Cassandra Jade’s book, Death’s Daughter, was released recently, and she’s stopping here as part of her blog tour. She has agreed to let me interview her.
LITTLE SCRIBBLER: What is Death’s Daughter about?
CASSANDRA JADE: Death’s Daughter is a story about a girl who thinks she knows exactly what she wants out of life. She has everything planned out and feels that the only thing standing in her way is her mother. What she doesn’t realise is that she isn’t as in control of her destiny as she would like to be. As her carefully constructed world begins to fall apart and supernatural events intrude upon her life, she really has to look deep to find out who she really is, and who she should become.
There’s a lot else going on with gods and murder and a little bit of romance, but the story remains focused on the protagonist and her journey.
LITTLE SCRIBBLER: Oooh! Sounds exciting. Can you give us a teaser?
CASSANDRA JADE: As soon as land disappeared from sight, I ghosted down the stairs and swiftly made my way to Angus’s cabin.
I thought about knocking but rejected the notion. To succeed I would need to take total control of the situation. Closing my eyes briefly, I breathed in. The boat had a musty and salty smell that tickled my nose and made me feel very tired and old. For a moment I could hear voices within the room but clearly that was impossible. I paused, listening at the door, but though I could still hear voices I couldn’t quite make out what was being said. Wrenching the door latch, I kicked the door open and let it swing into the wall with a thump that shook the whole cabin.
But if I had expected to surprise my father and to be in control of the situation—and I had—then I was to be sorely disappointed.
“Come in, Calandra. We have been expecting you.” Angus sat calmly in the desk chair, though it was turned to face the room.
On the bed sat a familiar stranger—strange because I had never seen her in the flesh before, familiar because I had carefully studied that picture and committed it, and all the others, to memory. Elerth, Lady of Dawn.
“You have been expecting me?” My voice remained steadied and betrayed none of the concern and confusion overwhelming my mind.
“Yes. If you don’t mind coming in, replacing the door—or what’s left of it—and sitting, maybe we can talk.”
LITTLE SCRIBBLER: How did you get your inspiration for Death’s Daughter?
CASSANDRA JADE: I’m not sure what gave me the idea for the story. I think it was being overseas and having a lot of my own preconceptions about the world being challenged that made me consider what would happen to a character whose entire world was proven to be a lie. In all honesty, I don’t know that I ever expected to finish writing this story. It certainly wasn’t planned out in any sense of the word. I had an idea and I started writing one day.
LITTLE SCRIBBLER: Can you explain the time line surrounding Death’s Daughter? When did you begin writing? When did you finish?
CASSANDRA JADE: I’m going to begin with a confession – it took me eight years from beginning Death’s Daughter to having it published. There was a five year break in there while I studied at university and completed my first year teaching but from start to finish; this process has taken eight years.
I began writing Death’s Daughter when I was seventeen, which probably explains my choice of a seventeen-year-old protagonist. I hand wrote the story into a school notebook, actually three separate school notebooks, and they stayed with me over the next five years until I decided I really did want to find out how the story ended. While I was typing up the story, it took a few serious deviations and so most of the second notebook, and all of the third, do not appear in the final version of the story. The opening however is almost identical, minus typos and misspellings.
LITTLE SCRIBBLER: What was the most enjoyable part of writing Death’s Daughter?
CASSANDRA JADE: The most enjoyable part had to be getting to know Calandra (my protagonist), though sometimes I’ll admit to wanting to drown her. She’s a character I really enjoyed because she’s a little bit cold and a little bit mean and because she’s telling the story the narration is becomes quite colourful at times as she describes the various characters and expresses her view of them.
LITTLE SCRIBBLER: Death’s Daughter is only available in eBook form. Can you explain your reasoning behind the decision to publish electronically, and what was the process?
CASSANDRA JADE: I’d been rejected from a few agents and a couple of publishers and I saw that Lyrical Press was looking for new mainstream fantasy writers. At this stage, I was very new to the idea of e-publishing and e-readers still weren’t available in Australia at all. I went into research mode and decided I really liked the idea of an e-book (though I love paper books) and I liked the opportunities it was presenting to new writers. I sent off a query and submission to Lyrical Press and they offered me a contract. Again, lots of reading and research and I decided to go for it.
Having not gone through the traditional publishing process, I’m not sure how my experience compares, but from what I’ve read it seems about the same. Once I signed the contract I was assigned an editor who worked with me through three rounds of edits and rewrites (mostly minor and all definitely improved the quality of the work) and then the cover art was created, etc. Things went mostly smoothly except that just as final approvals for cover art and the blurb and everything needed to be sent off, my town was flooded and I lost internet access. That kind of highlights the problems with trying to do business with people in other countries via internet more than a problem with the publishing process.
I guess I could have kept looking for a traditional publisher, but I really just wanted my work out there and I didn’t want to self-publish because then I wouldn’t have had someone walking me through the editing process or helping me figure out which excerpt to use. Overall, this has been an excellent experience for me and hopefully I will become better at writing because of it.
LITTLE SCRIBBLER: What inspired you to become a writer?
CASSANDRA JADE: I’ve always wanted to write. I love reading and telling stories. I love creating characters. The whole process of creating a world and characters and solving a conflict just really appeals to me.
LITTLE SCRIBBLER: Can you describe your writing process?
CASSANDRA JADE: My writing process is a little haphazard, but I usually begin with a character that I like and I figure out where this character belongs and what problem they are facing. Everything kind of builds out from there. Though I have noticed that many times, once I start writing the draft, other characters are sometimes more interesting than the one I began with, and then I need to do some serious rethinking.
LITTLE SCRIBBLER: Like most writers, you have a busy life. Can you explain how you managed to fit in writing time? What was your schedule like?
CASSANDRA JADE: I try to spend an hour or so in the evenings writing but some weeks (when I am marking or reporting etc) this isn’t possible. I love that I am fast at typing because otherwise I would probably never finish any of my writing. I know that over school holidays I have marathon writing days. One of my many WIPs came from the Christmas before last where I wrote 75000 words in three weeks. There are so many typos and inconsistencies in it that it isn’t ever going to see the light of day until I’ve completely rewritten it, but I use the time I’m given the best way I can.
LITTLE SCRIBBLER: When you’re not busy writing, what do you like to do?
CASSANDRA JADE: When I’m not busy writing or teaching? Very rare for me not to be engaged in either, or online blogging about writing or reading about writing. I guess I watch television, catch up on movies, play a bit of sport, hang out with friends and the like. Free time isn’t something I have a lot of.
LITTLE SCRIBBLER: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
CASSANDRA JADE: Go for it.
There are so many opportunities out there for authors, and e-publishing is only just getting started. While many people look at changes in the publishing industry with fear, I am seeing opportunities for people to get involved.
Thanks Scribbler for hosting me.
Thank you, Cassandra for allowing me to interview you.
Cassandra Jade is a fantasy author from Australia. Her debut novel, Death’s Daughter is available from Lyrical Press in eBook form. Cassandra Jade posts regularly on her blog, and uses Twitter. You can purchase her novel here.