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Interview: Cassandra Clare, Author of City of Bones

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There are a lot of reasons to read City of Bones, book one of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments trilogy. The young adult urban fantasy is set in New York, a great back drop for all the supernatural elements. The main character, Clary, is a normal teenager when the world she knows it changes. Her mother, an artist with the temperament to match, is attacked by a demon. Clary comes home to find the demon still there and barely survives the encounter.

The story that follows is gripping. The scale is truly epic, the ultimate battle between good and evil. Filled with likeable characters as well as a bad guy you can love to hate; and, my personal favorite, a cat by the name of Chairman Meow. There is humor here as well as heartbreak, sadness and excitement, even love.

Ms. Clare was kind enough to answer some questions about City of Bones as well as her experiences as a newly published author. She even hints at what the future holds for Clary.


Where did you first get the idea for City of Bones?
I got the idea one day when I was walking around the East Village in Manhattan with a friend of mine. She showed me the tattoo parlor where she used to work. They had a tradition there of having their staff step in paint and then track their footprints across the ceiling. It looked to me like some supernatural battle had taken place with people running across the walls and ceiling. I started working from there on a book that centered on tattoo-based magic.

What about young adult urban fantasy, instead of adult, drew you to it?
I didn't originally think of City of Bones as young adult, just as a fantasy novel. The characters simply happened to be teenagers. At some point I was approached by a publisher who was interested in publishing the book, but they wanted me to "age up the characters" and make them adults. I toyed with the idea for a while, but I knew it wouldn't work. I wanted to tell a story about characters at that crucial life stage just between adolescence and adulthood, where every choice seems possible. I knew it had to be a coming-of-age story; that was just how I envisioned it.

When you came up with your story idea did you intend to write a trilogy or did the story just take on a life of its own?
I came up with the idea of a trilogy that was loosely structured on the Divine Comedy – if you look at the titles of each part in City of Bones, you'll see they all have "descent" in them. In City of Ashes, the theme is hell or inferno. The structure is descent, inferno, ascent — it's the hero's voyage into and out of the underworld — so I pictured it in three parts.

City of Bones really does have almost every imaginable supernatural or fantastic creature in it. Did you spend a lot of time researching creatures?
Yes, and that was enormously fun. I read all sorts of texts about fallen angels and demons, a lot of faerie lore, and various myths. What I discovered was that every culture has its myth of evil spirits or demons. Some are aspects of existing gods, as in Indian and Persian myths, and some are agents of some overwhelming evil force that's locked in a battle with a single god — as in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism — while in Native American mythology they personify the destructive aspects of the natural world, like tornadoes and earthquakes. I even tried some demon-summoning spells, but not with any success.

What was the best part for you about working in a world where you could create anything you wanted? Did you find it limiting at all?

Well, I don't think there's ever a situation where you can do anything you want — first you establish the rules of your cosmology and magic system, and then you have to stick to those rules. If it's not limited in some sense, then there aren't enough consequences in the story to keep it interesting.

Do you have a favorite character from your novel? I have to admit that I'm rather partial to Simon myself.
My boyfriend will be happy to hear that. He's convinced Simon is based on him. My favorite character is Magnus. He's so much fun to write. He's always wearing and saying something fabulous and dramatic.

How has your writing group been helpful?
Oh, they're fantastic. I'm lucky to be in a writing group with such amazing people. The first few group meetings I could barely even say anything because I was so overwhelmed. When we had our City of Bones meeting I went home with six copies of the manuscript written over in red ink. I had to lug the ten-pound bag of paper on the train from Boston, but their comments were invaluable.

Do you have any good advice for new writers?
My writing group has been wonderful for me. I'd always recommend joining a critique group where you can get objective feedback. Even something like critters.org online can be really helpful.

What has the publishing process been like for you?
I knew exactly what agent I wanted going in to the whole process, because I knew a few of his clients and they'd recommended him. Barry, my agent, specialized in young adult and knows a huge amount about fantasy, he's really supportive and he was all about finding me not just the best deal but the best editor who would help me grow my career. As for my editor, she's been in the business a long time; she's edited great people like Annette Curtis Klause and Robert Cormier. She's extremely thorough and very careful, but she's also flexible and happy to compromise, and she has a wicked sense of humor.

