Cassandra Clare was recently inteviewed by Bookish about her series The Mortal Instruments and the Magisterium series that she’s co-writing with Holly Black.
Get insight into Cassandra's thoughts on her work being brought to life on screen, possible TMI books written in Jace's perspective, & more in the inteview below. :D ~V
Bookish: ”The Mortal Instruments” has several more mature jokes and darker themes–a departure from a lot of YA, which keeps things fairly clean. How does that more mature sensibility translate to the movie?
Cassandra Clare: It’s interesting, because you never know how something is going to be digitally realized until the director puts it on film. [The movie's] got a very dark sensibility–gritty urban fantasy, which I really like.
Bookish: Are there any scenes in particular you feel express that?
CC: Yeah! I think that they did a great job with Magnus Bane’s party. And also the club scene that opens the book, where Clary and Simon first go to [Pandemonium], the first time she sees the Shadowhunters. For me, urban fantasy has always been about the marriage of modernity and fantasy, and I think that captures it very well visually in the film.
Bookish: How did you feel about Lily Collins getting cast? She’s a great actress but doesn’t look a ton like how Clary’s described in the books–redheaded, freckled. Was that difficult to adjust to?
CC: Lily is the only one I wasn’t involved in casting; she was attached to the project when Sony picked it up. I went and watched “The Blind Side,” and really loved her [in it]. And she actually does have freckles! As a person who’s covered in freckles myself, it’s one of those things where… If you’re a star in Hollywood they cover up the freckles with foundation whenever you do photo shoots and everything. And I was so happy, because she got those freckles in there, and I think they’re completely cute. You can see them a bit.
We’re really lucky to have [Collins in "City of Bones"]. Not only is she in every project going on right now–she’s one of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood–but she really was a big fan of the books before she started on the project, so she brought a lot to Clary in that way. I think that the reason they didn’t dye her hair bright red was she’d had her hair dyed for four different movie roles before that. They were going back and forth, like, “We could have her wear a wig, or we could put a red rinse on her hair, but we can’t really do the bleaching and dyeing, or it’ll all fall out.” I figured, you know, as long as she could capture Clary’s bravery and vulnerability, that was more important to me than the exact shade of red for the hair.
Bookish: Right, pick your battles.
CC: Exactly. [laughs] I would’ve felt really bad if her hair had fallen out and it would’ve been my fault!
Bookish: When Jamie Campbell Bower was announced as Jace, many fans were up in arms at first. If you check Tumblr now, they seem like they’ve accepted him, but what was that like initially?
CC: It was probably hardest on Jamie. He talks about it in interviews, but he took things to heart. It made me think about what it must be like as an actor. Because if you’re a writer and you write a story that’s rejected–well, they rejected your story. But as an actor, if you’re being rejected in some way, they’re rejecting the whole of you. It must be really difficult.
When I saw the reaction, I thought, “Well, I was kind of braced for this.” Jace is supposed to be the embodiment of your fantasy, what the boyfriend would be based on all my favorite literary characters. He’s supposed to be incredibly talented and incredibly funny and good-looking, so everyone’s got their different idea of what that looks like. So, you just have to remember that this happened when they cast Robert Pattinson in “Twilight,” and when they cast Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth [in "The Hunger Games"].
Bookish: It’s definitely one of those “you know you’ve made it” moments, when people get that bent out of shape.
CC: Yes! It’s one of those things where [you think], “Well, I guess it’s a good thing in disguise.”
Bookish: You started out as a fanfic author, writing the “Very Secret Diaries” series for “Lord of the Rings.” What’s been the biggest adjustment for you since you’ve developed your own avid fanbase, having once been such a huge fan of someone else’s work?
CC: When I was a big fan of “Lord of the Rings” and whatnot, you kind of think of these creations as not having been created by a person so much as existing; they feel real to you. To be on the other side of it, you think, oh my gosh, these stories were created by just one person–in this case, me–and it’s strange. You’re like, “Oh, it’s not that it was created by a faceless conglomerate, it’s actually the work of individual people.” Also, having been a fan, I come to it sometimes from a fan’s perspective: “If I were a fan of this material, what would I want? Would I want to see scenes that were cut from the material? Would I want a sneak peek of the next book, or drawings of characters?”
Now that we have the Internet, there is a much more immediate ability to connect with creators of things that you like. When I was growing up, authors were faraway, distant figures. I never would’ve thought I could talk to them, and now you can.
CC: I think it is. Now that we have the Internet, there is a much more immediate ability to connect with creators of things that you like. When I was growing up, authors were faraway, distant figures. I never would’ve thought I could talk to them, and now you can. That was always something I loved about Stephenie: She had the deleted scenes; she had ["Midnight Sun"] from Edward’s point of view; she had a great sense of “what would you like if you were a fan of this?”
Bookish: To that end, have you thought about writing “The Mortal Instruments” from Jace’s point of view?
