After Cassie’s London event on Saturday, I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing her. Cassie took nearly 15 minutes of her time to talk about faeries, The Secret Treasons, Simon and her planned short stories with Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan.
There are two spoilers for City of Heavenly Fire right at the end of the interview so do not read the last two questions and answers if you haven’t finished reading City of Heavenly Fire!
During your New York launch party, Holly said that you dislike writing about faeries and that it’s a really slow writing process. What’s really easy for you to write and what’s really fast?
I think the easiest thing for me to write of the Downworlders are probably the warlocks. I don’t know why I like them, I sort of relate to them. Writing Magnus is really easy and fun. I think the faeries are just difficult because they have this complicated way of talking and also they can’t lie so instead they twist the truth and so the incredibly complicated way they twist the truth around without actually lying is a lot of work. […] Holly’s really good at it, that’s the thing so I’m always like, “Oh God, I have no idea how to do this” [laughs] She always helps me out.
Can you tell us anything about The Secret Treasons [the graphic novel project about the Circle]?
It’s a big graphic novel/art project. It’s not like anything I’ve ever done before. I was approached by John Ney Rieber who did The Books of Magic with Neil Gaiman and he was just sort of saying, “I’m a big fan of the books and I really love them; I’d really love to see Valentine’s story one day, the story of the Circle” and I was like, “I don’t think – it’s probably not going to fit in my structure of series that I’m gonna do, but I would like to write about it and he basically said, “If you do an outline of what happened, then I can turn that outline into a graphic novel script so it’ll be like a co-project.” So I did an outline of “this is all the things that happened to all the characters and this is how their lives went. This is why they made the choices they did” and gave it to him and he’s turning it into a graphic novel script and Cassandra Jean, who we all know and love, is illustrating it because it’s being published by Yen Press who published the graphic novel adaptations of Infernal Devices so she’s done a lot of work for them before. So it just kind of came together that way.
Is it going to be published this year or next year?
Well, it’s hard to say. I’ve done my part of it so I’m waiting for John to turn around the graphic novel screenplay, like the first third and then we have to wait for Cassandra to be done with the graphic novel she is working on now and have the free time to do this so I’m hoping, I’m actually thinking that it’ll probably be next year, early next year.
The titles for Magisterium: The Iron Trial, The Copper Mask, The Cosmos Blade, The Golden Boy, The Enemy of Death, correct?
Yeah, but it might change. I don’t wanna commit myself to anything, especially knowing Holly. She always changes her book titles like six or seven times.
There’s a lot of diversity in your books, you’ve got a lot of characters that aren’t white. You’ve got Maia, Raphael and Magnus, have you ever encountered criticism because of that?
Yeah, sure. All the time. You get pushback, but the pushback comes often in strange ways. You definitely get these sort of “I don’t like this character, I don’t want to see the story be so much about this character” and you’re kind of like, “Well, could it be that you’re uncomfortable that this is a character of color?” And usually the pushback you get is people saying, “Absolutely not. That’s not the problem, I just don’t like them for some unspecified reason” and I’m like, “Well, you know, when you see this happen 300, 500, 600, a thousand times, “I just don’t like this character for some unspecified reason” and that character is always a character of color, you sort of start to see the pattern”. So I think that writers get held accountable for a lot of, you know, what we do in our books, for writing diversity properly, for being respectful, for being representative in a good way and we should be, but you also have to come to it with an open mind and it’s very difficult, I think, to do. We live in a society that really privileges the stories of white, straight, able-bodied people and so when you’re a reader and you’re coming to the stories, you’re kind of expecting that and when you get something different, it can be an adjustment. So we all need to work together to realize that these other stories are equally as important.
You’re often writing with your writer friends, Sarah, Holly, Maureen and the others. Are there scenes you have to write on your own without getting any immediate feedback from others?
Well, there’s definitely scenes that I write alone, because I can’t track any of my friends down or they’re all asleep or we’re not all together in the same place. I do most of the drafting of stuff on my own, I think most of us do, because you need to have enough in place to show to other people for them to get a sense of it to be able to give you useful critique. Like I said what there is of The Dark Artifices around a couple of weeks ago, but I had to have like thirty-five, forty thousand words before there was enough to bother to send it to Holly and Sarah and Kelly and everybody, because otherwise they’re gonna be, “Well, this a lot of piece of something and it looks like it could work out. We’re not so sure what you’re trying to do.” So you have to get enough together to really get good feedback.