On your website you said that some of your favorite fantasy is the Narnian chronicles by C.S. Lewis. Which book is your favorite and why?
Oddly, I like The Silver Chair. I'm a sucker for underground empires. I know that I am only one of many who are waiting impatiently for the next book City of Ashes in The Mortal Instruments trilogy due out in April, 2008.

Are there any hints you can give us about what the future holds?
In City of Ashes the kids have to contend with a massacre in the City of Bones — most of the Silent Brothers are murdered — and the theft of the second of the Mortal Instruments. Things heat up in the love triangle department. There are a lot more demons and things get considerably darker, and one of the main three characters — Clary, Simon, and Jace — dies.

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About Katie T. Buglet

  • yareader

    Thank you for posting the interview with Ms. Clare. I liked her willing to go over questions about her new book. I am a fan of how she names her characters too. I think the visual descriptions of the surroundings were amazing. I felt like I could smell, see, and feel in the vampire hotel. Thanks for giving a forum to new authors.

  • Julianne

    Thank you for such an insightful interveiw. I recently read City of Bones and enjoyed it enormously. It’s a witty and well-written page-turner.

    I enjoyed reading her comments about the book and the creative process. I met her at a signing recently and she is as witty in person as she is on the page. That really came across in your interview.

  • unknown

    i really enjoyed the book and her future books seem promising except the fact she made jace and clary borther and sister…noo that was so wrongggggg

  • lise

    city of bones was amazing!
    I loved all of the characters sarcastic combacks and their wit in general

    PLEASE do NOT let JACE die…

    it bad enough that CoB ended with clary being his sister!!

  • http://cityofbones sandy moon

    i love the 1st few chapters but in the middle thats were it got me

  • no name

    thanks for posting the interview! i’m really looking forward to the next book, but i DON’T want either clary, simon or jace to die…..

  • vbvnbn

    WOAH. WAIT. PLEASE DONT KILL JACE!!!! OMG I WOULD DIE. i mean….i’m still not over him and clary..i thought maybe they would find out that they were wrong and that they werent brother and sister becuase they are perfect and i love them and i DONT WANT HIM TO DIE..
    lol sorry. But I just wanted to say that the book was amazing. Thanks

  • Ashley

    i loved first book city of bones until the end i was like whoa WHAT THE HELL DID THAT COME FROM
    HOW COME THEY ARE RELATED
    this would have been a top book if she didnt make them related
    i was sooo sad
    i dont think i will be able to read the next book
    i just can’t bare it. then now she is saying she going to kilLi ONE OF THE MAIN THREE CHARACTERS WHA!!!!!!!!!!!!! i
    i rather not know than be disappointed
    i hate to see characters i get attached to die!!!

  • brittany

    no i really liked the book,and the fact that clary and jace ere related added a really twisted side, i pretty much loved it from begining to end.it also looked like it had the same back-ground as holly black’s books. my only beef is killing of the characters,but i think itll have to be jace(sorry)

  • mya

    i too think you should have made the brother’s! it was a real surprise but not a good one! i mean it was too wierd!!
    but i for sure will read the next book!
    but i am a bit afraid of who your going to kill..

  • Amy

    Thank you for the interview. I recently read City of Bones and loved it.

    I appreciate and enjoy an author that includes such detail in their books that it allows you, the reader, to really picture yourself there within it’s pages.

    The story’s main characters may be teens, however the story itself is a timeless one that any adult would also enjoy.

    I applaud Cassandra Clare for sticking to her guns and being true to her characters instead of changing them to suit someone else.

    I am very much looking forward to her next installment of the trilogy.

