Heronstairs

About Will and Jem…

Dear Cassie,

Thanks again for your response to my question about Tessa! I originally wrote this the day after Heronstairs day, but with CoHF and TBC, I know you’ve been super busy! 

I have a question regarding two big players in the Shadowhunter ‘verse: Will and Jem. Yesterday a lot of people were posting about them due to the date (November 10th) and it got me thinking.

How are we as readers meant to interpret their relationship? After CP2, you posted about the relationships between  Tessa, Will, and Jem and said “At no point do Will and Jem discuss their need for a chaperon, lest they give in to irresistible temptation and sully the senses out of each other.”

Online, however, there is a lot of discussion about it in terms of a relationship including romantic love. They are talked about as the third love story of TID, the third side of the triangle. 

Platonic friendship is wonderful and I think their relationship is great no matter what, but I also think there is something inherently different though about how something “could be canon. the evidence is there” with a queer vs hetero relationship. (Harry and Hermione are probably the biggest example I can think of this, with huge numbers of people viewing it as friendship and a very large number seeing romantic love. Their relationship is meant to be seen as friendship, more like family. They even spell it out in the last book!) It’s more of a representation issue. If Harry and Hermione don’t have those feelings, there are still plenty of other straight couples in HP.

So, as Will and Jem, are your creations, what are your thoughts on all of this? Are readers meant to understand that Jem and Will are bi of some sort (romantic and or sexual)? Is it part of the goals of writing about a not typically portrayed love triangle? Are the love interests of the protagonist queer? How would you define their relationship? 

-K

P.S. I really enjoy all of your posts regarding representation in fiction, as someone who isn’t straight.

 Hi! Thank you first for your kind words about my posts.

When you’re dealing with representation, and reader interpretation, you’re always dealing with tricky business. I incredibly appreciate the imagination of my readers. I also know my word is not the last word on what happens in my books: no book follows every moment in the lives of its characters. What happens in the liminal spaces — the time before Jem and Will met Tessa for instance — very much belongs to the reader.

I feel uncomfortable telling readers what they’re “meant to understand.” I want them to feel like their reads are valid. There are readings I disagree with (like that Will and Jem would have been better off if they’d never met Tessa, that Tessa doesn’t really love Will/doesn’t really love Jem, etc) but that doesn’t mean they’re not meaningful for the readers who interpret the story that way.

Jem and Will have an incredibly intense relationship. They also live in a time/place where friendships and relationships between men were romanticized, and were spoken of in incredibly romantic and flowery language. I think they often speak to and about each other in a way modern readers interpret as romantic because it sounds romantic. The Victorian Romantic Friendship Reader describes the era as a time when “when men could openly express an unashamed, unselfconscious, all-consuming love for members of their own sex.” Tennyson, as far as we know (okay, there’s some debate) was straight, but wrote a long elegy on the death of his friend Arthur Hallam in which he calls him “all I love,” “him I loved, and love / For ever,” and “my lost desire.” (The poem is “In Memoriam”, which shows up a lot, not coincidentally, in Clockwork Princess.)

Will and Jem definitely have a romantic friendship, and I do think the love triangle is a true triangle in the sense that Jem and Tessa love each other, Will and Tessa love each other, and Will and Jem love each other. Is their love canonically a sexual love? Here is where this is is a tricky issue because these are two distinct moral goods at play here.

 It’s very important to me that I not be given credit for representation that is not explicit in my books. I believe we are at a time when books can show characters who are not heterosexual, and those books can be published (though of course there are still many obstacles for diverse books and pressure on creators not to create diverse works, which makes it even more clear that we have a responsibility to do so.) Therefore queer coding, or later saying “Of course So-and-So was an LGBTQ character, or of course there are LGBTQ characters in my work but we never heard about them in the work and they never had any relationships and nothing would clue you in on their identity…” is not sufficient. There are gay couples in the Shadowhunters ‘verse where their sexuality is explicit on the page: there is no question with Magnus and Woolsey that they are bi and gay; there is no question in TMI about Alec and Magnus, or Aline and Helen, or any question in the Bane Chronicles that Magnus is bisexual and in relationships with men and women. That’s part of why I, along with Maureen and Sarah, wanted to write the Bane Chronicles so much—to have Magnus front and center. He deserves to be, and LGBTQ readers deserve such a protagonist. But I also think they deserve better than queer coding and hints at sexuality that isn’t hetero — that stuff should be on the page, and if it isn’t — if it’s your “headcanon” as a writer — then that’s great, but that isn’t per se representation.

 That said, I strongly believe readers should have the freedom to interpret works as they will, without a creator looking over their shoulders: There are liminal spaces in my books which are designed for readers’ imaginations to fill in. No two readers ever read quite the same book. I don’t want to take away any possible interpretations from readers: it would feel like robbing them of enjoyment I believe they should have and depriving my work of some layers. The author’s dead, and to an extent I want to be considered dead—as long as nobody comes and pops me off this mortal coil when I’m eating a yoghurt so they can enjoy my books more. I don’t ever want to get in the way of my readers enjoying my work the way they want to. 

