To celebrate today’s theatrical release of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (based of course on Cassandra Clare’s novel), I got the scoop from Crissy Calhoun, half of writing duo Liz Spencer, about her new companion book, Navigating the Shadow World – and we’ve got a book to give away!
Read all about the book and Crissy’s thoughts on the series and movie, and then check the bottom of the post to enter to win a free copy from ECW Press!
Read the Screen: I know this is your job, but I assume you wouldn’t sign on to write a book about something you didn’t like. So what is it that attracted you to this series and this project?
Crissy Calhoun: Part of my job at ECW Press is to come up with book ideas and figure out who would be the right writer for the project…and sometimes Jen Knoch and I (we write together as Liv Spencer) decide to pitch ourselves! So the coming-up-with-book-ideas bit is my job, but we have a regular author relationship with our publisher like any other of the press’s authors. (Well, sort of like any other author. Sometimes I have to be both managing editor and author and have a little conversation in my head. Author-me always wants an extension. She’s incorrigible.)
The genesis of Navigating the Shadow World is with Jen’s sisters, actually. They were so deeply into the book series (still are), and recommended it to Jen, who recommended it to me. We love reading YA fiction, so it was an easy sell! At first we were just reading for fun, but the author side of our brains kicked into gear when we realized how rich a universe Cassie had created. There was so much we could write about. When we read a book series or watch a TV show and have questions and want to dive more deeply into it, we figure there are probably other fans who want to as well. And boy are there a lot of Shadowhunters!
Do you have a favorite book in the series? Favorite character?
CC: Favorite TMI character: Simon. Though sometimes it’s Isabelle. Or scene-stealer Magnus. (Don’t make me choose!) In terms of favorite book, I’m one of those Infernal Devices over Mortal Instruments when push comes to shove. There’s something about the Victorian setting and Tessa’s journey that just gets me, so if I must choose I’d go for Clockwork Angel.
Did you read the books as they were being published, or later? Did you know about the supposed sibling situation going in? If not, how did you react to that reveal?
CC: I read them later, but I didn’t know about the sibling situation. And I loved it. I am all for complications when it comes to romance, and that is the mother of all complications. I tend to have a lot of faith in an author’s master plan when it comes to a series, so I figured Cassie had something up her sleeve that would make everything right(ish) in the universe by the end of Mortal Instruments.
I’ve been wondering how they would treat that in the movie marketing – will they play up the romantic aspect even though people who aren’t spoiled and haven’t read the books will think it’s incest by the end of the first movie? How do you think they should handle this?
CC: It’s such an integral part of the series that they couldn’t ditch it, could they? I’m sure they had a lot of meetings about it! Poor marketing department. Because there’s so much more going on in terms of Clary’s journey and discovery of the Shadow World in City of Bones, I think they can get away with just hinting at the romance (with that Jace/Clary near-kiss still, the greenhouse scene hype), without spoiling the incest. That sounds so wrong!
Did any of your feelings or opinions about the series change after spending so much time with it and studying it so closely?
CC: When I first read the books, I tore through them and it was the plot and characters that I paid attention to. After doing the research and writing Navigating the Shadow World with Jen, the thing that changed for me was an appreciation of how Cassie crafted the world of TMI and TID. The amount of research and depth of knowledge she gathered — about angels, demons, biblical stories, literature, and for Infernal Devices, the Victorian history and sociology — is staggering, and she manages to make it her own. When you read the books, you don’t feel like she’s all, “I did so much homework to write this: let me tell you all the things.” Instead, she just uses that knowledge to color the world she’s building, and it makes it feel authentic, rather than an info dump. It’s a hard thing to do.
What’s your favorite thing about writing these companion books? What’s the biggest challenge?
CC: There’s always a moment when I’ve immersed myself so deeply in the subject matter — in this case, re-reading the books, researching, piling up on demonology books, revisiting the classics that Cassie references — that everything just clicks, and I start seeing connections between ideas and characters and arcs. And then I type very, very quickly. I love that process — where every moment of your day is all about the chapter you’re working on, whether you’re actually sitting in front of your computer or washing the dishes. My brain is just churning!
The biggest challenge? Getting to that point! I am an excellent procrastinator, and combine that with fitting in writing after work and on my vacation from work (super glam vacation, let me tell you…), and I can get a wee bit stressed out. But Navigating the Shadow World was our sixth book as Liv Spencer, and I’ve written four on TV series alone, and a fifth with another co-author (the one and only Heather Vee!) so… I’m getting the hang of it. It all comes down to habits. Breaking bad ones, sticking to good ones.
Are you excited about the City of Bones movie? What are your hopes or fears for it?
CC: Super excited about the movie. I think the trailers look awesome. Every interview I’ve read with director Harald Zwart just makes me think it’ll be great. He opted to shoot on film, he’s more interested in capturing things in-camera than overdoing it with CGI and special effects, he wanted to tell Clary’s story rather than make a monster movie. That’s the City of Bones movie I wanna see. And the thoughtfulness that’s gone into creating the Shadowhunter world, the costumes and sets, and how well suited the cast seems to their roles… I think it’s going to work. And my hope is that people who haven’t read the book series check out the movie, and get into the whole phenomenon.
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Crissy!
To enter to win a free copy of Navigating the Shadow World from ECW Press, just leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite Mortal Instruments or Infernal Devices character! The contest is open to people anywhere in the world; enter any time in the next week (so by August 28th).