World-building is one of my favorite things about storytelling…and you probably won’t be shocked to hear that I blame J.R.R. Tolkien. A prolific world-builder himself, Tolkien created an entire “mythopoeia”–a fictional mythology so rich and complex that writers have envied, imitated, and sighed over it for over half a century.
I’m nowhere near as brilliant as Tolkien, but I do take great joy in creating my own fictional worlds. Operation Lionhearted is no exception. So for today’s post on the blog tour, let me nerd out a bit about this galaxy in which Lindy Tremaine, her friends, and her enemies live!
THE KELLAN STAR SYSTEM
Operation Lionhearted is set in a technologically-advanced, interplanetary society. I spent a lot of time trying to think of a name for this galactic…federation? Nope, I couldn’t use that word, not without getting in trouble with the Gene Roddenberry estate. “Alliance,” then? Nope, I risked incurring the wrath of the Disney/Lucasfilm empire with that one–and goodness knows nobody wants to deal with them.
“Star System,” though? Ah, now I was cooking with grease. And “Kellan?” Where did that come from? Probably Fantasy Name Generators, to be honest 😂 Praise the Lord for the endless resources of the Internet.
The Kellan Star System has 7 different planets: Meridian, Valya, Terithia, Bosthen, Opitheldra, Xandroa, Namaria, Zathrenal, Sarstell, and Vlinderland. All are named in the final draft except for Sarstell. Nearly all these names originated ten years ago when I created another fictional universe for a very different (and long-trunked) story. While this loose confederation of planets is semi-governed by an Interplanetary Council, a few like-minded factions have formed. Meridian and Opitheldra, for example, are solid allies, while Bosthen, Namaria, and Zathrenal enjoy ganging up on everyone else.
Lindy Tremaine, the heroine of Operation Lionhearted, grew up on Meridian. Basically, this is America in outer space: Meridian is friendly, a little overbearing, and probably more hawkish than is good for them. (In fact, Lindy’s adoptive grandmother, Margaret Tremaine, is often accused of being a war hawk.) Meridian is an ecumenopolis: similar to Star Wars‘ Coruscant, the sprawling capital city of New Harvelle occupies most of the planet, though it has several suburbs of varying economic status and appearance. Lindy and Margaret Tremaine, for example, live in the cozier, quieter Whitesmith; Meridian’s president, Maria Stagg, lives in opulent Stanhope.
One of the things I love best about Meridian, though, is its welcoming atmosphere. After Valya’s violent revolution–the civil war that resulted in the brutal death of Lindy’s mother–Meridian took in thousands of Valyan refugees. Some, like Lindy, have blended seamlessly into Meridian’s lighter, looser culture; others, like Princess Mariamne Navorre, have stubbornly maintained their hold on their own culture and traditions. There are pros and cons to both lifestyle choices, as Lindy and Mariamne can both testify. But they are still free to make those choices, and that says a lot about Meridian.
While Lindy grew up on Meridian, she was born on Valya, a beautiful planet with a troubled history. My influences for Valya were many. Russian and Middle Eastern aesthetics played a part, but Valyans are African in appearance and admired in the Star System for their strength and elegance. They’re also empaths–and it is this gift that will forever connect Lindy with her people, whether she likes it or not.
23 years before Operation Lionhearted begins, Valya was torn apart by civil war. Prince Rael Navorre turned against his father, King Kalen, and with the help of a few trusted friends and advisors, he took over the planet and established a government I unashamedly modeled after the Soviet Union. Communism, like Rael and his Dominators, offers a utopia of prosperity and equity, yet it always ends up a bloody, oppressive mess. But just like the nations of Eastern Europe in the 1980’s, the Valyan people are finally fighting back against Rael’s tyranny…and a mysterious figure known only as “the Renegade” is spurring them on.
Other worlds & Characters
Although there are seven Kellan planets, Xandroa is the only other one Lindy actually visits. I had a lot of fun with this planet and its semi-aquatic people. The neon-pink wine Lindy drinks even came from this image I found on Pinterest while browsing for sci-fi inspirations. Namaria, meanwhile, is often mentioned thanks to its troublemaking tendencies, while Reznor Aeron, Ethan Granger’s first officer, hails from Opitheldra, a planet of telepaths.
At this point you may be wondering: what about the characters that populate these worlds and this story? Well, I can give a quick rundown on all the main characters, so let’s close this post with a few introductions…using this collage I made during the first draft with my very excellent “casting.” 😉
LINDY TREMAINE: A 28-year-old intelligence agent working undercover as a fashion journalist, Lindy was mysteriously rescued from a war-torn Valya after her mother was brutally murdered in a massacre ordered by Rael Navorre. Raised on Meridian by spunky politician Margaret Tremaine, Lindy is soon tasked with protecting the surviving members of the Valyan Royal Family as they attempt to negotiate peace with Rael.
ETHAN GRANGER: Captain of the Meridian Novacraft Hummingbird, Ethan is, like Lindy, an undercover agent with the Meridian Intelligence Department (MID). He is also the estranged son of Meridian’s president, Maria Stagg.
JO CAMRIN: Jo is Lindy’s best friend as well as her MID partner. Hilarious yet wise, Jo has known Lindy since college and practically lives with her and Margaret Tremaine. She and Frank Gridley, Ethan’s MID partner (who, alas, is not on this ancient collage), also share a mutual attraction, which is quite cute and flirty.
MARGARET TREMAINE: Lindy’s adoptive “Nana” and an influential member of Meridian president Maria Stagg’s council. Don’t let Margaret’s lovable exterior fool you, though: she’s cunning and calculating, and tends to withhold important information…
RAEL NAVORRE: Once the heir to Valya’s throne, Rael has styled himself as the planet’s “Magnificent Citizen” and ruled Valya with an iron hand for the past 23 years. Like Margaret Tremaine, however, his charismatic demeanor veils (at times rather thinly) a gnawing horror over his own crimes…but there is still a stark difference between that and true repentance.
MARIAMNE NAVORRE: Rael Navorre’s cousin and niece of the massacred King and Queen of Valya, Mariamne is the new head of the Valyan Royal Remnant. Stunningly beautiful, haughty, and burdened by her own private griefs, Mariamne clings tightly to the old Valyan cultures and traditions–which puts her at odds with Lindy Tremaine and her Meridian upbringing.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to the world and characters of Operation Lionhearted! I had a lot of fun writing it. If you’re interested in my original Pinterest board for my novel and characters, feel free to browse around…and hopefully get a good laugh out of Jo’s section, in particular 😉
There are still 6 days left on the blog tour–and 5 days left on the paperback giveaway. You have lots of different options for gaining points, and none of them are mandatory (I just changed that, haha), so be sure to secure your entry!
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