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An Interview with Author Cassandra Kass

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Cassandra Kass is a writer of many things, but mostly YA Fantasy. When not writing or reading, she likes to get dirty while gardening, make a mess in the kitchen while baking, and always lets her tea get cold before drinking. Learn more at

What inspired you to start writing this book?

My love of dark academia started the idea for this book. My main comps are Victoria Lee’s book, A Lesson in Vengeance, and The Ravens by Danielle Paige and Kass Morgan, which stirred the idea of it being more of a witchy boarding school-type novel. My main character, Briar Matthews, has depression and anxiety/mania. I also have Bipolar, so I have created a combination of the books I love, but also with a piece of myself inserted into it.

Tell us the story of your book’s current title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The way I got the name is funny. I was trying to submit a sample query for another author to critique for me, and I only had a few hours to get it submitted, so I typed up the first thing that came to mind! Thankfully, it was a pretty good first working title, so I kept it!

Describe your dream book cover.

You know, I haven’t given it much thought since I’m in the beginning stages of my novel, but my dream cover would have to be black and gold. My favorite color is black, so that’s a must. I would love to have little items of meaning hidden in small places along the cover. Think of Shea Ernshaw’s book, The Wicked Deep. I’d love black sprayed edges and maybe a special edition with gold edges for the hardcover. However, I don’t like deckled edges! Some people love them, but I am not one of them.

Or, it would be cool to see my main characters on the front side by side using their magic! Something like Tracy Deonn’s book Legendborn. I, of course, am in love with Charlie Bowater’s illustrations, so that would be the ultimate dream.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

My book has two soundtracks, actually! I have one for the book as a whole and then one for my main character, Briar Matthews.

The Alder School of Witches is a very prestigious institution and requires music that is such, so classical music is undoubtedly present.

You’ll find songs like Austin Farewell’s “Deep Breaths” and James Quinn’s “A Gentle Sunlight.”

Briar has a totally different vibe, and you’ll really enjoy the wide range of emotions you feel from her playlist of things like “Black Magic” by the Magic Wands, “Green Eyes” by JOSEPH, and “Devil Like Me” by Rainbow Kitten Surprise.

If you want to listen to my playlists, follow me on IG, send me a DM called Briar’s Playlist or Alder School Playlist, and I’ll send them to ya!

What books are you reading (for research or comfort) as you continue the writing process?

Currently I am in a book slump. Boo, I know! But, I will be reading my favorite books come this December, starting with Ninth House, followed by The Hobbit, The Bone Witch, and Tithe.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I have worked so many odd jobs, but I think the most surprising was that I was a carnival worker who did face paintings! There was one time that my spray equipment blew up on me, and I spent hours at work rubbing myself down with rubbing alcohol, trying to get it off and finish my shift. It’s a hard job working at an amusement park!

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I started writing in high school when my history teacher would give us writing assignments. The assignments were usually about writing about a person who lived in the period we were learning about. Being a little naive then, I thought the teacher would read it, grade it, and move on. Well, no. What happened to me was mortifying for a sixteen-year-old. Instead, he stood up in front of the class, told them who wrote the piece, and started reading my very long story in front of my whole class! So, I stopped writing because people called me a teacher’s pet. It took me years later to start writing again, not because I was embarrassed anymore, but because life happens, college happened, and I was too busy with other things. Then, I sat down in November 2017 and wrote fifty thousand words for NaNoWriMo. That was when I knew writing was my dream, and I had suppressed it for so long. I wasn’t actually influenced to start writing again. I did it on a whim, but I was inspired to write things like what I would have read as a kid/teen. I chose to write YA Fantasy but added things that mattered to me, like mental health and LGBTQIA+ rights.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I don’t have a favorite place, but there is one place I gravitate towards: my very old falling apart couch. I do my best writing here. I have a desk and a tiny office, yet I am cross-legged on the couch. I am sitting here now as I write this!

Do you have any writing rituals?

I know some people like to sit with a coffee or a candle, or they have timers and do sprints. Some people even wake up at 5 am to finish their writing, but I, on the other hand, have no ritual. There are really only one or two requirements for me to have a good writing session: one is to sit on my ancient couch, and the second is to have silence or listen to a particular playlist. I have ADHD, so I’m sure some of you can understand the dilemma of needing absolute quiet or songs that give you the head fuzzies.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

My perfect reader is someone who will read my work and take away something that will forever change them or their thinking. Even if one sentence of my work will change a person, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. You’ll find challenging topics in my works, things like mental health/illness, death, grief, trauma, loss, and love. I try to put pieces of myself in each book, so sometimes that comes in the form of a character with anxiety, OCD, or ADHD; other times, that is a situation of grief and loss, either through death or separation of some kind. All I hope is that one reader will tell me that my work has forever changed them.

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