Today Cassandra Clare did an exclusive interview with Goodreads to talk about her new book City of Heavenly Fire (May 27th).
Ever since the cover of City of Heavenly Fire was revealed in January,Cassandra Clare fans have gone Sherlock on it, trying to figure out what the image of Clary facing off against her brother Sebastian might mean for the finale of the insanely popular The Mortal Instruments series.Clary’s all in white! The Shadowhunter color of mourning! What do the details on Sebastian’s sword mean?! Of course the manuscript is under serious lock and key, and that only stokes speculatory flames.
The book will be out on May 27, but meanwhile Cassandra herself is here, answering questions from Goodreaders! Find out more about her journey, from writing fan fiction to selling more than 12 million books, her thoughts on the City of Bones movie, and her favorite books. Also, Cassandra does a deep dive into what makes Magnus Bane tick. Read on!
percabeth_4ever374: Cassandra, where did you come up with the idea of Shadowhunters and the whole complex idea of the Mortal Instruments world? Was it just one big inspiration or did lots of little things contribute to the making of the Shadowhunter world? Morg also wonders: What inspired you to write the Mortal Instruments series? Suzanne Collins said that she was flicking through the TV channels and morphed two shows together. What happened for you?
It was a lot of smaller ideas that stacked up. One of my close friends was working in a tattoo parlor at the time, and being there gave me the idea for the rune system. I wanted to write something that would combine elements of traditional high fantasy—an epic battle between good and evil, terrible monsters, brave heroes, enchanted swords—and recast it through a modern, urban lens. So you have the Shadowhunters, who are these very classic warriors following their millennia-old traditions but in these urban, modern spaces: skyscrapers, warehouses, abandoned hotels, rock concerts. In fairy tales it was the dark and mysterious forest outside the town that held the magic and danger. I wanted to create a world where the city has become the forest—where these urban spaces hold their own enchantments, danger, mysteries, and strange beauty.
Holly: As something I am currently struggling with, I would love to know how you were able to make the transition from writing fan fiction to publishing your own work and if there’s any advice you would like to pass on for those fighting the same battle.
I imagine you’re asking because you’ve seen the discussions here on Goodreads, and in other places, about whether people who wrote fan fiction once even have the capability of writing original fiction. It can be disheartening, truly. First, yes, of course you can write original fiction—it isn’t as if people who write media tie-in novels can’t write original fiction, and, indeed, I can think of one National Book Award winner who started off writing Star Wars books for kids.
So: Find a community of writers who share some aspect of your vision. They don’t have to write just like you, as long as they have interesting perspectives and ideas and you can all communicate well. That’s advice for any writer, really. You also have to decide if you want to sever your ties with the fan fiction you wrote or not. The fact is that if you wrote fan fiction, there will always be people who dismiss your work because of it or who believe you cannot write original work because you once wrote derivative work, who tie themselves into pretzels trying to figure out how your character, the medieval nun, is actually the Winter Soldier because you once wrote Captain America fan fiction. Ignore them, is the best advice I can give. Have faith in your work, and rely on your friends.
Eliza: How do you come up with all the sarcastic comments that make the Herondale boys who they are?
I am sarcastic, and some of my friends are sarcastic, so I’m well-equipped with a sarcasm incubation chamber. But then the characters themselves are also responsible. They each have their own senses of humor, and they come up with things that surprise me all the time!
People LOVE Magnus! We had a few different questions about him! Trevor O’reilly: What was the inspiration that led to the creation of Magnus Bane? He’s an awesome character with his own attitude and eccentric personality that’s always with him, no matter when or where he is.
Magnus came from multiple sources. Part of it was my desire to play with the idea of wizards and warlocks. We tend to think of them as Dumbledore types, very wise and old with long white beards. (In fact, sometimes people still say to me they picture Magnus as having a long scraggy beard, because he’s a warlock!) So I was trying to get at the opposite of that. I wanted to create an ancient warlock mentor figure who was also a guy who threw parties, who wore glitter and leather pants, who hid his wisdom under a party-boy facade. I never expected him to grow so important, he’d have his own book, but I’m very glad he did.
Shelley: When Magnus had to give up one of his happiest memories when summoning the demon, what was it? It looks like the writing hinted it was about Will and Tessa, possibly Jem.
