Interview with Gail Carriger – Part 2

Welcome back for Part 2 of our interview with Gail Carriger, author of Parasol Protectorate series – Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, and Heartless which was released June 28. Timeless is due out in 2012.

Part 1 can be found here.

Airship Ambassador: Welcome back, Gail. Talking about Soulless, it was written with the structure of the Victorian melodrama romance. What other Victorian narrative styles have you used in your books?

Gail Carriger: Well I love Gothic literature and I got into Gothic lit because I was a science fiction and fantasy geek from day one.  I started looking at the Gothics because they are the origin of science fiction and fantasy as a genre.  All the tropes and archetypes from a literary sense are sourced in the Gothic movement.  (That’s also the origin of mysteries, romances, horrors, and Westerns.)  I really love playing with tropes, and I love creating characters that are typical characters you might expect out of a Gothic novel and then upsetting them later.  That’s one of my favorite things to do.

With Soulless I really took a sort of Dickensian/early Edith Wharton style romance, standard romantic elements, and then built the first story on top of that to play with it.  Omniscient narration (AKA third person head-hopping) is one of Dickens’s tricks, that kind of thing.

Carrying on the story line, I decided that Changeless was going to be more Castle of Otranto style Gothic where we visit a decrepit place and murder and excitement ensues.  Really early early Gothic.  In Blameless I’m playing with the American Alan Quatermain, ‘boys adventure’ novel, sort of what the Westerns came out of.  It’s a mad dash charging across Europe.  With Heartless, I went back to my Sherlock Holmesian love. So it’s a parody of the cozy Sherlock Holmes style mystery.

Timeless is where I get to explore the roots of Alexia, Amelia B. Edwards. Amelia existed in the Victorian era and traveled up and down the Nile in the 1840’s and 50’s with only a chaperone for company. I’m going to steal the Victorian travel journal idea for the last book.

AA: I would usually ask how much of ‘you’ is in each character but in prior discussions, you’ve mentioned before that several people of your acquaintance and friendship have been the basis for the some of the characters. How intentional or accidental was that?

GC:  Yes, that’s very true.  Well, I can’t reveal all my secrets.  Ivy, for example, is one of my very dear friends when she is drunk.  So when I run out of Ivy-silliness, I will go over to her house and be like, “Drink the red wine.  It’s time for more Ivy-fodder.”  Then she’ll say something outrageous and I get to translate it into Victorian English.  But pretty much, Ivy is her when she’s drunk, which she’s a little offended by.  In a silly Ivy-ish way, of course.

Sometimes it is not intentional, my friends will creep into my books without intention.  I knew who Ivy came from, but, for example, there’s one infamous character who is in the book, he’s just a little minor character. My friend, the self same drunken Ivy character, says to me, “What’s Paul doing in your book?”  And I said, “Paul?  Paul’s not in my book.  I didn’t put Paul into my book.”  And she says, “Oh yes you did.  He’s just red-headed.”  And I was like, “Oh my God.  It’s Tunstell.  I did put Paul into my book!”  Luckily Paul is, in fact, just as good humored as Tunstell. He bleached his hair and dyed it red and now shows up as Tunstell periodically at signings.  He’s like, “Drama?  Excellent.  Am I in the book?  Fantastic!”

AA: With that alternate world that you’ve created, how much research went into it to create the different societies for vampires and werewolves and then the actions and situations you wanted them to be in?

GC:   Well, one reason for me to put vampires and werewolves in the Gothic trope is because I was playing with Gothic.  This is where such monsters come from, essentially, for Western literature.  If you put werewolves, ghosts, and vampires back into Victorian England that’s where they started, so there’s this full circle that I really enjoy.  And I totally lost track of where this conversation was going.

AA:  Oh, just the amount of research that you put into creating…

GC:   Oh, the research.  So I knew the werewolves were going to play some wolf-pack dynamics which meant generally alpha-male sort of protocols.  And I wanted the vampires to be based off of a natural dynamic that I could draw on easily but was a contrast. I wanted a female ruler-ship, and that’s how I came up with the hive idea, bees and drones and so forth.

With the research, I have a pretty good grounding in some Victorian science because that’s the root of my own discipline. I’m good on the costuming because I’m really into that. I’ve lived in England which helped with speech cadence. My mom is British, so I had a handle on certain other things.  Then there’s the medical science, steam technology, London streets and businesses in 1873, locomotion, that I really wasn’t that familiar with, so I did have to do quite a bit of research.  I did do some research into early vampiric and werewolf lore just to know what rules I was breaking <laughs>.   I generally spend half my time researching and half my time actually clicking on the computer.

