#CassieXHollyInPH: An Interview with Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

This post is text-heavy, and has a lot of pictures.

Almost two weeks has passed since #CassieXHollyInPH, but to be honest, I still can't believe the event happened in the first place. I never thought that it would be possible for this particular dream to come true, but somehow, it did. Thank you so much, National Book Store!

I still remember the day the event was announced. I remember just bursting into tears and sharing my excitement with all my blogger friends (and even my friends who don't really read), and I immediately started thinking of what to say to Cassie, and which backlist book I wanted signed. Those weeks between the announcement and the signing were so emotional - I kept on crying because I was excited, and because of the disbelief that I'm finally getting to meet my favorite author. I didn't know if I wanted to cry or scream in joy, so I just did both. Heh. Lyra in a nutshell. I'm so lucky to have an incredible friend who was with me every step of the way, and through all the emotions - thank you, Lou, for being so kind and supportive. I'm so happy that we both have had the experience of having our favorite authors come for a local signing!

Fast forward to the day of the signing - I barely slept the night before, and I was constantly on twitter checking how many people were already lined up. I managed to arrive outside the signing venue at around 8 in the morning, and the next two hours were spent catching up with friends talking about anything and everything. By 10:30, I was able to register (lucky #159!), and prepare the books that I was going to get signed. The sales personnel of National Book Store Megamall were so helpful (and they recognized me as the girl who bought Cassie and Holly books the week before! Hahaha) too! Around this time, my friends and I were all hungry, so we all decided to eat. And lo and behold, I managed to spill spaghetti sauce all over my (white!) t-shirt! What a disaster. There was literally nothing JM, Gela, or I can do at the time, so we laughed and laughed and laughed. (Don't worry - I was able to buy a shirt in about 15 minutes!)

Photos taken by JM @ https://thebookfreakrevelations.com/
Fresh with a new gray shirt, I dashed back to the venue, and met up with my giveaway winner (I hosted giveaways for Queen of Air and Darkness and The Wicked King to share my excitement!) I was able to hand QoAaD to Christian, and chat a bit with him. He explained that he came straight from school, and he was so excited to attend the signing! The venue started filling up at around 1 in the afternoon, and of course, I was ready to mingle. There were a lot of cosplayers, and I wanted pictures with all of them. No time to get shy and all, right? My friend JM was kind enough to take A LOT of pictures of me! (Thank you, JM!) There were Clary, Tessa, Emma, Izzy, Magnus, and Jude cosplayers! Such amazing costumes - they all looked incredible! I may have freaked out when I saw the Tessa cosplayer (Tessa is one of my favorite characters) - and of course she had a Clockwork Angel on (and she had a Will plushie too!) The excitement in the venue was electric.  Everyone was taking pictures with their books, and mingling with fellow fans. At this point we were all getting ready to meet Cassie and Holly, and the excitement was palpable! And of course, your girl was near tears again. Hahahaha.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take pictures of Cassie and Holly when they arrived, and when they started their talk and Q&A. I was so emotional when they were announced, and again, I started crying. Between clapping and laughing, my friends were kind enough to hand me tissues, and soon after, I started laughing as well. Cassie and Holly were so nice, funny, and very personable! Before they asked the audience for questions, they talked about how they met. The fans also got to ask a lot of great questions. Here's a summary of what was discussed during the talk, and the Q&A.

