Two months have passed since the theatrical release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, a movie that, for many, marked the end of an era. With the first installment of the finale in the Twilight film franchise set to premiere on November 18th, one can’t help but wonder: What’s next?

By now, you’ve probably heard of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, a trilogy of young adult novels set in a futuristic, dystopian North America. The buzz surrounding The Hunger Games is palpable, and for good reason: the first movie, which wrapped filming earlier this month, will hit screens next March. Helmed by noted director Gary Ross and featuring a stellar cast of Oscar-nominated and critically acclaimed actors, The Hunger Games could indeed be a “game changer” for Lionsgate.

But lurking in the shadows – pun intended – is another bestselling young adult series with more than enough potential to become “The Next Big Thing.” The Mortal Instruments is a New York City-based urban fantasy centered around 16-year-old protagonist Clary Fray as she’s flung into a world of werewolves, vampires, fairies, and Shadowhunters, a hybrid race of beings dedicated to protecting humanity from demons. The series currently consists of four books – City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, and City of Fallen Angels – though more are planned.

Penned by fan fiction writer-turned-published author Cassandra Clare, The Mortal Instruments will also be making its way to cinemas over the next several years. With an incredibly cool setting, a fascinating army of supernatural characters, and a passionate love story that gives even Edward and Bella a run for their money, The Mortal Instruments will surely emerge as a force to be reckoned with by the time the film adaptation of City of Bones (starring Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower) opens in 2012.

If this is your first time hearing about Cassandra Clare and The Mortal Instruments, then you’re in luck: I was fortunate enough to interview Clare recently about her life, her career as a writer, and the epic series that everyone will be talking about. My sincere thanks to Cassandra for her incredible kindness!

As a child, you spent a lot of time traveling with your parents. How have these experiences influenced your writing?

I think it gave me the sense of the world as a larger place. It made me want to try to make sure that the Shadowhunters were an organization that spanned the world, [a world] that included demons and angels, evil and good spirits, from many cultures.

When and why did you first start writing? Did you ever consider a career in something other than writing?

I was about 12 when I first started. I date it to getting my first computer. Before that, I made up stories in my head, but I could never write them down because my handwriting was so terrible. After that, I wrote fiction constantly for years before getting a job in journalism.

What has the ascent from “fan fiction writer” to famous, published author been like for you? Did you ever imagine that you’d see one of your novels turned into a film?

I don’t think most writers go into the business thinking that one day they’ll be a bestseller, or they’ll have a movie made of their books. That’s not the reality of writing fiction for a living. I still feel lucky to have done as well as I have. Oh, and I assume the movie project will fall apart at any moment. That’s probably a leftover from working in entertainment journalism before I started writing fiction for a living.

How would you describe The Mortal Instruments for someone who has never heard of the series before?

I would say it’s an urban fantasy series about a world like ours but with a secret, supernatural side ruled by a mysterious organization called the Shadowhunters who have fought demons through the ages. It’s got a smart, strong teen heroine and her growing up and falling in love. Forbidden love!

Was there something specific that inspired you to write The Mortal Instruments? What do you hope that readers take away from it? 

I was inspired by my love of old-school urban fantasy, mixing the real and unreal, and by my overwhelming love of cities, especially New York. I believe all cities have a shadow self I love to explore. I’m exploring London in the companion series, Infernal Devices, and looking forward to writing a series set in Los Angeles, where I grew up.

Lily Collins, who will bring Clary to life in 'City of Bones' in 2012

Do you think Clary Fray (the protagonist of The Mortal Instruments) would get along with Harry Potter? We know he has a thing for redheads…

Well, as Simon says in City of Fallen Angels, “Clary has a boyfriend. The nuclear bomb of boyfriends.” So I think they would be strictly platonic, but sure, they’d get along. They could complain about how it sucks to always have to be battling the evil dude.

Do you have any advice for amateur writers out there (for example, fan fiction writers) who aspire to become published authors one day?

Write every day. Set yourself a word goal, even if it’s a small one, and write every day to get yourself in the habit of making writing part of your daily life, not waiting for inspiration to strike.

If you could choose to have dinner with ONE of your characters, who would it be and why?

Magnus, probably. He seems like he’d have the most unexpected things to say.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Holly Black, Meghan Whalen Turner, Garth Nix, Margo Lanagan, Elizabeth Knox, Scott Westerfeld, Maureen Johnson, John Green.

In the future, since it seems to be the “hot trend” right now, would you ever consider writing a dystopian novel or series? (Question submitted by Arianna Ruiz, who is a fan of Clare’s and an admin at Down with the Capitol, a Hunger Games fan site.)

I’m pretty bound up with contracted books for years, so by the time I got to it, the “trend” would probably be over! But I don’t think it’s a good idea to write to trends anyway. I love dystopias, and I read a lot of them. I can definitely see writing one because I think they’re always relevant – a good dystopia focuses on a problem endemic in our society and expands it out to make a world. And I don’t see a time when our society is going to be without problems.

You can learn even more about Cassandra Clare and The Mortal Instruments by visiting Clare’s website at www.cassandraclare.com.

Savanna New is an associate editor at Picktainment. You can email her at savanna@picktainment.com or tweet her at @MlleNouveau.