Wouldn’t You Like to Know. . . Cassandra Clare
by Stacey Hayman
How many people do you know who can claim they were born ‘a world traveler,’ and mean it literally? Cassandra Clare’s adventurous parents found themselves teaching in Tehran, Iran, for the birth of their daughter. Establishing residence in at least four European countries, plus travels to a variety of equally interesting locales, like the Swiss Alps, London, and small-town France during her elementary school years, it’s hard to imagine Clare being able to settle anywhere less unique than the Los Angeles area for her high school years. This time was also notable for Clare’s selection of her current pen name, thanks in part to a Jane Austen short story and for discovering how much fun it was to write, both to please herself and to amuse her friends. Earning an English degree from Vassar was more than enough to help Clare land her first real job, reporting on the entertainment industry for a variety of weekly magazines. Luckily for her growing legion of fans, the success of her first full-length, urban fantasy novel City of Bones means Clare can now turn to writing fiction full-time. Thank goodness!
SH: When I was a teenager, people would describe me as a: (jock, band geek, popular, goth, other, none?)
CC: Geeky reader, I guess!
SH: The best/worst thing that happened to you in high school was?
CC: The best thing that happened to me was getting into a special creative writing class we had offered at my school. It allowed for a lot of personal attention being paid to each student’s work and a lot of critique.
SH: Favorite childhood book? Favorite food? Favorite band or album? Favorite television show?
CC: My favorite books were probably The Lord of the Rings, my favorite food was chocolate of any kind, my favorite album was The Joshua Tree and favorite television show is hard. I didn’t watch that much TV.
SH: I have loved every pet I’ve ever had, but some really stand out from the crowd. (For good and for bad!) Any stand out pets from your past or present?”
CC: Definitely my cat Simon. He was an incredibly loyal cat. He stayed with me through six moves and three different cities. I named Simon in TMI [The Mortal Instruments] after him.
SH: If you had an important secret or story to share, who would be the first person you’d turn to?
CC: My husband.
SH: Is there one moment in your life you’d love to live again? To either change it or to enjoy a second time?
CC: Probably getting that phone call that my first book was going to be published!
SH: Did living in so many exotic places as a child make you want to travel more or less as an adult? (When did you actually realize you had had an exotic childhood?)
CC: I never thought of having an exotic childhood. We moved because of my father’s work, not for fun, and being stuck in small towns in Germany or Switzerland was boring and annoying when I was really young. But I started to appreciate it over time and now I can’t live without travel!
SH: If you could handpick the ideal reader for your book, how would you describe that reader?
CC: I can’t even think that way! I can’t pick my readers, they pick my books, and I’m always so grateful when they do.
SH: Is there a book, besides your own of course, that you think everyone should be reading?
CC: I would love to see everyone reading Shine by Lauren Myracle.
SH: You’ve been selected to be on the realty show of your choice! Which show do you wish would make that offer? (If it’s one of the competition shows, do you think you’d win?)
CC: I think What Not to Wear — I love shopping and wouldn’t mind the free style advice.
SH: If you could choose a super power or a supernatural talent of your own, what would you like it to be? How would you use it?
CC: Teleportation. I spend so much time traveling from place to place, mostly for book tours, that if I could skip all the airports, planes, trains, and taxis, I would be happy forever.
SH: What do you think would catch a person’s attention if they walked into your workspace, your kitchen, or your family room?
CC: I have a big collection of “maps to places that never were:” a map of Middle Earth, a map of Sherlock Holmes’ flat in Baker Street, a map of Narnia, a reproduction of the Time Bandits map.
SH: When you’re done writing for the day, or taking a little “me” time, do you have a hobby or special treat you indulge in?
CC: I like to catch up on some guilty pleasure TV. I love Gossip Girls and Revenge.
SH: What three words do you think other people would use to describe you?
CC: Upbeat, eclectic, workaholic.
SH: You are sitting down to dinner with five people, living or dead, who you find fascinating. Who is at the table and what are you eating?
CC: We’re eating sushi because it’s my favorite food, but Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Sayers, PG Wodehouse, Steve Jobs, and Jane Austen might not like it.
SH: You get three wishes, what are they?(Yes, you can wish for more wishes but are you *that* person?)
CC: Unfortunately, I am totally the person would ask for more wishes. I like a backup plan and if I only had three, I would be too nervous about using any of them.
SH: Do you have a phrase or motto that inspires you?
CC: “Inspiration exists, but it must find you working.” — Picasso
SH: What one thing makes you feel happiest? What makes you sad? What scares you?
