Fantasy fiction author highlights mental health in new book

Kelli Makenna Kuttruff
Arts Editor

Scripps Presents hosted fantasy fiction author Madeleine Nakamura, in conversation about her debut novel April 4 at the Motley Coffeehouse on Scripps Campus. This event was part of the Scripps Presents @Noon Series, and gave readers and fantasy fans the chance to hear about her queer fantasy fiction novel titled “Cursebreakers.”

About 30 people sat on sofas and cozy chairs in the intimate coffeehouse, intently listening to the talk. 

The novel “Cursebreakers” was released in October 2023 and has been acclaimed with a Kirkus Star. It follows the story of a magic professor with bipolar disorder on a quest to save his city from a curse, alongside a dangerous partner. 

Nakamura did not know she wanted to be a fiction writer until sophomore year of college, when she suddenly decided this was what she wanted to do. Her actions promptly followed suit to her newfound dream, as she changed her major from computer science to creative writing. She wrote her first two novels while she was in college in three months each, writing 1,000 words a day. 

Her writing process is character-driven, as she starts by creating characters that she can use to illustrate ideas and feelings she intends before the plot can form, and mostly enjoys the freedom of writing fantasy.

“I enjoy the freedom of writing in a fantasy world because you can sort of bend the logic of the world that you’re writing into what you want to convey, rather than having to work around constraints that exist in the real world,” Nakamura said. 

She was joined in conversation by author Rachael Warecki, who guided the talk about Nakamura’s novel.

“One of the first things that struck me about ‘Cursebreakers’ is how well it was done with world building, character development, and plot advancement without ever feeling like there was a pause or slow down,” Warecki said.

This was done intentionally by Nakamura, who prefers to write in a smooth storytelling method by acting like readers should already know the information. She then writes in a way where the information about the world can be told naturally throughout the story.

After the talk, Nakamura was available to sign and sell copies of her novel, with 20% of the proceeds going to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Representation of mental illness through the novel was important to guests such as Patricia Rosas, who works at Scripps and came to the event to find out more about Nakamura. 

“I’ve been looking to get back into fiction, and I guess I’ve just been looking for something to grab me in,” Rosas said. “I’m definitely curious about this because it is from the point of view of a middle aged person with mental illness and life experiences that are relatable.”

Hearing about Nakamura’s sudden switch from computer science to writing and then becoming successful with her first novel inspired her to begin writing again.

“I feel a bit inspired to be honest,” Rosas said. “She said that (computer science) didn’t work out for her so she started writing. I’m not going to lie I was like, maybe I’ll start writing again.”

Sophomore writing major at Claremont McKenna, Lucy Jaffee, was also inspired by Nakamura’s conversation. She attended this event as a writer in the stage of her writing journey that Nakamura was in when she wrote her first novel. 

“It’s cool that she wrote her books while in college,” Jaffee said. “I think people here can understand that they could possibly be doing the same thing.”

A sequel to “Cursebreakers” called “Angel Eye” is currently in the publication process and will be released in 2025. Nakamura had this sequel written before it was even accepted for publication. 

Hearing from people who truly understood what she was doing with the book in an unexpected way motivated her to continue her publishing endeavors.

“The greatest reward is that rare moment when you encounter someone who completely understood what you were trying to say,” Nakamura said. “They see you and your work, and it’s like this magical connection with another person that’s really rare to achieve.”

Kelli Kuttruff can be reached at: kelli.kuttruff@laverne.edu.

Kelli Makenna Kuttruff is a senior communications major with an emphasis in public relations. She is the arts editor of the Campus Times, and is in her second semester as a staff writer.

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