Guest post: Jeffe Kennedy on writing Twelve Kingdoms of fantasy

Jeffe KennedyToday, I’m happy to welcome Jeffe Kennedy to Magical Musings. Jeffe is the author of the Twelve Kingdoms fantasy romance series, among other books.

Jennifer: Welcome, Jeffe! Please tell readers about your new book, The Talon of the Hawk, which comes out on May 26.

Jeffe: Oh, I *love* this book! I know we say that about all of them – we love all our children equally – but this one is particularly close to my heart. It gutted me to write and I still can’t quite let go of it. This one is about my warrior princess, Ursula, Heir to the High Throne. She’s also the eldest daughter and gatekeeper of the family secrets. She is in many ways a rigidly pragmatic person, clinging fiercely to her loyalty to the High King. But the story starts with her returning home having made questionable – even traitorous – choices out of love for her sisters. She’s in a bad place, made worse by the discovery that her father has, in her absence, hired foreign mercenaries to supplement his army. There’s this one, the captain, who’s really big, muscle-bound and as stubborn as she is hard-headed…

The Talon of the HawkJennifer: This is the third book in your Twelve Kingdoms fantasy romance series, after The Mark of the Tala (book #1) and The Tears of the Rose (book #2). Can you tell us a little about the series?

Jeffe: This trilogy tells the story of the three princesses, from the classic fairytale meme – each more beautiful than the last. I started the series with the middle princess in The Mark of the Tala. I always wondered about the middle princess in those stories. You know – the eldest goes and does all these things. Then the middle princess does the same things, gloss, gloss, gloss. The youngest and most beautiful then seals the story. I’m really interested in birth order, too, and so book #1 was about how my middle princess, Andromeda, sees herself as invisible. Until she discovers that she’s betrothed from birth to the enemy king of a “mythological” land of demons, wizards and shapeshifters and heir to a magical legacy from her long-dead mother. Book #2 shifts to the youngest princess’s story. As the baby and almost supernaturally beautiful, Amelia is spoiled and self-centered. She’s hard to like to begin with – a real challenge to write! – but she learns over time, and through painful journeys, about what is superficial and what is real, particularly in herself.

Jennifer: What appeals to you about the fantasy romance genre?

Jeffe: Interesting question. First of all, I didn’t know I was writing fantasy romance until my publishers told me so. I love sci fi and fantasy – ever since I picked up Anne McCaffrey in 5th grade – and I love romance, particularly the sexy variety. I can’t seem to help myself – no matter what kind of story I’m telling, sexy romance leaks in. Fantasy romance lets me write stories about powerful, magical heroines who go on epic adventures. Finding love along with finding themselves just makes sense to me. Besides, it’s super fun. 🙂

Jennifer: What inspired you to write the Twelve Kingdoms series?

Jeffe: Well, I’d been mulling the idea of the middle princess for a long time, as I mentioned. Then I had this very vivid dream about being trapped in a castle while a monster lurked outside, hunting me. My sister kept promising to protect me and meanwhile people were going out and dying, being killed while I hid. I knew I had to go out and face the monster. If you read The Mark of the Tala, you’ll be able to recognize this scene, as it finally evolved.

Jennifer: What are some of your favorite fantasy books/authors and why?

Jeffe: I mentioned Anne McCaffrey – she was hugely formative for me. Also Tanith Lee, Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley, Mercedes Lackey, Grace Draven (I’m jumping around in time here quite a bit), Anne Rice, Mary Stuart. Some of these writers are arguably not exactly fantasy, but I love stories that cross genres or occupy the interstitial spaces. All of these authors have a lovely feel for magic that’s intertwined with reality – and most of them incorporate love stories of various kinds. I think Patricia McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is one of the most perfect fantasies ever written. It combines a powerful sorceress with a love story that’s inherent to her personal journey. Along with fabulous mythological creatures. I met her at World Fantasy Con last fall and I think I frightened her with my fangirling…

Jennifer: Have you always wanted to be a writer? What got you started on your writing journey?