  • Cassie came to Holly's first signing back in 2002, and they went for coffee afterwards. They learned that they are both big fans of British writer Tanith Lee, and other books and writers.
  • Jace would want many kids. (!!!) We would see more of Clary and Jace's future in The Wicked Powers.
  • Spiderwick occupies a different world from Holly's other books, but the rest are all in the same world.
  • Cassie is in touch with some of the cast of the movie.
  • As long as Cassie can tell different stories in the Shadowhunters world, and as long as she's excited to write about it, she will. Cassie discusses how it's also important to have other projects so she doesn't feel like she's tired of the Shadowhunter world, and in coming back to it, she feels really comfortable.
  • Cassie has an adult high fantasy series in the works called Sword Catcher coming out in two years or so.
  • Holly tends to change a lot of her initial plan as she goes when writing. She veers off the path regularly.
  • Cassie tries to plan for her books as much as possible ahead of time just so the groundwork is lain.
  • Cassie consults her old books a lot, and she has a bible containing all the characters, the family tree, timelines, etc.
  • Holly will consult her old books, but she never wants to read them cover to cover.
  • For Holly, it's important to write about women as complex individuals. One of Holly's favorite things to read about is people who make big, epic mistakes. She discusses how male characters are usually allowed to make more mistakes, and she is very interested in writing women the same way.
  • For Cassie, she loves complex women - women who are as fully rounded as men; and she talks about how important it is to showcase the different strengths of women.
  • Holly's favorite character for Cassie's books is Magnus (though Cassie brings up that Holly also loves Will!), while Cassie's favorite character from the Folk in the Air series is Jude.
I was lucky enough to get to ask a question during the Q&A, and while saying hello to Cassie and Holly, and telling Cassie how I never thought I'd get to meet her, I burst out crying. Again. This whole event was truly an emotional ride.

Given the chance to have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would you have dinner with?
Cassie: Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Tolkien
Holly: Yates (though he'd be mopey)
Cassie and Holly then both decided on David Bowie.

Now, onto the signing!

I was in line to meet Holly first. We talked about how her husband's family is from Pangasinan (which made me realize that I don't think I've ever stopped and explored Pangasinan), and of course, we discussed the beach, and Filipino food. I also complimented Holly's hair - apparently she chose blue because it matched with everything! She is SO nice and fun, and very friendly!

    Once I reached Cassie, I just blurted out that I have been a fan of her for a decade; how Herongraystairs is the ship of ships (she smiled wide at this); and that I hope all three of them get to be together again (Cassie laughs. "With Ghost Will!) Lastly, I told her that I hope she doesn't pay attention to the nasty and mean stuff online, and that she only thinks about all the fans who love her, and respect her words. Cassie said thank you, and told me that a reason why she likes doing signings is so that she gets to see those people (who love her). 


    The next day, National Book store was kind enough to arrange an interview with Cassie and Holly. I was with Salve and Leslie, and a journalist from a local newspaper. (Yes, I cried when I found out. Hahaha.) Below is a transcript of the interview - I also noted down other things discussed. The interview flowed more as a conversation than an interview, so get ready for a lot of information! Cassie and Holly had long and meaty answers. So, without further ado...

    How has your visit to the Philippines been so far? How was your experience with your Filipino fans in Cebu and in Manila?
    Cassie: We've had a really great time. I've never been to the Philippines before - Holly has been to the Philippines and I've never visited so this is the first time. I've been wanting to come for several years. We got in to Cebu and we were both exhausted because we came from Dubai - a flight that left at 3am, so we slept for the whole first day, but we were lucky to be on the beach, and it was really pretty. We got to relax for a little bit, and do a little walking around. We got to see a little of Cebu, and so far the crowds have been great. We've just done the two events, one in Cebu and one in Manila, the one in Manila is bigger but that you would expect because Manila is a bigger city. Everybody's been really enthusiastic! They had great questions, and they've been really sweet. One of the the interesting things to me in the Philippines is that a lot of people have brought gifts or notes, which is really nice. Signings can be really overwhelming - you come up and you only have one or two seconds to say something you want to say, so it's really smart to write down what you want to say ahead of time. It's nice for us, because when we get home we have all these reading material.

    Holly: The crowds have been great. It's been super great to see people cosplaying. Cassie's right - the questions have been great, the enthusiasm was great. I've never done mall signings before - I've never been to a mall signing where you have a crowd here, but also a crowd above. I was not ready! That was really fun, and after a few minutes, I'm okay, but for a minute there, I was like 'ooooh'. It was a new feeling. I was never in Cebu before. I have been in Manila because my husband's family is from Pangasinan, so I came here just to visit them, and it was my first time signing so now I can impress my mother-in-law.
    What's it like having fans across the globe? How does that feel, knowing that your writing has affected a lot of readers from the other side of the globe?
    Holly: I think it is interesting especially when you realize that you have readers who have been with you since the beginning. I have readers coming out with their Spiderwick books, and with their Tithe book, from 2002. Seeing people all over the world with your new book is great, but seeing them with your all book feels like you've been having a relationship with somebody that you haven't had the opportunity to meet before until this time. I think it feels special and different.