AA: You are not always kind, in your own way, to your characters. Lord Maccon is drunk, or naked, although not both, yet. What kind of challenges did you have in creating some of that unkindness, those actions towards them, and keeping their reactions within Victorian norms and cultural attitudes and such?

GC:   Well, I think again that’s part of the fun.  One of the reasons that I have vampires and werewolves in Victorian London is because I find both vampires and werewolves intrinsically amusing as a practical idea. Werewolves in particular because what can be more anti-Victorian than a creature that has to strip in order to convert into a beast?  I mean that’s shocking.  Injecting them into polite society was bound to be a recipe for amusement.  Vampires are similar.  I don’t know if you’ve ever worn fake teeth, but the first time I put them in I lisped for most of the day trying to talk around them, or the very idea that you have to suck somebody’s blood.  The Victorians would be like, “Oh, terribly nice chap.  Wonderful at polo.  But that neck nibbling habit, we’re not going to talk about that.  No no no.”  So it’s all fodder for fun.

AA: Alexia knows the most interesting people, which is probably an understatement – proper societal friends, gay vampires, nerdy and beastly werewolves – how did this charming array of party guests come about?

GC:  Well again, part of it is my own friendship group. Part of it is my love of dichotomy. I’m really interested in taking a typical character like the ultimate romantic urban hero vampire and going, “Oh, let’s make him flamboyantly gay.  You know, and, sparkles.  <laughs> Or let’s take the classic werewolf, super scruffy archetype and make one a professor, a very urbane werewolf.  I like contrast.

AA: There’s plenty of fun, frivolity, and irreverence as you play with Victorian bigotry and stereotypes. What kind of balancing effort did you have to maintain to show Alexia as a product of her times and experiences yet with modern sensibilities and actions?”

GC: It was mostly a matter of voice. I wanted Alexia to sympathetic to the modern reader but still of her time. I couldn’t be too Victorian as a result but I could make her terribly embarrassed when she accidentally shows an ankle.

AA: In so many stories, a hero/heroine is strong, independent, and generally does all the work for a resolution. How does Alexia support or challenge that idea?

GC: Alexia uses her friends and relationships to network and solve the problems presented her in the book. She isn’t on the solitary one-man-against-the-universe hero’s journey. This reliance on others is not a weakness, it is a foundation. I often feel solitary struggles are over-valued, to be a whole person you must know when to ask for help and that this is not a defect of character or story.

AA: A lot of times I share all the steampunk stories and authors and write-ups with my nieces and nephews, probably to my sister’s chagrin.  She’d call it pushing it onto them.  But one reason that I do it is so that they can see they can be anything when they grow up. Looking at Alexia as a role model, what are some of the things that I could call out to my nieces and nephews that they can adopt into their lives and say, “Oh, I want to be like Alexia?”

GC:   Well, I think one of Alexia’s strengths and one of the reasons I think people find her really engaging as a character is her pragmatic approach to life.  Any situation, could be the most dire crisis, and tea is the first solution.  And then maybe whacking it with a parasol is a secondary backup plan.  Alexia tends to be very level headed in a way that a lot of protagonists aren’t, and that is part of her appeal.  It comes from her sort of soul-less aspect.  She lacks creativity and inspiration but she makes up for it with this innate practicality.

Another thing they can take from Alexia is her ability to surround herself with wonderful people and great friends.  I have lots of subversiveness in my books which, you know, is masked by comedy. Nobody realizes when they’re laughing but I like to hope there’s a little part of their brain saying, “Oh, it’s ok to be gay.  Oh these relationships are valid too. Cross-dressing, perhaps not so bad.”  I’m a big proponent of the female hero’s journey rather than the male hero’s journey.  I did a lot of classical studies in University and you may or may not notice that Alexia is very rarely alone striving against all odds killing people and returning home to save the day.  That’s not my approach .  I think her strength is in her friends and being able to call on others.  That is the best way you can be in life, surrounded by wonderful friends.  That would be my biggest take-away from Alexia.

AA: What led you to become a writer? Why do you keep writing?

GC: A healthy does of insanity mixed with a reckless disregard for my own survival topped with ingrained escapist tendencies. I keep at it because it’s almost like breathing. Even if I didn’t make my living as an author, I’d write.

This is the end of Part 2.

Join us next time for Part 3 when Gail will share with us her background as an archaeologist, and some of her literary inspirations.

Until then, read more from Gail on her website.

Get your copy of Gail’s books here:

Soulless

Changeless

Blameless

Heartless

 

Click here to read the rest of the interview

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

 

Published in: on August 28, 2011 at 7:19 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

Interview with Gail Carriger – Part 1

This week we are talking with Gail Carriger, author of Parasol Protectorate series – Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, and Heartless which was released June 28. Timeless is due out in 2012.

