Cassandra Clare recently celebrated the release of Lord of Shadows, the second installment in her best-selling The Dark Artifices trilogy, which debutted at No. 1 atop the New York Times Bestsellers List, and it has remained there for the past two weeks. Things are always exciting when we’re getting new books from Cassie!
We recently caught up with Cassie at Bookcon on June 3 to talk about all things Dark Artifices, The Eldest Curses, and those painful story arcs that leave us with the feels. Every. Single. Time.
This is the first of two interviews we’re posting, as we were discussing some spoilery topics from Lord of Shadows in our second interview. This interview will be spoiler-free discussing generalized Lord of Shadows talk, as well as other topics of conversation.
In our first interview, Cassie is discussing Julian walking the fine moral line between what’s right and wrong, fiction reflecting our reality, exploring the cultures of Downworlders, the number of times she rewrote the ending of Clockwork Princess, Malec exploring firsts in The Eldest Curses, and whether The Dark Artifices and The Last Hours will tie together like The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices did.
TMI Source: How difficult is it to write a character like Julian, that is kind of evil and scary despite being the hero of this story?
Cassandra Clare: It’s definitely difficult because you don’t want the reader to lose sympathy for Julian. He is the hero, and we’re on this journey with him. I think if you lost sympathy for what he’s going through and why he does the stuff that he does, you would stop caring about what happens to him. You have to walk that fine line where Julian is a character who is taking a lot of risks and walking on a knife-edge of what’s moral and what’s not moral. But hopefully everything he does is understandable from the context of his desperation to save his family.
TMIS: We got a few references to The Last Hours in Lord of Shadows, can we expect the two series to tie together like The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices did?
CC: I would say in the way TMI and TID did, they’ll definitely tie together. As for whether or not we’re going to see characters from The Last Hours in TDA, not as likely. But I would say they tie together thematically and in references to things that have happened. Like for instance, Malcolm. We meet Malcolm in TDA and he’s a villain, basically. We meet Malcolm in The Last Hours, and he’s not. He hasn’t found out the thing that made him a villain. I think it’s interesting to meet characters at different points in their lives and see how different they are, how what they’ve gone through has changed them. So definitely I think we’re going to see some parallels between some of the choices the characters have to make in The Last Hours and some of the choices they make in The Dark Artifices. Even some choices the Blackthorns have made in the past affect them in the present.
TMIS: Do you think the Shadowhunters have reached a point where same-sex couples aren’t a big deal?
CC: It’s still something of a deal. I still hear about it. I still get mail and sometimes weird reactions about Kieran and Mark even after publishing TMI. And I’m like, “Come on, really? You read all of that with Magnus and Alec, and now you’re like, ‘And there are still gay characters, and I’m still angry.’” I do actually think that I’m lucky enough to develop a pretty loyal readership, and that a readership that I feel my publisher understands will stick with me even if I publish a book, as I desire to, publish a Shadowhunters series with gay protagonists, which is what I want to do next. (The Wicked Powers!) I always think it’s a risky move. I wish it wasn’t. I would like to show that it works.
TMIS: How important do you think that fiction kind of reflects what’s happening in the real world?
CC: I think that fiction should reflect human experience. Sometimes, I think it’s going to reflect what’s happening in the world right now. But it can’t always because that would be like saying we can only read current fiction. Fiction that written 30 years ago, 80 years ago, 800 years ago is still going to resonate with us as long as it addresses I think underlying truths about who we are as people. I think that it’s absolutely important and significant to address current situations because it’s what we’re all thinking about. I think you need to dig under them for what’s universal.
TMIS: You are the queen of painful story arcs. Do your author friends sometimes say, “Cassie that’s too painful?” Or are they more like, “Bring on the pain! Make it as painful as possible.”
CC: No, they really say, bring on the pain. We believe in pain. I don’t believe my group of writer friends believe in unending pain. Although, I believe if it was just bleak they’d be like, You better leven this bleakness with humor and human moments. Like if it was just, “The snow blew over the graves” they’d be like, “Alright.” Usually with the moments that are tragic, they’re like, “Pain it up.” I remember writing the ending of Clockwork Princess 14 times over and over again and giving it to Holly Black and Sarah Rees Brennan and being like, “read it.” Until it made them cry, I was like, “we’re not done, make it hurt more, make it hurt more.” (It hurt a lot.) You can thank them. (It’s the good kind of pain.) I wanted it to be a beautiful pain — the pain you feel remembering something really fantastic knowing you won’t have it again. That kind of feeling. Better to have had it. But like, it’s still pain. So that’s what I was going for. And it was good to have them there being like, “yes, this hurts.” I don’t think they ever said, “this was too painful,” but they’d be like, “this is too explicit.” You want to apply the pain, feel the pain, you don’t want to say the pain. So you have to be very careful with your language.
TMIS: The Shadowhunter Chronicles world has grown so much. What’s one aspect you definitely want to elaborate on in future books?
CC: I think that in future books I’d like to explore more the cultures of the Downworlders. I’m interested in delving into the structure of what it means to be a warlock, how does it work, what does it mean, who’s really running the show. We do see some of that in the Magnus and Alec books because we’re with Magnus, so we’re going to see a lot of warlock business. But I think that’s what I’m thinking about it. We go to the Spiral Labyrinth, we’re going to see a lot of that. That’s something I’m definitely interested in.
TMIS: Speaking of Alec and Magnus, how much are you looking forward delving into more of their relationship as we head into The Eldest Curses?
CC: It’s fun, it’s really fun. I think for me it’s like such a pleasure because I’ve written Magnus and Alec, and I had a ton of fun with their relationship, you always love that part where people are falling in love, and you get to write that part about them falling in love and they first tell each other that they love each other, and they have all their firsts. This gets me to go back in time, and I get to hit on all of their firsts. They’ve already said they love each other, but there’s still a lot of stuff that they’re just out as boyfriends. And now they’re on this trip together, now they’re alone together. So what’s that like? There’s this intensity, feeling, and there’s a ton about life, like — what does Simon call it? DTR-ing — that they haven’t done, and there’s some other physical stuff they haven’t done. And all of that stuff is their first-time stuff — both the emotional first-time stuff and the physical first-time stuff ideally the emotional and physical journey mirror each other. They’re both really fun.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview with Cassie, which will get into more spoilery talk from Lord of Shadows.