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?)

Beautiful, really sad alternate cover for Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Jean
Will!.

Beautiful, really sad alternate cover for Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Jean

Will!.

aegisdea:

Will and Jem #1 
William Herondale & Jem Carstairs (c) The Infernal Devices, cassandraclare

ded from adorable

aegisdea:

Will and Jem #1 

William Herondale & Jem Carstairs (c) The Infernal Devices, cassandraclare

ded from adorable

Jem/Tid questions

 

Hello! I absolutely love your books. I doubt you’ll see this or read it but if by any chance you do I would like to ask you a question. I recently seen the drawing of Tessa and Will introducing their son James to Jem and Jem appears to be crying? If so are these tears of joy or sadness? In of the Bane Chronicle books Magnus meets James and there is a scene where Magnus is at the institute Tessa and Will are running. When Jem comes into the scene James calls Jem Uncle Jem. I’m aware that they brought James up to think of Jem as an uncle but how does Jem feel about all this? Im sorry if im asking questions that cannot be answered but curiosity is killing me. :) — tiffany-tmi-tid

Well, I can only tell you what I think. I think Jem was crying out of a mixture of joy and sadness. Joy because he’s happy for Will and Tessa — obviously they’re thrilled to have a baby. (Not that you have to have kids to be happy, but they wanted them, so.) And he’s incredibly touched that they named the baby after him. (Jem=short for James.) So is crying because of that.

I am sure there is some part of Jem that is sad because he is cut off from the cycles of life: from birth, death, marriages, engagements, friendships, small human gestures and larger ones. I think he is not despairing. I think Jem is patient and believes in a better future, however long it may take that future to come. Brother Zachariah talks a little in City of Heavenly Fire about what it’s like to be a Silent Brother and how they don’t quite feel things like human beings do.

I do think Midnight Heir gives some insight in the manner in which Will and Tessa keep that part of Brother Zachariah that is Jem something to be anchored to, and Last Hours will give more. But I also think it’s okay for stories to have some open parts in which you’re free to intuit what you think. How do you think Jem feels? The fondness he has for Will and Tessa, and they for him, and the happiness they all bring each other; even the fondness he has for his “niece and nephew”, Lucie and James, is there in Midnight Heir: it’s not from his point of view, but that doesn’t mean you can’t read into Magnus’ observations of him to suss out his feelings. 

This may seem like an odd question, but quite a few of my friends and I on tumblr were wondering what Jem and Tessa’s relationship was like during the couple months before CP2 began (like during that blank space between CP and CP2). A lot of us like to imagine what they are like in modern day (something I hope to see!) but we never really got to know too much about their relationship during the majority of their engagement. Strange question, I know, and you don’t have to answer! Some of us were just very curious :) — mrscarstairs

I would say that just like in Midnight Heir you can do some interpreting of Jem’s feelings through Magnus’ observations of him, you can do some back-engineering of Jem and Tessa’s relationship between CP and CP2 by the things we know about them in CP2.

We know they are happy with each other, but that both of them also have things that are making them unhappy — the threat of Mortmain hangs over them both: Tessa carries the burden of knowing about Will’s feelings, and Jem carries the burden of knowing he’s dying faster than he’s letting on.

We know Tessa is learning Mandarin for Jem, which is a pretty strong sign of commitment, learning a language for someone when they don’t even require it. We know Jem is writing music for Tessa. We know they don’t fight, since the fight they have in CP2 is their first.

I think I get a lot of these questions about Jem because there’s a sense that since we rarely get his POV we don’t know what goes on in his head. But we do know a lot! We know characters through their actions and their dialogue as much as we ever know them from seeing their thoughts (think how well we know Gatsby, when we never get his thoughts at all and he’s not the POV narrator.) For instance, Jem on how his interactions with Tessa between CP and CP2 have been informed by his determination that she not know the truth about his health:

In the beginning, when I first realized I loved Tessa, I did think that perhaps love was making me well. I had not had an attack in so long. And when I asked her to marry me, I told her that. That love was healing me. So the first time I was—the first time it happened again, after that, I could not bear to tell her, lest she think it meant a lessening of my love for her. I took more of the drug, to fend off another illness. Already by that time it was taking more of the drug to simply keep me on my feet than it used to take to keep me going for a week. I don’t have years, Will. I might not even have months. And I don’t want Tessa to know. Please don’t tell her

Kind of like we know exactly how Jem feels about Will taking drugs in CP, despite not being in his head, from his punching Will and subsequent speechifying. :)

One note about engagements in the Victorian era: Jem and Tessa would not have been given free reign to do a lot of physical stuff with each other. They could hold hands, take walks together, maybe kiss. They would be separated at nightfall and certainly no visiting of each other’s bedrooms would be all right (though Shadowhunters are always popping in and out of each other’s bedrooms, but J&T would be more watched after the engagement, not less.) This is why their making out in the music room in CP2 is a big deal and results in Jem being like “We must be married RIGHT NOW.”

