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

Welcome back to part two of our chat with Gail B. Williams, author of Shades of Aether.

Read part one here.


Airship Ambassador: Looking behind the scenes, how did you keep the characters relatable for the readers yet still grounded in the circumstances of the story?

Gail B. Williams: Characters have to be real, and not too perfect.  No one is wholly good or completely evil. That’s how we relate to those we meet, so it’s how we have to relate to those we read.  I ask myself, could I sit and have a drink with this person, and if the answer is no, they are out of the book – and yes that does include the baddies.

Maker was at one point at risk of being too perfect, and then I threw in a few bits in his past that are hinted at through Shades that made him much more real.  Humans are fallible and so characters have to be too.  They make mistakes, they go down wrong paths.  They occasionally hurt each other.

When they need to do something, I ask if it’s what people would really do in the real world, if they were in that situation.  If the answer is no, I cut it out. It’s also important not to info dump on the reader.

There’s lots of things that make up every human, and when you meet for the first time you don’t know everything about that person, so you can’t tell the reader all about a character when they first enter the stage, you have to reveal who they are little by little until the outline becomes as detailed as a tinplate photograph (and there’s no pixilation there).

Of course, when characters are real, they develop the nasty habit of going down paths the writer never expected, watch out for Blanchard and Dickens, they came as a surprise to me.  Flora was a blast too, a late comer to the scene with her own back story that we only see a little of here, but she’s worth every word.

AA: Oh, Flora! I kept imagining Miriam Margolyes as Flora. I just loved her in Harry Potter and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. There definitely some interesting characters in this story, and that made it compelling for me to keep reading. It wasn’t just “What happens next” but also “What happens next to <character>?” Those characters live in a world, so what are some of the interesting details within the world of Shades of Aether?

GBW: Well there’s the whole Victorian backdrop, of course.  But I love the McGuffins.  Aether is a power source, yes, but it’s also a lot more flexible than that, we don’t get to see a lot of that in Shades, but there’s more to come.  CAMM is without a doubt my favourite item in the book because it was interesting to write, it’s based on the idea of a magic lantern and the Babbage machine.  Of course, there’s the ugly broach, that’s rather worth watching out for, but I don’t want to give spoilers.


AA: Fashion and apparel items playing a role in steampunk? We could have several posts about that, LOL. Lady Maker was quite an interesting, self-assured character. One interesting plotline was the, umm, adventures that she had on her own.

GBW:   «Chuckles» Ah yes, Violet is fun isn’t she?  Actually, there’s a great deal more to Violet than I’ve shown in Shades.  She isn’t exactly the nicest individual you’re ever going to meet, but she’s not evil either.  She is to a certain extent a victim of circumstance.  The fact that those circumstances were entirely brought on her by her own actions is not beside the point, this is a huge driver for her.

Her choice of, uh-umm, “adventures” actually comes from the fact that her self-assurance is in a way a shame.  The Makers understand the society in which they live and that a great deal of reputation is based on appearances, so they they keep up appearances whatever the cost.

But Violet has needs and she only knows one way to fulfil that need, in her mind she equates the act of love with the emotion of it, so she takes it where she can get it. It’s a shame she never understood that that part of her nature is a very big part of what stops the one man who did love her from continuing to do so.

AA: Put that way, now I feel a little sorry for her. Although some of her behaviour early on… Was there any scene which was really memorable to write?

GBW: Ah well, this tears me in two.  There are two scenes that I can’t forget for very different reasons – or possibly the same one, it’s the way that Amethyst and Maker interact.  The first scene is in fact, the first scene.  It was the first thing I wrote, that special moment when Amethyst and Maker meet for the first time, and once I wrote it, the rest just followed.

The second scene that I love, is the scene where Maker is under the influence and pushes into Amethyst’s bedroom, this is so opposite to how he usually behaves, for reasons that are made clear in the book, but it was an absolute joy to imagine and write.


AA: I’m sure there will be a reader or two who might be able to relate to that situation. On the flip side, any scene that you loved but which just didn’t work and had to be cut?

GBW: Actually, no.  And probably yes.  That’s the thing about being an experienced writer and an editor – and more importantly – someone who still had a day job and commute.  If I think something isn’t working or isn’t going to work, I don’t bother writing it and literally forget about it.


AA: That’s convenient. I think I might dwell on something like that until I’ve worked through every angle, just to make sure. What back story is there for Shades of Aether which didn’t make it into the final book?

GBW: Well, as mentioned before, there is a lot about Violet that we haven’t seen yet, which also means that there’s a lot about Maker we haven’t seen, and there’s one thing yet to be revealed about him that is going to rather turn Amethyst’s head for a moment or three.  Then there’s Amethyst herself.  She’d twenty years old, that’s quite old to be unmarried in that society, and there are reasons for that.  Flora is as she says, eighty-eight years old, has outlived three husbands, four children and even two grandchildren, she does not waste her time on being nice when there are faster ways to live. Any life that has lasted that long has a tale or two to tell and there’s way more to Flora than Shades could ever hold.


Well, now, I’m looking forward to some Flora stories!

We’ll take a  break here in chatting with Gail

Join us next time when Gail talks about research and writing for this book.

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 20, 2018 at 7:16 pm  Comments (3)  

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  1. […] Read part two here. […]

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