So I hope you understand when I say: I can’t entirely answer that question. Do I mind Heronstairs? Not at all. I am totally 100% behind those who ship it. (Ship and let ship, I say.) Do I think Heronstairs makes total sense within the framework of the narrative of Infernal Devices? Yes, it does. Nothing contradicts it. Do I think Will and Jem are bisexual representation? No, and I shouldn’t get any credit for them being so. Does that mean they’re not bi? No. Does that mean they are bi? No. It means you get to decide now.

image

(Hopefully we can all agree they are adorable?)

aegisdea:

Here’s a Will and Jem artwork for you guys~ I want to say thank you for all your support, so here’s my gift for you all. Doing TMI and TID artworks makes me so nyappy. But I apologize if there are some requests I haven’t done yet, I will do them in time~ Thank you again~
William Herondale & James Carstairs (c) Cassandra Clare
Parchment Texture: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Parchment-I-213397025

TODAY IS CLEARLY HERONSTAIRS DAY.
Perhaps I shall write a snippet.

aegisdea:

Here’s a Will and Jem artwork for you guys~ I want to say thank you for all your support, so here’s my gift for you all. Doing TMI and TID artworks makes me so nyappy. But I apologize if there are some requests I haven’t done yet, I will do them in time~ Thank you again~

William Herondale & James Carstairs (c) Cassandra Clare

Parchment Texture: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Parchment-I-213397025

TODAY IS CLEARLY HERONSTAIRS DAY.

Perhaps I shall write a snippet.

cassandrajp:

HERONSTAIRS! (Infernal Devices written by @CassieClare)
a quick sketch while I wait for my camera battery to charge so I can go out and take reference photos.



Aw.

cassandrajp:

HERONSTAIRS! (Infernal Devices written by @CassieClare)

a quick sketch while I wait for my camera battery to charge so I can go out and take reference photos.

Aw.

Mild CP2 spoilers.

“Will,” Jem said. “For all these years I have tried to give you what you could not give yourself.”

Will’s hands tightened on Jem’s, which were as thin as a bundle of twigs. “And what is that?”

“Faith,” said Jem. “That you were better than you thought you were. Forgiveness, that you need not always punish yourself. I always loved you, Will, whatever you did. And now I need you to do for me what I cannot do for myself. For you to be my eyes when I do not have them. For you to be my hands when I cannot use my own. For you to be my heart when mine is done with beating.

If there is a life after this one, let me meet you in it.

I was feeling mreepy, so Cassandra Jean drew me some fanart. It’s rather sad, but I was needing catharsis — I know I’ve talked about catharsis on this blog before, about why there is a pleasure in books that make us weep. Why a good cry is called a good cry.

Anyway, CJ has a great talent for capturing emotion in the line of a hand, or the curve of a drawn smile. I have that admiration for her art that you have for something you could never ever do yourself. And she’s good at making me cry. :)

This isn’t a scene I plan to write, or even could write. It doesn’t take place in the pages of a book. It concerns things I don’t even pretend I know about (the existence of God?) It’s a piece of fantasy involving the mortal characters of The Infernal Devices. It could be a dream of Jem’s. It could be a dream of Will’s. I’d like to think it’s a shared dream.

It’s under the cut because 1) spoilers 2) FEELS. 

You have been warned.

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An AU ending perhaps everyone can enjoy. Sadly there was no gay marriage in Victorian England but I enjoy Cassandra Jean’s depiction of a same-sex Shadowhunter wedding, and Charlotte attempting to bop Will and Jem with the bouquet. And how she solved the wedding attire problem (one of you gets to wear black with gold, and the other one gets to wear gold with black!)
And of course Magnus is there because … Magnus.
Or I should stop bothering Cassandra Jean late at night. :D
cassandrajp:

AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER
(Charlotte, Magnus, Jem and Will are from The Infernal Devices written by @CassieClare)

An AU ending perhaps everyone can enjoy. Sadly there was no gay marriage in Victorian England but I enjoy Cassandra Jean’s depiction of a same-sex Shadowhunter wedding, and Charlotte attempting to bop Will and Jem with the bouquet. And how she solved the wedding attire problem (one of you gets to wear black with gold, and the other one gets to wear gold with black!)

And of course Magnus is there because … Magnus.

Or I should stop bothering Cassandra Jean late at night. :D

cassandrajp:

AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER

(Charlotte, Magnus, Jem and Will are from The Infernal Devices written by @CassieClare)

On love (Clockwork Princess questions, spoilers under the cut!)

Hi, Mrs. Clare! I’m reading Clockwork Princess right now. I just wanted to, first and foremost, applaud your writing. What you have done with The Infernal Devices has revolutionized the way I write love stories. I’m an aspiring author myself, and I have been so tired of the stereotypical love triangle that so many YA books design. Yours is so incredibly different, and embodies a whole new idea. Thank you for that. I was wondering, though, what your takes on Tessa’s love for Will vs. her love for Jem were? I always imagined that she loved Jem much in the same way Will loved Jem — like that of an old friend, a close friend; someone that they would never ever want to disappoint, hurt, or let go of. I imagine that’s why she married him. But with Will, she had all the enigma, the crazy, emotional, unrequited love that most fairytales envelop. Keep in mind, I’ve just started Clockwork Princess, so that book may answer my questions. I just wanted to ask, am I on the right track with my reasoning? And what are your thoughts — what were they when you were developing the story? — chrissyrebekah

First: thank you very much for your kind words. Hang in there, because I am going to tease you slightly. ;) Clockwork Princess spoilers under the cut.

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