Otherwise, there are certainly open spaces in between CP and CP2 in which one might imagine how Jem and Tessa’s specific interactions might have gone — but that’s okay! Sometimes it is fun to have space to let your imagination roam.

The Last Hours

Cassandra..if we are expecting something steamy from jace and Clary in CoHF… will we be expecting something from Will and Tessa in TLH as well? — mundanedoppleganger

Oh, perverts. You are my people. Certainly a lot of weird things happen in the Shadowhunter world that lend themselves to pervy thoughts. Kind of like on Teen Wolf, which I have just finished catching up on.

My husband: What’s going on on Teen Wolf?

Me: A magical vet has stolen poisonous moss from a mob boss with a lethargic wolf and is planning on using it to expel demons from teenagers! Also evil firefly ninjas have attacked a werewolf while he was handing out candy to schoolchildren.

My husband: Did you ever think you’d say those words?

Me: Maybe not in that order.

ANYWAY. I would not be expecting anything steamy from Will and Tessa in TLH because 1) that already happened in Clockwork Princess and 2) the books are told from their children’s point of view so they would be watching, and the thought creeps me out so much it makes my head want to fall off and roll around.

image

Will and Tessa have a very happy marriage, and that’s pretty much what I want to say about that.

Besides, I am pretty sure that once you actually get into the Last Hours, it is not Will and Tessa you will be asking me for steamy scenes from. I promise! :)

sheehanmebaby:

Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
"The shadowy figure moved, as quick as a whip, but not quite quick enough; the jug slammed into the figure’s outstreched arm before flying from Tessa’s grasp to crash into the far wall. Broken crockery rained down onto the floor as the stranger yelled."
Made with watercolors. Next up is Jem! (:

sheehanmebaby:

Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

"The shadowy figure moved, as quick as a whip, but not quite quick enough; the jug slammed into the figure’s outstreched arm before flying from Tessa’s grasp to crash into the far wall. Broken crockery rained down onto the floor as the stranger yelled."

Made with watercolors. Next up is Jem! (:

Aw, babies. They look so young.

cassandrajp:

lil’ Will and Jem. (from the Infernal Devices @CassieClare)

FEEL MY FEELS

aegisdea:

Will and Cece! 8D 
I was about to do a commish until my brain did this thing where it pops out an image and a scene I remembered from TID. So yeeaah. A sketchie of a worried William running after Cecily. 
Characters (c) Cassandra Clare

Little Will and little Cecily! 

aegisdea:

Will and Cece! 8D 

I was about to do a commish until my brain did this thing where it pops out an image and a scene I remembered from TID. So yeeaah. A sketchie of a worried William running after Cecily. 

Characters (c) Cassandra Clare

Little Will and little Cecily! 

CLOCKWORK PRINCESS EPILOGUE SPOILER.
Heh heh.
kattapusvartdal:

Clockwork Princess Epilogue (SPOILER) by ArtofARoman
WILL IN HEAVEN XD

CLOCKWORK PRINCESS EPILOGUE SPOILER.

Heh heh.

kattapusvartdal:

Clockwork Princess Epilogue (SPOILER) by ArtofARoman

WILL IN HEAVEN XD
CUTE BOYS READING.
cassandrajp:

Happy Heronstairs Day! (TID written by @CassieClare )
Thats a joke since a happy Heronstairs day is impossible. Have a gut-wrenchingly traumatic Heronstairs day!
"There’s something in your smile that gives me strength to carry on. 
And there’s something in your words that lingers even when you’re gone”

CUTE BOYS READING.

cassandrajp:

Happy Heronstairs Day! (TID written by @CassieClare )

Thats a joke since a happy Heronstairs day is impossible. Have a gut-wrenchingly traumatic Heronstairs day!

"There’s something in your smile that gives me strength to carry on.

And there’s something in your words that lingers even when you’re gone”