Cassandra Clare Created a Fantasy Realm and Aims to Maintain Her Rule

Cassandra Clare Created a Fantasy Realm and Aims to Maintain Her Rule


One morning in early March, Kyli Ledesma, a 20-year-old barista from San Diego, woke up at 3:30 so she could drive to Los Angeles to secure a copy of Cassandra Clare’s newest book, “Lady Midnight,” which would be for sale at Barnes & Noble at the Grove, a high-end mall, when it opened at 9. Yet she was not the first at the door.

Nor was Lydia Whitman, 15, who pulled in at 5 a.m., driven from Agoura Hills, Calif., by her mother to earn the 12th place in line.

Sales of the book were capped at 400, but the urgency propelling Ms. Ledesma, Ms. Whitman and the rest of Ms. Clare’s fans was that the first 100 purchasers would get a seat that evening at a question-and-answer session with Ms. Clare and the actors from “Shadowhunters,” the television show that has been made from her series.

A tour for Ms. Clare has more in common with that of a country music star than an author. She travels on a bus emblazoned with her name, and hundreds, even thousands, of fans may show up at her events.

She writes fantasy for the young-adult market, which means she’s an alternate-world builder, like J. K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, who sets her supernatural plots (Shadowhunters are humans, teenagers mostly, who are descended from angels and fight demons and such) in urban settings like New York City and Los Angeles.


The fantasy author Cassandra Clare and her husband, Joshua Lewis, inside the writer’s, across the street from the couple’s home in Amherst, Mass. The studio has an apothecary bar done up in steampunk style.


For the last two years, she and Mr. Lewis have been renovating a mid-19th-century former warehouse set beside a crashing waterfall. They bought it for about $400,000 and have put as much as $2 million into the renovation, Ms. Clare said. “We took everything apart and put it back together,” she said.

It’s now an Arts and Crafts showpiece. Stairs are painted to look like bookshelves; bathroom tiles are printed with quotes from their favorite authors, like J. M. Barrie and Oscar Wilde.

They moved to Amherst in 2009, when Ms. Clare’s third book was published. Around that time, her store events began to change. “My first book event, my parents showed up, and maybe 10 people,” she said. “For ‘City of Glass,’ I went to Toronto for an event and 1,000 people appeared. I thought, my God, did something happen?”

Across the street from the house is a 1920s barn that’s been reimagined as a writing studio by Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum, architectural designers with a specialty in steampunk design. They were so inspired by Ms. Clare’s work, they created a steampunk-inflected interior from salvaged apothecary shelves and an old soda fountain. A vintage English telephone booth will become a time machine. “Knowing Bruce,” Ms. Clare said, “it will probably work.”

Collaborating with a mechanical engineer, the Rosenbaums turned all the modern appliances into fantastical contraptions. A tiny steam engine has been electrified and fashioned to look as if it’s powering the ceiling fan.

There’s an iPad in an apothecary scale and the gleaming soda fountain holds a tiny clockwork angel (in homage to the title of one of Ms. Clare’s books) upon which play multicolored LEDs. It’s inscribed with a passage in Latin, “which I can’t read because I can’t read Latin,” Mr. Lewis said. “But it’s from Milton, and it’s something like, ‘If I can’t reach Heaven, I’ll raise hell.’”

“Actually, it’s from Virgil,” Ms. Clare said. Mr. Lewis beamed at her.

The microwave, a wildly elaborate device, has its own Latin inscription, an appropriate coda, perhaps, for Ms. Clare’s career: “Justice should be served hot.”

(Click on photos to enlarge view)


Clockwork Angel Soda Fountain
1800s soda fountain ‘mixer’ made by Boston’s Puffer & Sons Manufactures company turned into an interactive, functioning valves operated LED light show of Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel.


Elixirology on a Small Scale
Guilded framed modern Ipad integrated into an 1800s small candy scale for both ‘bartender’ and ‘patrons’ to access the Internet for drink and elixir recipes.