    Cassie: Yes! So many people said to me 'you were in my childhood' or 'you were in my teenage years', and that's a really great feeling. It feels like you have been lucky to be able to reach out across the world and form relationships with people who are far away.

    Holly: Nothing against new readers - we welcome you!

    Cassie: We're just having a moment with our old readers.

    I talk about how I was a teenager when I started reading Cassie's books, and how her characters and words helped me become the woman I am today. I discuss feeling like I have a relationship with her through following her on twitter, tumblr, and how Holly's fans surely feel the same way.

    Cassie: I think that's what's important about coming in person. You guys have been able to have something of a relationship with us, but we haven't had the chance to meet you. It's really great to come to actually meet the people who have been reading our words.

    I smile and start to tear up. 

    Cassie: You're gonna cry, don't cry.

    Salve talks about how she related to the character of Ty Blackthorn, and how seeing a neurodiverse character in fantasy novel is really great.
    Will Ty and his neurodiversity play a role in his coming of age as a shadowhunter in future books?
    Cassie: I would say yes. Ty is on the autism spectrum, and no one uses the word until Kit, because no one knows it. It's always a bit difficult with shadowhunters because I know that they don't know aomwwords - they don't have words to describe certain things that we do. I wanted to use the word because I don't want people to have any doubts, especially readers who are on the spectrum. I want them to be able to be like 'Oh yes, definitely! The things I recognize about Ty - it's not just a coincidence, he is on the spectrum.' I think it's an intrinsic part of Ty - it's not his absolute characteristic, but it is a part of him. The next thing we see Ty, it's a after a significant period of time. He's one of the protagonists of The Wicked Powers. I'm excited to write that. Yeah, it forms a significant part of his personality, and one of the things that characterizes Ty is that he has special interests. He'll get super into a specific area, and that is important to who he is in The Wicked Powers.
    On the subject of diversity, what are your thoughts on the increase of diverse characters not just in YA, but in fiction in general?
    Holly: It's great obviously, but we have a long way to go before we have true inclusivity and representation that matches the actual demographics of our world. I think that the increase has been really helpful, really great. I know writers who came into publishing around the time that we did who had a great deal of trouble getting marketing for their books; getting placement for their books because of the protagonists' race or sexual orientation, and to see books coming out now and really getting that marketing, getting that beautiful covers, really being pushed hard... And seeing readers who have been looking for these books and are snatching them up is so great.

    Cassie: I guess what makes me worried sometimes is when I hear people talk about it as a trend, because to me, a trend is something that passes. It's like saying that there's a trend for read sneakers. Well, hopefully this is not a trend; hopefully this is a direction and that direction will continue and I agree with everything that Holly said. I would just like to add that one of the things we see behind the scenes is that many of the people who work in publishing, the ones who make the decision of buying books and marketing books, are straight and white. And until that changes, I don't think we're going to see the inclusivity that we want to see. Things are going to have to change behind the scenes.

    Leslie talks about how one of the things trending right now are book subscription boxes.
    What's the difference between the usual public signing vs the virtual signings and collaborating with individual businesses (like the book subscription boxes)? Do you think this is a new thing?
    Cassie: I think this is a new thing - it kind of exploded into my radar in the past year, and I really like doing my signing with Good Choice Reading, because it's a way to reach people who are not necessarily going to be able to see you on tour. You can't go everywhere. Even for us to come halfway around the world is great, but we're never gonna be able to go everywhere, even in the US. And so it's nice to be able to give people who aren't probably gonna be able to see us in person the option to get a signed book, personalized letters, and I think they're so creative. I love the scarves, the plushies - the Will plushie, I love him - and he's friends with plushie Cardan. We like to think that they have a pretty good relationship. I'm always blown away by their creativity and the stuff they create. One thing is I always want everything inside the box!