The Mark of the TalaJeffe: No! I took a really crooked path, figuring out what I wanted to do. I grew up in an era where teachers really pushed girls who were good at STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) in those directions. Everyone told me I should be a doctor or scientist. No one encouraged me to be a writer, though my English teachers always said I was good at it. I’m lucky to be a person who’s pretty balanced between left and right brain. But for a long time I believed that a career in medicine or science was the only valuable kind to have. So, there I was, in my early twenties, several years into a PhD in neurophysiology (auditory processing in bats – very cool stuff) and I was miserable. I remember this so clearly because I was at the Neuroscience Convention in New Orleans and Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour had just come out. I was inhaling that in my off-hours and wandering this convention of 20,000 people the rest of the time. And all those people only seemed to be able to talk about their work. It hit me hard that I didn’t want to be one of those people – and I had a full meltdown, right there, in front of my advisor. I had to leave, I was crying so hard.

After that, I sat myself down and asked – if I took away all the shoulds, ifs, ands, and buts – what would be the perfect career? No one was more surprised than I when the single, clear answer was to be a writer. Seriously it had never occurred to me. But I figured, if that’s my perfect life, then I have to find a way to make it happen.

It’s taken a while, but I’m getting there. And, my job with an environmental consulting firm helps pay the bills!

Jennifer: What’s next for you? What are you working on?

Jeffe: Fun things for me to work on! We just sold two more books in the Twelve Kingdoms world to Kensington, so I’ll be writing book #4 next. For those up on the series, yes, that will be Dafne’s book! I can’t believe how many people have contacted me in one way or another asking when my librarian will get her own book. I’m also working on a super-cool proposal with my agent. I’m taking an urban fantasy novel I wrote but never sold (because I’m not anywhere as cool as Jennifer!) and reworking it into an epic fantasy. I’m really excited because I get to keep my characters and magic system, just relocated to an alternate world with a bigger scope. I think it will be just amazing.

Jennifer: Thanks for being here today, Jeffe!


Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and has been nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose, has been nominated for best fantasy romance of the year. Two more books will follow in this world, beginning with The Pages of the Mind in Summer 2016. A fifth series, the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, started with Going Under, followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract.

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:, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.


Jeffe is generously offering up two books for giveaway:

1) a print book of any book in the Twelve Kingdoms series — open to U.S. and Canada

2) An e-book of any book in the Twelve Kingdoms series — open worldwide

To enter the giveaways, use the form below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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13 Responses to Guest post: Jeffe Kennedy on writing Twelve Kingdoms of fantasy

  1. Pingback: Jeffe Kennedy » Talon, Castle, Assassins and Sheep

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    Jeffe, this was a great interview. I was such a huge Anne McCaffrey fan, too! Love her Pern series (dragons!), and the Harper Hall series, too. (Especially Menolly’s story!) And of course, I was a Mary Stewart fan. I’m also a middle sister, so it’s fun that you gave her the first book. I’m going to check it out right now.

  3. Timitra says:

    I don’t have any faves just yet since I’ve recently started acquiring fantasy novels and haven’t had a chance to read them yet but I’ve got Terry Pratchett, C. L. Wilson, Grace Draven and Maria V. Snyder on my tbr pile

  4. ML says:

    Aside from all the authors mentioned here, I’d add Louise Cooper, Sara Douglass, Michelle Sagara, Mary Robinette Kowal, Sharon Shinn, and Ilona Andrews. So many great women authors in fantasy!

    • I love the Kate Daniels series! SO good!! Isn’t this a great time for female authors in fantasy? Makes me so happy. (Although Ilona Andrews is a husband/wife writing team.) I just recently added Michelle Sagara and Sharon Shinn to my TBR – excited to read them!
      Jeffe Kennedy`s last blog was …Talon, Castle, Assassins and Sheep

  5. Mary Hughes says:

    Hi, Jeffe! Wonderful interview. I love the stories you have behind the stories. The books sound vivid and exciting, and I look forward to checking them out!

  6. Dawn Cavenee says:

    I’ve really enjoyed the Rogue series (Covenant of Thorns) as well as the Twelve Kingdoms! Generally I lean away from Romance stuff, but Jeffe recommended Rogue’s Pawn to me and it was so great I became a JK follower.

    My other favorite authors include Kim Harrison, Suzanne Johnson, Donna Augustine, Karen Chance and of course Darynda Jones! 🙂

    Thank you for the giveaway.

  7. Audra Holtwick says:

    i love the DragonRiders of Pern and The Mists of Avalon
    Melanie Rawns Dragon Prince Series is one of my Faves

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