Glamour U.K. chatted with Cassandra Clare about the release of City of Heavenly Fire, including the Shadowhunter universe, inspiration for The Infernal Devices and the upcoming The Last Hours, as well as what character she’s going to miss writing the most in The Mortal Instruments.
So, what made you want to delve into the ancestry and universe of the Shadowhunters with the prequel, The Infernal Devices?
I initially created the world of the shadowhunters because I knew that I wanted to create a world I could spend a lot of time on and write different stories about. I made sure to make it a worldwide organisation, with a long history that went well back. I happened to be in London promoting City of Bones, and I was crossing Blackfriars Bridge. It was very foggy, and I had a sudden vision of two people, a girl and a boy in Victorian dress standing at the edge of the bridge. I went home and jotted it down and I thought about it, and it rolled around in my brain like a little bit of sand inside an oyster, until little bits of stories started to wrap around it. I have this whole story here of the ancestors of the kids in the City of Bones.
We hear you’re in the UK for inspiration, could you tell us a bit more about that?
I am in the UK for inspiration because I’m doing a follow on series to The Infernal Devices, called The Last Hours. It’s a re-telling of Great Expectations withShadowhunters…because why not! It’s set in 1903, so I’m doing a lot of locational research. I’m trying to figure out where to situate big scenes from books and also where all the characters live, and just walking about the city for that sort of inspiration.
Are you enjoying it?
I love London, and I’m always happy when I’m here. I get to be here for about 4 months this time, so I really get to settle in and get to experience the city on a day by day basis. It’s going to really allow me to explore corners of the city that I’ve never been to before and I’m really excited about it. I’m living in South Kensington, it’s like living in Mary Poppins!
Did you always know what was going to happen in TMI, or did this enfold as the series progressed? Did you have an idea in your head about what is going to happen?
I always had a pretty clear idea of what was going to happen. I would say that I kind of think of them as two trilogies. When I started City of Bones I knew exactly what was going to happen in City of Glass. When I first started the six book series, I thought of it as a three book series. Then I was going to do another series that was just about Simon but it didn’t develop that way. That was the one big change – I couldn’t write about Simon without writing about his friends too.
What do you think makes your book so popular?
I have no idea. I wish I did know. At least if I felt like I did know then every time I sat down to write a book I would feel like well what am I doing feeling. No matter how many books you’ve written, whenever you sit down to write a new book you always feel the same challenge – how do you shape this story into a book that people are going to love. I have often no idea why people love the stories or are attached to particular characters. All I can do is write a story that I know that I’m going to love.
Who are you going to miss writing about the most?
I think I’m going to miss Clary the most, as she was my first character, my first heroin and I love a lot of things about her. She’s very very, very unlike me and it has always been interesting for me to write from the POV of somebody who’s so unlike me: she’s super reckless, she’s very brave, she’s really artistic and I can’t even draw a straight line! She’s got lots of great qualities, and other qualities that are not so great. Although we are very dissimilar I’ve come to really love her over the years and I’m going to really miss writing about her
So your books give a really realistic portrayal of teenage relationships, portraying the whole spectrum of sexualities and relationships. How do you deal with any backlash?
You just have to except that you’re going to get that backlash. Having your book banned or taken from classrooms feels very bad, because you feel like you’re being told you’re doing something wrong. Also, you feel you’re your books are being denied to kids who might need to read them. There are also times when it has opened up conversations for me with people that I wouldn’t probably have conversations with normally. I’ve actually entered into debate with them and they’ve come to understand that these are my values, and that I have a right to express them. Although they don’t agree with me, they agree to consider my viewpoint. If you actually ask them direct questions such as, “is it that you want gay teenagers to feel unhappy and alone?” they always say no.