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Recap of Cassandra Clare’s Dublin event – Part One

On 28th February 2023 Cassandra Clare visited Dublin to chat with author Ciannon Smart (Witches Steeped in Gold) about The Last Hours, her newest release Chain of Thorns, BTS, and so much more. The event was live streamed and since I had purchased a ticket to watch it – thanks Fane for streaming this event! – I can now share with you what Cassie revealed during her chat and the following Q&A.
The things that Cassie talked about are either summed up or transcribed pretty much word for word, so this recap is very long. That’s why I’ve actually split it in two parts: you’ll get the first part today and the second part will come over the weekend. There will be spoilers for Chain of Thorns, but I’ve put them right at the end of each part and they are also highlighted.
Grab a drink and a snack and get ready. 😊

  • Very early in the pandemic Cassie had been going and back and forth between potential endings for The Last Hours and she realised that the ending could not be that bleak. At one point she did have a very bleak ending in mind, but it wouldn’t have made sense since we know Will and Tessa had a happy life and they wouldn’t have had one if their children had been dead. “They probably would have been traumatised forever.” Cassie wanted to think about human resilience and love and “the good things in life” because of the bleak experience of the pandemic.
  • Why was The Last Hours based on Great Expectations? Cassie loves Dickens, not all of his works, though. She didn’t recommend Little Dorrit. Cassie: “I like Dickens when he’s at his most romantic. I like the big epic love stories, and the big family kind of sagas. My two favourites are A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations. The Infernal Devices was partially modelled on A Tale of Two Cities”. Cassie saw a way to retell Great Expectations, especially Estella’s/Grace’s story. Estella was always a blank space to Cassie, and she drew inspiration from that and was interested in exploring this.
  • About easter eggs in Cassie’s books: The roses on the Chain of Thorns book cover symbolise secrecy. The clocks in Blackthorn Hall are all stopped at a certain time, and this resembles the clocks in Miss Havisham’s house in Great Expectations. Tatiana wears the bloody dress she wore the day her husband died, and Miss Havisham always wears her wedding dress.
  • Cassie wants her book covers to evoke certain feelings. With the roses she thought of secrecy; there are thorns around Sleeping Beauty’s castle and they also are in Chain of Iron when James has to cut the briars around the house. Cassie, her publisher, and Cliff Nielsen went back and forth on what bug to put on the Chain of Iron cover. They wanted a beetle, but Cassie thought it would look gross. Cassie’s friend Holly Black was like “I have a beetle [on the cover of The Cruel Prince]” and that was another reason for Cassie not to have a beetle on the cover. She didn’t want to steal the beetle, and in the end, they decided on a death’s head moth. Due to the look of the moth with a skull on its body, it was appropriate because the book was about a serial killer.
  • How does Cassie keep track of everything she’s created (and her sanity)? At first, she thought she could remember everything, but when The Infernal Devices ended, she realised that she actually couldn’t. So, Cassie and her faithful assistant created what they call ‘the Bible’. “It has everything in it: it has sections for history, for magic, for weapons, characters and everything we would know about them, things they like, things they don’t like, scars, marks they have, family trees, accurate and inaccurate. All of that stuff is in there and it’s a physical book thing, it’s not on a computer.” If there was a fire, Cassie wouldn’t know what to save first: the bible or her husband. 😉
  • It’s one big ring bound notebook. Ciannon asked whether it could be published, but Cassie wasn’t sure. It could maybe be turned into an extensive guidebook. It [the Bible] would need to be processed into readability.
  • Cassie’s favourite part about setting the world [of The Last Hours] in the Edwardian era: It was a fun time period for Cassie, and she believes it doesn’t get as much attention as the Victorian era. When she was researching for The Infernal Devices, she spent six months only reading books set in the Victorian era, watching movies and television shows set in that time, listening to music the people would have known about back then. It was an interesting experience, like “a high intensity language workshop”, just immersion.” She did the same thing with The Last Hours and found that there wasn’t that much stuff out there. Cassie was struggling to find many books or tv shows. She read a lot of original material that was written then, like diaries of people who lived then. There is less about the time period. “There is something very romantic about the Victorian era that we imprinted on. The gaslight, the fog, Sherlock Holmes. Dickens has created this imaginary Victorian England that we all know pretty well.” For the Edwardian era, Cassie had to explain more: What clothes did people wear? There was some electricity, some cars, etc.
  • Cassie will be glad to abandon the clothes from that time because they were so complicated. Writing love scenes and taking clothes off was a lot of work. Cassie watched a lot of videos about the many different layers and also read a lot about Edwardian clothing. She won’t be too sad to say goodbye to that many layers of clothes.
  • Does Cassie have a preference over writing set in the past or having a more modern setting? No, but she always misses historical writing when she’s writing something modern and vice versa. She misses whatever she is not working on at the moment.
  • Advice for writers who might not be able to get away for research trip: Cassie recommended maps of the time period. You can find them online. Search out maps of the city you’re writing about. Diaries of people who lived then are available online, for example on Google Books. They are boring, but they have everything. All of the details are very useful. You can also find walking tours on YouTube because some people just walk around with Go Pros on their heads.
  • The weirdest thing Cassie researched for The Last Hours: It’s always the demons because of your Internet search history. There’s a lot of stuff about cemeteries or how to summon demons. Cassie wasn’t concerned about bad vibes during her research because she is Jewish. Her research is very Christian, so she was safe.
  • London or Paris? Cassie would live in London and write about Paris.
  • Character most likely to:
    • Push a friend off a bridge – Grace. There is water under the bridge.
    • Dive in after said friend – Cassie doesn’t know who was pushed off, but she would pick Thomas. He would jump in without asking any questions and later realise he jumped after Belial.
    • Write a poem about a lover and give it to them – James. He loves poetry. Cassie thought of James writing a poem, but she’s terrible at poetry so she didn’t.
