Guest post by Vanessa Monaghan
In 2004, Harry Potter still ruled the world of young adult fiction and publishing houses were cashing in. From Eragon to Inkheart, teens were devouring books about magic and not much else.
In New York City, aspiring author Cassandra Clare had a manuscript, an agent, and a problem. Rejections were flowing in from prospective publishers, and they were all saying the same thing – teens didn’t want to read about demon hunters and vampires.
“I wish I’d kept those rejections.” Clare told a packed audience at the Sydney Writer’s Festival to a round of appreciative laugher.
Fortunately, the vampire trend caught on, and Cassandra Clare went on to become the New York Times Best Selling author of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series for young adults. With five books already published, and another four planned for release, she is touring Australian and New Zealand to share the secrets of her underworld.
Clare began her writing career at The Hollywood Reporter in Los Angeles. In between gossip emergencies, Clare worked on City of Bones, the first novel in The Mortal Instruments series.
“I was writing my novel, the person who sat behind me was writing a screenplay, and the guy in the front cubicle went on to become Perez Hilton,” she says.
After swearing to never write about Paris Hilton again, Clare moved to New York City and became a freelance writer. She also became friends with Holly Black, author of the Spiderwick Chronicles, after writing her a fan letter. It would prove to be a fortuitous relationship for Clare, as Black went on to recommend City of Bones to her agent, who loved it, and subsequently secured a publishing deal based on the first ten chapters.
In Sydney, Clare regaled the audience with details of her adventures with her partner in crime (Black) in the name of research. From driving around Manhattan with Black in the boot of her car (so she could accurately describe what it would feel like), to trespassing on New York’s Roosevelt Island and nearly being arrested, it’s clear that Clare loves what she does and never compromises on her writing.
A passion for urban exploration and an obsession with tattoos were Clare’s inspiration when she was developing The Mortal Instruments series. After moving to New York, she began exploring the city’s secret corners, abandoned buildings and its underground. She knew she wanted to write a novel which treated the city as a wilderness, but she needed to create a world within that framework.
A visit to a friend’s tattoo parlour led her to research the use of runes in different cultures throughout history. She discovered that rune tattoos had often been used to protect warriors in battle. From this she created the Shadowhunters, a secret race of tattooed Nephilim who protect humanity from demons and evil forces. With her setting and world in place, Clare then began to create her characters and the story she wanted to tell.
She confesses to being a neurotic plotter, who first develops an overarching plot for each series, and then works on micro-plots for each book. To keep track of her complicated storylines and characters (some of which appear in both series), she uses the writing program Scrivener. She also has a playlist for each of her books which she listens to repeatedly as she writes.
To separate her work and home life, Clare now shares an office in Massachusetts with Holly Black. She explains that this has been enormously beneficial to them both because it helps with the loneliness that is often part of a writer’s life, and also presents an opportunity to workshop ideas and to get immediate feedback.
When asked about her writing schedule, Clare says her personal goal is to write 2,500 words a day. This seems amazing considering the amount of time she spends online each day interacting with her fans on Twitter (http://twitter.com/cassieclare), Facebook (http://facebook.com/cassandraclare) and her blog (http://cassandraclare.com).
Clare’s social media strategy is a model for authors everywhere. Each month she posts excerpts from upcoming books, participates in live chats and answers questions about her books. It’s clear from listening to her that she genuinely enjoys engaging with her fans, and if the number of people queuing outside is any indication, that love goes both ways.