Cassandra Grodd created her first book Bully from the corners of her bedroom with nothing but untold heartaches, an overactive imagination and an abundance of filled journal entries. The book went onto debut at number seven on Amazon’s ‘Best Sellers’ list for 2019 on its first night of release — topping acclaimed writers including Rupi Kaur, Florence Welch and Amanda Lovelace.
Bully remains the only New Zealand-born poetry book to debut on Amazon’s ‘Best Sellers’ list and sold over 2,000 copies in its first week alone. The inspiring 23-year-old has now published her second book, Darling, which offers readers a sense of calm and distraction during these uncertain times.
The Last Fashion Bible spoke to Grodd to talk about her new book, coping with anxiety, and how it feels to be a best-selling author.
Congratulations on publishing your second book, Darling. Can you tell us about your journey behind it?
Thank you so much! Darling is truly the theme park of my life, with each relationship or experience I have had fashioned into a ‘ride’ (or a chapter!). The aftermath and success of my first book, Bully, was more than I could have ever dreamed of. I was fortunate enough to go on a book tour with Bully and live in both New York City and Los Angeles in between. Darling was born in that journey.
Being thrust into the public eye, spending hours on planes, starting to find my feet as a creative as well as being head-over-heels in love — all birthed my second book, Darling. That is why the art and the style of Darling are so vastly different from my first book. I felt like my life journey and existence truly did a 180 and from it, I created a book that reflected the innermost workings of my mind. I also felt a responsibility now to write to help others, I wanted to be able to give my readers something to relate to and write to them instead of writing to myself.
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It has been humbling, heart warming and shocking to watch how Darling has been received. I reloaded my page at 11:01AM on Saturday, to find we had sold 300 books in hardly a few minutes. We’ve already had to order more books. It’s truly mind blowing. Thank you for supporting me from the safety of your own homes, it means so much to me. I hope something in this book can help you. I can’t wait to send these to you (of course when we can and when NZ post gives us the go ahead). Darling will be with you all soon! Both my books are available through the link in my bio xx
Your books deal with complex issues like anxiety and self-love. Can you offer any advice to people suffering from anxiety in the difficult times we are currently facing?
There is no doubt about it that with everything going on the world, it truly is a stressful time for us all. I think the first piece of advice I would really say is that: we are all in this together. As cliché as that might sound, I personally find real peace in the fact that we as humans are standing together to help one another. Although it is a challenging time, I have personally experienced an unbelievable rise in kindness such as strangers waving hello on their morning walk or the way people are talking to one another. This level of compassion for others is something I encourage people to notice, on board, and carry forward.
To those who are anxious, know that we cannot predict the future, we cannot change the past, but we CAN treat ourselves and others with compassion and respect in the right now. Just knowing it is possible to trust others is incredibly calming.
How does your writing develop? Guide us through your process…
Some days I will write 30 pieces, others I will write none. When it hits me, it hits me hard and when I do not feel the urge to write then, I have nothing at all. I guess that is the bread and butter of being a creative — you have no way to choose what will come up out of you. In general, I find a huge amount of inspiration from music, songwriting and sound. Much more so than I do from books or others writing. Often, I will be listening to a song and almost ‘hear’ a poem in my mind that I will quickly scribble down. Both my parents are musicians and I also studied songwriting briefly in New York City. When I do have an idea, I write incredibly fast. I might write a poem or story in 30 seconds to two minutes. But it is not the writing length that counts, it is the length of life that I have lived to get to that 30 seconds (I hope that makes sense). When I can feel myself in a great state of flow, I try exceptionally hard NOT to go back and re-read what I have written immediately or to edit it, in general, I do not adjust my writing or shuffle it around. I trust my gut instinct and voice. I think the beauty is found in the raw and the rough.
Tell us about your journey to being published.
