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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Interview with Rachel Bach (Rachel Aaron) (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "The Spirit Thief
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Rebellion” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit War” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “Spirit’s End” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Fortune's Pawn"
Read first Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Eli Monpress series completion interview with Rachel Aaron

I'm a big fan of Rachel Aaron and now Rachel Bach as well. She is the first author to complete a hattrick of interviews on our site & that should be a good indicator of our love for her books and for her great personality. With the Paradox trilogy, she begins a new chapter in her writer life in a new genre as well. So read ahead to know about the Paradox trilogy books, the universe featured within & some cool info about the protagonist Devi Morris...

Q] Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic, you have completed your debut series and now have another series starting in November. Could you tell us about its inception? 

RB: Thank you for having me back again! Always such a pleasure to talk with you!

To answer your question, Fortune's Pawn was a book born out of necessity. About two years ago now, I had the itch to read some Science Fiction. I'd been reading a lot of Urban and Epic Fantasy and I really wanted something different. I also wanted to read a love story, so I set out to find myself something to scratch both the SciFi and romance itches...and promptly fell flat on my face.

You'd have thought I was asking for a freaking unicorn. I couldn't find anything that matched what I wanted, and the few titles that were close I'd either already read years ago or wasn't particularly interested in. I suppose I could have compromised and cut out the love story requirement, but I didn't want to compromise. I wanted epic Space Marine action and meaningful character development! (Preferably with a kick ass leading lady!) And if no one was going to write it for me, then I'd write it myself! *shakes fist at in defiance*

The result of all this righteous fury was the Paradox Trilogy, a delicious stew of everything I love in SF—Firefly style crew dynamics and humor, powered armor, Space Marines, conspiracies, aliens, gritty firefights, crazy systems of government, conflicted moral choices, one liners, the works—with a romance sprinkled on top. (And for those of you who just wrote this book off on account of the word “romance,” I don't mean that in a windswept-Fabio-on-the-cover kind of way. I mean there are people who fall in love while shooting aliens, which is a really bad time to do it, and bad times make for good stories. Just give it a shot!)

Q] Please tell us about the Paradox series and the universe within. How many volumes are planned for it? 

RB: There are three Paradox novels in total—Fortune's Pawn (Nov 5, 2013), Honor's Knight (Feb 25, 2014), and Heaven's Queen (April 22, 2014)—which together form a complete trilogy. It's really a story in three parts following Devi Morris, our intrepid, gun toting, powered armor mercenary heroine, as she tries to stay alive and make the right choices amid an ever tightening net of conspiracies.

The books take place in a universe I call “Paradox” after Devi's home planet, which is ruled by a Divine King who may or may not be actually divine. But Paradox is only a tiny portion of an enormous web of cultures, races, and planets, and (like any good space opera) a big part of the series is exploring the wide, dangerous, and occasionally wacky setting (and fighting dangerous things along the way).

But while I tried to make the books pure SF fun, there's also a deeper moral issue running through the series. The secrets of the setting are secret for a reason, and it's not always clear who's in the right and who's the real enemy. Like my Eli books, the Paradox series gets darker and more serious as the stakes get higher. It's not a spoiler to say things get very complicated as the story heats up. Devi, however, is always true to her hair trigger self, and if you like the first Paradox novel, you'll probably like the next two.

Q] Can you give us your elevator pitch for the Paradox series? 

RB: One of my early reviewers actually nailed this for me when he called DeviSamus done right.” She's also been called “the female child of Han Solo and Bobba Fett.”

References aside, though, the Paradox books are classic Space Opera with a fast, modern feel and a totally badass female main character in powered armor. There's giant space battles, intense shootouts on alien ghost ships, and a desperate, doomed romance. Really, what more could you want?

Q] I recall in our last interview you mentioned that the POV characters often speak to you in your head like Eli. Was this the case with Devi as well? 

RB: Absolutely. Devi was the easiest part of this whole undertaking. From the moment I thought, “my main character should be a female mercenary who wears powered armor,” she was there, giving me her opinion. Sometimes characters take years to develop. Other times, the best times, they just appear. Devi was one of those, and I'm so grateful, because f there's any character in this series who needed a strong, confident, completely on character voice, it's the first person narrator.

Q] In the acknowledgments to Fortune’s Pawn, you have credited your editor Devi Pillai for this book. Can you give a peek into how she helped you mold this book into what it is currently? 

RB: The Paradox books are the most heavily edited books I've ever had. Not only were they my first try at SF, they were also my first try at romance and my first time writing first person. Suffice it to say, I made a lot of wrong turns on the journey, and the fact that these books are here at all instead of abandoned in disgust on my laptop is largely due to the efforts of Devi Pillai and Susan Barnes at Orbit as well my agent, Lindsay Ribar. The second book, Honor's Knight, was especially difficult.

The second half of the book just wasn't working, so Devi suggested I rewrite it, which I absolutely did not want to do. It wasn't that I thought the book was perfect, but I'd been working on Honor's Knight for months at this point, and I was sick to death of it. But like a good editor, Devi didn't let me slack, and the rewrite I thought I'd hate turned out being the key change that made the rest of the series fall into place.

This is what a good editor does: make you get over yourself and do what needs to be done for the good of the story. If she'd let me have my way, Fortune's Pawn would not have been half as good as it is, and Honor's Knight would have been a straight up mess. So to all those writers out there who grump at the idea of editors cramping their style, remember: these people see what you can't. Respect their job and don't reject any of their suggestions out of hand. The changes I balked at the hardest initially often ended up being the ones I liked the most once I did them. Keep an open mind and try everything at least once. You never know what will be the magic key that makes everything else fall into place.