    Holly talks about not having a plushie Cardan, much to everyone's shock. We all discuss creating a twitter campaign (#GetHollyAPlushieCardan) to get her the plushie, and how maybe there's one waiting for her when she gets home.

    Holly: The thing great about Good Choice reading is you're signing it to people whereas normally you're just signing books - we often sign books, but not often personalize. I love stuff (referring to merch)!

    Holly and Cassie talk about how much they love book merch, and how there weren't really any when they were growing up. Holly also brings up how it's often the large franchises that have merch, and how it's great to see merch of books that may be popular [but not THAT big] in book subscription boxes. Holly discusses how the merchandise can be a collaboration with the author so we get to see more of the author's vision, as opposed to the media company of a giant filmmaker.
    You've both been writing for some time now. What's the biggest change you've seen in YA - in the readers, and in the general environment?
    Holly: I came in at a different point from Cassie. I came into YA when YA wasn't really a big thing. I went into my first Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators - which is an organization where you go in and learn how to become a writer, and they bring in people to talk. It was right after my book was published, and I really didn't know anyone. Some panel told people who had gone to network everywhere. I was in line for the bathroom and someone networked with me and asked me what I wrote. I said my first YA book just came out, and she turned around and talked to somebody else. Nobody wanted to be a YA writer; everyone wanted to be a picture book writer because that's where the market was - picture books or middle grade. It wasn't until Gossip Girl - Gossip Girl was the first series that really brought adults into reading YA. Also, around that time, Barnes and Noble in the US moved their YA section out of Children's. It hadn't been outside of Children's before, and separating it out brought in an older teen audience.  I think for me the biggest change has been watching it grow from being really very much a part of Children's, into a liminal space where you see older teens, college students, and also adults finding their way around, and the protagonists have gotten older as a result.

    Cassie: Over the time I've been in YA, definitely it's gotten older. I think it's not just because my readers who have stuck with me have gotten older; I've seen older people at signings and what not That's the experience I've seen overall. When I go to a festival and see Leigh Bardugo, a lot of her readers are older, and she hasn't been writing for ten years; she's been writing for five years. I think we have a big group of people - I've read this as a statistic in the New York Times the other day - 50% of the people who read YA are over the age of 20, or 25. So they are themselves adults. They're young adults, but they're adults. I think when I came into YA, it was strictly considered something that would be written for teenagers - 12-17. Now, it's definitely known that adults read these books as well, and as a result, I think we're allowed to tackle older themes, and have older protagonists in our books, which I think can be really great.

    Holly and Cassie talk about the length of Cassie's books, and Cassie tells us that she doesn't think she could have published a book as long as Queen of Air and Darkness, and also a YA book with protagonists in their twenties, back in 2007.
    Was it hard getting the go signal from the publishers to pursue Mark, Kieran, and Cristina's relationship?
    Cassie: In the vein of the market getting older, I got a lot less trouble or push back from that than Magnus and Alec. Not now, but when it started. When I first started with Magnus and Alec, I got a lot of push back, and I got told by someone from a school fair that 'You know we can't carry your books and you know why'. When the books were reviewed, and there were warnings... That we should warn you that there's this content in the book. We're talking about kissing, but they're treating it as if there's very racy content because it was a same-sex relationship, and I do think that's changed a lot in a positive way since I first started, and we see a lot more of that. And I think the idea of warning about it would be offensive now. And when I did Kieran and Mark and Cristina my editor was like, 'Yeah... I figured this was where this was going.' And that's all she said.
    Usually, in love triangles, the girl would always pick one guy. What inspired you to flip the script in The Infernal Devices?
    Cassie: I have a lot of friends - Holly included - who always told me that they didn't like love triangles. I love love triangles. And one of the things that bothers you (pertaining to Holly) is when a person is indecisive, they can't choose, and that kind of business. I was like you know, that's not what to me what a love triangle is necessarily about. Also, realistically speaking, in life, we often love more than one person. We will fall in love a few times before we end up with whoever we're gonna end up with. And so I wanted to write about a love that was truly equal in both sides, and all of the sides. I think also with love triangles, you often get this shape where person A loves person B, person C loves person B, but person A and person C have no relationship at all. They hate each other. That doesn't really interest me. What interests me is that they all love each other equally. And so nobody wants to hurt each other, and everybody wants everybody - the other person - to be happy, and there's no selfishness. A lot of times when I see people talk about how they don't like love triangles, they're like 'well this person is selfish, not caring about this other person's feelings' and I was like no, I think it's perfectly possible to write about this and make it clear that everyone is actually deeply invested in the others' feelings and don't want any of them to get hurt. I love all of the relationships but one of the things that was really important to me is to create a relationship between Jem and Will that was as important and beautiful as the love between Tessa and Will, and Tessa and Jem, because I think it needed to be super significant.