CC: It’s definitely something that I’ve been asked about. I have thought about it. One of the things that I have done is put up on my web site different scenes from his perspective. I think that it would be a fun thing to do, and I want to do it, but I think that I would like to finish the series and get a little more distance on it before I started on a project like that. [The books are] already in third-person, but as we go on through the series, we do see it going into other people’s perspectives–Alec’s, Isabelle’s, Simon’s and some Jace. I’d have to think about it–what can I bring to a book from Jace’s perspective that’s something we haven’t already seen before?
Bookish: The Shadowhunters make a big deal of the difference between them and “mundanes,” or humans. You’ve mentioned that you picked up that term from Dungeons & Dragons; my ex was a LARPer, so I’ve encountered the phrase as well. The characters in “Harry Potter” are similarly obsessed with Muggles vs. wizards. Now, some geeks have appropriated the term to set themselves apart from non-geeks. What’s your take on this?
CC: It’s an interesting question, because when I picked it up from my friends it was because they were role-playing. I asked if they would run a shotgun campaign in the world of “The Mortal Instruments” because I thought it’d be a way to beta-test the magic system and see if there were any things that didn’t work. They asked me if I wanted to be in on it, and I said “no,” because I’d never played Dungeons & Dragons and I didn’t want to hold up what they were doing. They kind of jokingly called me a “mundane” and I was a little bit hurt because I was like, “What do you mean, I’m a mundane? I’m writing a fantasy book, I’m obviously a geek!”
I wound up putting the word in the book because when the Shadowhunters call human beings mundanes, it puts a little bit of a derogatory spin on it. As the books go on, one of the things that I wanted to explore was forcing the Shadowhunters to confront their attitude about humanity and the problematic aspects of thinking of yourself as better than the people you’re supposed to protect.
Bookish: How goes the writing on your and Holly Black’s forthcoming “Magisterium Series”? What we know so far is that it’s middle-grade, and the main character is 12-year-old Callum Hunt. It’s sort of flipping the typical magical story, because Cal is training to become a dark magician. I actually wrote a piece for Bookish recently, “7 Celebrities Who Should Write Young Adult Novels,” and I made up that pitch. I should’ve known someone was already on it!
CC: [laughs] That always happens and you’re like, “Aww, someone’s doing it.” It seemed like such a fun concept. A lot of the books that I loved as a kid–there’s a book called “Which Witch” by Eva Ibbotson. It’s a great book about a dark magician who’s trying to find a wife, and so he’s auditioning all of these witches; he’s evil in a different way. I just remember how much fun she had with the dark magic for kids, and so I think it was a little of that sensibility.
Bookish: You and Holly live only a mile apart now. Do you find that it’s easier to both write in the same room, or do you send pages back and forth electronically?
CC: As much as we can, we write in the same place. I’ll write and then I’ll hand the computer to her, and she’ll kind of go over what I wrote and then add her own stuff, then she’ll pass it back to me… It creates a very seamless style, so that you can’t tell what I wrote and what she wrote.
Bookish: Constantin Film, which is adapting “City of Bones,” has already acquired the film rights to “The Magisterium Series.” Plus, you and Holly are adapting the screenplay. From your experience being on the set of “City of Bones,” what will you bring to the film adaptation of the first book “The Iron Trial”?
CC: [On the set of "City of Bones"] I learned a lot about screenplay writing that hopefully I’ll be able to put to use when we write “Magisterium”–about things that work in books that don’t translate that well to film, but also how you can use film as a visual medium to indicate things. There are ways you can show character in a book, but in a movie there’s great ways to show character visually–what somebody is wearing. Or if you walk into a set that’s, say, their office, the camera can linger on items they own, and that can tell you a whole bunch about them in a way that you would do differently in a novel.
Bookish: Are there moments you come across while writing with Holly now that you think to yourself, “Well, this can’t go in the book, but we’ll file it away for the movie”?
CC: Yeah, that definitely does happen, where we talk about how that might translate into the movie. Then of course there’s the question of special effects. For me the biggest thing is, when you’re writing a book, you have an unlimited budget of imagination; you can write anything to happen, and it doesn’t cost you anything. But in a movie, if you want to say, “Now there’s a shot of every volcano on Earth exploding at once!” they’re gonna push back and want to limit those things. So you have to think kind of cleverly of, “How do we get this stuff across without having to blow up every volcano on Earth and film it?”
Bookish: What were you most excited about in the movie?
CC: I got to be an extra in one of the scenes. I really want to go to the movies with my family and show them my film debut. I’m a cat demon and I’m wearing pointy cat ears and have all this crazy makeup on. I’m really excited to see myself as a monster in this movie.
Bookish: Was that your idea or the filmmakers’?
CC: No, it was totally [director Harald Zwart's] idea! I was standing around on set and he was like, “You must be in the party scene at Magnus’ with all the demons and banshees and pixies and fairies! You’ll be in that scene and you’ll be a demon.” I just went to the makeup trailer, and they made me up and kind of glued these cat ears onto my head and gave me crazy cat makeup and whatnot. It was really fun, so I’m excited about that.