I really enjoyed Etiquette and Espionage, the first YA book by Gail Carriger, despite having not read her adult series The Parasol Protectorate (which E & E is a spin-off from.) I jumped at the chance to talk to Gail - a huge thanks to the wonderful people at The Bookbag who arranged this interview, which originally ran there.
1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, what do you see?
The first time I visited the LA area (on tour for my second book, Changeless) I had a reading. I didn't know until that moment that I had actual fans. But as I snuck through to the back of the bookstore, I saw a crowd sitting patiently waiting for me. Patiently, that is, except one small contingent of about a handful of ladies. They were being patient . . . in their way. It's just that "their way" involved amazing hats and costumes, and putting their parasols open and up and bobbing them up and down, giggling madly. When I close my eyes and think about my readers, I always see that scene in my head. At some point that day someone said, "I love Gail's readers, all the women are outrageous and all the men are polite." I love that.
2. You're an established adult author, but this is your first book for teens. How is writing for teenagers different to writing for adults?
I had to work to create a more youthful and accessible voice and characters who would grow and change with the books. Sophronia has a different world view than Alexia. She's private and introverted and must become more self actualized along the way by making new friends and discoveries. Her focus is on her immediate environment, less political, more personal.
3. I loved the world-building in Etiquette and Espionage! If you lived in your world, what do you think you'd like most about it?
The fashion, without a doubt. I take any excuse to dress up. It's one of the reasons I feel so lucky to write in the steampunk genre, there's an a aesthetic component to all steampunk conventions and I get to bring out my favorite costumes.
4. And is there anything you definitely wouldn't like about living in it?
The troublesome hygiene, medical science (or lack there of) and the food. Please, don't get me wrong, I love Victorian food, just not all the time.
5. If you could ask any author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?
Oh that's and easy one, Aeschylus. I'd ask him to tell me all about his lost plays. He is thought to have written some 90 plays of which only 6 survive. One of the great tragedies of the burning of the Library of Alexandria.
6. I thought Sophronia was a fantastic main character, clever, resourceful and extremely likeable. Who's your favourite fictional heroine?
I love Tamora Pierce's Kel (Protector of the Small series) and Alanna (the Song of the Lioness series) both tough young women making their way in a man's world. So far as adult books go, I think Mara from the Empire Trilogy (by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts) is brilliant because her ability lies in political manipulation and intelligence rather than physical prowess.
7. I'm guessing that half the people reading the book will wish at least once that they were a pupil at Mademoiselle Geraldine's, or at Bunson & Lacroix's. When you were a teen, which fictional school would you most like to have been a pupil at?
The Herald Collegium in Haven from Mercedes Lackey Valdemar books.
8. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what was the soundtrack to Etiquette and Espionage?
Never. I'm a dancer by training and if music is playing I want to dance, not write. Sometimes I can have classical on (in order to drone out a yappy dog, for example), but silence or the mummer of a cafe better suits my authorial style.
9. The 'How To Ride A Werewolf' step-by-step guide on your website may be my favourite book-related thing of the year so far. As well, your blog is fantastic! How important do you think the internet is to writers today?
For me, two best things about writing in the internet age is the ability to met ones readers online and provide insight into the world that does not fit in the books. I treat my website as a kind of place for the DVD extras, there are sketches of outfits, sources for research into the Victorian era and a whole window into the steampunk social movement. So far as the business side of writing is concerned I would find it nearly impossible to work in this industry without the internet. Apart from everything else it provides me with water cooler venues, places where I can gossip with other authors, or just relax and not thing about writing for a while. Being an author can be terribly isolating without social media.
10. What's next for Gail Carriger?
So far as publications are concerned, the second Finishing School book, Curtsies & Conspiracies, is out in November of this year. Just in time for the holidays! On the European convention front I'll be at Les Etonnants Voyageurs (Saint Malo Festival, France) May 18-20 and Imaginales, (Epinal, France) May 23-26. And hopefully in London for WorldCon in Autumn of 2014. As for writing, right now I'm working on Waistcoats & Weaponry, the third Finishing School book. I have two due this year, so I have to stay disciplined.
New York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She survived her early years by reading most of her local library and memorizing Greek battles. Eventually, she escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. In pursuit of further finishing, Ms. Carriger traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported from London.
The Parasol Protectorate books are: Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless. Soulless won the ALA's Alex Award. Manga versions of the first two books release in 2012 (Soulless Vol. 1 & Vol. 2) and the adaptation of the third is due out Winter 2013. The first in her young adult Finishing School series, Etiquette & Espionage debuted at #9 on NYT. The second in the series, Curtsies & Conspiracies is due out Nov. 2013.