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About Cassandra

The long version

(Are you looking for the short version?)

Why I write what I write

My writing is based firmly in places that I love, places that have meaning to me, places where the landscape is one of the characters in my stories. I try to evoke the feel of the place, and I also celebrate the connection that my characters have to their surroundings. I think about climate, weather, and physical landscape, but I also think about the cultural and economic story, the accents and habits of its residents, and the quirks and patterns of living there.

My characters are people with constraints in their lives, as most of us have. Many people read romance novels for the fantasy aspect…wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were all twenty-one, beautiful, and overcame our problems with one brave speech? But when I think of the times I’ve said to a friend, “Why didn’t you just tell her what you think?” I am faced with the truth, which is that we all have ties that bind us. The ties are often invisible, and to others it may seem that we put them there ourselves–and sometimes that’s true. They prevent us from moving forward and solving problems with our loved ones, so why would we do that to ourselves? But the fact is that it’s easy to be a critic and it’s much harder to take action. Many of us are “stuck” in some fashion in our lives, and I think one of the best fantasy escapes is to read a book where someone who is similarly “stuck” actually climbs out of that “stuck” place in a way that we could imagine doing. You finish the book feeling positive, uplifted, and perhaps with more self-respect. It’s hard to speak up and clear the air. We need to be more cautious about judging others and kinder toward our own effort.

My landscapes

I live in northern New England, in a farmhouse that was built in about 1782. It belongs to my husband’s family, and my children are its sixth generation. Its rooms and additions are small because it’s easier to conserve heat that way, and its doors and ceilings are too short for modern furniture (and people). It leans in one direction such that a marble will roll from one end to the other without coaxing. The floors creak. The front room fireplace is big enough to sit in, and has a separate oven. And for pity’s sake, don’t jump up and down, because the entire house shakes. It sprawls into a shed and a barn, and is perched above a hayfield, pasture, a swamp, and woods, totaling around 90 acres. It’s big, messy, and well-loved.

Are you wondering about my British connection? I’ve loved British children’s literature since I was very young, but I finally took my first trip to England shortly after I married. My husband studied at Oxford, and after reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, I realized that we all have an alternate universe (or two) in our minds somewhere. I think England is at least one of mine. I can’t explain it, but perhaps it is because there is a little less of our American tendency to talk everything out at every opportunity? I don’t know. But in my world, people don’t say things out loud just because they can, and England (especially Old England) works for me.

(I’m missing one child in this photo, my history major who was unfortunately starting term and couldn’t come with us last fall! We were trying to figure out if Lyra was right when she said you couldn’t jump onto the roof of the Sheldon, which we took to mean Sheldonian…if you’re a Philip Pullman nerd you’ll know what I’m talking about! And we concluded that she was right…no way to get up onto that roof….)

My work

I studied economics in college, followed by a stint at a Wall Street bank, and corrected my mistake by studying early modern Japanese history as a graduate student at Harvard. I’m a primary documents type of girl. And yes, I am eventually planning to write Japanese historicals! As I would have to get into those documents at the Harvard Yenching library, that won’t happen until at least 2021.

I’ve been writing fiction and studying history since I was a child, but I’m sure you must have guessed that! I never thought I could do this for a living, however. It took many years of teaching my children at home to figure out that writing and studying and thinking was actually a career. I am pleased and proud of the fact that my children know their history and literature much, much better than I did at their age.

Because I have young adult children, I am less old-fashioned than you might think! I love fountain pens and beautiful notebooks, but I do manage to get onto social media now and again. You can always email me by hitting return on a newsletter, or you can reach out to me via Instagram or Facebook!