Cassandra Clare on embracing her voice in Queen of Air and Darkness
In 2007’s City of Bones, Cassandra Clare introduced the battle between demons and Shadowhunters, humans with the blood of angels. The book earned her a rabid fan base, akin to Twihards and Potterheads, making each Shadowhunters installment a best-seller. Now, with Queen of Air and Darkness, Clare, 45, concludes The Dark Artifices, her third series in the Shadowhunter world.
But Clare’s process is changing. A prolific writer, she found her storytelling unexpectedly evolve as current events filtered into her plotting. In Dark Artifices, an extremist faction seizes control of the Shadowhunter government; the central tension shifts from the black-and-white dilemma of demon versus Shadowhunter to the moral gray area of ideological dissent. Clare altered the originally planned story arc for the trilogy, making the extremists the primary antagonists.
“These elements are purposeful responses to things happening all over the world,” says Clare. “There has been a rise of populist nationalism and waves of xenophobia.… I wanted to tackle the idea of how people respond when they’re faced with change in their world. Some people respond nobly, and some people respond with fear and withdrawal.”
The heart of the story remains the same: young adults navigating love, power, and the transition to adulthood. Inspired by the Parkland teens, Clare says, “Ultimately, [this] is a story of how, if you are one person and you are not in power, can you make a difference? The idea was to show that individual people can make differences, large and small.”
Clare also became more vocal outside of her novels, speaking out against sexist social media trolls following a devastating experience with the Shadowhunters TV series, which will conclude its third and final season on Freeform in 2019. With scripts straying far from her books, Clare had remained mum about the show she calls “an adaptation in name only.” When Freeform announced the cancellation in June, fans blamed Clare for her lack of support, harassing her online. Refusing to remain silent, she called out the double standard for female authors on Twitter.
“I see a real difference in how women are treated,” she explains. “We should be grateful men would adapt our work at all, whereas men are allowed to believe there’s value in their work. For me to say, ‘The show was unfaithful to my books, and I don’t like it,’ is a controversial statement, but it shouldn’t be.”
With the TV debacle and another series in her rearview mirror, Clare is slaying publishing and media demons as she moves forward with this more explicitly political outlook. Next are more series in the Shadowhunter world and her first adult novel, Sword Catcher, set for 2021 (and already sold as a TV project, with Clare attached as executive producer). For years, Clare has written about characters discovering the power of their voice — and now she’s embracing hers.