‘Be Wise – Alkalize’
Original Alka-Seltzer drug store dispenser transformed into an actual Yoda PEZ dispenser (with Star Wars theme song activated when Yoda head is turned up). However, we recommend not to consume Alka-Seltzers like candy. 
Happy Family Seltzer Maker
What makes a happy family? Of course a KitchenAid Seltzer Maker outfitted with architectural trusses and antique seltzer bottles that light up like a beautiful Eiffel Tower sculpture.
Cold Brew Experiment
Lab glass structure with an authentic gas valve hardware takes the heat out of coffee making. Just need about 12 hours and a little coffee patience to process your fresh cold brew.
Fiat Justitia Servitur Calda
Roughly translates into ‘Justice is a dish best served hot’. (A take on the phrase – ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold’) A modern microwave is encased in early 1900s camping oven with an original stove heat vent system and an antique ‘Lady Justice’ finial that adorned the top of a late 1800s parlor cast iron heating stove.
High Tea on a Pedestal
A late 1800s brass pedestal pastry server becomes a KitchenAid hot water maker holder. High tea was has now reached new heights.
Ivanhoe Toaster
A hi-tech toaster is now home to an ‘Ivanhoe’ branded camping stove from the early 1900s with antique bread toaster towers, also an early 1900s Quick Meal fuel tank, two period timers and an original Ivanhoe knight action figure from the 1952 Ivanhoe movie featuring Elizabeth Taylor.
Cassandra Clare and Joshua Lewis Apothecary Bottles
ReImagined elixirs (liquors) will fill original apothecary bottles with names like: Snow Crash, Alkahest, Soma, Romulan Ale, Nepenthe.
Restored Hamilton Beach Malt Mixer
Rebuilt engine, restored ‘push down – turn on’ mechanism and new cut brass design turns this early 1900s Hamilton Beach Malt Mixer back into a delicious, functioning showpiece.
Modern Appliances Hidden in Plain Site
A dishwasher, small fridge and a 2 drawer fridge/freezer combo is built right into the original cold display cabinets of the soda fountain back bar. The etched glass panels are from Cassandra’s books and her character family names and crests (art by ModVic).
Effervescent Seltzer Lights
Brightly colored Seltzer Bottles from South America become the front bar’s overhead hanging pendant lights.
Piano Bar Stools
Four antique low piano spinning stools reimagined as high bar stools for the front bar. Foot rest added for comfort (although not needed for stool spinning).
Steampunk Assassin’s Tool: The Handshaker
While friendly shaking the target’s hand, two poisoned powered needles enters their wrist. The poison is instantaneous and the victim’s hands starts to tremble and shake immediately after contact — then spreading the shaking to the full body within 30 seconds. Death results within one minute. 
Apothecary Scale and Jars Pendant Lighting
Early 1900s Apothecary scale inverted and hung from the pitched ceiling with hanging late 1800s Apothecary jars.
Mortar and Pestle Spotlights
Two pharmacy old mortar and pestle objects (medicine crushers) are repurposed with science  lab stands, hung from the ceiling and used as spot lights for Steampunk artwork displayed in the Apothecary cabinet.
Original 1800s 9ft tall Apothecary Cabinet
Restored burled walnut Apothecary cabinet with small drawers including the drug’s names on the silver drawer pulls! The cabinet becomes the display case for the Blade and Angel’s Steampunk – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) artwork.
Two brass sets of cork ‘borers’ that make the cork stoppers for test tubes and apothecary bottles become a bio-mechanical ‘Corkipede’ that is making its way through a real cork branch and pushing out its own cork stopper. For the head — an antique wine corkscrew and glass bottle stoppers finish the Steampunk insect. The Corkipede is mounted on an 1800s lab stand.
Powda Holda
Brass and cast iron 1800s Boston manufactured powder prescription ‘envelope’ holder (would hold a small envelope open to pour in contents of a powder prescription). Prescription Paper Origami Clockwork Angel floats on top of powder holder.
Balancing Time vs Thyme
Late 1800s Apothecary scale reimagined as a way to figure out how to balance time (antique functioning hourglass) vs Thyme (Real thyme oil in an antique Absinthe bottle).
A BitterSweet Pill to Swallow
Steampunk Swallow bird made up of Victorian watch parts, beading and assorted period objects becomes the watchguard of ‘Magic Pills’ in an original pharmacy bill bottle. The backdrop is an 1800s brass pill maker — giving us the ability to make our own state of mind — bitter or sweet.
Blowfish with Scales
A real taxidermy Blowfish (Puffer fish) is hung from two remade apothecary scales into fishing rod and line devices.
Blade & Angel Apothecary Bar Sign
Hanging over the front door entrance is the Blade & Angel Apothecary Bar sign. Lit from the back — the sign includes a 3ft high restored wood mortar and pestle pharmacy sign and a wood circular mold. Copper repousse wings to the sides of the mortar and pestle and stainless steel swords below complete the Apothecary Bar’s namesake.
Steam Fans
Two 8ft long shaft, pulley and belt Victorian ceiling fans operate seemingly from a small steam engine mounted on the wall below. All electrical (no actual steam) and hidden motor in ceiling is driving fans and steam engine. Steam engine is mounted on a brass shoe shining pedestal. Cast iron ‘Hand’ holders stabilize the vertical shaft from excess movement.