Wizard's Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke! The Wizard's Promise is the first book in a new duology set in the same amazing world as Assassin's Curse and Pirate's Wish but featuring different characters due and due out at the beginning of May, look out for my review towards the end of this month. Without further ado I'll hand you over to Cassandra and her childhood reading habits!
I have a graduate degree in creative writing, which means I’ve attended a lot of workshops in my time. Every single one of them starts the same: you go around the room and introduce yourself by listing your favorite books and authors.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but in reality it was a delicate balance. You couldn’t pick any of the “obvious” books (i.e., things assigned in high school English classes), nor could you go too far down the genre well, although choosing authors with a slight genre bent was acceptable. I was never clear if you got bonus points for listing authors your classmates hadn’t heard of, though.
I found the whole process rather tedious and exhausting, but it did mean I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my favorite authors, and, by extension, authors who’ve influenced my writing—the more interesting question, I think, and one which sometimes yields a slightly different answer from the “favorite book” category.
I’ve written about my favorite books AND my authorial influences on my website, but since we’re here today celebrating The Wizard’s Promise, a YA novel, I think I’d like to shift the focus to stories and authors that inspired me when I was younger. These are the books that left an indelible imprint on me as a kid, when I first dreamed about becoming an author, but they are also favorites I never got to name in my creative writing workshops in grad school.
First up is a picture book that delights me to this day: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg. It’s not so much a story as it is a collection of strange, surreal illustrations, each accompanied by a single tag line. The idea is that you can tell your own stories about the illustrations. This book blew my mind when I first encountered it in the library. It was a book that you wrote yourself. It also helped me to understand the connection between storytelling, something I did to myself all the time, and the books lining the shelves of my library. I’d say if I had to pick any one book that influenced me on my path to becoming a writer, it was this one.
But what sorts of things influenced me to become the kind of writer that I am? When people ask me what sort of stories I write, I usually say speculative fiction—a catch all term for science fiction, fantasy, and the weirdo in-between stuff. The Wizard’s Promise is itself an adventure fantasy, and I have an adult science fiction novel out too. But as a kid, I didn’t read fantasy or even all that much science fiction. I was all about horror.
It helped that horror was rather popular at the time (this was the early ‘90s), and the Goosebumps books were everywhere amongst kids my age. I started with them, of course, and I tore through their pages, frightening and delighting myself in equal measure. I think I read Mary Downing Hahn’s Wait Till Helen Comes about five hundred times. Eventually, I moved on to RL Stine’s YA series, Fear Street, and I was a huge fan of Lois Duncan’s books (she wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer, among other things). By junior high, I’d graduated on to the master of all things horror, Stephen King.
I’m not sure what it was about horror that captured my fancy as a kid. I don’t care for it much anymore; rarely do I watch horror movies or read scary books. But one thing about all those horror stories I read stuck with me, and that is the focus on the strange and the uncanny. Speculative fiction is a huge, catch-all term, but there is one commonality: stuff is fantastical. It couldn’t happen in the real world. And while I did learn later on that some of things I was reading about in those scary books did, in fact, really happen, much of it didn’t - ghosts and monsters and vampires and all the rest. So even though I don’t consider myself a horror writer, it was horror that shaped me as a writer.
There were other books and authors I adored when I was younger - I read voraciously, gobbling up books across all genres. I read every single Little House on the Prairie book, from Little House in the Big Woods (my favorite) to The First Four Years. I read every Newbury nominee the year I was in third grade, and I read my copy of Harriet the Spy so much it fell apart. But it was the horror stories, and the eerie, surreal strangeness of Harris Burdick (really, the closest you can come to a picture book horror story, now that I think about it) that influenced me the most.
Cassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a local college. She graduated in 2006 from The University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in English, and two years later she completed her master’s degree in creative writing at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle, where she was a recipient of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund.
Cassandra’s first adult novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction.
A huge thank you to Cassandra for joining me today on Bookish Outsider, I always love reading about other people's reading - especially authors!
|The Assassin's Curse | The Witch's Betrayal | The Automaton's Treasure | The Pirate's Wish|