A lot of your fans are aspiring writers; can you outline your research process before you actually start writing?
Well, it depends on whether I’m writing the present day books or the historical books. The historical books require a lot more research of a very specific kind so for people who want to write historical I would say try to treat it as a sort of immersion program as if you were learning another language. For me that was only reading books set in the Victorian era for half a year, only watching movies that were set in the Victorian era, only reading a ton of primary source material and that was a lot of work. For the modern day books it’s much more researching into mythology, demonology, angelology. […] For the last book I did a ton of research and just the mythology of the Wild Hunt. I always knew I wanted to bring them in, but I wanted to do a new twist on them so I think for that I would say that there’s a lot of really terrific resources, because almost all this stuff is public domain. These are myths, they’ve been around forever so there are huge databases online and in libraries of myths and fairy tales and stuff like that and I would say make the best use of those.
In The Iron Trial Callum and his friends are twelve and your Shadowhunters are 16 to 18. What’s easier to write: pre-teens or young adults?
For me young adults are easier. Holly really is the middle grade genius. We started the books and it took me a while to kind of get into the mindset of writing twelve and thirteen year olds and I got into it and I started to really love it. There’s something that’s a lot of fun about writing for that age group. They have different concerns than older teenagers. For the older teenagers there’s a lot more about romance and relationships and for the younger age there is a very specific importance that’s placed on friends and friendships so a lot of the emotional stuff that you would normally put into a romance you put into friends and friendship and best friends and the drama of that. I carried that over into City of Heavenly Fire when I was writing Emma and Julian. It was really a big help to have written Magisterium because I was able to write about Emma and Julian’s relationship and keep it kind of firmly in the friendship area, but still give it an enormous amount of emotional weight.
SPOILERS FOR CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE!
Simon and the last few chapters of City of Heavenly Fire. Why? Why did he have to lose his memories?
[laughs] Everybody thought he was gonna be for the chopping block so I thought that they would be pleased that all that happened was that he lost his memories.
But it is so sad because he doesn’t remember Clary, Isabelle -
I know. It is sad, it’s really sad. When you write a book about a big fight between good and evil, there has to be, the story really has to work – If good beats evil, they have to do it at a cost. There has to be a kind of a cost to everybody. The cost to Clary of losing Simon like that, the cost to Izzy of that, there’s a cost really to all of the characters in what happens. And the cost to Simon is losing his vampirism and his immortal life, but in a sense he never liked being a vampire. There is a running thread through the books of Raphael saying “You’re a terrible vampire, you don’t know how to be dead, you don’t wanna hang out with the other vampires, you just wanna hang out with the Shadowhunters” and he says he hates being a vampire. He never comes to like it. There is never a storyline where Simon comes around and is like, “Being a vampire is great!” […]
From the beginning I thought that by the end of this series, Simon is going to have to become a Shadowhunter, because that clearly is what he wants and where he is going, but it felt too easy just to have at the end everybody be like, “And we won the war and Simon’s a Shadowhunter! For some reason!”
So it had to be for him to sort of get the thing he really wants which is to be a Shadowhunter, to be parabatai with Clary, to able to really be with Isabelle, to have a life with her, to have kids. You know, to have all of those things, he has to give up being immortal and being a vampire and become a Shadowhunter, but he has to do it at a price. And that’s the price: losing his memories.
I’m so happy for him. I’m so much looking forward to The Dark Artifices when he’s hopefully going to be in it as a Shadowhunter, maybe married to Izzy or engaged or maybe just seriously dating her.
[Sarah Rees Brennan] We do have an idea for putting Ragnor in.
[Cassie] Ragnor is very likely to make an appearance –
[Sarah] There’s a lot of Catarina Loss. She’s being very helpful.
[Cassie] Yeah, there’s a young Will and Tessa and Jem go up against Jack the Ripper, it’s gonna be fun.
Jocelyn and Luke, they’re now married. What’s Jocelyn’s surname and did Luke officially adopt Clary?
[laughs] Luke officially adopted Clary and since Luke’s last name is just a made-up name anyway and Jocelyn wouldn’t really want to have a Shadowhunter last name, she just kept Fray.
A very big thank you to Cassie for another great interview and I’d also like to thank Jill Kidson and Paul Black from Walker Books for arranging everything.
Are you excited for The Shadowhunter Academy? Sound off in the comments!