Interview with Gail Carriger – Part 4

Welcome back for the conclusion 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.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.


Just a reminder, Gail will be the guest of honor at FenCon, September 23-25 in Dallas. The theme for the con is “Southern Steam,” and will have a number of steampunk-related events, including a Victorian tea, an outrageous hat contest (inspired by Ivy in Gail’s books), and panels on Victorian and steampunk attire.



Airship Ambassador: Since you were saying you like to have your outline completely mapped out before starting, but that the fun for you is in writing dialogue, do you find when writing dialogue that sometimes it’s a challenge to say, “OK I have to get from point A to point B, now this person has to say this,” and still make the decisions that your characters will make.  One of the things that I admired in your books was that never did a character make a decision that I was like “What?” while reading – it just all seemed totally congruent.

Gail Carriger:   If you’re listening to your characters, they’ll tell you what to do.  For example, if you have a character say something and suddenly you’re like “wait, that’s not right – that character would never say that.”  You need to have either a different character say it, or the narrator says it, or somebody thinks it as an internal monologue.


I have a strict outline, but it’s mostly just plot, in other words: this needs to happen and then this needs to happen. I allow my characters to hi-jack the scene.  I don’t want to be precious about my work, but I am one of those authors who talks about characters as though they were not a part of me.  There are certain characters that will enter a scene – you know, enter stage left – and then I think “Oop, there they go.” Lord Akeldama is one of those characters.  The moment he’s in the scene, I’m like, “He’s going to do what he needs to do.”  Usually he’ll derail the scene quite easily, and usually  that’s because he knows something that I don’t.  My subconscious is trying to get something on the paper, and it’s going to be a thread that gets picked up later on in the book or it’s going to be a cookie that I need to drop there and I didn’t even realize it. (A cookie’s like an Easter Egg.)  Sometimes, I’ll have to go back and axe it out, but most of the time the characters know what they’re doing better than I do.  And usually Lord Akeldama is one of those.  Some of the characters will fight me.  Madame LeFoux fights me.  I love her but she’s the hardest character to write. I think, because her motives are in question.  She’s very self-interested, and yet, she’s also a genuine nice person and that’s really tough to write.


AA: Is Lord Akeldama based on one of your friends, too?

GC:  No, but I did grow up in San Francisco.  My dad is, or was, as he says <laughs> how do I put this gently—oh, I’m not going to bother–the token straight in a group of beat poets that included Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, and noted others.  He was also a poet.  My youth was full of uncles, lots and lots of uncles.  And so Lord Akeldama is drawn off of those Uncles.


I’m a proponent of open-mindedness.  That’s really what I want more than anything.  Sorry, I didn’t mean to get political.   You know, like I said, I grew up in San Francisco so I’m a live and let live, love and let love kind of person. You can see those little threads in my books. I’m very excited that the Parasol Protectorate is popular in places like the Midwest and Texas because I’m thinking, “Do you know what your children are reading?” <laughs>


Lord Akeldama is a big cheat because, of course, the Victorian era was one of the most bigoted on record.  I explain it away with the presence of immortals. My standing hypothesis is that if you’ve been around for more than a couple centuries, you’re going to get bored really easily with anything closed minded.  You’ll be experimental with food, with sex, with life, with everything.  And you know, you’ll settle into your ways, but I do think that immortals are going to be pretty crazy.  They’re going to look at life differently because they don’t have death at the end of it.  So, my cheat is that this kind of acceptance which Alexia is part of because she’s practical is also part of this side culture to my Victorian era.


AA:  Is some of that kind of a spoof on all the attitudes and bigotry?

GC: Yeah, it really is.  And that’s why Lord Akeldama is so outrageous because he is a complete contrast to a lot of the things that were acceptable at the time. Yet, if you look at the history there are actors and opera singers who were exactly like him.  So, as is often the case throughout time and throughout culture, the more straight-laced the culture, the more outrageous and more accepted are the outliers.  But also the darker the underbelly of experimentation.  I mean the Victorian era gave birth to major piercings, and tattoos, and so forth.  And OH! Bright red flannel bloomers—shocking!


