Author Cassandra Clare talks addressing mental health and strong women in the shadowhunter world

Plus everything you need to know about her new read, Lady Midnight

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Author Cassandra Clare talks addressing mental health and strong women in the shadowhunter world
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We're suffering with severe back pain at the moment, and it's not just 'cos we spend our entire lives hunched over a keyboard. It's mainly because we're lugging around Cassandra Clare's EPIC new book, Lady Midnight, which is not only super amazing, but also the size of a small house.

So seeing as that's kind of a big deal, we thought we'd better grab Cassie for a chat about all things Shadowhunter, to quiz her on addressing mental health in the new story, creating another kickass female character, and all sorts of other interesting stuff.

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HEY CASSIE, so awesome to see you. Lady Midnight is officially available for us to get lost in now, so can you tell us a bit about it?

Sure. Lady Midnight is the first book the Dark Artifices series, a new series in the Shadowhunter universe, and it centers on Emma Carstairs, our badass heroine who's bent on finding out who killed her parents and getting revenge. 

She also has a best friend and parabatai, Julian Blackthorne, who's her sworn warrior partner. She's not allowed to fall in love with him but of course she starts to develop feelings for him during the book.

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Sounds AMAZING. We've been obsessed with the Shadowhunter world for years, but how about readers who are totally new to it?

There's a lot in there for people who've read the previous books. You definitely meet Clary and Jace and the other characters, you see them and find out how they are a few years after City of Heavenly Fire, but it's also great for people who are new to the shadowhunter world because it picks up with its own new story. 

It sets the stage hopefully for a really interesting story to come in the next two books. It's a trilogy - Lady Midnight, Lord of Shadows and Queen of Air And Darkness.

So, we need to talk about Emma Carstairs. She's kind of a badass and we wish we were her tbh. Is it important for you to make sure you're creating strong female characters in your books?

It's really important for me to write strong women - women who feel real, women who are flawed and make mistakes but who are essentially incredibly complicated, strong people. To me, strong doesn't just mean the physical strength. 

Emma's obviously a great warrior and she's kickass, but Tessa was not at all. She was strong in a completely different way. Clary was just learning how to be a warrior, so for me it's important to write multi-layered women who have just the same amount of ability to have complications and drama and excitement, and to be just as brave as men.

Emma's the main character in Lady Midnight, but we also meet the whole of the Blackthorne family who are just so loveable. Is there a member that you're particularly attached to?

I'm very attached to Ty. I love him, he's based on my own step-brother and he's just such a wonderful person and so fascinating in the way that he sees the world. 

Are we right in thinking that Ty might be dealing with some mental health issues? It also seemed as though Arthur could be a representative of that too.

Ty is autistic, he has autism. I wouldn't really class that as mental illness, but Arthur is more of what I would say is mentally ill - probably what I would highlight as schizophrenia. It was something I wanted to address, autism and a-typicality in a sense of showing that Ty could be autistic and still be a fantastic shadowhunter and have a great life. Autistic kids don't get to see themselves represented that way very often.

For Arthur, I wanted to echo a little bit of how, in our own culture, we treat those who are mentally ill very poorly, and the Clave does as well in the shadowhunter world. 

We'd totally agree, that's so important to take notice of. Mental health is such a hot topic amongst young people, you must get a lot of praise and feedback for bringing that into your books.

Yeah, I hear from a lot of teens who have autism of have family members who do because of Ty. And also Julian, because Julian is in essence raising his brother and has a lot to deal with. 

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It's obvious to readers that you really care about the characters you create. Does that mean it's difficult for you to put them in the not-so-nice situations that they have to face sometimes? Those scenes must be quite difficult to write about someone you care about.

It's interesting because people always come and ask me 'Do you regret killing so and so?' and I say no and they look HORRIFIED. 

The thing is to me that there's a big difference between 'Did it make you sad?' and 'Do you regret it?' It definitely makes me sad and sometimes I cry, but do I regret it? No. Because the most important thing is the story. Does it make sense for the story? Is it the right thing for the story? That's the reason to do it.

It's a TOTALLY different style of writing to the kind of thing you used to do when you were a celebrity writer. How did you even get into the fantasy fiction side of things?

I always wanted to write fiction and I used to love being an entertainment reporter actually, it was fantastic. I moved to New York and I was going to continue doing reporting from there, but then September 11th happened and things changed. I wound up copywriting at night, so I would write during the day. It felt like I had this story in me about New York and I just had to tell it.