Being self-published means I manage everything myself. Yup, formatting, designing, editing, printing, distribution — you name it, I’ve done it. However, of course, I have the help of awesome freelancers to come on board and help me with things like editing. We will often have a team of five to nine people who work on a book with me. I always tell young writers; they do not need a book deal to have a book. Getting the attention of huge publishing houses is no easy feat and after being rejected a handful of times I really just thought, “Screw it I’m going to do this myself.” And it worked!
I originally used Amazon’s print service but, recently, I have started my own business and distribute the book myself. Self-publishing takes a huge amount of motivation and a lot of learning, but it is very rewarding. I am incredibly fortunate to now (after two years) be in conversation with publishing houses and looking towards this option. Being printed with a house is a huge goal for me and I hope to achieve this in the near future.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was around 14, I went on a school camp for a month. At this camp the students were asked to vote for one exceptional student to be awarded a final prize. This person was meant to have been the most helpful, interested, kind and caring person who had helped everyone and motivated everyone to be their best during this camp. I was nominated alongside two other students. When the teachers interviewed us, I was asked why I thought I would not win the award and I answered that I felt I wouldn’t win as the other two nominees were so wonderful, such lovely people, smarter, more beautiful and better than me in every way. I told them that I would not win because how could I win compared to them? My teacher looked at me and said, “Your only limit is yourself.” I never ever forgot it and to this day I can still remember her saying it. The only reason I would not win is not based on other opinions, but because I in myself didn’t feel worthy of that recognition. It taught me to believe in myself.
What sparked your initial love of poetry and writing?
I think it was finally being heard. When I was younger, I often felt invisible but, whenever I wrote, it was like I was speaking into a megaphone.
Who are some of your favourite authors/poets?
Rupi Kaur. Not just for her writing but for the fact that she literally paved the way for the so-called social media poet. She ran a Tumblr blog and curated her book Milk & Honey from the poems she posted on Tumblr. She was 21 when she published it in New York City and she became a New York Times Best Seller in two years. I was 21 when I published my book Bully from New York City (safe to say when I figured this out I squealed). Rupi really forced the literature world to open up to a relaxed, internet-born, creative approach to poetry. For that, I think myself and a lot of other millennial and Gen-Z writers owe her a thank you. She fought for all of us to be taken seriously in a previously very strict domain.
What advice can you give anyone else wanting to be a professional writer?
Share. Share. Share. A writer’s greatest reward is to be read. If you are sitting at home with a dream and a thousand notebooks, start to share your work. This cannot be your best-kept secret; you need to get out there so that others can tap into your flow and provide you with feedback for what they want to read from you. I know so many writers who are terrified of this step, and rightly so! I would tell them that, I know that they do not feel like their work is “ready” but to this day none of my work is ready to be read either and I’ve got two books! There is no perfect time. The time is now.
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And just like that, a mother of one became a mother of two. Darling, you are the love letter of my life, you are an envelope addressed to the universe and today I give you away, I let you go and land with whoever may need you. Darling, Happy Birthday. AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW VIA THE LINK IN MY BIO!! 🥺🪐🧠 www.cassandragrodd.com
Describe the feeling when you made the Amazon bestseller list.
Disbelief. I remember loading the page and seeing Bully above Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur. As previously outlined, she is a huge inspiration to me and my book was now selling more copies than hers. Beyond that, my book was sitting up with other incredibly successful writers such as Florence Lovelace. I felt sick, I felt grateful, I felt supported. It made me realise that anything is possible, miracles happen, and hard work always pays off.
Where can we follow you?
What don’t you leave the house without?
Headphones, lip balm, an essential oil (currently loving the one I have called ‘She’ which brings out the ‘Divine Feminine’). I roll this throughout the day on pressure points. A pen/notebook and as cheesy as it sounds every day before I leave the house I set an intention for the day. I try to squeeze everything out of each 24 hours I get as possible. I am always thinking and always planning. I never leave the house without the intention to go make the impossible, possible.
Learn more about Cassandra Grodd and her journey at cassandragrodd.com. Stay with The Last Fashion Bible for more local and international inspirational interviews.