In 2010, Soulless earned Gail a nomination for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, also, a finalist for several literary awards and a recipient of the 2010 Alex Award, Soulless was declared by Publisher’s Weekly to be one of the “Best Books of 2009”. Changeless, Blameless, and Heartless were all New York Times Bestsellers.

Gail also has stories in the anthologies Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded and The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2.

Airship Ambassador: Welcome, Gail! It’s great to chat with you again! The last time we were able to talk in person was at Nova Albion 2011. How have you been since then?

Gail Carriger: Very well, indeed, that you so much for having me.

AA: Before we get too deep into our conversation today, what is the correct pronunciation of your name? I’ve heard people say it different ways.

GC: Ger–hard ‘G’ rather than like a conveyance.

AA: See, you know there’re people out there mispronouncing it.

GC:  I know.  Strangely enough, as you may or may not know, it is a pseudonym and I chose it because I thought, “Oh, it’s a nice simple name.  No one will mispronounce it.”  My real name is an awful unpronounceable monster. Of course, no one pronounces Carriger correctly, but it’s a pseudonym so I don’t care that much.

AA: You’ve been very busy with the release of each book quickly in succession and all kinds of signing events and conventions. How do you keep a balance in life and stay healthy with all the traveling?

GC: I try to only do one big event a month. When I travel I try to eat as healthy as I can and get as much sleep as possible, and wear gloves.

AA: What has the fans reaction been like at signing events?

GC: My fans are very enthusiastic and full of vim and vinegar. And questions, lots of questions. I remember Huntington Beach in 2010 in particular, I was on tour for Blameless and was standing there looking over my notes and heard this ripple of laughter. I looked up and a whole gaggle of ladies had their parasols up and were bobbing them up and down in unison while they waited. It was adorable.

AA: You’ve gotten good feedback for the series. What are some of the more outrageous and extreme bits of feedback that you’ve gotten?

GC: I’ve had many complaints about embarrassment on public transport, because the books make people laugh out loud. One Twitter follower complained I ruined her Friday because she refused to go anywhere or do anything until she finished Heartless.

AA: After two years on the market, are you surprised at how many new people are just being exposed to the series now?

GC: Actually my publishing house has a special on for July and August 2011 where all three of the first books in electronic form are available for $9.99. So a number of people are just now discovering the series and writing reviews of Soulless. It’s been wonderful gaining new fans. Not to mention that only now are the books beginning to come out in foreign lands. I just had contact from my first German, Japanese, and Polish fans! So cool.

AA: Before the whirlwind of The Parasol Protectorate, what did you work on beforehand?

GC: I used to be an archaeologist who moonlighted as a writer, now I’m a writer who moonlights as an archaeologist.

AA: What was your publishing experience for Soulless?

GC: Quick.

AA: What was your first meeting like with the publishing staff?

GC: I went to meet my editor, and there with her were my publisher and my publicist–totally unexpectedly. The publisher himself! I was so nervous.  She introduced me to them, and invited me to have drinks later, and just for a chat.  I was like, “Oh God. Oh no.”  So later that evening, I met with all three of them, and I realize now in hindsight that they were vetting me, testing to see what kind of person I was, whether I was a writer that had to be kind of “J.D. Salinger”-ed away, or whether I was a writer who could go out and do a book tour. There are writers that are more gregarious than others. I’m used to public speaking because I was a professor.

Finally, my publicist said, “So, do you have any ideas for the cover art?”  And I thought to myself, “I’m prepared for this question.”  Because, the author’s response is supposed to be, “Oh no, no.  You guys bought the book.  It’s all your decision.  Wrap it in whatever you think is best.” Authors have no say in the cover art, you see, and I’d been trained for years that authors have no say in the cover art.  “Choose your words carefully, Gail.” I thought to myself.  So I said, “Thanks for asking, and if there are any images that I come across on the Internet that remind me of Alexia, I’ll just send it your way and you can use it as inspiration.”  I belong to a great LiveJournal group called “Steam Fashion,” which I highly recommend if you’re on LiveJournal.  It’s just a really friendly group of creators who like talking about the clothing.  Donna Ricci, who is the owner of “Clockwork Couture” and who’s also a professional model, posted this image of herself in garb, which became the cover. It’s a different colored dress, but essentially it’s that original image.  The funny thing, of course, is that this image is used for advertisement–I’ll get back to that later–on her website, so I ganked it.  I sent it to Orbit and said, “This is kind of what I was thinking.  She’s a little skinny, but she’s got the right nose and face shape and that kind of thing, so….”  and then I didn’t hear anything.