AA: So if Lord Akeldama is coming center stage, is someone getting a spin-off?

GC: There are many side characters I’d love to write. You have to be careful with side characters because sometimes they’re not meant to be main characters.  I don’t think Lord Akebama will ever get his own book.  Sorry.  I don’t think anyone could stand to read a whole book of just him.  I mean, really, that’s a lot of epithets.  That’s like eating an entire cake yourself.  That’s a lot of sparkly, sugary frosting with glittery bits all at once. Short story . . . maybe.


But I would definitely like to do spin-offs in which these characters reappear. The beauty with writing immortals is that they can reappear in any time in history, the past or in the future, so long as I haven’t killed them, which, I generally don’t do.   Again, comedy writers, we get to disobey that fated “kill your darling” mandate.  It’s great.  We can mess with our darlings, but generally speaking we don’t kill them off.  Although, give me a chance….


Anyway, that said, there are chances for some of the other characters.  I would really like to write Alessandro’s story – he’s Alexia’s father, but he’s an anti-hero of questionable morality and I don’t know if I could sell it. There’s always that concern with the publishing house, do they want to buy it? There are certain characters that they don’t like as main characters.  I don’t think I could sell a Lord Akebama novel even if I wanted to write it.  Though it would have to have an embossed, golden cover.



AA: Do you have time to create you own pottery now? What do/did you make?

GC: Not in several years. I make teeny tiny intricately decorated archaeologically influences decorative pots.


AA: Tea is an interest of relevance in your life. What suggestions and advice do you have for the novice tea drinker or someone who would like to refine their palette and enjoyment of their tea?

GC: If the tea requires sugar, it’s not very good tea. I would start would something gentle and mild but strong, like PG Tips and a generous dollop of milk. If that doesn’t’ work for you, you aren’t’ meant to be a tea drinker.


AA: Timeless is the next book, due out in 2012. What teasers can you share with us about it?

GC: I love it. It’s a epic journey, Ivy becomes the toast of the stage and has to ride a donkey in public, and everyone learns a little more about prudence.


AA: In a previous talk, you mentioned that Timeless will be the last book featuring Alexia. What are your thoughts and plans for prequels, sequels, spinoffs or other stories set in the same world?

GC: I have time lags between Heartless and Timeless. I think there’s certainly a hole for some possible short stories. And it’s not completely unlikely that I won’t pick her up again, if there’s a story that Alexia Maccon really wanted to tell in the future.  But I am not a beat-that-dead-horse-beat-it writer.  So, in case I die tomorrow, I want to leave a finished series behind.


I’ve always liked Mercedes Lackey’s approach to writing. She’ll write a few books for a set of main characters and then move on in the same universe to a different time or space or the next generation.  I’ve always wanted to write like that. In this I am deviating from the urban fantasy genre — I am capping it at five.  Orbit is not entirely happy about it, but I’m hoping they’ll buy another series which will feature the next generation.


AA: Or you can always sneak them back in as historical characters or side characters.  Like “Oh, they’re still here, they’re just not in the scene.”

GC: Exactly.  And there is that aspect, where, because I have immortals, they can just keep showing up.  I’ve taken a look at all the threads I put into place over the past four books.  I actually went back and re-read my first three very carefully (it was crazy, I haven’t done that, I haven’t read “Soulless” since I wrote it except out loud chunks at readings) to make sure that I tied up as many threads as humanly possible by the last book. I want to leave people satisfied, but there are, I’m sorry to say, threads that are not going to get a complete bow, because I don’t feel like I can do them justice.  And if I do get the opportunity to do them justice, then there are more books and shorts in that arena as well.



Thank you so much, Gail, for joining us for this interview! It’s been a pleasure, as always, to chat with you, and I’m looking forward to seeing you at the next convention!


Until next time, readers, follow more from Gail on her website.


Get your copy of Gail’s books here:






Published in: on September 11, 2011 at 7:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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