    At this point, I had a big, dopey grin and I told Cassie that I loved Will, Tessa, and Jem so much. She smiled and told me, "Awww, thank you. I really appreciate that!" Cassie said, "Jem and Will are something that is more than brothers and friends, and I think that that is a kind of relationship to celebrate."
    What do you think is in store for YA fiction? Where do you see it going?
    Holly: We both talked about how it's getting older in terms of you know, longer books, books that can tackle more complicated material, but it's also that the protagonists are getting older. We're seeing more college-aged kids, and so I think that the question of where does it settle to is something that as a writer I'm really interested in finding out, but I don't know yet.

    Cassie: It's hard for us to predict because often in publishing, there's usually a book or something that comes along and changes everything. We were both in the business before Twilight, Twilight came along and changed everything. And then The Hunger Games changed everything. And then The Fault in our Stars changed everything. So I think we're all kind of waiting for the next thing that's going to change everything.

    Holly: I think it's also about the audience - who does the audience turn out to be long term?

    Cassie: I think the audience has to do with whatever the big book is at the time - because the audience changes, and they're looking for something.
    What are your thoughts on the fan culture surrounding your books?
    Holly: For me, because I do so many different books, I think I have more readers than I have a fan culture. I have a lot of lone readers but I don't have a lot of aggregate groups that talk about my work. And I think one of the things that has been really interesting about the Folk in the Air is that it has created, for the first time for me... Again, I had fans, but even with something like Spiderwick, my fans were so much younger that I would hear from them much more individually than collectively. It's been interesting to now have all these fan art, fans making jokes... So it'll be an interesting experience for me, having watched Cassie navigate her fan community for a long time.

    Cassie: Shadowhunters has had a fan community for a long time - it changes, and grows, and focuses on different things. I think it's an interesting phenomenon because it's a question of ownership - who owns a creation? You create something, and then there is the sort of fact that it goes out in the world, and it belongs to readers in a big sense. Their version of the characters belongs to the readers; their opinion of the characters belong to them, and whatever they want to imagine about the characters belongs to them; but they're not all gonna agree. And you still have to write the books the way that you imagine the characters, and I think that's where you see the divisiveness. They're protective of the characters, but often they want to protect the characters from being in the story. They're like, 'The story is full of dangerous things, and bad things that will happen to these characters'. And I'm like, 'Well yeah, that's what it means to be a character in a book. Bad things will happen to you. You will experience conflict.' I think it causes them sometimes to forget that your choice is that the character is not in the story at all, or the character will experience conflict, and those really are the two questions. And I think that it is absolutely fair for the readers to feel a sense of ownership over the characters but I think it stops short when they start to feel that the person who created the characters doesn't deserve to have them or isn't allowed to have them anymore. And that is where it becomes a problem. One of my favorite stories is when I was doing a signing and a girl came up to me, she was really angry, and she said, "If it was up to you, Alec would be dead." and I said, "It is up to me." There's a lot of discussions about where does the author disappear from the process, but I think when you're writing something that is ongoing, you have to kind of accept that the author is going to keep writing, and they are going to choose what happens to the characters. That's part of the process.

    Holly: I have definitely seen people ask on many many many signings about their favorite character, asking 'Will we see them again?', and they definitely want them to be in the story in which they are totally safe and everything's great. It's a common question! Will we get to see the happy story, the happiness, involving this character?

