Melissa Caruso, author of the Swords & Fire series, joins BookEnds with Naomi Davis!
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
I try to write every day, though sometimes life intervenes. Now that I have deadlines, I try to write for at least a few hours every day, though it’s tough with kids and a day job.
In good weather, I like to write on my deck, surrounded by trees and birds, with a glass of iced tea. In bad weather, I write in my favorite big squishy chair, with a cat on my lap and a cup of hot tea. I am absolutely terrible about writing with any kind of distraction, so I have to fit it in when my kids are at school or otherwise occupied.
Do you have any writing rituals?
It’s not really a ritual per se, but when I need to figure out what I’m doing in a scene, I’ll often get away from the keyboard and take a shower, fold some laundry, or walk the dog—something that will keep my hands busy but my mind free so I can think things through.
What do you love about writing fantasy?
I love writing fantasy because that’s just how my imagination works. If I tried to write a realistic story, my brain would be like “Oooh, this would be EVEN COOLER with a ghost/curse/dragon!” (Or a CURSED GHOST DRAGON, AMIRITE?!) (Darn it, now I want to write a cursed ghost dragon book…) I love having no limits on my imagination other than the rules I impose on my world—and I love building those rules, too.
Why did you choose the genre you’ve chosen?
I’ve been drawn to fantasy since I was a tiny child. It’s always been my favorite genre, for as long as I could read. Some of its core themes always really resonated with me: that there’s more out there than the humdrum daily grind, that we all have a secret power within us if we can only find a way to unlock it, and that anyone can step up and become a hero. I think all these things are deeply true in our real world.
Also, fantasy is just FUN. Even when it’s dark and gritty and terrible things are happening, there’s still magic and wonder. It’s an exciting genre to read and write, and really lets me unleash my creativity at full power.
What is the hardest part about writing fantasy?
Hmm, there are lots of hard things about writing in general, but I’d say probably the hardest part of fantasy is also one of my favorites: worldbuilding. You have to be really careful to create a world and a magic system that is internally consistent and also evocative, so that it feels real to your readers and they can get fully immersed in it. If you try to cut corners or make things too hand-wavy, or use a fun bit of magic in one scene but then don’t have it show up in places where it really should in the rest of the book, readers notice and your story loses integrity. You need to be diligent but also make sure your world has poetry and fire and the utilitarian little every details that make it feel real, in addition to that internally consistent logic. I love the creative challenge, but it’s definitely extra work!
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
If I have infinite money and no shame, I’m totally going for the brooding castle in the mountains overlooking the sea. But a cozy cabin in the woods would work, too. Either way, I want trails I can walk on when I need to think things through, in a quiet and beautiful natural location with lots of trees and rocks and preferably the ocean. I draw a lot of creative energy and inspiration from being outside in nature—though through what alchemy that turns into political intrigue at fancy balls and dagger fights in twisting city streets, I’m not sure.
Mind you, there should be a really good bakery café at the foot of my remote writing mountain retreat, and my friends should be within reasonable driving distance. I’m only a hermit when I’m actually writing—the rest of the time, I love company! (Feel free to come say hi on Twitter. I’m @melisscaru.)
Check out Melissa’s debut, THE TETHERED MAGE, from Orbit Books!