City of Bones has gone into a fifth printing. That means it's still selling extremely well, thanks to you, awesome readers.
I've been inspired by my friend Maureen's current blog question-and-answer polls to answer some of the questions myself. This is sort of a distillation of email I get, with the most oft-asked questions.
Do you have general writing tips?
That's always hard because I don't know what kind of advice to give unless I know what the problem is. Everyone has their different issues with writing. Everyone has the stuff they're good at and the stuff that needs work. Also, I tend to feel like, who am I to give advice? I have one book out. One. Punt! You know who has an excellent writing resource page? Holly. You can find it here.
Do you write in groups or by yourself?
I like to write with other people. In fact, I'm writing in the company of Maureen Johnson at the moment, which is probably why I was thinking about her blog. She is wearing a lovely striped scarf today. But that's not really what you want to know. As I've said before, I like writing in groups because it keeps me from too much procrastinating, like deciding that now is the time to watch the first season of Life on Mars with the subtitles on because I can't understand anyone's accent. It's harder to do that when you have people with you, watching you, making sure they don't do more work than you do, because if they have to suffer, so do you.
Of course this has its downsides. As the lovely Meg Cabot, points out, one spends a lot of time chatting about stuff that has nothing to do with work. Often publishing gossip type stuff, but just as often a discussion of Britney being naked around her kids. (And Meg is correct, you can't get D-Listed in this particular cafe, but that's because the free wifi thinks it's porn.) On the other hand, you have ample opportunity to take advantage of what Scott calls the Wisdom of the Crowd. If you're having a writing problem, you can lay it on your friends and they'll help you out. At least, in theory they'll help you out.
How do you name your characters?
See, that's where your friends can be helpful. In fact, the other day I was looking for help naming an evil character. "I need help naming an evil character," I said.
Writer 1: Hot evil or hideous evil?
Me: Hot evil.
Writer 2: Montague.
Me: Montague? Is anyone actually named that?
Writer 2: It's an evil name.
Writer 3: Exactly. You might as well name him Evil McDarkington.
Writer 2 (in an unfriendly tone): So what do you suggest?
Writer 4: Ed.
Me: My uncle's name is that.
Writer 5: See, that's the problem with naming characters. You'll always know someone with that name and it'll skew your view.
Writer 2: That's why Montague is a good choice.
Me: I'm not naming him Montague.
Writer 5: Okay, I've got this great evil name. I've been saving it up. It's awesome. I'm going to give it to you. It's a gift. My gift to you.
Me: Great. What is it?
Writer 5: Magnus von Magnus.
Writer 5: MAGNUS VON MAGNUS.
Me:: . . .Thanks.
Meanwhile my friend is trying to name some characters in her vampire pirate saga, so she asked me for help.
Me: The problem there is that most vampires have names like Sebastian de Montclaire-Fotherington and most pirates have names like Bloody Beard, so the two don’t really go together.
Writer 1: How about Plaid Beard?
Her: Plaid Beard?
Writer 2: He’s the fashion-forward pirate.
Her: This character is not just a pirate, he’s a vampirate. And he’s Spanish.
Me: How about Enrique?
Her: Enrique what?
Me: Enrique Iglesias.
Her: Great! *writes it down*
Writer 1 (aside): Are you going to tell her?
So it’s not like I’m a lot of help either. Clearly if you need assistance naming characters you should ask someone else.
Do you like fanart?
I would bet you that all authors like fanart. I love fanart, myself. I would beat up my own mom for fanart. Okay, no I wouldn't (my mom reads my blog.) Hi, mom. But I do love fanart, so if you draw some send it along to me and I'll put it on my website.
I think you should make a movie out of your book.
As far as I know, the only person with enough money to make movies on their own is George Lucas. Otherwise a studio has to make the movie. It would be nice if the books got made into a movie, though I kind of visualize them as being a better TV series in some ways. Anyway, it is not up to me.
Do you get any say in your cover art at all?
No. None. Nobody does. Well, I read somewhere that Cormac McCarthy does, so I guess maybe if you win the Nobel Prize you do, but I don't feature that as a likelihood. In general, no one, but no one, gets a say in their cover art.
Can you move up the release date on City of Ashes/Glass?
No. The publisher decides when the book comes out, not me. They've already moved up the date, too - from April 2008 to March.
Plot-related questions (spoilery)
Is Alec really gay?
I get this question a lot, though I'm never sure if it means "Is Alec actually gay?" or "Is Alec really, really, disco-dancing-closet Christina Aguilera fan gay?"
The answer is that Alec is actually gay.
Are Jace and Clary really related, and if so, for the love of God, why?
I'm sorry I can't tell you whether Jace and Clary are really related. You'll have to read all the way to the third book to find that out.
Why are they related?
No, seriously, don't you have a better answer than that?
Answer: I am a believer in messing with reader expectations. I don't really like it when I read a book and I can tell from the beginning exactly what's going to happen and who's going to get together with who. I like not knowing. I know not everyone feels that way, and that's understandable. But I like impossible love, and when I say I like impossible love, I mean impossible love, not love that is made complicated by misunderstandings a la Three’s Company. I said impossible and I meant it.
BUT WHY DID YOU MAKE IT THAT WAY????
It's always hard for me to answer the question "Why did you decide to make Clary and Jace brother and sister?" It's the most common question I get, aside from "Are they really brother and sister?" It's like asking "Why is Clary a girl?" Well, because that's the story as I imagined it.
The truth is that the revelation at the end of the book was the seed idea out of which the whole series plan grew. In other words, yes, it was always the idea from the very beginning that at the end of book 1, Valentine would tell Clary and Jace they were brother and sister. Without that, there would be no book series. It's not a plot twist, it is the plot. That Jace and Clary are in love but that it's impossible for them to be together is part of the engine that drives the story of the next two books.
The question of Jace and Clary's relationship to each other is part of the overall themes of the book: blood, family, and identity. The questions these books ask are questions about whether whose child you are defines you, how you define yourself, and how much your upbringing molds you versus how the blood in your veins decides who you are. Being a Shadowhunter is a hereditary thing — it's about your blood. But whether you are a good or bad person is not about blood. There are good and bad Shadowhunters just as there are good and bad mundanes. How do you define family? Clary clearly rejects Valentine as her father and chooses Luke instead, even though she's related to Valentine by blood and not to Luke. Jace's family is clearly the Lightwoods, even though they're not his blood. And Jace and Clary are clearly in love with each other, even though their shared blood — if they do share blood — ought to make that impossible. The way they feel about each other is part of the issue of family, love, destiny and blood that makes up the backbone of the series.
Jace has always believed that his blood defines him: the blood that makes him a Shadowhunter, and the blood that makes him Valentine's son. His love for Clary is the key to everything that makes him question that. As Valentine tells Clary in City of Ashes, the love Jace feels for his sister is his greatest fear — and in City of Glass, it will prompt him to make a decision that changes the entire course of events for everyone in the Shadowhunting world forever.
Now, you can certainly hope that Clary and Jace are not related; many readers believe they aren't and have found "clues" to prove it. I can also assure you that Simon isn't Clary's only other romantic option besides Jace, and that many things happen to Simon in City of Ashes that change his life and his relationship with Clary forever. I can also assure you that I didn't spend all that time building a relationship between Clary and Jace for no reason. You'll just have to read all the way to book three to find out what that reason is!