My Favorite Bit: Cassandra Rose Clarke talks about OUR LADY OF THE ICE

My Favorite Bit iconCassandra Rose Clarke is joining us today with her novel Our Lady of the Ice. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union meets The Windup Girl when a female PI goes up against a ruthless gangster—just as both humans and robots agitate for independence in an Argentinian colony in Antarctica.

In Argentine Antarctica, Eliana Gomez is the only female PI in Hope City—a domed colony dependent on electricity (and maintenance robots) for heat, light, and survival in the icy deserts of the continent. At the center is an old amusement park—now home only to the androids once programmed to entertain—but Hope City’s days as a tourist destination are long over. Now the City produces atomic power for the mainland while local factions agitate for independence and a local mobster, Ignacio Cabrera, runs a brisk black-market trade in illegally imported food.

Eliana doesn’t care about politics. She doesn’t even care—much—that her boyfriend, Diego, works as muscle for Cabrera. She just wants to save enough money to escape Hope City. But when an aristocrat hires Eliana to protect an explosive personal secret, Eliana finds herself caught up in the political tensions threatening to tear Hope City apart. In the clash of backstabbing politicians, violent freedom fighters, a gangster who will stop at nothing to protect his interests, and a newly sentient robot underclass intent on a very different independence, Eliana finds her job coming into deadly conflict with Diego’s, just as the electricity that keeps Hope City from freezing begins to fail…

From the inner workings of the mob to the story of a revolution to the amazing settings, this story has got it all. Ultimately, however, Our Lady of the Ice questions what it means to be human, what it means to be free, and whether we’re ever able to transcend our pasts and our programming to find true independence.

What’s Cassandra’s favorite bit?



One of the most useful things for me to do when I’m in the throes of writing a novel is going for a walk. I can’t listen to music when I’m writing (it’s too distracting) but I will listen to it while I’m walking—often the same three or four songs that I most strongly associate with the characters and the story. I slip on my earbuds, put on my tennis shoes, and wander aimlessly around my neighborhood while my brain takes over, working out story wrinkles and coming up with new scenes and interactions for my characters.

Two years and eleven months ago, I did this exact thing while working on Our Lady of the Ice. It was November, and I was writing part of Our Lady for Nanowrimo. I went for my customary book-writing walk one evening, right at twilight.

It started to rain.

Now, I’ve always loved the rain, so this wasn’t a huge concern for me—and anyway, it wasn’t raining hard, more a soft mist in the failing light. And it was beautiful. At one point I passed under a streetlamp and the light illuminated each of the individual raindrops, creating this sense of static. And like that, I had an idea for a scene in Our Lady of the Ice.

That scene made it to the final draft of the novel, and even three years later, it’s still one of my favorites. It takes place towards the end of the book, but isn’t terribly spoilery in terms of plot. Luciano, a robot, links his “brain” to the mind of Eliana, a human, and shares his first memory with her. That memory is—you guessed it!—a rainstorm. That is signficant because Eliana, having grown up in the domed metropolis of Hope City, has never seen rain or thunder or lightning in her entire life:

And then there was a rustling, all around her, like the trees were trying to talk. She felt like she should hold her breath.

Water poured out of the sky.

It fell in raging, riotous sheets, soaking through her thin gray coveralls, plastering her short hair to her head. It dripped into her eyes. Little yellow lamps glowed at each of the houses, and their light caught the raindrops and made them shimmer like static. When the lightning flashed it turned the whole world white.

(Notice how the streetlamps and the static made it in there? That’s one of the things I love about writing.)

We go on to learn that Luciano should never have even had that memory—he wasn’t supposed to leave those houses, the place of his production. And yet this illicit memory is the perfect one for him to share with Eliana.

And I think that’s what I love the most about this scene: in a book about a major conflict between robots and humans, it’s a moment of connection, a literal shared history. I love the idea that something as small and ordinary as a rainstorm helped these two characters, with their two unimaginably different experiences, see each other for the first time.





Barnes and Noble



Cassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a pair of local colleges. She holds an M.A. in creative writing from The University of Texas at Austin, and in 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle. Her work has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her latest novel is Our Lady of the Ice, out from Saga Press now. You can find her online at

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