By Ashly Moore Sheldon • January 24, 2023
Since 2007, Cassandra Clare has been generating a huge bibliography of exciting stories for YA and middle-grade readers. Her celebrated Shadowhunter Chronicles feature an elaborate community of magical beings, the Shadowhunters, who protect the mundanes (humans) from dark forces infiltrating their world. Clare's newest book, Chain of Thorns, completes The Last Hours trilogy. Preorder the book any time before its release on Jan. 31 and get a free book credit. Check out the details here.
My family traveled a lot when I was a kid, and I brought books with me wherever I went—many books. Perhaps an unreasonable number of books.
Clare was born overseas to American parents. Her father, Richard Rumelt, is a business school professor and author. Her grandfather on her mother's side was renowned film producer Max Rosenberg. During childhood vacations to Switzerland, England, and France, Clare recalls bringing along trunks of books. Some of her favorite reads from those years include:
I started writing novels when I was twelve and they were all terrible.
As a teenager, Clare recalls experimenting with a wide variety of genres: a vampire novel, a mystery novel, an Arthurian novel, and a romance novel entitled The Beautiful Cassandra. (Her character Lucie's ever-expanding novel, The Beautiful Cordelia is a nod to this personal history.) She says she had fun with these writing projects and shared them with friends who encouraged her to continue writing.
She also dabbled in fan fiction. A Harry Potter-themed project was called The Draco Trilogy. The Very Secret Diaries was based on The Lord of the Rings. She deleted these works from the internet shortly before publication of her first novel, City of Bones.
It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone. They could be honest with me, and I with them.
In an interview on Shelf Awareness, Clare lists her favorite authors and the ways they've helped shape her work:
No matter how many books you've written, whenever you sit down to write a new book, you always feel the same challenge—how do you shape this story into a book that people are going to love.
This fall, Clare is joining fellow authors like Holly Black, Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas, Kiersten White, and S. A. Chakraborty in making the leap from YA to adult literature. Her upcoming novel, Sword Catcher, is scheduled for release on October 10, 2023. The story centers on two outcasts trying to find their place within the glitzy city-state of Castellane, a crossroads for the wealthy and influential.
I am a badass, and I recognize that you, too, are a badass.
Clare and Holly Black have been friends for nearly two decades. They met at a book signing event for Holly's first novel, Tithe. After the event, they went out for hot chocolate, bonding over writing projects and shoe shopping. It was a match made in literary heaven. Ten years later, they joined forces to write The Magisterium, a middle-grade fantasy series about children who are trained as warriors in a world of dark magic. They have even been known to write each other's characters into their books.
When Chain of Gold came out, I had a dress made for myself that was based on an Edwardian pattern, and wore it to the book release party. That's research, right?
Clare is no slouch when it comes to researching the settings and details of her historical fantasies. Working to get the details right in The Last Hours trilogy set in Edwardian London meant walking all over the city with historical maps in order to find the right locations for the characters' homes and for major events in the stories. The pandemic complicated her ability to travel as she researched Chain of Thorns, but she noted that online maps and historical photos filled the gap.
She also makes a point of reading the literature that her characters would be reading ("since they're a readerly bunch") and researching the fashion of the times so that she can serve up the perfect "lewks" for each of her distinctly clad characters.
Sometimes, when I have to do something I don't want to do, I pretend I'm a character from a book. It's easier to know what they would do.
Clare has said that she works on a word-count basis and her self-imposed assignment is to write 3,000 words a day (about six pages single-spaced!). Since her first book came out in 2007, Clare has generated more than two dozen publications, including graphic novel editions for her Mortal Instruments series and an Infernal Devices: Manga series. With multiple books coming out each year, she's extremely busy, but makes time to connect with fans and attend author events. We are certainly appreciating the fruits of her labor and look forward to seeing what she does next.