We’ll never know what those memories were. They were a real sacrifice, a real loss, and I think if the reader knew them, they’d always be preserved somewhere. To find out what they were would be like bringing back Max; it unmakes that loss and robs it of its meaning. I think there are passing hints in the scene as to what they were about, but that’s it. You should feel free to imagine them as anything you want!
Cathryn: Why did Magnus Bane suddenly become a villain in City of Lost Souls? Why did he throw away his friends, his allies, his commitments, and his moral compass just because he was mad at Alec? Why did he suddenly lump all these people who care about him into the big I-Hate-You hole he put Alec in just because Alec, independent of everyone else, did something to hurt Magnus? Why, in a battle for the ENTIRE WORLD, is Magnus refusing to help the good guys because he broke up with his boyfriend?
This is super-interesting because this is actually the question Clary asks Catarina Loss in City of Fallen Angels. (And it’s the sort of question where, if you asked me on my blog, I’d probably write a five-page answer! I’ll try to keep it short…) She says, “Where were you and why didn’t you help?” about the City of Glass battle to Catarina and is rightly abashed when Catarina points out she was saving lives. Catarina, like Magnus, knows there are many ways to help and do good, and they don’t require being closely linked to Shadowhunters but often involve banding together with their own kind and other Downworlders instead.
Magnus doesn’t say “The world can burn!”; he just says he doesn’t want to see Alec or his friends. He never says he won’t help the Nephilim (or their Downworld allies) if they come to him for aid. He isn’t running off to join forces with demons. He just wants to separate himself from Alec’s immediate social circle. Magnus is perfectly capable of finding any of a dozen other ways to fight evil if he so chooses that would still allow him to avoid the small group of people who are very close to his ex: He could, for instance, set himself to unifying all the warlocks in the world against Sebastian, which would be extremely useful and require no contact with Alec whatsoever.
Magnus has been badly treated for years by Shadowhunters. He talks about Shadowhunters throwing AWAY??? the plates he’d eaten from because a warlock touched them. His friends have been murdered by Shadowhunters. Alec, and Isabelle, and Jace, and Clary’s parents were all once part of a fanatic organization bent on eradicating Magnus’s kind. I think framing it as Magnus being in a sulk because his boyfriend did something to hurt him ignores the larger implications of his situation: Alec didn’t just do something to hurt Magnus; he did something fundamentally untrustworthy, and he didn’t do it in a vacuum. He did it in a world in which Magnus has good reason not to trust Shadowhunters, a group who have long disenfranchised warlocks, and by whom Magnus has been betrayed before. Questioning his trust in other Shadowhunters afterward seems natural, especially considering that Magnus is in a position where he needs to make decisions not just for himself, but also for other Downworlders about what is safest for them.
In the end the question is one that only CoHF can answer: In fact, it is the job of a book like City of Lost Souls to raise questions so that they can be answered in the final volume. Is Magnus right or wrong to take a step back and separate himself? Is he wise to understand that these kids need to stand on their own eventually without leaning on him? Is that part of the reason he broke up with Alec, perhaps? Even if you think that Magnus would be a villain if he “refused to help the good guys,” he hasn’t actually done that yet. People say all kinds of things during breakups, but since Magnus hasn’t yet abandoned anyone, I think it’s good to remember that characters show who they are in what they do, not what they say, and wait to see what he actually does.
And, of course, the big one that everyone wants to know: Will there be a MALEC again?
You’ll have to wait and see! I do know everyone wants there to be, trust me!
Taryn Litster: In your Infernal Devices series, books are a huge part of the story line. They shape and affect the characters in dramatic ways. As an avid reader, my question is: Why choose books to be the thing that seems to shape the characters and plot?
Because I love books! When I started Clockwork Angel, I knew I wanted to write a readerly heroine, because Clary was such a painterly, visual person, not a word person at all. Tessa’s much more at home in books, and she thinks of people in terms of heroes and heroines from books she’s read. The Infernal Devices is partly inspired by A Tale of Two Cities, and having characters (Will and Tessa) who love books made for a lot of fun interplay. I also got to reference many older works of literature that I love.
I knew that Tessa was going to read the way I did when I was her age—pretty avariciously, and without an enormous amount of quality control. 🙂 I loved J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, and V.C. Andrews, to name a very few. I still tend to read all over the place. Right now I’m reading Dreams of Gods and Monsters and also Steven Ambrose’s book about D-Day.
