Teen Read Week was October 16th through the 22nd, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating all month long with 31 Days of Authors. On each day in October, we’ll bring you exclusive author interviews and profiles plus reflections on what YALSA-recognized books have meant to us. Today we feature Cassandra Clare, whose book Clockwork Angel is #1 on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list.
Cassandra Clare created a compelling world in City of Bones by revealing a secret side of New York City full of vicious demons and heroic Shadowhunters, and has continued to draw us in with the rest of the Mortal Instruments series. Clockwork Angel takes us to Victorian London, where Shadowhunters of that era uphold the balance between humans and downworlders amid gaslights and steampunk automatons. In both time periods, action mingles with sarcastic humor and enticing romance, as the ensemble casts of the New York and London Shadowhunter Institutes, respectively, struggle towards victory in the battle between good and evil. Urban fantasy doesn’t get more addictive than this!
In Clockwork Angel, Tessa Gray travels to London to meet her brother, Nathaniel, but instead finds herself captured by a pair of dark sisters who force her to use a strange and terrible power she never knew she had. Shadowhunters, including dark Will Herrondale and ethereal Jem Carstairs, each of whom is gorgeous and fascinating in his own way, come to her aid and help her discover what has become of Nathaniel and what the future may hold for Tessa herself. Lush descriptions and steampunk elements make the historical and fantastical sides of Victorian London come alive.
In addition to the books, both Shadowhunter series are getting exciting media attention. The Mortal Instruments is being adapted for the screen. The Infernal Devices will be adapted as a manga. The books of both series are available as audiobooks, with excellent readers such as Ed Westwick and Molly Quinn (City of Fallen Angels) and Jennifer Ehle (Clockwork Angel).
Here is Cassandra Clare’s official acceptance speech for being this year’s Teens’ Top Ten #1 :
She also answered some questions for this post:
ED: I asked my Book Club teens to help me come up with questions, but they all just squealed extensively about their love for you and your books. I admit that if I ran into you on the street, I might be just as speechless. How are you handling your fame?
CC: I don’t think of myself as famous. I think of movie stars as famous–I never have to, I don’t know, hide in a plant pot like Robert Pattinson. I think it is because most people don’t recognize writers. It’s like being a director or anyone not in front of a camera; you’re just less known, and less visible. Which, let me tell you, is great. I think if I was actually famous it would give me a nervous breakdown! Most writers aren’t really great with attention. We love for our books to be loved, not so much us. I am happy when people love the books and can talk about them with readers for ages.
ED:Since many of them are avidly listening, what would you like to tell today’s teens?
CC: You guys are so lucky! When I was a teen writers were distant unimaginable figures to me. I couldn’t imagine ever talking to a favorite writer. I wrote, but I had no one to show my writing to. Most writers are online now and accessible; there are great communities like inkpop.com where you can share your writing. Envy!
ED: On to more Clockwork Angel-related matters. What inspired you to tell a Shadowhunter story in the 19th century?
CC: I had the image in my head for a long time of a boy and a girl in period costume, standing in the middle of Blackfriars Bridge on a misty night. From one end of the bridge a group of clockwork automatons was advancing silently. For a long time I didn’t know what the story was with those two, but I played around with it in my head. More images popped up–I had this image of this lonely boy who pushes away everyone, and slowly Will, and Charlotte, and Henry took shape–and somewhere between City of Bones and City of Ashes the idea of the Infernal Devices was born.
ED: Romance in the Victorian Era involves less physical contact than a contemporary romance might. You reveal very much in Clockwork Angel through small gestures. Is it more difficult to write a romance in this time period?
CC: I did an exhaustive amount of research to write these books, and I did discover some things that surprised me. It’s certainly true that romance among the upper classes in Victorian England involved less physical contact. But they weren’t the prudes people often think they were. I’ve read lots of apocryphal stories about how Victorians couldn’t say the words “leg” or “arm” or covered up the table legs in their houses because of prudery but those weren’t true. What is true is that physical gestures carried a lot more significance. When Will unbuttons Tessa’s glove and kisses her in Clockwork Angel, that’s a big deal, and makes his later rejection of her even more horrible. There is some kissing and even a bit more in Clockwork Prince but it comes with big consequences for those who engage in it.
ED: How did you first discover steampunk? What interests you about this subgenre?
CC: I think I first came across the seeds of what steampunk was born out of as a child, reading “scientific romances”–the work of Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve always been very interested in the Victorian age and in the history of automatons so steampunk was a natural fit. It’s an aesthetic that keenly appeals to me because I love both historical novels and science fiction and steampunk manages to combine them both with a retro-Victorian sensibility. It’s a vision of a future that never was, and there’s something very appealing about that.
ED: I was excited to hear the the Infernal Devices is going to be adapted into a manga series. What is it like to change formats and collaborate with an artist?
CC: I’m not writing the adaptation myself–the book is going to be freely adapted by the artist–but I’m very excited to see how it turns out. It’s a bit like having a movie made of your book: you get to see the visuals, or an interpretation of the visuals, of your book, which is fascinating, though not a collaborative work.
ED: London is almost its own character in Clockwork Angel, as much as New York is in City of Bones. How do you portray cities in such detail?
CC: I take very seriously the “urban” part of urban fantasy. The backdrop of a magical world has to seem very real and tangible because people have to believe in the world to believe in the magic. It is even more important to be accurate with real places–places people can visit. I want people who visit Veselka in New York to toy with the idea that the boy over in the corner not eating might be a vampire and for that the details have to be exact and realistic. New York and London are both cities I’ve lived in and loved. Next I hope to blend Shadowhunters with the town I grew up in, Los Angeles.
ED: What are some of your favorite books?
CC: I love Meghan Whalan Turner, Margaret Mahy, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, and Tamora Pierce’s works.
ED: You are very active on Twitter. What do you like most about Twitter?
CC: It’s a simple way to stay connected to my readership because the word limit keeps it manageable.
ED: What question do you wish interviewers would ask you, but they never do?
CC: “Would you like one million dollars?”
Clockwork Prince, sequel to Clockwork Angel, comes out on December 6, and the next book in the Mortal Instruments series, City of Lost Souls, will be published next year. The avid fantasy fans at my library, myself included, can hardly wait.
— Erin Daly is in need of a new physical book, but has been listening to Clockwork Angel (again) on audiobook in the car.