I thought, “Oh, they hated it.  Oh well. Nevermind.”  And about two months later (and this is how publishing works–the author hears nothing for months and months and months and then the publishing house wants something done with them in three days) Donna friends me on Facebook, and she says, “Oh, I’m signing the contract for your cover.”  And I thought, “I guess they liked it.”  And of course the hindsight funny story is that this image is used to sell that dress on her website, and so I constantly get people contacting me, “Do you know someone is using your cover art on a commercial site?”  And I say, <<whispers>> “Actually, it’s the other way around.”  Later on that year, I went down and met Donna in LA, which is where her business is based, and she looks nothing like Alexia at all.  She’s this minuscule little thing.  We went to karaoke—a gay boy karaoke bar – Lord Akeldama would have loved it.  Now Donna and I are great friends, so I have an inside track in “Clockwork Couture.”  “Donna, I love that hat.  What can you do for me?”

AA: What about the Alexia paper doll web app? It’s quite entertaining. Did you have input into that too, or did they just say, “Here, we’re building this.  It’ll be fun.  You’ll love it.”

GC:  Well, it ties back to that conversation I talked about.  The publicist and I talked about online marketing, and one of the reasons that I ended up choosing to go with Orbit is that they’re a very young US company.  (And the staff is literally age-wise young.)  I thought I would rather work with a publishing house that’s my generation because they’re just more familiar with the way the Internet works, and they’re not shocked by e-books, online promoting, or anything like that.

I talked with Alex, who’s my publicist at Orbit, about having a website.  I’d already started designing one, and I had a very specific brand in mind, and after tracking me for a little while, I think Alex realized, “Oh, she’s got the social media thing under control.”  I think it freed him up to be really experimental with some of his other marketing ideas, and the paper doll app is his brainchild.  I created an Alexia dossier for him.

I went through the entire first book and pulled out every piece of clothing Alexia wears that’s described.  Then I found period images that were similar, as well as backgrounds in the way Alexia’s facial expressions.  The final dossier is on my website if you want to download it, but you can also play the paper doll.  As a result, the artist who drew all the outfits for the paper doll app, those are all actual outfits all from the first book.  It’s pretty fun.

This is the end of Part 1.

Join us next time for Part 2 when Gail will share with us the structural inspiration of her books, and the research which goes into creating her characters.

Until then, read more on Gail’s website.

Get your copy of Gail’s books here:

Soulless

Changeless

Blameless

Heartless

 

Click here to read the rest of the interview

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

 

Published in: on August 21, 2011 at 10:07 am  Comments (11)  
Tags: , ,

Steamcon III Announces Airship Award Nominees

Reposting information from Steamcon III’s Facebook page for their Airship Awards

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Steamcon® is proud to present the second annual Airship Award nominations! The steampunk community has so many fabulously creative individuals, and we wish to honor them by celebrating their achievements and contributions to the steampunk community.

The nominees for the 2011 Airship Awards are:

Written: Any written piece of work, including but not limited to: novels, short stories, blogs, screen plays, etc.
• Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Tee Morris & Pip Ballantine
• The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder –
• Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar
• The Half Made World by Felix Gilman

Visual: Any visual piece of work, including but not limited to: 2D art, 3D art, digital art, fashion design, website design, making/modding, short film (by an individual)
• James Ng
• Myke Amend
• Adam Smith
• Joe Benitez

Aural: Any aural piece of work, including but not limited to: Bands, songs, musicians, music videos, etc.
• Professor Elemental
• Unwoman
• Steam Powered Giraffe
• Vagabond Opera

Community Contributor: An individual who is outspoken and supportive in the steampunk community, including but not limited to: Blogger, event organizer, convention runner, scholar, speaker etc.
• Ay-leen the Peacemaker – Beyond Victoriana
• Lia Keyes – SWAG
• Suzanne Lazear – Steamed
• Jordan Block – Sepiachord

Potpourri: Anything not yet covered, including but not limited to: Game design/designer, acting troupes, short film (by a group), movie, television, etc.
• Clockwork Cabaret
• Unhallowed Metropolis RPG
• Rise of Aester RPG

Steamcon® wishes to congratulate all the nominees for their contributions to steampunk.
The nominees were solicited online from the steampunk world at large, and the pre-registered members of Steamcon III will now vote to choose the winners.

The awards will be presented to the nominee with the most votes in each category at an awards banquet on Friday, October 14th, 2011 during the Steamcon III convention.

If you are pre-registered for Steamcon III, you should have received an email containing an order code. Use this code to vote here: http://registration.steamcon.o​rg/voting
If you did not receive this code, you can email registration@steamcon.org to get yours. The rules for voting are here: http://registration.steamcon.o​rg/voting/rules

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Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 6:04 pm  Comments (2)