Oh my goodness, guys! What a treat! Today I have an interview with the awesome, amazing Amanda Bouchet, author of one of my FAVORITE trilogies, The Kingmaker Chronicles. Think sweeping romance, epic magic, insane worlds and a hero and heroine to really fall in love with. I am so excited to chat with Amanda today! We talk writing, productivity, her new series, advice and so much more. In fact, we talk so much that this interview is only part one! Part two will be published tomorrow, so check back then! In the meantime, read below and when you’re done, go head over to Amazon where you can grab The Kingmaker Chronicles for cheap! It’ll be one of your best buys, promise!
Enjoy the interview!
1. Your books are so wonderful and heart pounding and I love them! The world you’ve created in your Kingmaker Chronicles series is spectacular! So let’s start there! Tell me about your world building and how you’ve managed to make it oh so indelible and delicious?
Thank you! And thank you for hosting me.
It would probably shock you to know that most of what I do in my writing happens almost by accident. I don’t plan ahead very much. I get these scenes in my head that play out like movies. I can see the setting, the characters, almost taste the smells in the air and hear the sounds in the background. Once a scene like that gets anchored into my mind, I start making up dialogue to go with it and having the characters interact. I go from this type of visual burst in my imagination to words on the page. Once I’ve got the initial scene down, it’s the stimulus I need to write the next scene. The scene after that grows organically from the one before, with each scene always building the plot, deepening the conflict, and rounding out the characters. I’ll really only have a handful of fully formed scenes in my head that make up the most pivotal moments of the book, and then I’ll link them together as I write and (shhhh…don’t tell anyone) make things up as I go.
In The Kingmaker Chronicles, I decided to build afantasy world based on ancient Greek mythology and the Greek pantheon, and so Ialso made the setting resemble an ancient Greek-like world in many ways,although not all. It was fun to use a mythos I’m familiar with and yet get toshape it into what I wanted and needed for my story and characters.Worldbuilding purists likely prefer a fantasy world that has no basis in ourown myths and legends, but I thought it was fun to reference stories and godsthat most readers are already familiar with. I didn’t want anyone getting lostin a lot of names and places to remember, which can happen in fantasy writing,and I wanted to quickly get to the action, adventure, and romance!
2. You’ve done some really awesome interviewsin the past, and one answer you gave on craft really stuck out to me. Youwrote, in regards to crafting your books (Kingmaker Chronicles) that it started with your main heroine first:
formed in my head first, but not fully. I had to figure out what made her
different, what her goals and motivations were, how she would interact with
others, and how she would fit into the greater context, which really took shape
Can you dive deeper into this? I loooooove what you say here. But how did you go about finding this character and really shaping her? Did you have spreadsheets, questionnaires, Pinterest boards? And I’m especially interested in the goals and motivations. It’s amazing advice. Find out what the character wants! But it’s such a big thing. How did you break it down and really figure it out?
This ties into my previous answer in that the heroine is the main part of that visual scene in my head that suddenly makes me want to write a new book. She’s there! I can see her! I can hear her! I plop her down in a setting and…then what?
Well, that’s the hard part! I wish I were organized with spreadsheets, questionnaires, and Pinterest boards, but the most I can claim is a whole lot of post-its with notes scribbled on them sitting in a big pile on my desk. Once I use whatever is on the post-it in the manuscript, the note goes in the trash, thus diminishing my pile. Organization at its finest! I keep most of the character traits in my head and build on them as the manuscript grows.
While I definitely write by the seat of my pants much of the time, knowing your characters’ goals and motivations from the start is essential. It’s what makes your characters consistent and believable. That’s not to say that goals and motivations can’t change. In fact, they should evolve with the characters, as the characters grow and learn and transform into whatever they’re meant to be by the end of the story. In The Kingmaker Chronicles, Cat, the heroine, wants to stay hidden and far from her past which traumatized her and is full of people who would use her unique magic for their own gain. Griffin, the hero, needs her help to secure his newly conquered kingdom, which would mean revealing Cat to the world and to the people from whom she desperately wants to hide. Griffin needs her to come with him and help solidify his hold on the realm. Cat has no intention of doing either. Already, we have goals, motivations, and conflict for the two main characters to get the novel off and running.
Find out what motivates your characters, throw a monkey wrench (or ten) at their goals, and you’ve got yourself the impetus behind a story.
3. Okay, so you’ve called your Kingmaker Chronicle books a hard sell, and a reviewer called it an “odd duck”, which made you chuckle because you agreed! I personally LOVED all three stories and liked how they were a mix of fantasy and romance. It was definitely very cool to see how the story unfolded. While you were writing the first book, did you think it was odd? And if so, what made you ignore the industry “norms” and keep going? It’s a really brave thing to do. I know sometimes the chatter of genre expectations can certainly get in my head at times!
In adult romance, it’s unusual to see a story structured as a trilogy with the same main characters throughout. We often see the same main characters in urban fantasy, with series that can be ongoing for several books, and in YA fantasy, although the romance is usually less explicit and takes up less page time in both. So yes, I knew I wasn’t quite doing the norm, but I did it anyway because I wanted a true mix of steamy, adult romance and epic, quest-filled, adventurous fantasy. I wanted to devote as much time to the developing relationship as to the overarching plot. I also knew the story I had in mind wouldn’t fit into one novel (unless it was a thousand-page book, which would have been a really hard sell for a debut!), so I did my best to structure it into three parts with the first two parts having not cliffhangers for endings but rather open-ended conclusions.
I also wrote The Kingmaker Chronicles in first-person present tense. Cat and her world were so vivid in my imagination that it just felt natural for the action unfolding on the page to be as immediate and visceral as possible. When I began writing this trilogy (several years ago now), first-person present tense was unheard of in romance novels. It was a real risk to do that, and I knew it. I was even penalized for it by certain judges in several Romance Writers of America contests I entered with A Promise of Fire (book one in The Kingmaker Chronicles). But I took a long time reworking and polishing the manuscript, and I also had my second child during that time, all of which slowed me down enough in my writing process that suddenly the new adult subgenre of romance took off in the meantime. First-person present tense in romance made its big debut in NA and, while still not the norm in mainstream romance, the choice wasn’t quite so shocking anymore. I do still get comments in reviews about it, though. Some readers can’t stand anything written in the present tense.
I wrote the book I wanted to write, even knowing itwasn’t entirely meshing with industry norms. I was lucky to find an agent whobelieved in the story and then a publisher who did, too.
Okay, didn’t I tell you Amanda is the best? Check back here tomorrow for Part Two of her interview. And remember, her books are on super sale right now so be sure to check those out!