Thank you St Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read an early copy of The Orchid Throne (2019). The latest fantasy romance by Jeffe Kennedy features some lush world-building, political intrigue, and two thorny protagonists who start off as adversaries and end up as lovers. There’s a very crappy emperor and two different ideas of how to take him down.
Read on below for an interview with Jeffe about how the inspirations behind the political conflict in The Orchid Throne, her favorite scenes, and what to read next.
What inspired the specific conflict taking place in the world of The Orchid Throne?
I wrote a lot of this in the wake of the 2016 US election – and similar elections and political/social trends around the world – so I was working out a lot of my feelings. How do you resist a totalitarian government? What becomes most important in a world where the 1% hoard the wealth and everyone else struggles to survive? Also, as a biologist and someone who worked in environmental consulting for many years, I worry about global climate change and other human impacts on the world. So, thinking about the land, what we owe it and how it feeds us, played into that conflict, too.
As both a fantasy and a romance writer, do you find there are concepts which play nicely together? Are there challenges in one that provide solutions to challenges in the other? (By the way, I loved the panel at Nebulas 2019 on this very topic)
That was a great panel! Very cool that you were there. I wish that one had been recorded, because I really got so much out of it, too. One of my favorite tropes is the Marriage of Convenience, or the marriage of state, where leaders must marry each other to forge an alliance and then find a way to be lovers. It’s not easy to set up the conditions for that in the modern world, but there just aren’t compelling reasons for people to have to marry each other, but in fantasy the worlds are ripe for creating that situation. It’s fun to play with alternate world customs and mores to increase the tension around a romantic pairing (or multiples). Also, I love the dual pressures of an intimate relationship and an external political crisis to push a character to change. Romance tends to be much more about character transformation than a lot of SFF, so it’s great for me to be able to make that a force in the overall arc.
What were your favorite scenes to write?
I’ve been deep in polishing The Fiery Crown, the sequel to The Orchid Throne, so they’re a bit muddled in my head right now. But I really love the scene when Conrí arrives in Queen Euthalia’s court and sees her on the throne. I also love the private interview between Con and Lia when they try to outmaneuver each other. And the wedding night, because I love writing sex scenes and they were fun characters to explore.
How did you chose and/or create the names of the characters and the countries in this book?
For Lia and her kingdom, I used Greek roots. “Euthalia” is a name I crafted from Greek roots to mean true/essential/beautiful blossom. The name of her island kingdom, Calanthe, is both a kind of orchid and means “beautiful flower.” For Conrí, I went to Celtic roots, with “con” meaning wolf, and adding the honorific -rí for king. Most of the names have roots in some meaning. For example, the genus Anura is the frogs and toads. 😊
After finishing The Orchid Throne, what books would you recommend reading while we wait for the sequel?
The sequel, The Fiery Crown, comes out May 26, 2020, so the wait isn’t horrible. Until then, however, I suggest Jennifer Estep’s Crown of Shards trilogy – fantasy with a slow-burn romance. Amanda Bouchet’s Kingmaker Chronicles are excellent fantasy romance. If you haven’t been reading L. Penelope’s Earthsinger Chronicles, the second book comes out in October, so now is a great time to catch up! As always, I recommend Grace Draven’s books if you love a fantasy & romance combination. Some of her standalones to start with are Master of Crows (still my favorite of hers) and Entreat Me, a wonderful Beauty and the Beast retelling.
JEFFE KENNEDY is an award-winning, bestselling author who writes fantasy, fantasy romance, and contemporary romance. She serves on the Board of Directors for SFWA as a Director at Large. Her most recent works include Prisoner of the Crown and the upcoming Exile of the Seas, from her high fantasy trilogy from Rebel Base books, The Chronicles of Dasnaria, in the same world as her award-winning fantasy series The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted Realms. She is a hybrid author, and also self-publishes a fantasy series, Sorcerous Moons.
Her books have won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015, been named Best Book of June 2014, and won RWA’s prestigious RITA® Award. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and on Twitter @jeffekennedy.
The Orchid Throne is available today! Get your copy here.