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Cassandra Rose Clarke is the author of two up-and-coming YA novels, The Assassin’s Curse (a wild fantasy involving magic and pirates), and The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (a self-proclaimed tale of love, loss and robots). Here, she delves into the obvious coolness of assassins, the origin of her cat’s name, and her passion for gangster movies.

 

ANA: It takes a pretty huge imagination to come up with a world involving magic, assassins, and pirates. What inspired you to come up with The Assassin’s Curse’s world?

CASSANDRA: I get asked that question a lot and I feel like I can never come up with a satisfactory answer for it! A lot of the inspiration came, I guess, from wanting to write something that wasn’t set in the usual pseudo-medieval European fantasy world, mostly just because I find that setting somewhat dull. And I’ve always enjoyed pirates and have read up on the history of piracy some, so that’s how they worked their way in. And assassins are just cool. That’s an objective fact.

ANA: Well, obviously. And assassins mixed with pirates? I am so there. Moving on, though, what’s your dream cast for The Assassin’s Curse?

CASSANDRA: For Ananna — Keisha Castle-Hughes (she played the main character in Whale Rider).

For Naji — Although at this point he’s about thirty years too old, I kept picturing Oded Fehr whenever I wrote Naji.  He’s most known for his role in The Mummy.

ANA: Okay, Oded Fehr is better than perfect; that is exactly how I pictured Naji. Speaking of him, romance certainly did not play a huge part in The Assassin’s Curse. Did you consciously choose to let Ananna and her journey take centre stage?

CASSANDRA: I did. I mean, I knew that there would be a romantic element when I sat down to write the story, mostly because I almost always incorporate some sort of romantic element into my writing, but I wanted Ananna to be her own person before she got to that point. In real life, a romantic pairing involves two complete people; why should books be any different? I tried to write the romance so that neither Ananna or Naji were defined by the other — hopefully I was successful!

ANA: You were definitely successful! Additionally, the role reversal with your characters (Ananna exuding the confidence of the typical YA male lead and Naji possessing the insecurities of the classic YA heroine) was absolutely refreshing. Did you purposefully develop your characters in this way?

CASSANDRA: Yes and no. Although I did purposely write Naji as more insecure than Ananna, I didn’t really think of it as a role reversal. It pleased me quite a bit when I saw people point that out, though, because it’s always fun to see those happy accidents in your writing. I largely wrote Naji as insecure because that’s how I imagined the character — as someone whose physical attractiveness, his handsomeness, was a big part of his identity. When he perceives that as being taken away (since it really wasn’t), he has to struggle to re-find himself. Ananna, on the other hand, didn’t allow her appearance to define her identity, and so she doesn’t have that particular struggle.

ANA: You really aren’t kidding– Ananna doesn’t let her appearance define her to such an extent that in The Assassin’s Curse, we never veritably find out what she looks like. So, how does she look?

CASSANDRA: Well, I actually drew a picture of her awhile back, so I’ll just show you that!

This is her at the start of the book, right before she’s about to get married off to Tarrin of the Hariri.

ANA: I love the doodle! When you were in high school, did you know that you were going to write a book? Because, darnit, if I could draw like that, I would seriously be thinking about personally removing the ‘starving’ from ‘starving artist’.

CASSANDRA: I had no idea what job I wanted when I was in high school — my conceptualization of the future stopped at college.  I enjoyed reading, writing, and art, so I imagined my future would involve at least one of those three things. I do remember constantly writing the starts to novels, but I never finished them. By college, though, I knew I was going to write a book eventually.

ANA: Who is your favourite YA author?

CASSANDRA: Francesca Lia Block. I first read her when I was in high school, and I still love her books now that I’m adult.  Her stories tend to be somewhat minimalist, but I always related to her characters, who tend to be outcasts in one form or another struggling to find their place in the world. Her writing is gorgeous, evocative, and poetic, and her books have single-handedly made me want to move to Los Angeles.

ANA: Well, I’ll have to check her out. But in the meantime, can you tell us 3 random facts about yourself?

CASSANDRA:

1. I’m teaching myself Spanish using Rosetta Stone, children’s books, and fanfiction.

2. I named my cat after Robert Baratheon, from George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books. (My cat’s full name is Robert Barcatheon.) I chose this name when he was a kitten because he’s black of fur, but as it turns out, he has Robert Baratheon’s exact personality, too.

3. I love gangster movies. I have no idea why — there’s a lot about most gangster movies that should probably annoy me, but I just devour the things.

ANA: Gangster movies. Huh. My personal guilty pleasure is cheerleader movies, and so I completely get what you’re saying about the annoying thing. That’s sort of what makes them so enjoyable, though, isn’t it? Anyway, if you could take 5 things with you onto a deserted island, what would they be?

CASSANDRA:

1. The largest MP3 player in existence crammed with as much music as possible (and some way to charge it, I guess)

2. Drawing pens (also useful for writing stuff)

3. Stacks and stacks of drawing paper (also useful for writing stuff on)

4. A cast-iron frying pan

5. A spatula (figured I should have a couple of practical choices)

ANA: Please give us a teaser for the sequel!

CASSANDRA:

I made it to the spring without incident, which left me feeling more than a little smug. The woods were still and the sky thick with the threat of rain. Nothing moved but me: no shadows, no creeping curls of mist, no beasties watching me from the trees. Even the spring seemed calm, nearly stagnant–just a few faint gurgles let me know it was still running.

I dropped the bucket into the spring and took a long drink. It tasted steely and cold like always. Then I filled the bucket to the brim and stood to walk back to the shack.

Something small and sharp zipped past my head, so close I felt the swish of air from its movement, and impaled itself into a nearby tree. I dropped the bucket, water sloshing over my feet and legs, and slammed against the ground. I was tense and ready to defend myself, but at the same time I couldn’t help thinking, Damn it, Naji was was right.

ANA: Oh, the suspense. I can barely stand it. Thank you so much for the interview, Cassandra!


I’ll keep you posted,

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