July 31, 2012

Interview with Cassandra Rose Clarke, Author of The Assassin's Curse

Please give a round of applause to Cassandra Rose Clarke, author of The Assassin's Curse (which I absolutely adored!!!).

1. Tell us 5 interesting facts about you?

1. I originally intended to major in studio art in college, but after taking my first creative writing class, I decided to do that instead. I have to say, that decision’s worked out for me.

2. I rode out a hurricane when I was nineteen. My brother and I went outside during the storm, and a tree almost fell on us. As you might imagine, we spent the rest of the storm inside.

3. I’m teaching myself to speak Spanish using Rosetta Stone, children’s books, and the Spanish language option on DVDs.

4. I added the Rose to my name so as to distinguish me from similarly-named writers. I don’t actually have a middle name. When I was a kid I wanted one more than anything, so getting to add one in was pretty exciting.

5. I have a shelf full of Star Trek action figures in my office, and another full of snow globes.

2. What is your opinion of the cover? 

I adore the cover. Back when I was working on The Assassin's Curse as a baby writer, publication a far-off dream, I daydreamed about potential covers for it, and the one I got was almost exactly what I had pictured.

3. What inspired the setting of The Assassin’s Curse

This is kind of a weird answer, but — it was my interest in climate and weather. I wanted to try my hand at writing an epic fantasy, but I’ve never been particularly interested in medieval western Europe. I’ve always loved the landscape of the desert, and I live in a place known for its extreme heat, so I’m much more familiar with that sort of climate. Interestingly enough, my city was suffering through a massive drought and heat wave while I was writing portions of The Assassin’s Curse, so I didn’t have to do much imagining while I was writing the desert parts.  The Isles of the Sky, and the contrast between them and the countries Ananna is more familiar with, were inspired by the summer I spent in Seattle, Washington.

4. Can you tell us a bit more about the magic in your world? 

Magic is a sort of natural resource, like wind or water — the only difference is that instead of running it through mill in order to convert it to energy, you have to run it through a person, someone who can take this wild, dangerous, transformative material and control it until it becomes something useful. Most people in the world can control magic to one extent or another, although they generally avoid it if they haven’t been trained. There are also different types of magic, related to where it originates: a sea witch can control magic that originates from the ocean, for example. Naji’s magic is so feared because it uses magic that originates from human beings.

5. What was the most difficult part of creating the storyline? 

Plotting is always tricky for me, and this story was more plot-heavy than my stories generally are. I had written about the first third of the story when I realized I had no idea what was going to happen next. So I had to stop, draft up a bit of an outline, and go from there. I repeated this process a couple times during the course of writing The Assassin’s Curse and its sequel.

6. Who is your favourite character and why? 

Ananna. I love her loyalty and her pragmatism. If we she were real, I’d want to be her BFF.

Aren't badgers so adorable!!!
7. Which animals do you think best represent your characters? 

Ananna is a badger: you might underestimate her, but she know how to be fierce and take care of herself when she needs to. Naji is a panther: he’s sleek and mysterious and spends a lot of time lounging around in shadows.

8. What do you believe is the most important element in a book? 

Characters, with the note that I tend to think of setting as its own character. Everything else in a story flows out of the characters, since if you put people in a particular place, something interesting is bound to happen. The best characters are the ones where you can peel away layers during the course of the story to find out more and more about them — just like you do with real people. And the best settings work the same way.

9. Do you have any pet peeves regarding storytelling?

 I really hate stories which focus on some preternaturally beautiful character and/or love interest and make no attempt to give that character a personality. Nothing ruins a romance plot like beauty-induced blandness. Plus, it’s nice to see normal-looking people fall in love for a change — it happens all the time in real life, why not fiction? It also irritates me when there’s a character whom everyone in the story falls in love with.  I’ll quit reading a book if I see that happening.

10. Random Question: Who is your favourite superhero and why? 

Batman. I've actually had arguments about this! I find it hilarious that because Batman doesn't have any true super powers, he just buys some.  Plus he’s rather unhinged and morally ambiguous, which makes his movies more interesting to watch.

Now for some questions to Ananna herself:

1. Pirates or assassins and why? 

Definitely pirates. A pirate’ll fight you straight on, no sneaking around or popping out of shadows and the like. Seems exhausting. I wouldn’t want Naji’s life, that’s for sure.

2. How was life growing up as a pirate? 

Couldn’t imagine any other way of growing up! The best was always after we’d robbed one of the merchant ships, ‘cause we’d have all these new silks and dresses down in the holding bay. When I was kid I liked to sneak down there at night and sleep in ‘em — it’s a lot more comfortable than a hammock. I hardly ever spent any time off the boat. Even when we made port, Papa made me sleep on board.

I think what I liked best about it, though, was getting to see all these different places. Like the ice-islands: ain’t no Empire noble’s daughter ever gonna get to do that. But I’ve been to ‘em a couple times, and I got to see snow once, which was so cold but also kind of beautiful at the same time.

3. I know you’re angry with your parents for wanting to marry you off. But do you miss them? If so, what do you miss about them? 

Yeah, I miss ‘em — of course I miss ‘em! Papa especially, ‘cause he always has advice for any situation. He’d probably have gotten Naji’s curse cured within a week. And I miss Mama’s magic and her stories. She probably wouldn’t have even activated Naji’s curse in the first place.

4. What do you believe are admirable traits in a person? 

Loyalty: you say you’re in it this with a person, you’d best stay in it! But I’m not interested in any body who’s loyal to a fault. You got to be smart about it, and you got to know your own reasons for your loyalty, and they need to be good ones. Don’t do something just ‘cause somebody told you to. Cleverness is important to me, too. And so is being able to recognize when somebody deserves respect and when they don’t. 

5. In your own words, how would you describe Naji? 

Well, he’s not so bad now that he’s not trying to kill me.  He’s got a bit of that Empire snobbery in him, but I don’t really think that’s his fault. And I feel bad about the way people treat him, ‘cause of his scar. That ain’t right. Everyone thinks he’s a monster — I mean, I thought it too, before everything happened, ‘cause of what he does — but really there’s nothing monstrous about him. Nothing at all.

Thank you so much Cassandra and Anannna for agreeing to do this interview with me, it means a lot! :) The Assassin's Curse was a spectacular read befitting its great cover! Be sure to check out my review of  The Assassin's Curse here to see my thoughts on the book!

by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. 

And when Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn’t really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together. To break the curse, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks—all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic, and the growing romantic tension between them.

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