TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Cassandra: Glad to be here!
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Cassandra: I’ve written since I was a little girl. I used to craft ten-page epics in response to my fifth grade teacher’s assignment to write a story using our spelling words (he only required one page), and I remember making illustrated pop-up books that told scary stories about monsters and ghosts and so forth.
I started writing with the goal of publication after I completed graduate school. Grad school helped me finish my first novel, which, although now permanently trunked, taught me enough that I was able to complete my second novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. I also started submitting short stories around that time, too.
As for why I started writing — I’m not sure, honestly. I think I started because I liked it! I love to read and watch movies (two modes of storytelling), so it was probably inevitable that I’d start storytelling myself.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Cassandra: Well, I’m not sure any of my writer quirks are all that interesting, per se. I love writing at Starbucks — not coffee shops in general, but Starbucks. It’s a habit left over from the days when Starbucks charged for Internet access. Also, before I begin any new writing project, I have to spend some time going through the Scrivener file and setting up everything just so — choosing which color coding scheme I want use, which icons I want to set for the research materials, and so on.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Cassandra: Depends. A couple of years ago I would have said plotter, but that’s really true anymore, and, honestly, it wasn’t true back then, either — I did outline my stories beforehand, I just held the outlines in my head instead of jotting them down. I actually find writing long, detailed outlines incredibly dull, so I usually write up a one or two page plot treatment before I begin.
Of course, I’m currently in the middle of revising a novel, and I wrote out a true, detailed outline before I began the revisions so I could figure out the plot. So whether I’m more of a plotter or more of pantser depends on the book, I suppose.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Cassandra: Plotting is not one of my natural strengths. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter was a relatively easy book for me to write largely because the plot is an internal one. Writing a story which focuses on a lot of complex action and external motivation is incredibly difficult for me — I have to make elaborate charts and outlines in Excel in order to figure out what’s going on.
TQ: Describe The Mad Scientist's Daughter in 140 characters or less.
Cassandra: A science fiction fairy tale in which a young woman falls in love with an android and must deal with the ramifications of that attraction.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Mad Scientist's Daughter?
Cassandra: I love robots and stories about robots. Robots are one of those tropes that I will devour uncritically whenever I come across them in books, movies, TV, what have you. I’m not sure there was one particular thing that inspired me to sit down and write The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, but it was definitely the result of a lifetime of imbibing robot stories. I do remember that I began with the idea of a little girl mistaking a robot for a ghost, and that became the first scene of the novel. From there, the book pretty much flowed out uninterrupted over the next two months.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Mad Scientist's Daughter?
Cassandra: When it comes to robots — not much. The level of artificial intelligence I wrote about in the book doesn’t exist (yet), and I wasn’t especially interested in extrapolating from real-world science for this story. It’s not hard science fiction. However, the main character, Cat, partially makes her living by weaving tapestries, a career I chose for her based on the historical connections between weaving, engineering, and computer programming. So I did research weaving a bit, and even sat down at a loom and wove a scarf. I wanted to get a feel for the motion and rhythm of a loom.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Cassandra: Finn was probably the easiest, although I’m not sure I’d say writing any of the characters was “easy.” He was built out of an amalgamation of tropes that I wanted to play around with, so in certain ways I didn’t have to start from scratch when writing his character.
The most difficult character was Richard, a major player in Cat’s life who shows up at the beginning of the second part of the book. The trick with him was ensuring that he was as well-rounded as the other characters, and that I didn’t lapse into portraying him as a mustache-twirling villain — which definitely happened at times. Fortunately, my agent was a tremendous help him straightening his characterization out.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Mad Scientist's Daughter?
Cassandra: There are so many to chose from! I wrote about one for My Favorite Bit over at Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog (it should be around the same time this is, if you’d like to check it out), and I spent a couple of days agonizing over which scene I wanted to select before I could actually write the post. Aside from the My Favorite Bit scene, another favorite is a scene toward the end of the book. Unfortunately, I can’t say much without spoiling the story, but it involves Cat and Finn reconnecting briefly after time spent apart. It was heartbreaking to write; hopefully that translates into the reading experience.
TQ: What's next?
Cassandra: I’ll be releasing the next book in my YA adventure series, called The Pirate’s Wish, this summer, as well as a trio of short stories about characters from the series — those will be available as downloads from Strange Chemistry. And I’m hard at work on a handful of new adult projects as well!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Cassandra: Thanks for having me!
About The Mad Scientist's Daughter
The Mad Scientist's Daughter
A Tale of Love, Loss and Robots
Angry Robot, January 29, 2013 (US/Canada)
February 7, 2013 (UK)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
“Cat, this is Finn. He’s going to be your tutor.”
He looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion… and more.
But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.
Following her acclaimed Young Adult debut for our sister imprint Strange Chemistry, The Assassin’s Curse, the very talented Cassandra Rose Clarke moves on to more adult themes, in a heartbreaking story of love, loss … and robots.
File Under: Science Fiction [ Constant Companion | Finn X | Sentient Rights | Hot Tin Roof ]
Also by Cassandra
The Assassin's Curse
Strange Chemistry, October 2, 2012 (US/Canada)
October 4, 2012 (UK)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
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.
During the summer of 2010, she attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle. She was also a recipient of the 2010 Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund.
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