    Cassie: Right. It's interesting because I just wrote Red Scrolls of Magic, about Magnus and Alec, and I've seen reviews of it. They're good reviews, and people like it, but they're so surprised that there's a plot, and that Magnus and Alec are in danger. I was like, but there has to be a story! I think they were just so strongly thinking that it's just gonna be Magnus and Alec going on dates, they're gonna climb the Eiffel tower, they're gonna go shopping, they're gonna buy matching outfits... Actually all that stuff happens! But they're also in danger, because it's a book. You have that stuff, and you also have the stuff you have to have in order to create the sense that there's a story happening that's important. You have to create that tension. So I think there is that push-pull between 'I love this character, I want them to be okay' and 'I love this character and I want to see them in a story'. Those are two things that are very hard to reconcile.
    We all know that fairy food is forbidden, and that we shouldn't eat them. What is the one food or drink or dessert that if in front of you, and even if you knew it was fairy, you'd still eat it?
    Holly: Coffee. Coffee!

    Cassie: Sticky toffee pudding. I discovered it in England and I love it!
    Cassie, do you know how the Shadowhunters Chronicles ends?
    Cassie: I do!

    Holly: I do too!

    Holly, can you please describe The Queen of Nothing in three words?
    Holly: I don't know if I have three words... (Cassie says that she has her three words.) It starts in the mortal world... (Cassie tells Holly that she has to pick three descriptive words) Okay... Masquerade.

    Cassie: Can I say one? (Holly says sure.) Battle.

    Holly: Snake! Serpent.

    Cassie: The cover is coming soon!

    I talk about how the titles of the Folk in the Air trilogy are amazing.

    Holly: A lot of people tell me that they think that it wouldn't be so literal!
    Cassie, are you still Team Zombie, and Holly are you still Team Unicorn?
    Cassie: Yes!

    Holly: Yes! I truly fear zombies!

    Cassie: It's truly a tragedy that Holly hates zombies because I love them so much!

    What a way to end the interview! Everyone was laughing so hard at the zombie vs unicorn debate. (Though I gotta say, I agree with Holly on this one - the chances of surviving a unicorn apocalypse are much much higher versus a zombie apocalypse!)

    Fun Story: While Cassie was signing my book, she wrote "Herondales forever". As she was signing my other book, I asked if she can also write "Carstairs forever" because I didn't want Jem to get mad. Laughter ensues. I told Cassie that I loved Will and Jem equally, and further tell her, "Why choose?" Again, more laughter. What a brilliant tidbit to end my #CassieXHollyInPH experience!

    What a LONG recap, huh? I wanted to write down my entire experience, share stories, and most importantly, transcribe information that I'm sure all Cassie and Holly fans will enjoy. Cassie and Holly are so incredibly friendly, kind, and are just flat-out amazing. These two days are definitely two that I will never forget. Like I always say, I was resigned to never meeting Cassie, but National Book Store made the impossible possible. I will always be thankful, and I will always treasure the memories of this experience.

    More from #CassieXHollyInPH below:

    Salve's Vlog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=danPLUEcBJo
    Leslie's Blog: https://bibliophilekid.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-king-and-queen-tour-cassiexhollyinph.html
    Inquirer Interview by Pam Pastor: https://lifestyle.inquirer.net/328020/the-magical-worlds-of-cassandra-clare-and-holly-black/
    Inquirer Interview by B. del Rio: https://m.inquirer.net/preen/93363
    CNN Philippines Interview: https://twitter.com/cnnphilippines/status/1104883650359779328
    Lyn Ching's Interview for #AskAway: https://twitter.com/gmanews/status/1107930021534941190
    Meg Interview by Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: https://meg.onemega.com/cassandra-clare-holly-black-young-adult-fiction/
    Young Star Interview by Bea Amador: http://youngstar.ph/cassandra-clare-holly-blacks-new-fantasy-books-just-stories-mythical-creatures/


    1. You are so lucky to meet Holly Black and Cassandra Clare! I missed their signing due to personal matters I need to attend to. I enjoyed reading your interview with them but I skipped others due to spoilers (I've only read TMI, until City of Lost Souls hehe). Glad you had a great time, Ly :D <3

      1. I wish you were able to go, Bea! The event was fun and Cassie and Holly were so amazing and kind to everyone.

        Thank you! <3


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