  • cassandra

    hi mi name is cassandra yut is yre name

  • Ali

    Man, I LOVE City of Bones!
    I let my best friend read the book and she loves it too! :)
    But I think she will kill me if I tell her that Simon, Clary or JACE will die.
    We both LOVE Jace and I would really hate to see him die.
    PLEASE don’t kill him…well it’s ur book.
    Not like I can change ur mind ’bout what u wanna do but I just wanted to put my feelings out there :)
    Out of the 3 that I heard about dying, I say kill…Simon. I’m sorry. I love Simon but the main character can’t die and it wouldn’t be City of Ashes without Jace.
    (I really love all the characters, even Valentine. But my favoritist characters have to be Jace, Alec and Isabelle!)
    Lookin’ forward to 2 & 3!

  • staarry

    OMG i loved the booK BUT WUT WERE U THINKING MAKING THEM RELATED! it ruined the book for me

  • Bella

    No, I don’t think there is any possibility that Jace could die in book 2. Seriously, Miss Clare wouldn’t do something like this to Clary’s mother.. I actually cannot see the point. I remember the interview when Cassie said that there would to be some kind of twist changing the Clary-Simon relationship and I suppose that’s it.We’re not considering Clary, are we? XD

    And I love the fact that Clary & Jace are related. Simply, it makes the City of Bones different than Cassie’s famous fan fiction.

  • Sharmanie

    i really loved the first book but i was a little let down by the ending, i think by making them related after making them kiss was just too wierd, i cant wait to read the next one i just REALLY REALLY hope that you dont kill off jace, he gives the story that charm and hottness that makes it so great.

  • Elizabeth

    I think the first book was madd although the ending of it was a bit of a let down. the thought of a brother and sister having crushes on each other was just a little wierd for me, but it still got me hooked so i have to read the next one, just PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE dont kill jace he’s a big part of why i’m gonna read the next one. keep up the good writting.

  • kimberly ashley

    city of bones is the best book in the world!
    and Jace is baare sexxy
    i hope he dosent die
    i’d rather twas simon

  • Samantha

    omg i loved city of bones! i like fell in love with jace lol… i was sooo hoping that clary and him would get together but they are related!
    i hope that in city of ashes they find out that valentine was just messing with them and they arent actually related! and i really hope they dont kill off jace! anyway i cant wait til the other books are out

  • LOVE IT!!!

    I LOVE CITY OF BONES…IT’S MAY FAVOURITE BOOK AT THE MOMENT. I WAS SOOOO SAD TO HEAR THAT JACE AND CLARY WERE RELATED AND THAT WAS THE WORST PART OF THE BOOK FOR ME BECAUSE THEIR RELATIONSHIP WAS STRONG AND THEY SUITED EACH OTHER SO WELL….THAT SORT OF RUINED IT FOR ME…BUT I LOVE IT ALL THE SAME AND CAN’T WAIT TO READ CITY OF ASHES!!!!!!

  • Em

    Wow! I love city of bones! I really can’t wait for the city of ashes!! But, I can’t believe that either Jace, Clary or Simon is going to die! It sooooo can’t be Clary because she’s the main character and the book wouldn’t have a point without her. I soooo don’t want Jace to die because he brings humour and a twist to the book. But I don’t want Simon to die either. If I had to chose though, I’d prefer Simon to die! Although, I heard that Simon gets kidnapped by Valentine for a sacrifice and Jace tries to save him! So either Jace dies saving Simon or Simon is used as a sacrifice!!!!!!

  • Allison

    Can’t wait for the next book, but please no!!! Don’t let anyone die!!!! I luv luv luv Simon, Clary, and Jace!!! At least bring whoever it is back to life somehow. I mean there’s magic, who said you can’t bring people back to life?? Can’t wait!!! :)

  • louise

    this book is awesome

  • Mary-Lou

    I loved city of bones sooo much!
    I can even understand why she made Clary brother and sister….it was all about the aspect of Forbidden love. Although I LOVED Clary and Jace!
    I can’t wait for City Of Ashes to come out!

    And pleaseee don’t kill Jace!
    He’s my favorite Character!

  • M.

    Okay, I would just like to point out that this interview is completly random. Everything seems normal, like every other interview, and then you read the last paragraph.
    It goes from, “My favourite book is the Silver Chair” to “Oh, yeah I forgot to metion, one of the three main characters dies. Have a nice life.”
    What the hell?
    Everything was normal and then, this big gigantic bomb went of.
    Like I said, RANDOM.