    • Write a poem about someone else’s crush and give it to them – Alastair.
    • Stab a friend in the back – Tatiana.
    • Stab a friend in the front (like “I’m betraying you but it’s for your own good”) – maybe Anna.
    • Deserve a happy ending – Yells of “Matthew” from the audience.
    • Lie to make someone else feel better – Cordelia. And also James. This is why their relationship is so complicated.
    • Kill someone and cover it up – Lucie.
    • Eat something they’re allergic to by accident – (Cassie laughed) Christopher.
    • Die stupidly – Inquisitor Bridgestock. He deserves to die stupidly, probably will.
    • Wear their pyjamas in public – Matthew.
    • Harbour a decades long crush – Thomas, Alastair, Cordelia, James. Matthew usually has crushes in successions.
  • How does Cassie balance such a large cast? “It is very difficult; I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. I keep telling myself ‘Less people, less people’ and then more people grow and become important, and I realised that I can’t give them no space on the page. They need to have their own space and story. The stories tend to grow outward. Usually, the first book of a series focuses a bit more tightly on a core group of three, four people and then we grow outward to incorporate the POVs of the other characters that we’ve been introduced to through the main characters. Those characters develop their own storylines, they have their own significance in the tale and often they are doing things that our main characters don’t know about so without their point of view, we wouldn’t know about those things either so it’s really a question of weight and how much weight you assign to each storyline and to each character.” Once Cassie has done an outline of a book, it helps her to break the outline into pieces based on the characters so “each character gets their own separate outline pulled out of the original outline. So, there’s the big original outline, it’s 60,000 words sometimes, and then I pull apart the storylines that are just for each character and read those as if they were their own story and then I ask myself ‘Could the story stand on its own? Is the arc of this character completed? Do we feel like this character has gone from the beginning to an end?’ Usually, I’ll have separate files for each character and their storyline.”
  • Cassie cannot choose a favourite character and loves them all. As a reader you get to pick a favourite character and Cassie does the same, but she cannot do it in her own work because if you have one, you unfairly weight those characters and that storyline “so not having favourites is just part of the process.”
  • The most challenging character to develop was Grace. “She’s done some awful things.” Usually, Cassie doesn’t think such a character would have a redemption of any sort, but for Cassie the point wasn’t whether Grace got redeemed or not, it was important that her readers could understand Grace’s actions. “I didn’t want to excuse her, I wanted to explain her.” It was very difficult and there had to be a lot of what Holly Black calls ‘calibration’ for Grace: “weighting Grace’s feelings and her choices in all of the scenes that involved her and figuring out what kind of ending would work for her and also creating a situation in which the reader could understand her, but they weren’t forced to like her or to sympathise with her. It’s fine if you do, but you don’t have to in order to enjoy and experience the books.”
  • What does Cassie love the most about love triangles? She is fascinated by the structure of them and by the tension they create. Even Pride and Prejudice is a love triangle. There are a lot of triangulated relationships in literature. Cassie loves love triangles, but she is still picky. She also likes a lot of romantic tropes. “Combining tropes is fun” and Cassie is a fan of enemies to lovers. You can also combine this trope with a love triangle. She also likes friends to lovers, which we’ve seen in The Dark Artifices and there’s enemies to lovers in Sword Catcher. She has played with many of the tropes, but not all of them. Her favourite romantic trope in The Last Hours was second chance love (Thomas & Alastair + Anna & Ari).
  • Does Cassie have any regrets with romantic pairings in the series? Cassie laughed and said no. “If only Tessa had gotten together with Gideon!” The audience laughed. “And Magnus and Jace was an unexplored potential. I know that somebody ships that, though. I hope it’s called like Jagnus.”
  • Cassie hasn’t read any fan fiction about her work because you’re not supposed to. But Cassie did once ask her husband Josh to go on AO3 to look for the most popular Shadowhunters fan fic and it was: “Magnus was the High Warlock of Seoul, and it was a crossover with BTS. I was not against it.”
  • Does Cassie need some Dutch courage for writing love scenes? Cassie’s friend Holly once bought a book called “How to write romance” and it said something like “when you get to writing the love scene, you should run a hot bath, you should drink a couple of cocktails and you should think about Tom Selleck [popular actor in the 1980s].” Cassie’s reply to Holly was: “This book is old!”
    It’s not how Cassie approaches sex scenes at all. They are very technical, and they are a lot like fight scenes because you need to know where all the hands and the feet are. Cassie doesn’t like writing passionate love scenes with other people around, she has to be on her own, but once she’s done, she asks her friends for feedback. Love scenes change the dynamic/the relationship between the characters and the question is whether the dynamic did change.
  • Writing advice that Cassie rejects or that’s overhyped: “’Don’t use adverbs’ is terrible advice.” Adverbs exist for a reason, and you have to look at what the adverbs are doing, especially with speech. Cassie gave the examples of ‘“Congratulations,” he said happily.” This is bad writing because we all know “congratulations” is happy and we don’t need to be told again, but ‘“Congratulations,” he said angrily’ is interesting, because he doesn’t obviously mean it. Why is this person angrily congratulating somebody?’
  • A piece of advice Cassie followed while writing book three? Book three has to pay off all of the promises that were made in book one and book two. You have to look back on everything you have kind of suggested or implied. You have to address it. “I have to address questions that have been raised in previous books.” Cassie made a list of all the questions and “I wrote to one of my readers [this was yours truly] who has like an eidetic memory and remembers everything, and I was like “Can I match my list against your list of everything that needs to be answered?” And also, she has a different perspective than I do. I’m the writer and this is what I promised, and she is like, “But what about this?” And I was like “I didn’t think this was anything, but okay, we’ll address it, or I don’t think this is anything and it doesn’t need to be addressed.””


