in Paradox are taught to challenge that behavior rather than bear it in silence and shame, and they have the powered armor muscle and the training to back those challenges up. The result is an extremely confrontational culture that is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. There’s a reason Terrans have such a low opinion of Paradoxians.
But, of course, that’s just Paradox. Rupert, being Terran (which has a huge array of cultures loosely gathered under a galaxy-wide bureaucracy), was raised very very differently. That’s why he sometimes has trouble wrapping his brain around Devi’s reasoning and part of why he likes her so much. She’s something he’s never encountered before.
Here in Honor’s Knight, your protagonist starts to have a much larger role in the much bigger picture. It’s interesting to have this development occurring more or less late in the second book. Again, would you say that the story developed that way, or did you plan it out so we’d have an entire book to get to know Devi before she’s thrown in the deep end.
It was deliberate. When I first concieved the series, it naturally broke itself into 3 parts, “What is going on?” “Oh crap, that’s bad!” and “We have to fix this.”
FORTUNE’S PAWN is all about the mystery. I wanted that sense of something is wrong to be constantly present and warring with Devi’s determination to just get through her job. She’s literally a pawn stuck on a board unable to see the larger picture. In HONOR’S KNIGHT, she’s like a knight, a more powerful but still limited piece with the ability to go out and uncover the secrets that bothered her (and the reader) in book one. It’s the book where the series transitions from “what is going on” to “we have to stop this,” which is also how I avoided middle book syndrome. There is nothing more tense or satisfying than finally figuring out what is going on and deciding to do something about it, preferably with a big gun. Because Devi.
By the end of HONOR’S KNIGHT, almost all the cards are on the table, and it’s up to Devi to do the right thing…and that’s when I twist the knife again, because the right thing in these books is not at all clear. That’s the kicking off point for HEAVEN’S QUEEN. In the final book, Devi is the most powerful piece on the board, but her path is not at all clear, and the decisions will only get harder as she struggles to solve problems that don’t actually have a clean solution. But this is Devi we’re talking about here, so don’t expect any navel gazing. HEAVEN’S QUEEN is pretty much non-stop climax from the 50% mark on. It is a wild, wild ride, and if you liked the first two, I can practically guarantee you will love the end of Devi’s story.
Now, the first book came out back in November, and the third is planned for April…did you have them all written when you found a publisher or do you really write that fast? And will this third book be the conclusion?
Well, I am a notoriously fast writer, but we also pushed the first book back a bit because we wanted to get the cover right, which had the happy coincidence of condensing the release schedule. Personally, I love it. I’d want all three books to come out in one day if we could manage the logistics, but we’re not Netflix quite yet. I did have all the books finished and turned in well before FORTUNE’S PAWN came out, which was great because I actually had to go back and change a few lines in the first book that contradicted a decision I made in the middle of HEAVEN’S QUEEN. A true luxury for an author!
HONOR’S KNIGHT was actually the book that took the longest and gave me the most trouble of the three. I was really worried about it there for a while just because I’d done so many rewrites trying to get the story how I liked it, which is a real confidence killer. I can’t tell you how happy and relieved I am that readers are enjoying it so much!
It would be hard to choose one thing out of your stories to call “best,” but the aspect that just continually spoke to my soul as a sci fi reader was the depth and detail of the universe you’ve created. Once you’ve finished Devi’s story, however many books that is, would you consider writing more novels set in this universe?
Oh yeah. I love this setting and I’ve already got plans to do at least one book focusing on the secret behind the Sainted King’s power. I’d also love to do a book about the Blackbirds, because who doesn’t want to read about a colorful crash team of powered armor mercs having adventures? I also have a Devi short story idea set way back before the novels when she was just a new Blackbird recruit. It would basically be a buddy flick with her and another female merc on a job gone wrong called “Friends Don’t Let Friends Get Shot.” Unfortunately, all of these are still just vague plans, but you can definitely count on seeing more of the Paradox world and Devi in the future.
This strikes me a series that could adapt really, really well to the big screen. Has there been any interest in developing it into a movie or a TV series? I could totally see Michelle Rodriguez or Gina Carano tearing it up in a suit of armor, and there is such an audience demand for genre action films with a female lead right now.
Wow, get out of my head! Those are exactly the two actresses I’d love to see play Devi. I also think these books would make a great movie, but then, what author doesn’t? I’m not sure how film would handle Devi’s internal monologue, which is where a great deal of the story takes place, but I’m sure a good director could make it work. In any case, an action packed SF blockbuster with a strong female lead would be amazing at any point, but especially now with so much attention on genre film (Seriously, where’s our Wonder Woman movie already?).
Of all my novels, I think the Devi books would adapt to the screen best, big or small. So HBO and Hollywood, call me anytime! Let’s make this happen!
Like the sound of these books, but haven’t read the first one yet? Here’s a Kindle only giveaway for a copy of the first book, FORTUNE’S PAWN. Please be sure to use the email you want to access your book with. Once you get a email from Amazon, they will walk you through the steps to redeem the gift copy.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Loved the first book, but haven’t a chance to pick up the next? Here’s the Kindle only giveaway for HONOR’S KNIGHT. Once again, please be sure to use the email you want your gift copy sent to. a Rafflecopter giveaway