Monday, August 16, 2010

Author Interview: Cassandra Clare (The Infernal Devices & The Mortal Instruments)

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.

From the author's website.

The first novel in the Mortal Instruments prequel series, Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel, will be released August 31, 2010! I highly recommend reading it ASAP! You can read my review here.

What inspired you to write a prequel series to The Mortal Instruments?

I knew I wanted to write a second series of Shadowhunter books set in London, because London is one of my favorite cities — and why work so hard creating a demon-fighting force that spans the globe if you’re not going to visit new locations? I hadn’t nailed down a plotline though, until I was in London crossing Blackfriars Bridge and I had this sudden strong image in my head of a girl and a boy, in the period costume of the mid-Victorian era, standing on the bridge at night — and from one end of the bridge, unseen by them, was an army of clockwork creatures approaching. It was very eerie, and I was surprised to realize that the story was going to be historical. I tried to update it, but it just wouldn’t budge —  as the characters and the tale grew, I knew these people were the ancestors of the characters in the TMI books and that their story would contain elements that would enchance an explain later events.

What is the biggest challenge in writing a prequel to such a popular series?

When you write a prequel to a popular series that already has a fanbase, the fanbase will inform you of two things. Fifty percent of them will tell you they are afraid the prequel series will be too unlike the previous series for them to like it. The other fifty percent will tell you that they are afraid that the prequel series will be a retread of the previous series, and therefore too similar for them to like it. From what I can tell, these fears are based largely on the jacket copy (often written by someone who hasn’t read the book) and possibly casting tea leaves. The challenge is in realizing it’s not your job to be reassuring — you can’t be. Readers are going to worry; it’s their nature. You just have to focus on telling the story the way you feel it needs to be told.

Is there a special significance to the Victorian London setting?

I’ve had a life-long obsession with the Victorian era and Victoriana — I have a whole 7-ft bookshelf devoted just to Victorian titles. So the fact that I already knew a lot about it was a plus. I also think of it as the crossroads of modernity and The Past — it was a time when invention was hurtling ahead, when people believed technology could make anything possible and we’d all be traveling in flying ships within the next decades. Meanwhile the Shadowhunters are this ancient warrior band that’s been around since the Crusades and has barely changed. How would they deal with a threat that was mechanical/technological instead of magical?

How did you develop the unique universe of the Shadow World?

I’d read a lot of urban fantasy that drew on folklore and fairy tales — like Holly Black and Emma Bull’s books. I knew I wanted to do something similar, but that drew on mythology — the stories of gods and angels, devils and demons — instead of folklore, and used that mythology, in fact, to explain folkloric creatures and how they came into being.

If you were a Downworlder, what kind would you like to be or what ability would you like to possess? Why?

I’d be a warlock, because then I’d get the immortality thing without having to drink yukky blood.

Who is your favorite character in Clockwork Angel? What about them is special to you?

I don’t have favorite characters — it would be like having favorite children. I do love Charlotte, who runs the Institute, because she’s such a passionately dedicated creature, absolutely determined to prove herself in a man’s world, and at the same time protect her husband, whose total absent-mindedness and dreaminess is always threatening every situation with disaster.

What was your favorite scene to write? Why?

Not to be spoilery, but the “vampire ball” scenes in chapters nine and ten. I love action set pieces, and I always enjoy writing Magnus.

Did you have the quotes/poems that are sprinkled throughout Clockwork Angel in mind as you wrote or did you add them later? How did they influence your writing or, if you added them later, how did you go about choosing appropriate passages?

I am a pack rat where it comes to collecting quotes. When I find poetry quotes I like, I write them down, or save them in a file. It makes it easier for me later to go back and find quotes I feel are appropriate to the mood of a chapter or section.

What message do you hope readers take away from Clockwork Angel?

I don’t believe in messages — not messages sent by the author; I believe that individual readers find different messages in the same text. I hope that readers will find interesting themes of love, loyalty, and what it means to be human, but I can only hope.

What is the one question about Clockwork Angel you would really like to be asked? Will you share the answer with us?

Why on earth does Will act so bizarrely? Unfortunately I can’t actually answer that one till book 2.

What is your opinion on book to film adaptations? Would you like to see Clockwork Angel made into a movie?

I think there are some wonderful book to film adaptations. Of course I’d think it was great fun to see Clockwork on screen. But since right now they’re focusing on trying to get City of Bones made, I’m not going to get too worked up about Clockwork.

How did your interest in writing develop?

I think it’s a natural offshoot of a love of reading. One day you’re thinking “I really wish I could read a book that had this, and this, and this, and then you realize, “Well, I could always write that book.” You’re your own first reader, after all.

What authors have inspired you? What about them do you find inspirational?

Many, many authors have inspired me. PG Wodehouse, the way he handles humor and comic timing. Dorothy Dunnett’s incredible attention to historical detail. JK Rowling’s abiliy to build a world within a world that feels real. Phillip Pullman’s fearless tackling of complex issues even though his books are “meant for children.”

What is a random fact that readers probably don’t know about you?

I only type with two fingers.

What can you tell us about the remaining books in the Infernal Devices series?

In some sense, the books are about the masks people wear, the way they present a false face to the world. Expect to have your expectations about characters reversed. Expect them to show sides of themselves you didn’t imagine they had, and for unlikely relationships and alliances to form. And, of course, continue to expect gorgeous dresses, handsome boys, and lots of mystery and action!

For more about this bestselling author, please visit:

Pre-order Clockwork Angel today and read it as soon as it hits shelves!


Many thanks to Cassandra Clare for taking the time for this interview! It was great to learn more about the Shadow World and Cassandra herself (it's pretty impressive that she can write these huge novels with only two fingers), even if it involved being taunted about my favorite Clockwork Angel character (what do you mean we can't know all of Will's deepest secrets now?? Oh, if you it 2011 yet? :-p )


Blueicegal ♥ said...

i loved the interview!!! i know like two fingers, i gotta try that sometime lol, ohhh it only makes me more curious can't wait for my copy of the clockwork angel, great questions hun! :)

lisa :) said...

Great interview! Not sure if Ms. Clare will be answering comment questions, but maybe you can answer as someone who's read all her work - if someone is new to the series do you recommend starting with the first books written or is the prequel series a better introduction?

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Great Interview!! Really!

I have not yet read any of her books yet. But I would love to read the City series and the new book coming out. This interview really makes me want to read it more. Thanks!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Aw, excellent interview! I loved her answer to how her interest in writing developed. I felt similarly--that the stories I wanted to read were not being written. So cool.

SusanKMann said...

Fantastic interview. I haven't read any of her books yet, but they are on my ever expanding tbr list But I read the review and will bump them up xx

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

This is an awesome interview. I love Cassandra Clare and her Mortal Instruments series. I like what she said about not believing in a message sent by the author, but that each of us find our own message in the book.

Elizabeth said...

Fabulous interview....very nicely done. Also love your blog colors and header.


Stopping by to look around.

I have two separate giveaways going on…one is for NIGHT TRAIN and one is my Blog Hop giveaway of HOW TO READ THE AIR.



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