After wrapping up her fabulous debut series, The Kingmaker Chronicles, one would forgive Amanda Bouchet for resting on her laurels. After all, she not only succeeded in writing a near-universally acclaimed trilogy, but that trilogy also happened to be a rare (at the time, at least) combination of fantasy and romance. But instead of trying her hand at a more conventional genre, or staying within her already established fantasy world, Bouchet has returned with an even more ambitious work—the sci-fi romance Nightchaser. We talked to Bouchet about crafting her new fictional universe and why everything is better with a cat.
Were you a big fan of science fiction as a kid? If so, which shows or movies or books were your favorites growing up?
I enjoyed science fiction as a kid, but I don’t think I could call myself a big fan. There wasn’t anything obsessive about it, and I was more drawn to fantasy worlds (dragons, swords, quests, magic!) than to futuristic ones. However, I’ve loved the original Star Wars trilogy for as long as I can remember, with Return of the Jedi being my favorite, and I never missed an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” all through my teen years if I could help it. Before that, I remember being very excited about “Battlestar Galactica” reruns and having big crushes on the main characters. I don’t recall reading much science fiction growing up. It was something I preferred to watch.
Why did you decide to switch from fantasy to science fiction for this new series?
The first draft of Nightchaser only started out in a futuristic setting and then quickly veered toward a fantasy world that could link into my previous series, The Kingmaker Chronicles. I didn’t intend to switch until I realized the sci-fi world I’d set up could carry a story of its own—one I’d already started and wanted to further explore. It was hard to set aside a nearly finished draft, backtrack to only the first two chapters, and then take the book in an entirely different direction from there, but it was the right choice for these characters and where I wanted them to go.
With this new series and your previous Kingmaker Chronicles, you’re a big part of the burgeoning trend of sci-fi & fantasy romance. Why do you think this subgenre has really started to flourish in recent years?
It’s exciting to be a part of something that’s taking off. I think there are a few reasons we’re seeing more sci-fi and fantasy romance, but an important one is that publishers have become more open to it. Some successful books and series have helped pave the way, creating what I see as a cycle that helps everyone. Publishing houses are more willing to take a risk on a new sub-genre of romance and promote it, authors see that and take a chance on writing and trying to sell it and visibility grows all around, helping readers find something they might not have known existed but realize they could very much enjoy. I also think sci-fi and fantasy romance are fantastic escapist reading. With the world as it is right now—and has been for several years—it’s a relief to sometimes dive headlong into a novel and be comforted by the happy ending that romance guarantees. There’s a demand for stories that lift us up, and I think that demand is including more books that sweep us away to a different time and place.
Instead of teasing it out over the course of the book or the series, Tess tells her crew who she really is in the very first chapters of Nightchaser. Why did you decide to have that reveal so early on?
It was necessary to the story for Tess’ crew to know her true identity from the start. Off page, they’d already been kept in the dark for years, but when the action begins, they need to know the facts in order to help her stay safe and achieve her goals—and also so that her actions and motivations make sense to them. The crew needs to understand the stakes in order to believably invest in a cause and risk their own safety. But not everyone knows who Tess is. Keeping the secret from certain people and deciding who to trust is a big part of the unfolding action.
I was delighted by Bonk, the world’s most adorable space cat, and Tess and her crew’s devotion to him. When did you realize that this space adventure would be better with a cat?
Everything is better with a cat! This is where I must admit that I don’t plan ahead much while writing. I start a book with only a few key plot points in mind and then do what feels right to link them together, with each scene growing out of the previous one until I’ve built a book. I was writing and suddenly there were cats. I knew Tess had to have one, if only because she’d never touched a cat before in her life, and that the crew of the Endeavor would instantly be smitten. Their world is full of danger and austerity, and an affectionate tabby cat like Bonk was just what they needed to help balance out the darker parts of life.
If Tess was suddenly transported to our still (relatively) free society, what do you think she’d be most delighted with?
What a great question! I think she’d love the possibility of attending a good show, something extravagant, colorful, over-the-top and just pure entertainment and fun. I’m picturing her singing and dancing her space captain heart out at a Taylor Swift concert right now. The music, the lights, the costumes, the excitement, the heartbeat of an entire stadium, the sheer joyful decadence. Tess would love it!
Tess’ crew plays a large part in the story, and they all have their own fascinating backstories. Which crewmember did you find most intriguing to write?
I love them all, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. I’m going to go with Fiona, the Endeavor’s resident scientist. She’s an interesting mix of ferocious and nurturing. She’s a botanist, growing and caring for her plants aboard the ship and also taking care of the people around her, helping to keep them safe and healthy. At the same time, she’s a warrior ready to jump into battle and capable of creating extremely dangerous biological weapons. She’s as ready to destroy as she is to protect, and it’s this contradiction that made Fiona a particularly interesting character to write.
Speaking of side characters, I found Captain Bridgebane to be a fascinating villain, almost sympathetic at parts. Can you give us any hints as to what the future holds for his character?
Captain Bridgebane seems to be walking a tightrope and keeping a lot of secrets that could change how Tess sees him and his past actions, both relating to her and to the galaxy in general. He’s going to continue to play a role that pushes and confuses Tess and makes her question herself as well as the nuances of resistance.
What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m working on Starbreaker, the second novel in the Nightchaser series. Dawnmaker will close out the trilogy. After that, I plan on returning to fantasy romance and the world of The Kingmaker Chronicles. The original trilogy, starting with A Promise of Fire, followed one main character and brought her adventures to a satisfying conclusion. However, there are several secondary characters that readers fell in love with and who still need their stories told. I’m looking forward to writing their books and helping them find the happy endings they deserve.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of Nightchaser.