Judit has one duty: to guard the chosen one, he who will unite two warring, star-spanning houses in marriage. Simple, if she wasn’t already in love with the bride-to-be. As far as anyone knows, Annika has been raised to be the perfect bride and future matriarch. Secretly, she’s an assassin ordered to usurp the chosen one’s mind and kill anyone who gets in her way.
When the political landscape shifts, murders and abductions threaten to tear the galaxy apart. Judit and Annika race to uncover the source of the strife. It must be someone powerful and bold enough to risk throwing whole star systems into ruin, someone who could change destinies and bring two lovers together, if they survive.
Grete: Not only are the stakes in House of Fate super high when established, they ramp up even further about five minutes into the read. How did you manage the pacing in this story? Did you find any aspects especially tricky?
Barbara: I knew I wanted the beginning of House of Fate to start off a little slow, with an impending wedding and everyone thinking they know exactly who they are and who everyone else is. Then I wanted their worlds to explode, and the pace to be at breakneck speed so no one could stop to ponder that everything they knew is a lie. Annika is not a perfect space princess, and Judit was never going to be just a guardian for her cousin. I didn't want to give anyone time to be paralyzed by new knowledge until later in the story. I found this tricky because I needed the scenes to be fast and exciting enough for the characters to not take a breath, yet the scenes also needed to flow and be understandable so the reader was never confused.
G: The universe you have built is rich with color and rife with action. The scope is huge! Can you please talk about your process developing it?
B: Thanks! I knew I wanted a large scale for this book, setting-wise, so I started with what that might look like. I eliminated aliens from the galaxy right away. That would have been too much to deal with. Then, to make the scale seem a little smaller, I created houses based on Romeo and Juliet (for the star-crossed lover aspect) and Dune by Frank Herbert, though without the unifying presence of the emperor. Then I set the events in motion by creating a war for the two largest houses and showed impending instability by saying that the smaller houses were tired of this war. I wanted to start on a knife edge for everyone.
G: What was the most interesting thing you researched for writing House of Fate?
B: Definitely faster-than-light (FTL) travel. I needed characters to get from place to place either instantaneously or in a matter of hours/days. That meant two different types of transportation: gates and engines. I watched a lot of Sci Fi and read a lot of nonfiction on the theory. I discovered that most of the time, in Sci Fi that has FTL travel, going across the entire galaxy would still take hundreds of years. I needed gates like those in the video game Mass Effect to show humans relying on tech rather than on a biological solution as in Dune.
G: Annika is my favorite character; her moral complexity and especially her learning journey make for engrossing reading. How much change did her personality go through while you were writing? Did she turn out different from how you originally imagined?
B: I like Annika, too! She was a great character to write. She was also challenging because I wanted her to be a killer, yet not as cold-blooded as a full psychopath. Her moral code is extremely warped, but she wants to be better, which is why she's willing to listen to Judit and Noal. I had to pull her back a bit from coming off as too bloodthirsty. I didn't want her to enjoy killing but to see it as just a thing everyone has to do in order to get by.
G: Which character surprised you the most?
B: Probably Noal, Judit's cousin. I had Judit and Annika well planned out, but after the first few scenes, I didn't quite know what to do with Noal. I didn't want to just stick him in a room and forget about him. He has skills, and I had to develop them and think about what he might do in different situations. I realized that after he gets over his initial shock, he's going to want to help, and he can serve as a foil for Judit. He's also a character who understands both Judit and Annika even though he doesn't approve of either of them one hundred percent.
G: House of Fate features a dense science fiction realm and a main couple who are both women. How was your experience marketing this novel to publishers?
B: Thankfully, I didn't have to. I already had a relationship with Bold Strokes Books, so I pitched the novel to them, and they accepted it.
G: Was there anything you absolutely loved but had to let go of in the course of writing? How do you deal with "killing your darlings"?
B: There were a few scenes I cut because they didn't fit the tone. They were either too humorous or far more serious than I wanted the book to be. I never have trouble cutting pieces from a manuscript. They can always be used in other projects. Editing is my favorite part of the writing process, and cutting is just part of that.
G: Any specific Sci-Fi that inspires you? Authors you love or universes you never want to leave?
B: I love the works of CJ Cherryh. I could happily live in any of her worlds, particularly the Foreigner series.
G: You have several book series in the works. How do you juggle the different projects as you work? Any more tales about Annika and Judit on the way?
B: I keep copious notes on everything. That way I don't have to look through a book to find information. I also never try to work on stories that are very similar at the same time; that way I don't cross contaminate the plots.
I could definitely write more about Judit and Annika if people want to see it. I have to be conscious of what's going to sell.
G: What strategies would you most recommend to a new or up-and-coming author?
B: I can't say enough about notes. Keep notes of what characters look like so you can fill in details quickly as you write. Keep notes on their personalities so you always know how they'll react, and keep notes of what you did in your last writing session so you never have to go back and read. Try to never reread when you're writing a first draft. That leads to editing, and editing your first draft before you've finished is a waste of time.
G: Can you tell me about your favorite book? Why is it your favorite?
B: My favorite book when I was a kid was Meredith Ann Pierce's Birth of the Firebringer. It was the first novel I ever read, and it was about badass unicorns. It doesn't get any better than that. As an adult, my favorite changes from day-to-day. The books I reread on a regular basis are those by CJ Cherryh and Terry Pratchett. Cherryh's worlds are so fleshed out, and Pratchett's are so funny. They both feel like coming home.
Thank you so much, Barbara, for allowing me to poke around in your incredible sci-fi space-scape, and congratulations on your Rainbow Award for House of Fate!
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