Interview With Cassandra L. Thompson
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Welcome to our first author interview on Coffee, Book, & Candle! To wrap up this Halloween season and prepare for her imminent book release, we're having a chat with gothic author Cassandra L. Thompson about all things spooky and bookish!
About the Author: Cassandra L. Thompson has been creating stories since she got her grubby little hands around a pen. When she is not busy managing a house full of feral children (human and canine), you can find her wandering around in cemeteries, taking pictures of abandoned things, exploring lonely patches of woods, or in the library doing research on her latest obsession. But mostly she is staring off into space, imagining other worlds and things that go bump in the night.
You can find out more about Cassandra and her works on her website Quill & Crow Publishing House.
On to the interview!
Kori: What made you decide to take the plunge to become an author?
Cassandra: I knew that I wanted others to read my books as I wrote them; I just didn’t know how I would get there. I began my journey to authordom by querying agents, with my sights set on traditional, top-5-style publication, until I got frustrated enough to realize I didn’t want to depend on someone else to make me an author. I wanted to be in control of my destiny. So I took the reins and followed my dream.
Kori: What influences drew you to horror/gothic literature?
Cassandra: I’ve been drawn to the dark and macabre since I was young; my mother loves to tell everyone how my favorite Sesame Street character was The Count. I’ve also always loved history, so by the time I discovered Edgar Allan Poe, it was only natural that I quickly became obsessed. From Poe, I ate up anything I could find: Shelley, Dickens, Stoker. I like most genres of horror, but gothic horror will always be my favorite.
Kori: Besides your current genre, what other genre(s) would you be interested in trying?
Cassandra: Honestly, I don’t think I’d ever be able to write without some element of darkness. Even when I write children’s stories for my kids, there’s always a bit of spookiness (my little one loves zombies!). I think I might be a horror writer for life, but I wouldn’t mind trying different subgenres of horror besides gothic horror and dark fantasy.
Kori: What’s your writing process like? Are you more of a planner or a pantser?
Cassandra: I call it scatter plotting. It’s a very intuitive process—I don’t plan, I don’t outline. The only thing I write down ahead of time is the historical research. Usually, I get a “scene” in my head, and I hurry to get it down. Once I get enough scenes written, I start piecing them together, writing a little more here, a little more there. I then see where the story is going, and I go from there. Once I knew The Ancient Ones would be a trilogy, I did make a binder to keep track of everything. I drew David’s house, etc., and I have notebooks full of research for each time period.
Kori: Are you an early bird or night owl writer, and why?
Cassandra: I am a total night owl. That seems to be when my mind is the most sharp and my crazy household is asleep. Peace and quiet is imperative for my writing.
Kori: What was your first story or story concept?
Cassandra: The Ancient Ones was actually my first full story idea when I was fourteen, though I wrote a lot of short stories and silly things before that. When I was a kid, I used to draw adventure stories and have my mom write the dialogue and staple them together.
Kori: What are your writing rituals and must-haves?
Cassandra: I need to have candles lit and quiet.
Kori: What’s the worst writing advice you ever received?
Cassandra: To write commercially/write to be marketable. I have a lot of people pick on my poetic prose and descriptiveness, but even if they have merit, it’s my style as a writer and I’m not giving it up.
Kori: What were the best and worst parts of writing and publishing for you?
Cassandra: I honestly like pieces of all of it. The only gripe I have is how much time marketing takes. As much as I love networking and promoting my book, I miss being lost in the world of writing. I plan to give myself some time to do that in the winter.
Kori: What are some of your favorite gothic writings (books, poetry, short stories, etc.)?
Cassandra: Edgar Allan Poe has my heart—I have a big anthology of his that I read every October. If you’ve read The Ancient Ones, you know I love Dracula, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein will always be special to me. I also love "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Jordan: How did the concept for The Ancient Ones come about?
Cassandra: It was honestly a lifelong process. I got the idea from a dream when I was fifteen and built it in my mind while riding in my boyfriend’s car, listening to music. As much as I was distracted by life from ages 15-30, I kept coming back to it, kept jotting things down. Then one day, I found the pages in an old binder and couldn’t ignore it anymore. It just poured out of me; all my experiences, my love of history, mythology, duality, paganism. I wrote like a madwoman . . . and here we are.
Jordan: Who was your favorite character to write in The Ancient Ones and why?
Cassandra: Without the shadow of a doubt, Lucius. I tried so hard to make him a detestable bad guy, but I totally fell for him. He completely took over the second and third books. I love his snarky dialogue. I love how he’s always right about things, how he doesn’t care about anything (except a certain dark goddess who I also enjoy writing). We go into his mind in Book 3, and it was a blast for me.
Jordan: What was your favorite scene in The Ancient Ones to write (without spoilers)?
Cassandra: The scene where Davius and Lucius summon a deliciously dark goddess in their Greek bathhouse. I love the imagery, the magic, the emotion. While it doesn’t seem like that important of a scene, it foreshadows the unfolding dynamic between Davius and Lucius and sets the tone for the rest of the trilogy.
Jordan: You use a lot of mythology and history in The Ancient Ones. What was your favorite detail you uncovered in your research?
Cassandra: I love this question! The first book was based on things I’d already studied in school and on my own (Ancient Rome, Victorian London), so I’m going to jump ahead and say it's the research for Books 2 and 3 where I discovered the best tidbits. I won’t spoil anything, but researching Revolutionary France and 19th century Africa was a fascinating experience for me.
Jordan: What’s your favorite part of writing? The descriptions, dialogue, characters, plot, research?
Cassandra: I love dialogue. I have such a strong connection to my characters that their conversations just flow right out of me. I also like going back through a rough draft and fleshing things out/editing/adding descriptions.
Kori: What advice would you give to aspiring authors or your younger self?
Cassandra: If you feel like you’re a writer, you’re a writer. Do not let anyone tell you that you aren’t. It takes a lot of hard work to write a book and publish it, but if you are willing, there is nothing stopping you except that voice in your head. Do not listen to the voice! I believe in you. :)
Thank you so much for joining us, Cassandra, and thank you guys for reading! If you're interested in purchasing a copy of Cassandra's book The Ancient Ones (release date October 31st), you can find the link below. If you want to know more about the book, check out Jordan's review of The Ancient Ones.