Twisted and Anything-But-Simple

Kaaren Sutcliffe Author Interview

Undercover Mage follows a young spy mage on a secret mission who meets up with interesting characters and finds romance while trying to save the provinces. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

Mage Everand was a key character in my first fantasy with romance series, The Saga of the Ambitious Mage. Initially aloof and cold, he started to thaw when he saved the life of a warrior woman who inadvertently fell into his world. Even though he largely saved the day, the woman chose the other guy and went back to her home world.

For ages, I’ve been troubled about starting Everand on such an epic character arc and then leaving him hanging. In this new series, through his twisted and anything-but-simple mission, he has further chances to evolve, and a second chance at love. Lamiya, boat team captain and mystical bird caller, explodes into his existence, literally almost running him over with her dragon boat! On top of this, doing what he does best, sleuthing, he progressively uncovers a barrage of lies and deception surrounding the foundation of his beloved Mages’ Guild.

Through working on reports to do with the Murray Darling Basin, I became interested in the concept of a massive river travelling through several provinces and how this might influence relations between the peoples. Add to this my fascination with the Chinese mythology underpinning dragon boat racing, and of course there is an irate river dragon that needs to be appeased. They just have to find him first.

Everand is an interesting and complex character that happens to be a spy enhancing his identity further. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I’m fascinated by why people do things, how they make decisions, and how the consequences of those decisions ripple out to affect others. Everand, despite being a loner, strives to do what is right. He tends to be a bit black and white, so he’s greatly conflicted when what he thinks he should do doesn’t align with what others, particularly his master, the Head of the Guild, want him to do.  In this series he’s tested by one life-changing decision after another, the stakes higher each time.

The guilt he feels about not being able to save his assigned Guild mentor on his previous mission is thrown in his face when he uncovers his mentor’s son, a forbidden half-mage, loose in the river provinces. Another second chance: can he save his mentor’s son? But doing so would see him disobey direct orders … thank goodness he has Lamiya to ground him when he struggles.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Good question! I confess, what started as a relatively simple mission with the idea of continuing to explore the themes of self-identity, doing what is right, and being open to love, kept gaining in complexity as the plot unfolded. Even I felt like sitting Everand down and saying, “Seriously? You want to add another layer?”

Somehow, I ended up with a whole layer of deep deception about the foundation of the Guild and its relationship with water dragons, which in turn brought to light the complexity of Everand’s relationship with his master, Mage Mantiss, who has been a surrogate father to him since he was twelve.

Lamiya is an awesome foil for Everand as she evolves into her own spiritual being, which leads to some interesting considerations of how we define power, ability and magic. Their undeniable attraction allows me to look at love, working together … and sacrifice. 

On a lighter level, an aspect I definitely wanted to expose was the history, rigour, discipline, awesome training and camaraderie associated with dragon boat paddling. I’ve been a keen paddler since 2018 and am totally impressed by, and loving, the sport. I’m not aware of other novels in English that feature dragon boating. The paddling generates some wonderful moments of humour, and some hopefully highly original scenes. Paddles up!

Can you tell us where the book goes and where we’ll see the characters in the next book?

 In Fugitive Mage, the dynamic between Everand and Malach, the half-mage, comes to a head pretty quickly. To quote Lamiya: How did she come to be snared between two mages; one she loved and one she feared. Malach is the wild card in the series, totally unreliable and unpredictable, with Everand trying his hardest to redeem him … We also see Mage Mantiss failing in mind and body, introducing the potential for chaos in the Guild with the rapid rise of the ruthless Mage Pelamis.

Lamiya, bless her, decides to call the dragon in her lake in Riverplain, and enter Akachi — the original, superior river dragon with a massive grudge to bear. The ultimate plot twist arrives as Lamiya worries whether she called the dragon, or did the dragon call her?  

Everand and Lamiya are fortunate they have loyal paddlers as friends to help them navigate the increasingly turbulent waters.

With so many moving parts, I’m told it’s a fast-paced read. The first beta reader read book two in one sitting and the editor told me she didn’t want it to end! Lucky there’s still Eminent Mage to come (September 2023) as Everand and Lamiya both have a way to go to complete their journey arcs and find a sure way to be with each other. Let alone save the dragons, the provinces and the Guild.

Author Links: Amazon | Website

Kaaren Sutcliffe delivers a richly layered fantasy tale with intrigue, romance and compelling characters. The trilogy weaves together a young spy mage on a covert mission, a rogue half-mage, an alluring bird caller with uncanny abilities. A fiercely competitive dragon boat teams and river dragons with a hidden past seeking amends from a Mages’ Guild founded on deception.
A grumpy river dragon withholds rain. Their crops wilting in unrelenting sunlight, the provinces plan a festival of dragon boat races to appease the dragon.
But someone doesn’t agree … As the incidents of sabotage mount, Riverfall sends a desperate messenger to the aloof Mages’ Guild, hidden behind its deadly warded wall.
Mage Everand, a spy, is astounded when his master sends him to Riverfall to find out what’s going on.
The catch? ‘Under no circumstances, none whatsoever, reveal your identity.’
The undercover mission unfolds with layer upon layer of intrigue, until Everand starts to question everything he believes.
The alluring boatwoman, Lamiya, insists on helping him, making it increasingly difficult to conceal his purpose – and retain control of his heart.
Everand faces an irate dragon, a rogue half-mage and, worst of all, a legacy of treachery and secrets underpinning the foundation of his beloved Guild.
Can he save the provinces and make things right without sacrificing his soul and sense of self?

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on February 1, 2023, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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