CC: I would say “finishing a book” makes me feel all those feelings —happiness, sadness, and fear!
SH: What is one (or more!) of your favorite features about yourself? It can be anything from an impeccable sense of style to your sense of humor to crazy long toes that can pick up a variety of objects.
CC: I have a gap between my teeth and I can spit up to three feet? It impresses my husband, anyway.
SH: A series of choices: Introvert or extrovert? Peppermint Patty or Peanut Butter Cup? Board games or card games? Cats or dogs? Morning or night? Spend or save? Tea, coffee, or soda? Dessert or appetizers?
CC: Introvert. Peppermint Patty. Board games. Cats. Night. Save. Tea. Dessert.
SH: Any advice for teens, something you wish you had known? Or wish you had done? Or wish you had not done? And why. (Or maybe: Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten, at any age?
CC: I tend to think the things you regret are the things you didn’t do. The chances you didn’t take. Don’t be too scared of rejection to follow your dreams.
The Mortal Instruments Series
City of Bones
SH: Looking back, was this the easiest or the hardest book that you’ve written so far?
CC: The first is often the hardest. It wasn’t just my first published book, but the first book I’d ever written at all, so I had to teach myself novel structure while writing it.
SH: Absorbing specific skills or power through runes drawn directly on a Shadowhunter’s skin is a freaky and fabulously original idea! What made you think of this?
CC: It was a good friend of mine who was a tattoo artist who inspired me to research the history of tattoos. It was believed in many cultures that marking your skin, with paint or tattoos, would bring you bravery in battle along with other powers. It was really just developing the idea of a race of people for whom this was their magic system and how they became warriors.
City of Ashes
SH: There are plenty of mind-boggling surprises in all of your books, but this one in particular establishes some of the biggest surprises. Did you sit down to write knowing all the elements you needed to add? Or did you go back and find moments to build on later?
CC: I am compulsive outliner. I always sit down knowing what will happen next. Sometimes the story can take some turns, but things like Simon becoming a vampire were always planned from the beginning.
SH: Simon seems to take on the role of philosopher for the group, but it feels as if he’s unaware of his new role. How hard is it to find the balance between a teen boy obsessed with scary movies vs. a vampire discussing humanity with a werewolf, and still allow him to be funny?
CC: Of all the characters, Simon is the most like me, so he is actually the easiest to write. I tend to try to put myself in his shoes when I’m considering his reactions. Most of my friends and I tend to deal with difficult situations using humor, so that’s one of Simon’s traits.
City of Glass
SH: There are more quiet moments in this story than in the others; time to explore the history of these people and this place. Are the slow moments more or less challenging to create? Is there a particular passage that stands out for you? (Was it carefully crafted or a happy accident?)
CC: Well, because Alicante is an imaginary place, I had to take the time to establish in it people’s minds as a real place before it was attacked, so they would care about it as if it were a real location, and feel that the people living there were real people. I do enjoy
action scenes, but also quieter scenes, and one of my favorite parts is simply the scenes in which Simon is talking to Hodge in the prison about what makes a good life and a good person.
SH: With so many dreamy leading men, each sporting unique qualities appealing to a wide variety of readers, does it really seem fair to have so few characters available to chase after all those dreamy guys? Is there a clear fan favorite? Do *you* have a favorite?
CC: I think there are lots of dreamy ladies, too! Clary, Isabelle, and Maia are all beautiful, powerful ladies. Of course, Alec isn’t interested in any ladies at all, though he is a fan favorite, but the biggest fan favorite is Jace.
City of Fallen Angels
SH: Simon is such a key element in this story, even though he doesn’t have much interaction with Clary and Jace. What made you want to explore his struggles in such depth? Will he be getting his own series to headline?
CC: I don’t think Simon will ever get his own series, just given the structure of how the Mortal Instruments works out, but I did want to bring him more to the forefront, as he’s become a very powerful character, with his Mark of Cain and his Daylighter powers, that it seemed unrealistic for him to take a back seat to the Shadowhunters anymore.
SH: Ending on such a dark, scary cliffhanger was perhaps a little unkind… Would you like to make it up to us with a small hint of what’s coming next? Or maybe a more significant hint? (It was a pretty scary ending!)
CC: You know, I was totally surprised by the reader reaction to that last scene! People seemed heartbroken, as if someone had died. To me, it was an ending that promised really exciting things happening next —sometimes exciting things are scary, especially in the Shadowhunter world where nothing is ever certain, so I can definitely promise in City of Lost Souls — really exciting things!
