Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and multi-published Christian fiction contemporary romance author. Her novel Grace Restored was a 2019 Holt Medallion finalist, and Risking Love was a 2020 Selah Award finalist. As a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Toni loves connecting with readers and authors alike via social media.
In this interview, Toni share some of her insights into her latest novel, To Win a Prince.
FF: Please provide a brief summary of your new novel, To Win a Prince.
To Win a Prince is all about Iris Blakely and Ekon Diallo’s journeys to each other and through the ups and downs life throws at them. The story explores what happens to Ekon after the royal council delivers their judgment on his actions (read In Search of a Prince or the prologue in To Win a Prince for a recap). Thus, part of the story is told in his point of view. The story also takes us through the ins and outs of Iris’s new business and her life as she settles into a new country and, hopefully, a new love.
FF: To Win a Prince is set in the fictional African country of Oloro Ilé and follows Iris Blakely, who first appeared in In Search of a Prince. Can you share what readers have to look forward to in this novel?
I’d be happy to. Expect Iris shenanigans, the world of fashion, swoony romance, and a redemption that brought me to tears.
FF: Can you tell us a little more about the inspiration behind this book?
I knew when I wrote In Search of a Prince that I would be telling Iris’s story. Honestly, all I knew was that she started a fashion business and Ekon would be her love interest. I let the characters dictate the rest of the story from there.
FF: How do you think To Win a Prince serves both fiction readers at large and BIPOC readers?
For romance fans, they’ll get that in spades with To Win a Prince. Iris can’t help but wear her heart on her sleeve, and the fodder that ensues speaks to that. The romance goes through ups and downs but ends with a happily ever after, just as romance readers have come to expect. As for BIPOC readers, they get the added benefit of being represented in fiction. I have had readers tell me how much they appreciate being able to identify with the diverse characters shown in my novels. To Win a Prince touches on the fairy-tale aspect of romance but grounds all readers in faith and realism.
FF: You’ve said in the past that seeing diversity in Christian fiction is a goal of yours as an author. Do you think the genre is moving in that direction?
I do. Every time I celebrate a BIPOC Christian author’s new release, I feel the industry moving in the right direction. I’m also praying and cheering on unpublished authors who hope to join the Christian fiction market.
FF: For those who know you, it’s no secret that you love all things royal and romance. How have those interests influenced this book and your writing?
In so many good ways! I’ll admit to creating a song playlist that had some “royal” and “romantic” songs to inspire me as I wrote. Not only that, but I was really able to focus on what makes a person noble as I wrote Iris and Ekon’s story.
FF: Iris had a crush on Ekon from the moment she moved to Oloro Ilé. Without giving away too much, can you elaborate on how Ekon’s costly decisions have repercussions for both of them going forward?
Great question! Iris is obviously torn because her feelings don’t just turn off because of what Ekon has done. So she has to work through them and what it means if she can’t keep her crush from developing into deeper feelings. As for Ekon, he comes to realize the true cost of his decisions and the ripple effect it has.
FF: What challenges did you experience while writing this story?
I actually wrote this story during a really difficult time. My husband had been laid off and our lease was up, and we needed somewhere else to live. It was completely overwhelming, and even though I was able to get an extension on my deadline, I didn’t give myself a lot of wiggle room to complete the manuscript. But God is truly faithful, pouring the words out in six weeks’ time. Enough time to give it another read through before turning it in. I’ll never forget the journey God brought me through while writing Iris’s tale and learning what patience in the Lord means.
FF: What lessons do you hope readers gain from reading To Win a Prince?
So many, lol! I hope they understand that God’s ways always bring about the best fruit for our lives. That nobility can be learned, and that patience really can have its perfect work.
To Win a Prince
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Release Date: September 13, 2022
Can she stop herself from falling before she’s too far gone?
As a fashion aficionado and best friend of the queen of the African island country Ọlọrọ Ilé, Iris Blakely dreams of using her talent to start a sustainable clothing line to help citizens in impoverished areas and honor the country’s resources. But when she discovers that Ekon Diallo–the man who betrayed her best friend—will be her business consultant, the battle between her desires and reality begins.
Ekon Diallo has lost everything: his princely title, his material possessions, his friends, and the respect of his fellow Ọlọrans. To pay for his actions against Ọlọrọ Ilé, he’s forced to assist the charismatic Iris Blakely—but he can’t allow his heart to distract him from regaining his status.
Though they come from vastly different worlds, Iris and Ekon are both determined to reach their goals, and the only way to do that is to work together—if they can just keep their hearts from getting in the way…
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