Having encountered her debut, A Promise of Fire, thanks to the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club, I haven’t shut up about her since. Her world, which is fused with mythology and magic, offers such a fresh perspective in fantasy romance. There’s tension and conflict, betrayal and passion, alongside countless other emotions and complications that allow the reader to sympathize with Catalia and Griffin in The Kingmaker Chronicles, who are aptly described as the sword and the shield of Thalyria.
Not to mention the intimacy, which is passionate, but slow burning. In a three book series, Bouchet established a new sort of chemistry, a new relationship dynamic featuring two strong-willed characters that are completely unlike most other romances out there.
In a world where cross-genre romance is few and far between, but is slowly becoming more popular, it’s nice to see a fresh voice that keeps on giving – in excerpts and newsletter pieces – as well as a new series, which dabbles with a science fiction setting in Nightchaser.
Let’s just say I was elated at the opportunity to speak with Bouchet late last month, who offered insight into the writing process, revealed a bit more about her upcoming projects, and uncovered so much more about the depth that went into her writing – from challenges and inspirations to everything in-between.
Read our full conversation with Amanda Bouchet below.
Melissa Ratcliff: Mythology and magic are fused together in the world-building for The Kingmaker Chronicles. What went into writing the story? Do you have any resources that may be helpful to those who are looking to learn more about Greek mythology?
Amanda Bouchet: Thank you so much for inviting me to Paperback Paris. Fantasy novels can be so much fun, because they transport readers to a totally new environment. But new worlds usually mean new rules, new terms, new divinities, new geography, new…everything! I love how urban fantasy shakes up our own world with paranormal elements but keeps readers grounded in a setting with which they’re familiar. I wanted to do something similar with The Kingmaker Chronicles, mixing epic fantasy and all its newness with an ancient-Greek-like setting and a pantheon of gods that most readers would recognize. That choice streamlined the worldbuilding and made it possible to burst right out of the gate with the adventure and romance.
I did most of my research as the trilogy unfolded in order to verify something like a god’s symbols, predilections, or personality traits or to confirm the outcome of a certain tale I wanted to reference. Not everything I looked up went into the books, and I sometimes spent hours reading about mythological monsters and rather gruesome myths for the sheer enjoyment of it (thank you Wikipedia!). In the end, though, the setting is just the canvas, hopefully rich in textures, from which the characters pop out in vivid color as they endure trials, embark on adventures, fall in love, and grow into the people they’re meant to be by the end of the story.
There are too many fantastic resources on Greek mythology to name. I’ve personally had a book since I was young called Gods, Men & Monsters from the Greek Myths (author Michael Gibson) that’s both wonderful and grisly. The illustration of Medusa on the cover used to terrify me. It kind of still does!
MR: In The Kingmaker Chronicles, so many different gods and goddesses appear, from Atalanta and Artemis, to Athena and Poseidon. Who was your favorite to write?
AB: Ares. No question! You can find everything and its opposite in stories about Ares, so aside from his most basic characteristics, I was free to do whatever I wanted with him as a character. He turned into one of my favorite parts about writing the trilogy, and I absolutely loved his relationship with the heroine, Cat.
MR: We see Griffin and his family pray to Athena in The Kingmaker Chronicles. If you lived in Thalyria, is there a specific god or goddess that you would admire or pay homage to?
AB: This is a tough one, because the Greek gods and goddesses had many faults. They’re jealous, volatile, violent, possessive, capricious…and I won’t get into some of their more horrible aspects. Let’s just say that Zeus could never be a favorite of mine. If I were a character in Thalyria, though, I’d probably look to Athena, as Griffin and his family do in the trilogy. She can be pretty hard-core, but there’s wisdom, reflection, and strategy in her nature as well as strength. Being a total badass is great, but it’s also good to be sensible and smart!
MR: What was the most difficult part about writing The Kingmaker Chronicles? Were there any scenes that were particularly challenging to write?
AB: Every intimate scene and every action scene is a challenge to write! In both cases, I want them to be detailed and gripping without being over the top. Obviously, they’re very different, but they’re the scenes that take the most editing and rewriting on my part. I go back to them over and over, trying to make sure they flow smoothly, advance the plot and character development, and of course, it’s important to get the choreography right!
MR: I personally loved Cat and Griffin’s relationship – I found them to be the perfect pair and I loved reading more about them. However, I have read quite a few reviews that suggest Griffin is abusive and demanding, in part because he uses the rope to capture her unwillingly in A Promise of Fire. What are your thoughts on this?
