Thursday, May 15, 2014

Interview with Christine Amsden, author of the Cassie Scot Series

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Today, I am so excited to be able to share with you all an interview with one of my all time favorite authors.

If you don't already know, Christine is the author of the Cassie Scot series, a New Adult series, about a girl who is far different from her friends and family in a way that you wouldn't expect.

When I picked up the first book, I was a bit apprehensive and it was one of my first forays into the genre of New Adult. It also happened to be one of my first book tours on my blog. After reading the first one I quickly fell in love with the world that Christine has created and with every book she writes it only gets better!
I am so excited to have this chance to share some of Christine's thoughts about her epic series.

QUESTION:  Cassie is such a unique and interesting character. Instead of following the pattern you often see in books and making her different in a powerful way, you chose to set Cassie at a disadvantage. Do you think that helped you to make her the character that we read about in the books? Did setting her at that disadvantage make it easier or harder to write about?

ANSWER: It helped me to connect with her as a character, so in that sense it made her easier to write about. But plotting was a challenge. The norm in fantasy is to keep throwing bigger and more powerful bad guys at your hero. It's a simple and effective way to escalate the tension in a typical series, but I had to think outside the box in order to achieve the same effect. In each book, Cassie faces a challenge that forces her to learn something new about herself or the world around her. The challenges also become more personal, culminating in Stolen Dreams when the family feud that has been simmering in the background between the Scots and the Blackwoods explodes. But the path isn't as straightforward, and ultimately this isn't a story about a woman learning to kick ass. It's about a woman who learns to be happy with who she is and the role she can play. 

(YES YES YES! This is just too perfect of a description! I think that's one of the things that I like so much about Cassie. She isn't trying to gain power, she's working with what she has. She is accepting of her limits and doesn't try to make things happen when she knows she can't!)

QUESTION: One of the things I love about the Cassie Scot series is Cassie’s independence. She chooses what she wants to do and she values it. Do you think that often gets her into more trouble than it’s worth?

ANSWER: Ah, the independent spirit! Yes, it does get her into trouble sometimes. The thing about independence is that it can go too far. We do need one another, after all. The trick is to know when it's time to stand alone, to prove yourself, and when it's time to ask for help. I don't think Cassie is too reckless with her independence, even if she toes the line now and again. For Cassie, much of her independence is related to her desperate need to prove herself to everyone around her, including herself. When she is more secure in who she is, I think she'll find the right balance between standing up for herself and asking for help.

( I completely agree. At the beginning of the series we see Cassie go through so much upset in her life and feeling forced to depend on no one. As the series progresses we see her accepting that she can ask for help. I think that is such an important idea. No matter how independent you think you are, asking for help doesn't make you weaker!)

QUESTION: How did you come up with the idea for the series? It’s unique in ways that many stories aren’t and one of the best aspects of the novel is that Cassie is a relatable character because she’s normal, like us everyday humans, rather than a powerful witch. Was there anything that drove you make Cassie different from her family in a way many people wouldn’t expect?

ANSWER: When I came up with Cassie, I knew I wanted to write a story about a unique character. That was the very first thing I knew about the series, before I knew anything else. I wasn't sure how I would pull it off, especially since I had a vague notion that I wanted to write contemporary fantasy. I mean, every magical power under the sun has been done, hasn't it? Or near enough. And these days the dark hero, whose power is as much curse as gift, is also a well-explored theme. So what did I have to offer the genre?

That's when I had my lightbulb moment. What magical power hasn't been done in fantasy? Why, no magic at all!

I'm legally blind. I don't want to exaggerate the connection between this real-world disability and Cassie's “disability” of being without magic in a magical world, but there is a connection. It struck me the instant I had my lightbulb moment, and it was one of many reasons why I simply knew this was it. I had my character.

I was reading a lot at the time. I took a break from writing after I finished The Immortality Virus because I didn't think I knew who I was as a writer. So I stopped for a while and took a look around me. I saw something surprising – I related more to the sidekicks than the heroes. To the people in the periphery of the story, standing just behind and off to the left. I made up stories in my head about these people (I still do when I read). Who are they? What do they want? Are they happy being in the background or would they like to step forward?

Cassie is not happy in the background. :)

(I love how Cassie doesn't have to be the hero and that makes her so interesting. I feel as though I always read books where the character is powerless and weak, but then undergoes an extraordinary transformation into *the most powerful being EVER*. Cassie learns so much about herself, yet there is never a change that makes it unbelievable. I find her to be such a relatable character because she is like a normal person in that way!)

QUESTION: I’ve heard that you plan for there to be four books in the Cassie Scot series with two spin offs! When do you plan to have that final book come out?? (*Anxiously sits on edge of seat*) And also how did it feel to begin writing about Cassie’s world from a different perspective?

ANSWER: Stolen Dreams should be out this summer! Seriously, the ebook release (crosses fingers) may be in July. Print and audiobook readers will have a bit more of a wait, but I'm eager for the whole story to be out there. I am so anxious (as in nervous and excited) to see what readers will think of my conclusion. I hope that, once again, I took the series down an unexpected path.

