Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles is one of the cornerstone series of the modern YA fantasy boom. To mark the release of her first-ever book for adults, Sword Catcher, we asked Clare about her most cherished library memories, book-browsing habits and more.
What are your bookstore rituals?
I always make a beeline for either young adult or fantasy. I want to see what’s new in both genres so I poke around the table displays. I look for shelf talkers, because I want to see what individual booksellers are recommending. After that, I like to drift and see what catches my eye. I am drawn to beautiful covers and design—who isn’t! In the end, I will always end up with an armful of totally disparate books, like a YA fantasy novel, a World War II history, some science nonfiction and a mystery.
Tell us about your favorite library from when you were a child.
I grew up in Los Angeles, and even though I didn’t live in Beverly Hills, my mother took me to the Beverly Hills library because it was the biggest. It had a glass facade so the books always seemed to be bathed in a magical glow. And it had an amazing mosaic mural that it took me years to realize was designed to appear as a shelf of books wrapping around the building!
While researching your books, has there ever been a librarian or bookseller who was especially helpful?
One of the things I love about going on tour is that often after the event, you can chat with booksellers about what they’re reading right now and get recommendations. Once a bookseller handed me a copy of Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads, even though it’s not in a genre I write in at all. I was totally absorbed by it, and it ended up being an inspiration for Sword Catcher.
Do you have a favorite bookstore or library from literature?
I would pick the library from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. It contains all the books that writers didn’t get a chance to write, but only dreamed up. I remember “The Man Who Was December” by G.K. Chesterton being one, and a Raymond Chandler that never made it to shelves. I love the idea because I often do dream of story ideas, but they never stay with me past the few moments after waking up.
Do you have a “bucket list” of bookstores and libraries you’d love to visit but haven’t yet? What’s on it?
I’d love to visit Livraria Lello, in Porto, Portugal. It’s always on lists of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It has all this carved wood and a huge central staircase and a stained-glass skylight. Plus, the bookstore has vending machines around the city in case you crave a book outside of business hours!
What’s the last thing you bought at your local bookstore?
I bought a copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream illustrated by Arthur Rackham.
How is your own personal library organized?
By genre! Sometimes it gets complicated: Does dark fantasy go in horror or fantasy? What about futuristic mysteries? But generally I have an idea of what genre space the book occupies in my head, so I’ll shelve it there.
Bookstore cats or bookstore dogs?
Cats. I love dogs and cats but there’s something cozy about a bookstore cat.
What is your ideal bookstore-browsing snack?
I might bring a coffee drink (usually a mocha) or a tea, lid firmly on, into a bookstore, but I wouldn’t bring snacks—I don’t want to mess up the books!
Photo of Cassandra Clare by Sharona Jacobs.