The Infernal Devices Series
SH: What made you decide to travel back in time to start a prequel series? Do you enjoy the research it must require to get the details right? What’s the biggest challenge of altering a time and place so unfamiliar to contemporary readers?
CC: Well, Victorian England is one of my favorite settings for books and films, and the art of that period is also some of my favorite. The idea of going back in time and writing about the Shadowhunters in an earlier time period, when their belief systems and traditions were different, was just so appealing, and the Victorian era seemed a natural fit. The challenge, I think, is rendering the era accurately, while also keeping it accessible and appealing to modern readers.
SH: Tessa had a rocky start in life and fewer places to turn for help, but her bravery is off the charts. Is she as much fun to write as she is to read? What’s your favorite thing about Tessa?
CC: I think that she has such a big heart and so much empathy. I don’t want to spoil anything, but Tessa is put in a position where she has no choice but to hurt others, and she always puts them ahead of herself, doing her best to minimize the damage to other people’s feelings before she thinks about her own. She also has an incredibly inquisitive mind and is deeply thoughtful.
SH: Will and Jem would both make good matches for Tessa. How are you making that choice? Does it feel like an easy, obvious choice or are you conflicted about it?
CC: I knew how the books were going to end from the beginning, so it was never a choice. I know there are a lot of people who write to see what happens, but I’m not one of them. I think it’s just a stylistic thing — I need to know the ending before I start the beginning or I get really panicked. I do think both Jem and Will are great matches for Tessa. It was definitely my goal to make the reader conflicted, so if that worked, that’s great!
SH: Usually discussing politics, race, and religion amongst strangers is discouraged, but there is plenty of all three to be found in this book. Do you get much response about any or all of these topics? From adults or teens or in reviews?
CC: There’s definitely a lot of conversation out there about representation, race, religion, and politics in the books, but I don’t feel like it’s my place to join the conversation or interrupt it. I feel like the book itself is the conversation starter, but sometimes the presence of the author can have a chilling effect on discussion. Although, if there was a real conversation about Shadowhunter politics or an election for Consul, I’d definitely want to get in there.
SH: Have you hidden friends or family in your stories? Would you include them if they asked?
CC: I often base characters on friends and family, although they never recognize themselves unless I tell them. Characters always grow beyond their initial conception, to fit the needs of the story or become more themselves, so they rarely remain an accurate portrayal of an individual even if that individual served as the basis for the character.
SH: What did you buy with your first paycheck as an author? Was it a planned or an impulse purchase?
CC: Rent money, I’m afraid.
SH: How much input did you have in the graphic novel adaption of The Mortal Instruments series? Does it strike your funny bone at all that The Infernal Devices will become manga? (Considering Max and Clary are the manga fans.) Will you ever write an original story, for either series, just for publication as a graphic novel?
CC: I do have a lot of input into both the graphic novel of TMI and the manga in terms of approving sketches and artists. I’d love to write an original story for inclusion into either; it’s just a matter of finding the time.
SH: As a New York Times bestselling author with a strong social media presence and your print stories already adapted to graphic novels, manga, and a movie, what’s next on your list of “things to conquer”?
CC: I’d love to write a book for younger readers — something more in the age group of Percy Jackson or Harry Potter, with tons of adventure and maybe a boy protagonist.
SH: What’s the best, or most surprising, question you’ve ever been asked?
CC: “Is Valentine based on my ex-husband?”
Books by Cassandra Clare
City of Bones. Margaret K. McElderry, 2007. 485p. $17.99. 978-1-416-91428-0. VOYA April 2007. 3Q 4P J S
City of Ashes. Margaret K. McElderry, 2008. 453p. $ 978-1-416-91429-7. VOYA June 2008. 4Q 5P S
City of Glass. Margaret K. McElderry, 2009. 541p. $ 978-1-416-91430-3. VOYA April 2009. 3Q 5P S
City of Fallen Angels. Margaret K. McElderry, 2011. 424p. $19.99. 978-1-442-40354-3. VOYA August 2011. 4Q 5P J S
Clockwork Angel. Margaret K. McElderry, 2010. 479p. $19.99. 978-1-416-97586-1. VOYA October 2010. 5Q 5P J S
Clockwork Prince. Margaret K. McElderry, 2011. 502p. $19.99. 978-1-416-97588-5. VOYA December 2011. 5Q 5P J S
Official Website. http://www.cassandraclare.com/cms/home
MySpace page. http://www.myspace.com/cassandraclare
The Mortal Instruments Website. http://www.mortalinstruments.com/
The Infernal Devices Website. http://www.theinfernaldevices.com/