Q] This is an incredibly funny coincidence, but besides your main character sharing her name with your editor. Devi also means goddess in almost all Indian languages. What do you think about this factoid considering who Devi is and how she acts? 

RB: True story, the very earliest version of Devi was named Devi before I got my deal at Orbit! I actually did a double take when I got my first email from editor Devi. It was like “Okay, I've officially gone insane. My character is emailing me with a book deal.”

I've actually loved the name Devi since I was a teenager, largely because of the goddess meaning. It's just such a good name for a strong, independent woman, and that was exactly what I wanted my Devi to be. It's also just a good name, short and pretty, yet also instantly recognizable on a page and easy to type, which is vital in a main character. So yeah, Devi, best name ever for both SF mercenaries and editors!

Q] You had mentioned that you wanted to write a kick-ass SF series with romance that lead to the Paradox series. I very much enjoyed the romance aspect of the story. What do you want to say to any readers that usually shy away from romance in any form? 

RB: I fully respect readers who don't enjoy Romance capital R. While I personally have a very large collection of Regency and Paranormal Romance and enjoy the genre enormously, I'll be the first to admit these sort of books are not for everyone. That said, I think rejecting a book just because it contains a love story is silly. Love isn't a genre. It's a part of the human condition, and not just for women. Men fall in love, too.

Falling in love with someone you shouldn't is one of those universal human dramas that stabs deep no matter what genre you're in. So long as your characters are people, they'll be drawn to other people, and that attraction is a very potent (and exciting!) form of conflict for an author to play with. But if you're the sort of person who rejects all that thrilling potential out of hand just because “eww, kissing,” then I don't really know what to tell you other than I hope you didn't watch Avatar or read Dune either, because those are some beautiful romances right there.

Q] I enjoyed how you made Devi’s character such an unapologetic one in regards to her choices (life, profession & sexuality). It rang very true as a mercenary that she wouldn't be a maid. Was this something that you chose specifically for Devi? 

RB: Absolutely. One of my favorite parts about Devi is that goes for what she wants 100%. She's not someone who hesitates or over thinks, and while she pays for that rashness over and over throughout the books, it's also the reason she's still alive, and why she celebrates life so thoroughly. Devi's a stone cold badass on the clock, but when she's relaxing, she's a hedonist who likes to eat, drink, and have as much fun as possible, which includes picking up and enjoying hot dudes. After all, when you might die tomorrow, you've got to enjoy today to the fullest.

It's worth noting that this sort of sexually confident aggressive behavior wouldn't even be of note in a male character. In Devi, though, it's kind of a middle finger to the way women are expected to act, and I love it. She lives hard, plays hard, and fights hard, and she makes absolutely no excuses or apologies for any of it: not for her sex life, not for her ambition, not for being talented, nothing. She just is what she is, and she enjoys the hell out of it. This was what made her so fun to write. It was very freeing to live in the head of a character so confident and comfortable with what she wants out of life and so willing to kick anyone's ass who dared to try and take that power away from her.

Q] With Fortune’s Pawn, you are changing genres from fantasy to SF. How confident are you that the fans will follow you? 

RB: I hope they will! While Fortune's Pawn is definitely different from Eli, both in terms of genre, language, and themes, the writing is still me. I think people who enjoyed my voice and characterization in Eli are going to find a lot to love in Paradox.

Q] Lastly what can you tell us about Honor’s Knight and Heaven’s Queen? What will Devi be facing in these sequels vis-à-vis her ambition and her heart? 

RB: I can't say too much without spoiling things, but Honor's Knight is a very hard book for poor Devi. She gets kicked around a lot before she finds her feet, but once she does, watch out! The final book in the trilogy, Heaven's Queen, is pretty much all climax, so I hope you're ready for a wild ride.

Q] I also loved the snazzy cover art for your books , what are your thoughts on it and the Orbit editorial team that often deliver fantastically? 

RB: They look like movie posters, don't they? The goal was to make sure the books looked modern, exciting, and character driven while still clearly saying “this is Science Fiction.” We also wanted to showcase Devi as a badass heroine without oversexualizing her or making her look like a stereotypical “chick in armor.” I think Orbit nailed it on both counts, and I love Devi's death glare on the Fortune's Pawn cover. Definitely not a lady you want to mess with! 

Q] A curious thing I noticed is that in both your series, the main characters are after a goal, Eli with his bounty number and Devi with her path to being a Devastator. Considering what happened in Eli’s story (world-wise), should we be concerned with the scale of the story here (Universe)? 

RB: The universe definitely gets larger in the later books as new information is revealed, but I think I handled the transition from character problems to world problems much more smoothly in this series than I did in Eli. Unlike The Legend of Eli Monpress, which switches between several character view points, Devi is always the center of her story, and while her goals do change somewhat based on the new information she learns, Devi herself never compromises her values or her dreams. She is true to herself, for better or worse, and she uses that resolve to turn the Universe on its head by the end of the trilogy, like a good main character should!

Q] Thank you very much for your time and for answering these myriad questions. What would like to pass on to your fans both old and new? And once this series is over, what should they look forward to? 

RB: Thank you so much for having me, and thank you to all my fans for reading my books and making my career as a writer possible! I love you all!

As for what I'm doing next, I'll actually be doing a big announcement about that after the Devi books come out! Eee! Exciting stuff! Until then, thank you everyone for reading and I really hope you'll give Fortune's Pawn a shot.


Joe Damas said...

If I had the opportunity to interview her I would ask why they didn't put the final Eli Monpress books on audiobook.


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