Thursday, August 26, 2010

Interview with Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare, author of Clockwork Angel, has been kind enough to stop by Reading with Tequila to answer some questions.

Cassandra Clare was born to American parents in Teheran, Iran and spent much of her childhood travelling the world with her family, including one trek through the Himalayas as a toddler where she spent a month living in her father’s backpack. She lived in France, England and Switzerland before she was ten years old. Since her family moved around so much she found familiarity in books and went everywhere with a book under her arm. She spent her high school years in Los Angeles where she used to write stories to amuse her classmates, including an epic novel called “The Beautiful Cassandra” based on a Jane Austen short story of the same name (and which later inspired her current pen name).

After college, Cassie lived in Los Angeles and New York where she worked at various entertainment magazines and even some rather suspect tabloids where she reported on Brad and Angelina’s world travels and Britney Spears’ wardrobe malfunctions. She started working on her YA novel, City of Bones, in 2004, inspired by the urban landscape of Manhattan, her favourite city. She turned to writing fantasy fiction full time in 2006 and hopes never to have to write about Paris Hilton again.

Cassie’s first professional writing sale was a short story called “The Girl’s Guide to Defeating the Dark Lord” in a Baen anthology of humor fantasy. Cassie hates working at home alone because she always gets distracted by reality TV shows and the antics of her two cats, so she usually sets out to write in local coffee shops and restaurants. She likes to work in the company of her friends, who see that she sticks to her deadlines.

Reading with Tequila: The Infernal Devices series, set in 1878 (Victorian England), is a prequel to your Mortal Instruments series, set in 2007 (modern New York). How different is it to write the same world your characters exist in, but earlier?

Cassandra: It was actually a lot of fun to write The Infernal Devices ( I think it made it less of a wrench to be parted from the world of The Mortal Instruments, which I'd been writing in for six years at that point, to be able to hold onto the magic system, the familiar landscape of Downworlders and steles and runes. I also really enjoyed looking back in time and seeing what the ancestors of the current characters were up to — how some of them (like Will) resemble their descendants and some of them (like Gabriel Lightwood) seem like complete oppposites.

RWT: Do you find that you can take more creative liberty as an author when altering the past than you can when writing about the present?

Cassandra: Quite the opposite. However much research you do, you are always going to make a mistake or two writing historical fiction — a wrong assumption, a transposition of dates, something. And there will be a million people lining up to tell you about it. Whereas if you are writing in the present, people are actually more likely to give you leeway.

RWT: Clockwork Angel adds a little steampunk into the mix while the Mortal Instruments series is more fantasy. Did you set out to write a book that includes a lot of advanced technical things for the time or did the story lead you there?

Cassandra: When writing TMI, I deliberately wanted the Shadowhunters, despite their ancient warrior lineage, to use modern technology — cel phone, GPS tracking, cars, airplanes, even their own inventions like Sensors and Trackers. When I set out to write Infernal Devices it was partially because I wanted to take all that technology away from them and see how they coped. So now that they're basically technology-free, what's the best kind of enemy to send them up against? A mechnical, rather than a magical, threat — something they'd have to scramble to figure out how to deal with. That was my thought process there.

RWT: Tessa Gray, the main character in Clockwork Angel, is an American downworlder living among English shadowhunters. Should readers expect a lot of culture clash or is it more like one big happy multi-national, multi-race family?

Cassandra: They certainly notice she's American and remark on it — her accent, her clothes, her "forwardness" all seem American to them. But Tessa's dealing with the much larger clash of the world she's always thought was real, and the fantasy world she's found herself thrust into. It's a much bigger deal to the Shadowhunters that she's a Downworlder than that she's an American.

RWT: Tessa seems to be headed into a love triangle that will include Will and Jem. Who do you think fans will be more drawn to?

Cassandra: I'm very much hoping fifty-fifty. I am trying for a "balanced" love triangle, where you can understand why she's drawn to each boy. Love triangles, I think, are such an enduring trope because they epitomize a life choice — in choosing Will, she would choose a certain kind of life; in choosing Jem, another. I do think that people are going to be very angry with Will at the end of the first book, and may lean toward Jem; but I also think events in the second book may bring that into balance (even though the second book features Jem and Tessa growing closer.)

RWT: How dependent will The Infernal Devices series be on The Mortal Instruments series and vice versa? Will a reader be able choose to read only one series or do that have to read both to full understand what's going on?

Cassandra: Readers will absolutely be able to read one series and not the other, or both. You do not have to have read The Mortal Instruments to read The Infernal Devices. You do not have to have read The Infernal Devices to read The Mortal Instruments. It is just more fun if you read both. In fact, when people ask what order to read the books in, I suggest that if you have already read City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass, you read Clockwork Angel before you read City of Fallen Angels, the fourth TMI book. This is because characters who you first meet in Clockwork Angel show up in City of Fallen Angels and seeing them in CoFA will be more interesting for you if you have read Clockwork Angel first. Clockwork Angel also comes out six months before City of Fallen Angels, so it makes sense to read it when it is released. Nothing in Clockwork Angel will spoil COFA for you. Nothing in COFA will spoil Clockwork Angel for you. The two series are meant to be read as companion books. They enhance but do not spoil one another.

About the Book

Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

Cassandra Clare's Website
The Mortal Instruments Website
The Infernal Devices Website
Cassandra's Blog
Cassandra on Twitter


  1. I love her!! She is such a great inspiration and writer. Her books are just awesome. I know that when I pick up her book, that I will definitely enjoy it. Nice interview :) I can't wait for her next book. Just a few more days!!!

  2. Really amazing interview! I LOVED this book and my willpower to wait for the last MI book before starting that series is waning...

  3. Great interview!

    I was curious to know if I could read Clockwork Angel without reading City of Bones! Yay! Good to know I can!

  4. Fantastic interview!

    I'm a new fan of CC. The first book I read by her was CA, and I adored it!

    It's funny how I didn't see a love triangle playing out in the story. I really did see Jem as a great friend, but that is all. Jem is a great guy, and I really admire his character, but I didn't get any romantic vibes from him.

    And I wasn't at all mad at Will at the end of CA, because I think I understood his motives for doing what he did. My heart bleeds for him.

    CC not is not only an amazing author, she also seems like an incredible person. I love that she used to write HP fanfic. I think that is so neat. And, I recently watched her on live stream and totally squeed. And that is after reading just one of her books. I still have TMI waiting for me! I just can't get over how she has created a series that enhances but does not spoil one another! Simply brilliant!