AB: I think that setting and context are everything. I established a fantasy world full of magic, warriors, violence, terrifying and dangerous creatures, and opposing kingdoms. Having a conquering warlord kidnap a woman whose magic is a powerful weapon he hopes can help keep his kingdom and people safe is something that fits into the rules of the world I’ve established. Having the angry heroine make his life a living hell for dragging her with him also fits the world and the characters, and that’s exactly what Cat does to Griffin—as she should! Cat doesn’t want to leave with Griffin initially, so he brings her by force, and forced proximity means they get to know each other quickly. Every decision for the rest of the trilogy is Cat’s—to help Griffin, who she comes to understand and care about, to stay with him after he frees her, and to eventually develop a physical relationship with him. Griffin is no pushover, but neither is Cat. This is a tale of two alphas.
MR: Occasionally, you offer snippets of The Kingmaker Chronicles from Griffin’s perspective in your newsletter. I feel like this provides a very new perspective, especially because most romances are written from a woman’s point-of-view. Were these scenes difficult to write? Is there any chance we will see more of them in the future?
AB: The scenes from Griffin’s point of view were a lot of fun to write! I wouldn’t say they were any more or less difficult to write than other scenes in the trilogy, just different, because I was in a different character’s head. I enjoyed giving readers glimpses into what Griffin was thinking at certain moments and showing how Cat called to him in an undeniable way, even before they’d met. As for writing more from Griffin’s point of view, I don’t have any specific plans one way or the other. If I can fit more scenes like that into my schedule, though, I will!
MR: I have noticed that you are often asked about Beta Team. Is there any chance we will see something about them in the future? How about Piers and Kato, specifically?
AB: Yes, absolutely! I want to keep writing in the Kingmaker world. The initial trilogy was Cat’s story, which I brought to a conclusion. But there are still characters who need their stories told, and I’m excited to get back to them as soon as possible. It’ll be interesting to write Cat as a secondary character in the future and show her through the eyes of other characters. I’m looking forward to that!
I definitely plan to write more about Kato. Piers, maybe. We’ll see how things go.
MR: The announcement about your new trilogy, starting with Nightchaser, took me by surprise (in a good way)! Is there anything you can tell us about the book? Was it difficult to switch from a fantasy setting to a more science fiction setting?
AB: Nightchaser is full of adventure, danger, and romance, and it was a joy to write! I like to describe the premise as Robin Hood meets Star Wars. We have altruistic thieves, an oppressive regime, imperialistic bad guys, and committed rebels fighting in any way they can. It was fun to switch to a futuristic setting because it freed me up in terms of language and imagery, which made the writing flow more easily and go much faster.
MR: What is your favorite thing about the romance genre?
AB: Good triumphs over evil, the bad guys get their comeuppance, and the characters you love always get their happy ending.
MR: We are always looking for new books to read at Paperback Paris. Do you have any recommendations for us (romance or otherwise)?
AB: Maria Vale is a fantastic new voice in romance that straddles the line between paranormal and fantasy. Her new series, The Legend of all Wolves, starting with The Last Wolf, puts a truly different and unique spin on werewolves and shifters in a way that turns the established lore on its head and gives us something new and exciting. I devoured her first novel and her writing made me feel as though I were a wolf and understanding what it was like to be a wild animal. Reading almost became a sensory experience. These aren’t humans occasionally donning a wolf’s skin. These are wolves that can wear human skin—but only when they have to. I highly recommend!
MR: I recently saw that you announced a new serialized novella, Love at First Baguette. Can you tell us more about it?
AB: Frolic, a new website all about pop culture and romance, asked me if I’d like to provide some content for them. I was interested in trying my hand at a contemporary voice, and I live in Paris, which is a great setting for a romance! We decided on a weekly serial that will be ongoing until I bring the story to a close. In a nutshell, the story is about Heather, a half-French, half-American woman living in Paris who decides to try Internet dating, since she hasn’t had any luck meeting the right man for her yet. She’s hoping to find love in the City of Light, but it’s not as easy as she thinks, and maybe she’s not looking in the right place…
MR: What’s next for you?
AB: Next up, I’ll be working on the second book in the Nightchaser series. I have a novella project in the works—a new fantasy romance which is unrelated to The Kingmaker Chronicles. I can’t say more about that just yet, but hopefully, I can share the details before too long. And for Kingmaker fans, I’m hoping to start the first spin-off soon!