Authors in Orbit: Melissa Caruso introduces her debut novel, The Tethered Mage

My name is Melissa Caruso,
and I’m the author of The Tethered Mage. The Tethered Mage is about an
unintentional and unlikely partnership between a political heiress and
a pickpocket fire warlock who become accidentally magically linked such that the heiress is the only one who can unleash the fire warlock’s power. Causes a whole bunch of political problems, and they also have to learn to work together, despite overwhelming differences, in order to stop a plot to start a war. I’ve been really into fantasy
ever since I was tiny, so it’s hard to know for sure what the first science fiction or fantasy
book that I read was. I was very into Lloyd Alexander as a kid. I loved the Prydain Chronicles. I also really liked Chronicles of Narnia
and Madeleine L’Engle. I’ve been inspired by a lot of different authors at different points during my life. When I was really young, I was inspired by authors who gave me a sense of wonder and immersion in a cool world that I wanted to go live in. As I got a little bit older, I started really being inspired by people who had great plotting, like Steven Brust, or actually at that point,
J. K. Rowling’s plotting was fantastic, and a manga author, Hiromu Arakawa, who wrote the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, which is incredible, and she’s really taught me a lot about plotting and character. Well, when I was first writing The Tethered Mage, what kept me going page to page was looking forward to the scenes that I was most excited to write, which tended to be the big “A-ha!”
turning points in the story, but then going back in through it,
revision after revision, what really kept me going was the relationship between the two main characters,
Zaira and Amalia, which was just a blast to write, and sort of delving into their voices
and their personalities and the way they play off each other. But also, actually, some of the other relationships, particularly between Amalia and her mother, La Contessa, which is this sort of complicated relationship where her mother is both domineering but loves
her, and Amalia. There’s a lot of complications that they’re navigating, and also, I really love writing her mother’s voice, but particularly how they interact. Favorite character: it’s a tie between the two characters who were almost the most difficult to write, which was La Contessa, Amalia’s mother, and also Zaira, the fire warlock, because everything they said had to be perfect, but in a very different way, so it was a real challenge, but I had to keep going back. In La Contessa’s case, I had to keep making
everything she said more just, like, perfectly pithy and smart
and brilliant, and I had to keep coming back on Zaira’s end and making everything she said just more raw-edged and with a really strong, kind of crude voice which is not how I normally talk at all, so I had to keep coming back and saying,
no, more, more, but it made it really fun and interesting
to write them. There are little pieces of me in every one
of the characters. There’s no character who’s, like, a perfect
match for me. I guess you might say I’m kind of like a bizarre combination of Estrella, who is a sort of a mad, magical scientist,
side character, teenager for her dorky enthusiasm, with La Contessa because I like to be in charge and make plans and have everything laid out the way I want it, and my children will tell you I’m very bosssy.

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