Interview 108 – Shades of Aether author, Gail B. Williams

This week we are talking with Gail B. Williams, author of Shades of Aether.


Airship Ambassador: Hi Gail, thanks for coming by for a chat.

Gail B. Williams: Hello Sir, it’s wonderful to be here.

AA: Readers may know you from your previous work, including Locked Up, Sinful Pleasures, and Last Cut Casebook. Can you share a bit with our readers about your latest book, Shades of Aether?

GBW: Shades is the story of Amethyst Forester and Benjamin Maker (though only ever call him Maker). He is Lord Fotheringham, the Fifth Earl of Umbria. She is a feisty, independent and intelligent women who challenges the restrictions of the age in which she lives.  In particular she challenges Maker.  A member of the House of Lords, and a more over a man of his word, Maker struggles between what he feel duty bound to do and what he wants to do.

The two are thrown together when their mutual friend, Professor Richards, is murdered and they jointly inherit his home – much to Lady Fotheringham’s displeasure.  The fall out of the Professor’s untimely demise is the mystery that Amethyst and Maker have to solve and keep not only their two household, but Parliament and international relations on an even keel.

This is a steampunk novel, but it’s also just about the gentlest crime story I have ever written.  Maker is also my favourite character.  He just turned up one day in my head and knocked on my skull demanded to be written.  Unfortunately that was 1996 and it took us a while to figure out where he belonged, turned out that Victorian high society London was the place he is most at home.

AA: The description alone is pretty engaging. With Maker fitting in so well in the 1800s, why go on to choose steampunk as the aesthetic?

GBW: I am quite a newcomer to this genre and I loved it from the first moment I read it.  It’s beautiful and fun and inventive.  I know steampunk is much wider than just Victoriana, but that’s the arena that appeals most to me.  There’s an elegance and adventure to the real history of the period and the addition that steampunk can bring appeals to me because of the imagination and splendour it adds.  I also have to admit to a weakness for corsetry, as bad for the health as these instruments of occasional torture were.


AA: Elegance and adventure, that about sums up my ideal steampunk story, along with a bit of the requisite grit. What was the spark for creating Shades of Aether?

GBW:  I knew I wanted to do something McGuffin-y, some wild inventions that could remake the world.  At first I wasn’t sure what, so I thought about the characters to start, and Maker was the one in my head screaming, “Hey isn’t is time you got around to writing me properly yet?” He was originally a contemporary Detective Inspector, but my editor basically trashed that novel – because of the other main character, not Maker – and that novel will never see the light of day again, but Maker had to.  Then I wrote The Steel Inside for the Steel and Bone anthology and as I was writing that, I realised that that was the world in which Maker belonged. “Maker in a cravat” then started kicking me under the table, nudging me to be written, so he was a lot of the impetus to write Shades.

Originally I thought I could rewrite the contemporary crime story in Victorian times, but quickly threw that idea out, along with Maker’s original foil, Autumn Raine.  Instead I had to find a new lady, developing Amethyst.  My first idea was that they would be active investigators of the murder, but as I started to write the pair I realised that that didn’t immediately work with their characters or their positions in the society they had to inhabit.

So I started asking all those what if questions.  What if the professor was working on something that got him killed?  What if it was something that was still in the house?  What if it had implications for the whole country?  What if Maker was miserable at home?  What if being with Amethyst was the one thing that made him happy?  What if he couldn’t be with her?  What if she was more of a handful than any woman he had ever had to deal with?  What if she was so independent he couldn’t keep her safe?  Oh there were a million and one other things that I asked myself, but then when does an author not challenge themselves that way?


AA: Those “What ifs” can really drive a lot of brainstorming and wild creativity, and not just in writing. Are there key themes in Shades of Aether which readers will pick up on?

GBW: If there is a central theme, it’s the dominance of the mind, the need for control.  Amethyst is inquisitive and intelligent; her place in the world has come about because she is determined to use her mind and not to let social convention bind her in her place.  She shouldn’t have inherited a fortune or have gained a foothold in high society, but she does.  And she proves her worth by being both practical, resilient and intelligent – just what any young woman of any age should be. Maker is similarly intelligent, but he’s had to use his intelligence for control, not of others, that would, for the most part, be abhorrent to him.  He has to control himself because the one time he let emotion rule it was the biggest mistake of his life.

AA: That sounds like a pivotal moment in the story where Amethyst and the reader can learn much more about Maker. Aside from independence and control, what are other personality traits, motivations, and inner qualities of Amethyst and Maker?

GBW: I think both Amethyst and Maker (he doesn’t allow just anyone to call him Ben or Benjamin – including me) are actually very similar.  They are intelligent, capable, strong and true to their world.  They are both dutiful and honourable.  Another similarity is also the source of their differences – each is the product of their own upbringing.  The difference of course is that Maker is an Earl and Amethyst is the daughter of a merchant.  They are both seeking the freedom to express themselves. Each wants to be admired for they they consider to be their true selves, but both are afraid to show the true glory of what that is. They want to love and to be loved, but when they see that in each other, there are insurmountable obstructions between them.


AA: How do they grow throughout the story, or do they?

GBW: It is the change in the worlds they inhibit that affects both.  Though they don’t change in essentials, as their worlds collide they face new challenges – each other.  Amethyst has to learn to be stronger, more self-assured, and to develop a more accepting approach of those around her though they sorely test her patience.  Maker probably suffers more because Amethyst brings him back to life – not literally, he’s not a zombie.  But he’s spent most of his adult life controlling every expression of emotion to the point that he refuses to feel any. Amethyst makes him feel again – and it’s the second most torturous thing he’s ever had to deal with because he can’t act on what he feels. If you want to know the most painful event in his life was, that’s in his past and you’ll start to get a glimmer of what it was in Shades.


We’ll take a  break here in chatting with Gail

Join us next time when Gail talks about characterization and world details

Until then, keep up to date with Gail’s latest news on her website,

You can support Gail and our community by getting your copy of Shades of Aether here.


Published in: on March 19, 2018 at 8:40 pm  Comments (4)