  • sopihe

    eeeep! one of them is going to die… wow i cant wait to see how that is done, it makes her books sooo much more original coz i don’t think i have ever read a book where two main characters fall in love then are brother and sister. (lol i almost dropped the book when i read that part lol) then kills a main character off. YAY i can’t wait till the next book comes out.
    but then thinking in terms of the magic/ demon world her books are centered in… who really stays dead?? the main she kills off will probably come back to life eventually… i hope .. ^^

    but yehhh.. really enjoyed city of bones XD

  • Krystal

    Wow , this book was totally amazing . I love all the characters , especially Jace ( of course! :] ) I was so shocked to find out that Clary and Jace were related , that was the only thing I dislike about the book , at this very moment I am still trying to find a way that this was a lie , but it all fits so well :[. I recently heard that the author is killing off one of the main characters and for love love god , PLEASE DON’T KILL JACE :[ ! Poor boy has already been through enough. I will not give up on the clary and jace relationship , it was one of those things that everytime Jace touch Clary , and she would get nervous , I would smile. They are just so good together , I will not give up hope yet ! I LOVE CITY OF BONES! :)

  • maxy

    If Jace dies in City of Ashes I’M GOING TO FREAK OUT!!!!!!! This book was so good- I’m waiting for the next one!!!

  • jasmine

    Im so glad i chose this book since it was at random i got into it straightaway, i got to admit it was really wierd when i found out they were brother and sister but i think simon and clary could still make a cute couple does anyone know when the 2nd book is comming out carn’t wait!

  • kim

    I Just finished City of Ashes !!!!
    It was soooooooooooo good !

  • jasmine

    kool howd you get hold of it n whens it comming out?

  • jasmine

    where is everyone hw come no ones replyin lol

  • Bella

    I love the book!!! BUT WHY THE HECK DID YOU MAKE CLARY AND JACE RELATED!!!!!!!!!!! please in the third book say they aren’t really related!! It is just GROSS that you made them kiss and then they find out they are related!!!!

  • Isela

    This was an amazing book with original metaphor and simile usage and the descriptions were brilliant, I love all the characters, they are ingenious. I have a feeling Jace or Simon will die but who knows maybe your just pulling our leg so that we’ll end up getting surprised yet again.

    Ugh Jace and Clary related? I hope that ends up being a mistake .

  • Jasmin

    I come from Denmark, so I have read the book on danish, Dæmonernes By. I think i’am fall in love with Jace, he’s just so cool, and hot, and strange, and everythink was perfect, until they find out they was related, it’s just SO WRONG!!
    She can’t be his sister, there haft have to be a mistake!!

    PLEASE DON’T LET JACE DIE!
    I LOVE HIM!!!

  • Diana

    If you have read City of Ashes you already know who dies.

  • Emma

    HOW THE HELL COULD JACE AND CLARY BE BROTHER AND SISTER!!!! in the third please make them find outit wa a mistake and please don’t let Clary fall in love with Sebastion.

  • Kristen

    When I heard someone from the main three people was going to die I freaked out…..Jace is sexxxyyy! I love him don’t kill him but why does Jace and Clary have to be siblings. That’s soooooo wwrrooonnnggg!
    WHY THE HECK DID U DO THAT!

  • Kriz

    That book was dread.I love Shadowhunters but if someone has 2 die, let it be Simon. Jace is tooooooooo SSSEEEEXXXYYYY! WATS WITH JACE AND CLARY BEING BROTHER AND SISTER!!!!!!!!

  • Jasmine

    Somehow I don’t think She will literaly kill, as in never to return to the earth. but maybe have them return as a werewolf or vampiere?

  • ali

    liked the book alot (i dont normally read fantasy) but then at the end.. it was a total turnoff. i was kinda figuring it through the last chapter but just for it to be true.. gross. brother and sister? it ruined the book for me and made me not want to read the others.