TheBookAddictedGirl: OK, I’m just as much dreading City of Heavenly Fire as I am freaking desperate for it…therefore: Can you give us an estimate about how crushed/destroyed/dead-inside City of Heavenly Fire will leave us? You know, in terms of: How long will I lie in the fetal position on my bed, comatose and beyond consolation; how many tubs of Ben & Jerry’s PhishFood ice cream will I need to eat; how many episodes of Friends/Big Bang Theory/How I Met Your Mother will I need to watch to cheer myself up; how long will I be unable to even consider picking up another book, knowing just how freaking scarred and heartbroken CoHF left me?
I posted about this on my tumblr recently. I have said that six people whose names we know will die in City of Heavenly Fire. (And there was a big banner that said WHO WILL SURVIVE across the teaser cover, but to be fair, I didn’t come up with that one!) I can see how that would be nerve-racking. I feel like there’s been a lot of character death floating around in various media lately, and I have been seeing much agony about it. Which I totally understand because character death often sends me off to bed with a fluffy cat and an ice pack.
Here’s what I can say about CoHF: I do think all the deaths matter. None of them happens for shock value or no reason or to get across the message that death is random and terrible. My goal is not to destroy lives or drown anyone in a bucket of feels, just to tell an enjoyable story and create an end point that hopefully people will feel does justice to the story that came before. I don’t want anyone to feel jerked around. I want things to feel earned and meaningful. I am not a fan of nihilism (bad things happen for no reason without a glimmer of hope)—which is not really an overall judgment call on nihilism, just a preference. The ending is not a despairing one. I believe in hope! I really do.
Radhika: Did you cry in any chapter? And if so, what was it called?
I cried a bit in the epilogue, but that was because I had to say good-bye to everyone as a writer. I don’t know if you’ll cry!
Cindy: Will there be any mention of the characters of the Infernal Devices in City of Heavenly Fire? Will there be a conclusion with these two different book series colliding for one big finale? And Naya B_lorde wonders: Will Jem Carstairs and Tessa Gray play a big role in the final showdown?
I can’t go into detail about this without getting all spoilery, but as I’ve mentioned before, characters from the Infernal Devices aren’t going to suddenly take center stage and get all the action. Both series have to be able to stand on their own, so to suddenly throw a new-to-the Mortal Instruments character into the fray in the sixth book would be a weird move. People who haven’t read Infernal Devices (and they do exist!) would be confused and possibly annoyed. So you’ll be seeing them, and they’ll have useful things to do and meaningful moments, but this is the end of the Mortal Instruments, and the main focus will be on Clary, Jace, Simon, Alec, Isabelle, Maia, Jordan, et al.
Maria: What were your thoughts on the way the City of Bones movie turned out? There’s been a lot of controversy among fans because of how it strayed from the original story line in places. Were you wholly satisfied with it? Do you think there could be improvements made for the next movie?
I agree it was enormously different than the book. I wasn’t involved in the final decisions regarding what went into the film and what got cut, and I’m not in a position where I get to make decisions about future films. However, I care a lot about reader opinions, so I compiled a list of fan comments and provided it to the producers, in the hopes that their future decisions would be informed by fan response.
Marielle Clément: My questions for our Goddess Cassandra Clare would be: Who will be the principal characters in The Last Hour series? Is our protagonist a girl with a deliciously snarky love interest (not to mention he’ll be really, really, really good-looking)? How many books would that series have?
Is that a Zoolander reference? I hope so! The Last Hours will be a trilogy. Since it’s a work in progress, please take everything I say with a grain of salt, as things might still change. I think the Last Hours has less of the feel of being one character’s story primarily than previous series. Viewpoint characters include Cordelia Carstairs, who is Jem’s cousin, who is spunky and delightful and fun, and her parabatai, Lucie Herondale, the daughter of Will and Tessa. There’s also James Herondale, Lucie’s older brother, and his parabatai, Matthew Fairchild—James is featured in the Bane Chroniclesstory The Midnight Heir, and we learn he is a bit snarky, though I’d say shyer than his father, and Matthew is very open-hearted, very funny, very much a party boy. I think I would definitely say that if people thought the Clockwork series brought on tears, it pales in comparison to TLH! I’ve already cried, and I’m only outlining!
Marce: From the fans theories about CoHF that you’ve heard, which one is the craziest? Tell us about it.
Agh! So hard to choose. My favorite is the one where Church is Tessa shapechanged into a cat and at the end she turns back into Tessa and saves the world!