Kristen Bell Spoiler GIF - Kristen Bell Spoiler Alert GIFs


    Cassie would like to revisit Matthew; he has an ambiguous ending. He’s in a much better place now, but he doesn’t have a wrapped up happy ending. Cassie is interested in what could happen next. She could see herself writing a story about him. Although she could also see herself dropping in about any of the characters. “A short story about many of the characters would be possible, but definitely I thought of doing a novella about Matthew and what happens to him after the end of the books.”
    One thing that Cassie wants readers to know about Chain of Thorns: “Every book becomes the readers’ book. I hope you took away from it a feeling of being sad to say goodbye to the characters but feeling like they were left in a place that you’re okay with, not counting Christopher.”

This is everything for now. If you share or translate the recap, please link back to this article giving me credit. I love writing these recaps, but at the same time they are a lot of work on my part, and I would really appreciate the acknowledgment. 🙂

Click here to read part two of the recap.

About Cathrin (859 Articles)
Admin and writer for TMI Source and 'The Shadowhunter Chronicles' lover extraordinaire. Fangirls over books, history, German football, movies and fictional characters.

2 Comments on Recap of Cassandra Clare’s Dublin event – Part One

  1. It is pretty clear that she enjoys writing about love triangles and it was just amazing to see how Cordelia/ James/ Matthew situation was solved. It was Very powerful and beautiful.
    And I don’t know If writing love scenes for her is so practical as she demonstrated (at least for me) in this enterview. The love scenes of James/ Cordelia and Julian/ Emma in Thule were the most tender and passionate and lovely scenes I’ve read!!!! ❤️

  2. I have already posted something like this in your comment section on Part Two. I hope I am not the only one that found Lucie’s and Jessie’s story touching and grew to care about them while reading the Last Hours trilogy.

    I loved Lucie Herondale and Jessie Blackthorn’s arc in the Last Hours trilogy. I am hoping that they were married, had kids and lived to a ripe old age. As their arc is in the past, there won’t be any further mention of them, unless one of their children is featured in the final Wicked Powers trilogy. It is sad, that their story ended with strings hanging. Maybe, if we are lucky, Cassie will revisit their story again in the future, I have my fingers crossed!

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