When I started developing the Chocoverse, I wanted to tell a story without easy answers, where nobody was exactly in the right, and they are all trying their best despite difficult circumstances. I mean, come on, my heroine commits treason to her home planet within the first few chapters of the first book – because she believes stealing a cacao pod from one of Earth’s heavily guarded plantations will actually prevent war. (The basic premise for the series is that the aliens have made first contact, they took samples of Earth’s commodities, and now the best coffee is grown on the other side of the galaxy – only, they missed chocolate, which becomes the only unique thing Earth has, and therefore one of the most sought after substances in the galaxy.
And in a messy ‘verse that runs on secrets and conflict, love obviously wouldn’t be simple either. The books have a strong (sweetly written) romantic subplot between Bo (the aforementioned heroine who steals chocolate to share with the aliens) and Brill (an alien of the species that made the clandestine first contact and stripped Earth of commodities.) There’s societal prejudice on both sides – the long-lived Krom view Earthlings as backward, based on original data collected in the less-than-sanitary Victorian England, whereas Earth (and much of the rest of the galaxy) consider Krom pirates and thieves. Bo and Brill have a romance that starts from a place of zero shared cultural context, and they spend most of the first book getting over their own personal preconceptions of what the other person ought to be.
I’ve had a number of readers tell me that at the end of Book 1, Free Chocolate, they still weren’t sure if Brill was worthy of Bo. Remember what I said about no easy answers? I told them to give love a chance and see where I was going with all this.
It isn’t until partway through Pure Chocolate (the second and most recent book in the series) that Bo even stops to ask herself why the Krom handle commodities the way they do. She realizes it’s not about money or glory – but about preserving peace in the galaxy. And Brill starts to realize he may have something to learn from Bo’s approach to life, too. (Brill arcs so much in this second book, you guys, I can’t even.)
One of the most fun parts of building the Chocoverse was getting to design the alien species. I’m a big believer in the idea of balancing gifts with drawbacks. So the Krom’s long life makes them the subject of jealousy from other species. And the Krom’s painful history within the Galaxy has resulted in a mission they have refined down into a moral code (all commodities deserve to be “open source” and they don’t do war – most Krom are also vegetarian, especially when on an unfamiliar planet where you don’t know who you might be eating, and some of Brill’s friends won’t even wear leather) despite the fact that this has won them few friends. I gave them a number of physical gifts too (the ability to move superhumanly fast, book lungs that allow them to go extended amounts of time without breathing, blood that carries a natural antifreeze) – and that was harder to balance. I eventually came up with the idea of chromashift.
The irises in Krom eyes change color according to that Krom’s emotions. Which makes it very difficult for them to lie. (This is also a handy way for me as an author to get into what the Krom characters are thinking, since, with the exception of the prologues, the entire story is told in first person from Bo’s point of view.) It is a natural part of their body language, but it can also create awkward social situations (a Krom’s eyes might take on a golden tint, for example, signify that they are developing romantic feelings for someone, before they even know intellectually that this is happening) or even prove dangerous (as many Krom are explorers or traders and not being able to hide nervousness or fear puts one at a disadvantage).
There’s a lot of comedy in Pure Chocolate, and I take things over the top. I hope you guys have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.
Take a look at the book trailers here:
Pure Chocolate — https://youtu.be/
Free Chocolate — https://youtu.be/
In Amber Royer’s Pure Chocolate, several of the characters wind up wearing tee-shirts and bracelets with the initials MIAG (because Bo has a publicist, who is running a media campaign to try and save Earth). Comment below with the funniest thing those initials could mean for a chance to win a signed copy of Pure Chocolate, along with a bracelet and bookmark promo pack.
In a galaxy where chocolate is literally addictive, one
celebrity chef is fighting back, in the delicious sequel to
To save everyone she loves, Bo Bonitez is touring Zant,
home of the murderous, shark-toothed aliens who so recently
tried to eat her. In the midst of her stint as Galactic
paparazzi princess, she discovers that Earth has been
exporting tainted chocolate to the galaxy, and getting
aliens hooked on cocoa. Bo must choose whether to go
public, or just smile for the cameras and make it home
alive. She’s already struggling with her withdrawal from
the Invincible Heart, and her love life has a life of its
own, but when insidious mind worms intervene, things start
to get complicated!
Science Fiction [Angry Robot, On Sale: March 5, 2019, Trade Size / e-Book, ISBN: 9780857667533 / eISBN: 9780857667540]
About Amber Royer
Amber Royer writes comic space opera set in the Chocoverse, where chocolate is the only thing Earth has that a hungry galaxy wants to get its hands, paws and tentacles on.
She also teaches enrichment and continuing education creative writing classes for teens and adults. She spent five years as a youth librarian, where she organized teen writers’ groups and teen writing contests. In addition to two cookbooks co-authored with her husband, Amber has published a number of articles on gardening, crafting and cooking for print and on-line publications. She’s an avid reader, cook and language geek – and a fan of cheesy old science fiction films.