The spin-offs are coming along well. I've finished Madison's Song (it is in the editorial phase of its existence) and I have to say … I've been dying to say it so thanks for asking … it is not the same story! It's the same world, but Madison is not Cassie and Scott is not Evan. I knew this before I began writing. Madison is a less obvious heroine even than Cassie because she's shy and uncertain, even fearful. Scott, on the other hand, is more the typical dark hero. Together they needed me to write a story that is a little darker in tone and also more grown up (if for no other reason than because Scott is 28 and Madison 23). If the Cassie Scot series is borderline YA (I vastly prefer New Adult, but not everyone listens), the spin-offs have moved inland.

But the experience showed me something important about myself. I really do write characters. I've been saying it for a year, since the Cassie Scot series came out, but now I see just how much of the story was defined by the perspective through which I told it. Cassie only ever saw a small part of the world around her. I've always known more about the world than I was able to share in the Cassie Scot books because she only saw her small corner of that world. Madison's Song and Kaitlin's Tale are both giving me a chance to show more of the big picture. Both stories take the characters outside of Eagle Rock and develop a few world-level issues I only touched on in the Cassie Scot series.

I'm working on Kaitlin's Tale right now. I've been told that I do unexpected things with my books, but I think I'm still going to shock some readers when they see what I've done with Kaitlin. I won't give too much away, but I will say one thing that should be apparent from the book blurb (as soon as I write it!) – Kaitlin will not get her happily ever after with Jason. I hope I don't upset too many people with that news, but he's not the right man for her and never was. They spent one whole night together after all! I'm feeling a bit vindicated in my position since the movie Frozen came out. :)

(I definitely agree that Cassie Scot is much more of a new adult book, than what I would consider YA. The characters are in the NA age range and it fits Cassie much better. I am so excited to read Madison's story! I want her to get a happy ending and I find her to be such an interesting character! Personally I'm kind of happy that Kaitlin and Jason don't end up together! I definitely agree that they just weren't right together and I can't wait to see what direction you go with her story! Good luck!)

QUESTION: There were several twists and turns with varying degrees of obviousness spread throughout the book. There were several that I never saw coming. Was thinking of those twists hard or did it just kind of flow together when you looked at the big picture of the series?

ANSWER: Yes. :)

I'm not sure which twists you felt were obvious and which you thought were more surprising, but I have some guesses. Some of the twists came as a surprise to me – such as the cliffhanger ending to Secrets and Lies that sets the tone for the rest of the series. I had no idea until I was halfway through drafting Secrets and Lies and then I had a lightbulb-over-the-head moment. Oh! It felt right, almost like I had planned it that way all along.

Not every aspect of this story came so easily, though. You've said some great things about the complexity of the characters and their interactions – all of that takes a lot of planning and work. I don't write by the seat of my pants, even if I don't usually stay true to my outlines. Somewhere in all that complexity are connections that were inspired, but others I had to work for. Cassie's parents' backstory is an example of something I had to work for. I kept thinking I almost had it, then I would see a hole in need of mending. I feel good about it now, but I'm sure I devoted several weeks to that issue alone (not consecutively).

(The Secrets and Lies cliffhanger was shocking! I never saw it coming and I loved it! It made so much sense with the book and was just perfect! There were so many other times when I was reading the book and I came across a spot and then I was just like OMG... that did not just happen! I felt that the twists and turns were so perfectly interwoven and fit so well with the story.)


QUESTION: Is there any particular character that feel particularly connected to?

ANSWER: Besides Cassie? Madison. That's why I wrote her spin-off first. I channeled my inner shy Catholic schoolgirl into her. There's also something about Elena that calls to me. I'm not sure what it is yet, but of all Cassie's siblings, she's the one I think I could write a spin-off about. (I have no plans to do so … I really need to move on to another series after Kaitlin, but if I ever come back, it will be for her.)

There's a bit of me in almost every character, including Kaitlin, who is proving a challenge to write because she is less like me than almost any other point of view character I've written. I never expected to get inside her head when I came up with her! But now I'm there and it's a strange place. Among other things, Kaitlin is a flirt and I am so not! I found my connection to her when I wrote her reading a romance novel. She doesn't connect to the heroine, but instead to the hero's ex-lovers. I swear, if I ever write a straight romance novel (doubtful, but stranger things have happened), it will be about the ex-mistress who “knew the score.”

(Ohhhh! I would definitely love to read a series about Elena, but at the same time I am so excited to read all of the other stuff that you plan to write! And yes! So excited to see what you do for Kaitlin's story! It will be amazing!)


Thanks so much for having me here today!
Thank you so much for answering all my questions! I am so excited for the release of the final book! I can't believe that it will be coming to an end so soon! 

2 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for the fun and insightful interview questions -- and for responding to them! That was great. I spent years of my life on this series and I love discussing them!

    At the moment, with Kaitlin's tale the last book planned in the series, I'm starting to mourn the true passing of this series into my past. I never realized you could experience empty nest syndrome with books! :)

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