  • SONIA

    Iread bouth books and i can’t waet till City of Glass comes out! I thick Jace is soooooooooooo hot! And i believe that he and clary should be together.I don’t know what i will do if they don’t.
    BUT I STILL HAVE HOPE!

  • hot, hot , hot !

    I think i am in love with Jace!
    JACE IS SOOOOOOOOOOOO HOT!!!!
    I read both books and i think u should make a move about all three books!
    I can’t wat till City of Glass comes out!

  • ME!

    I thick the book is jast sutpid!

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    You know what’s really sutpid? Managing to misspell three words in a sentence only seven words long…

  • annalisa

    omg jace CANNOT DIE!!!!!HE IS WAYYYYY TOO SEXY!!!! it sucks that simion has to croak, it really does, i liked him, and the way jace had to compete, but clary is the main character, and jace (as stated bofore) is way to hot, and funny, not to mention just an amazingly complex and dark individulal character!!!! then agaim maybe simon just be a werewolf or vamp, but hes got to be the one to go.
    i loved city of bones, and it may even be on of my fav books, but i was sooooo ANNOYED when i found that jace was clarys brother, because that is so horrible, because they obviously love each other(more than bro and sis) , im still hopeing that itll be a mistake and like will be clarys dad, but if worse comes to worse, i dont care if their borther and sister as long as their together. jace is so great, i just feel so bad because of his upbringing and all, but he does have an awsome name!!!
    jits also nice to have clary, because hes is a nice, strong, independent, girl character, not a whiny ditz like most girls. but then with the jace/clary thing there is the alec problem, becouse i feel like alec deserves a happy ending,too. but then again, he’ll probaly end up with magnus(who is so cool), who i absolutly LOVE, along with chairman meow(which is a great name). issabelle can get whatever guy she wants, so whatever. amnyway, i just cant wait to read city of ashes!!!!<3

  • annalisa

    omg jace CANNOT DIE!!!!!HE IS WAYYYYY TOO SEXY!!!! it sucks that simion has to croak, it really does, i liked him, and the way jace had to compete, but clary is the main character, and jace (as stated bofore) is way to hot, and funny, not to mention just an amazingly complex and dark individulal character!!!! then agaim maybe simon just be a werewolf or vamp, but hes got to be the one to go.
    i loved city of bones, and it may even be on of my fav books, but i was sooooo ANNOYED when i found that jace was clarys brother, because that is so horrible, because they obviously love each other(more than bro and sis) , im still hopeing that itll be a mistake and luke will be clarys dad, but if worse comes to worse, i dont care if their borther and sister as long as their together. jace is so great, i just feel so bad because of his upbringing and all, but he does have an awsome name!!!
    its also nice to have clary, because shes is a nice, strong, independent, girl character, not a whiny ditz like most girls. but then with the jace/clary thing there is the alec problem, becouse i feel like alec deserves a happy ending,too. but then again, he’ll probaly end up with magnus(who is so cool), who i absolutly LOVE, along with chairman meow(which is a great name). issabelle can get whatever guy she wants, so whatever. amnyway, i just cant wait to read city of ashes!!!!<3

  • Someone

    obviously all the previous comments are before the 2nd or 3rd books came out, but i have read them all and think they are awesome.
    i love those funny lines they throw out there like in the third book jace said to isabelle:
    “i am a man, and men do not consume pink beverages. get thee gone, woman,and bring me something brown”
    “brown?” isabelle made a face
    “Brown is a manly colour!” jace exclaimed.

  • josh monjeau

    i love ur bookcallme

  • Sexy Biatch

    City of bones is such an awesome novel
    All the characters are so awesome and i love Jace he sounds so fuckin hot move over edward cullen

  • random

    i was reading through the early comments about how people hated the whole related thing and how one of them is gonna die, and i thought isn’t it obvious. even without reading the other two books you can kinda tell whats going to happen. its a fantasy book right, so obviously the characters aren’t going to stay dead long. if anything i would say Simon becomes a vampire. especially after what happens at Dumort. also, even if Jace and Clary are related they’re gonna end up together, especially with how they act around each other. so in probability, theres some grand scheme and they aren’t actually related.