Awesome. The Shadowhunter world now comes with a huge online world too, where fans all gather to talk about how much they adore the characters. It must be a pretty awesome feeling to know you have such an active fandom.

I'm so proud of them all, it feels like a big family and it's really wonderful. There's all these people talking about the characters, keeping them alive and drawing this beautiful art and creating these theories that are great and outlandish and fabulous. 

It's interesting because I feel a bit like their mum, but I also want to step back and let them have their own experience of the characters.

And what about fan fic? We know some authors can get a bit weird about it all.

I love it, I know everybody has different views. I don't read it because I don't want to get confused about what happens in fan fiction and what happens in my work. I know that there's various things that the fans have agreed on as being true in fan fiction and they're not necessarily true in the books. 

I know Alec has a limp in fan fiction I've heard, I don't know why and I don't wanna know because I get confused and then start putting that in my stories. I'm just like, you guys have fun and when I'm all done then I'll enter the fan fiction world.

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So are we right in thinking that you might be guilty of lurking amongst the fandom every now and again? We know you're pretty into Tumblr.

I go on the tag sometimes. I see what they're talking about and what their theories are and what they want in Emma and the new books.

Like the inclusion of Jace and Clary in Lady Midnight, for example. Was that something that you knew the fans wanted this time around?

I wanted to create a sense of continuity and also because there's a series after this called The Wicked Powers which sort of brings all the different characters from all the series together. So I didn't want us to forget about Jace and Clary or Jem and Tessa during this series, so that when they all come back together we can remember that they all exist and what they were all doing.

How was it trying to tell a whole new story while referencing the older, fan favourite stuff too? It's an exciting balance.

It's difficult to find a balance because you don't want people to say 'Oh this relies too much on the old characters', but you also don't want them to say 'Oh I didn't get to see enough of the old characters'. You don't want the old characters to come in and solve all the problems either, the new ones have to prove themselves with their own story.

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Amazing. Right Cassie, we've got some fan questions for you too which we grabbed over on Twitter, if that's alright. 

@Rebzcraft: If you could only have one of your books ever published for the world to read, which would you choose?

Clockwork Princess, but I don't think it would make any sense without the others. 

@FlowerPrinceDan: Do you ever write your characters with specific actors in mind?

No, never ever ever ever ever. Because I know, having had a movie cast and a TV show cast, you never have the person thinking of cast so why bother? I do get influence in casting but it's such a random process. You go into it picturing one person, but they're booked up for eight years, filming a mini series in Morocco, and you're just like 'Oh okay, well that's that'. So because of that, I just have my own images in my head.

@MrsPayne4evaxx: How long did it take you to write Lady Midnight? [It is seriously hefty]

About a year and a half, not too bad, maybe slightly longer. I had days where I just wrote and wrote, but there was also a lot of research because it was the first book of a new series, so there was a good amount of time spent just creating characters.

@Scarylouve: How do you deal with writers block?

I usually call my friends who are also writers. We run through the plot like 'Tell me the story so far and where you're stuck', and we can usually figure out what reason it is that I'm stuck on and where I went wrong, so I can go back and fix that thing and then go ahead.

@explicitlarrie_: How do you deal with any negativity?

The more popular a book series is, the more negativity you're going to get and of course it's super upsetting because it's a personal thing. You try to separate yourself from it all and remember that it's about the books and not me personally. Over the years I've developped a much thicker skin.

@angel_reads: If you could be one of your characters, who would you be and why?

Magnus, he has such a fabulous life. He's experienced so much, he's done everything and he's been everywhere. I'd just love to have that life.

@fortissimona: Which character that you've written would you say is the least like yourself? And were they difficult to create/write?

Actually, probably Emma. She's so brave and reckless and somebody who jumps into things without thinking ahead. For her, the best way out is forward and I love that about her, but I am absolutely more like Tessa. I'm a planner and a peacemaker and a person who takes their time to consider all the options. It makes it more difficult to write but also more fun. I'm not making it easy for myself having her as the heroine, I don't know why I do these things.

And last but not least, @toriwayout: If you had to pick one Shadowhunter last name to be your own, which would you go for?

Hmm, I don't want to pick one that I've already used. So maybe Ravenscar [this also came with a very dramatic arm swoosh for extra cool effect].

WELL, that was pretty epic. What do you make of what Cassandra had to say about the Shadowhunter world? Let us know in the box below, or chuck a tweet to @Sugarscape.

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