My Bookish Ways

Interview: Cassandra Rose Clarke, author of The Mad Scientist’s Daughter

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, the brand new book by Cassandra Rose Clarke, the author of The Assassin’s Curse, will be out tomorrow, and in the meantime, she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions!

Please welcome Cassandra to the blog!

Your new novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, is out from Angry Robot Books tomorrow, and it’s gotten great buzz! Will you tell us a bit about the book and what inspired you to write it?

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a science fiction fairy tale about a young woman who falls in love with an android. It follows their relationship over the course of many years, and looks at the ways the two main characters grow, develop, fall apart, and come back together during that time.

I’m not sure there was any one thing that inspired me to write the story. Robots (and created beings in general) are one of my all-time favorite tropes, and I’ll devour anything – movies, books, whatever – that has a robot in it. So that was definitely an influence. However, I really sat down to write this book with the intention of writing a pure love story. Now, this is going to sound weird, but – when I started The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, I’d just read Twilight. As a story, Twilight didn’t strike me any profound way, but it did get me thinking about how a book’s plot could center entirely on an epic romance. So that was my original intention, like I said, to work through the intricacies and realities of this unusual relationship. In doing so, however, I also got to examine a lot of my ideas about artificial intelligence and mess around with some of the fictional tropes that have built up around robots and AI. In that way, then, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is also a culmination of all my years of reading robot stories. There’s a lot going on!

The book is set in a future America that is coming apart at the seams. Why do you think dystopian novels have become so popular recently?

I think dystopian novels have always been popular, especially as parables. A lot of science fiction, especially so-called soft science fiction, really isn’t about the future at all, but about the present, and I can’t think of anyplace where that’s truer than in dystopian stories, particularly the older ones. Many people have said that dystopias have grown so popular in the last couple of years because our world feels dystopian, and I do think there’s some truth to that, with hurricanes in January and storm turduckens and so forth. However, I don’t think people read dystopias because these stories directly mirror are own current lives – I think people read them for the chance to see characters living through and often surviving the worst possible futures: an if they can do it, so we can we! sort of thing. A lot of dystopias are really about hope, hope for the present and the future both.

Quite a few people assume that an author’s favorite character to write is the main character. What was your favorite to write in The Mad Scientist’s Daughter?

This is a tough question! I think in my case the main-character-is-my-favorite character maxim holds true, because I did really enjoy writing Cat, despite how difficult it could be to find that balance between flawed and completely unlikeable. Actually, that difficulty is what made writing her so rewarding! It was so satisfying to finish a scene and find another facet to Cat’s personality.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?

One of my biggest influences is Margaret Atwood. I’ve loved her work since high school, and she was a big inspiration as I wrote The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. Some other writers I really admire and consider influences include Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kelly Link, and Aimee Bender. I’ve also been strongly influenced by a Hong Kong film writer and director named Wong-kar Wai. I’m really attracted to weirdness and strong emotional ramifications in the books I read, which I think is why I like these writers so much!

If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?

Another tough question! I’ll probably go with The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood. It’s one of my favorite books of all time, and as much as I love rereading with the book’s ending in mind, I’d love a chance to re-experience the suspense of not knowing how the story’s different threads come together.

What are you reading now?

I’m caught in a bit of a reading slump at the moment, sadly. Right now I’m in the middle of A Paradigm of Earth, by Candas Jane Dorsey, and The Little Sister, by Raymond Chandler, and I’ve been in the middle of both of them for awhile! I am enjoying them, but I find myself moving through them pretty slowly.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?

I’ve been taking ballroom dance lessons the last couple of months, and I really love doing that, despite having to get used to dancing with a partner. I also love to draw, paint, go to the movies, and cook, and I’m in the middle of rewatching a couple of TV series, Community and Millennium.

What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?

The Pirate’s Wish, which is the sequel to my first book, a YA adventure fantasy called The Assassin’s Curse, will be released in June 2013 by Strange Chemistry. I’ll also be releasing three short stories set in the same world as The Pirate’s Wish leading up to the book’s release (the first is out now, through Strange Chemistry’s website). Meanwhile, I’m working on a couple of new projects, both YA and adult, and hopefully I’ll be able to talk more about those soon!
Keep up with Cassandra: Website 

About THE MAD SCIENTIST’S DAUGHTER:
“Cat, this is Finn. He’s going to be your tutor.”

Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion… and more.

But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.

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