As she walked toward the audience, dressed impeccably, the first thing New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger does is warn the crowd. “I like to pace.”
And so she eschews standing behind a lectern like many authors, and instead moves about, a habit, she says with a smile, stems from her teaching days, where the only way she knew if her students were awake was by seeing their heads turn as they followed her around the room.
But there is no chance any of the excited people in the crowd would fall asleep.
— GeekyLibrary (@GeekyLibrary) March 19, 2015
Even a half hour before the Gail Carriger’s author event last night at Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing, the chairs were filled with fans, including some sporting the latest in steampunk fashion, all in anticipation of hearing Gail Carriger speak.
Carriger’s newest book, Prudence, came out March 17 is the first book in the The Custard Protocol, a new series set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate. Having just read Soulless (review forthcoming), book one in the aforementioned series, I have to say, I’m really excited to read more set in the richly imagined world.
— GeekyLibrary (@GeekyLibrary) March 19, 2015
Prudence, also known as Rue, was the character Carriger always intended to write. Her first book, Soulless, was intended to be a standalone book to set up events for Rue’s character. She also has a very different personality from Alexia Tarabotti, protagonist of the Parasol Protectorate. Although still possessed with a sense of humor, Alexia is the straight character, who responds to outlandish characters and events very pragmatically.
Foregoing reading from the new book—Carriger points out that the audience can do that themselves— she instead opened the floor up to questions.
In my opinion, the comedy is probably the best thing about Soulless, and her sense of humor definitely came through at the author event.
Gail Carriger was asked how easily writing humor comes to her. She responded that historically, her funny writing always sold better than more serious pieces. It also has to do with her personality.
“I like people in general who don’t take themselves seriously. If I’m going to spend 6 to 8 months with these characters, they better be lighthearted.”
In addition, Carriger said “I’m nervous about writing romance and really nervous at writing…” she lowered her voice, “…necking scenes.”
“Comedy was my way of coping.”
Writing in the same world in different periods, does Carriger ever get her timelines mixed up?
“Not really,” she said, “I think it’s an archeology thing.” Carriger said. Along with being an author, she is also an archeologist. She has other difficulties however.
“I get my own characters confused sometimes,” she admitted and then said that somewhere in London is a Parasol Protectorate fan who has a whole wall devoted to a whiteboard that maps out all the timelines and characters, major and minor.
Someday, “I feel she’s going to catch me out,” Carriger said with a laugh, “I should get her on a hotline— ‘Did I kill this one off?'”
Carriger said she “cheats” when it comes to describing locations in her books. Many of the places described in her books are from archeological sites she’s worked on.
In fact, she made Alexia Tarabotti part Italian because she knew she wanted to take her to Italy at some point— a scene that finally happened in Blameless, the third book in the Parasol Protectorate.
“Basically, her entire identity was because I wanted to take her on that picnic,” she said with an amused smile.
In Imprudence, the second book in the Custard Protocol, due out in 2016, Rue goes to Egypt, potentially to “tie up lose ends” that may have been left there from Alexia, Gail Carriger hinted.
This isn’t a spoiler, she insists, if you’ve seen the cover of Imprudence.
Beyond the World
The Parasol Protectorate, her young adult Finishing School series, and the new series The Custard Protocol are all set in the same universe. Does she plan on writing a book set in a different world?
“I really like the world I’ve built,” Carriger said.
“I really admire authors who built worlds they could then play in,” she said, listing Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey and Tamora Pierce as examples. Describing it as a “sandbox,” she says she’s content for now to play in it.
Carriger has dabbled in other genres, including science fiction. However, the world of the Parasol Protectorate has so many elements— steampunk, victorian, supernatural, gothic, mystery, romance— that there are still so many options for her to explore.
She hopes to write shorter stories set in the same world, novellas that cover different characters. Including one about Channing (a character first introduced in Changless) who Carriger said “wants his own book.”
“I know,” she said, holding up her hand to stem any possible protest, “but he’s got to meet the girl who will bring him to heel,” she said, flashing a mischievous smile.
But after the release of Imprudence, Carriger plans to take a bit of a break. Since the release and subsequent success of Soulless, she has written about one book every 6 months, which is a rather breakneck pace.
Still, Carriger promises not to go “all George R.R. Martin” on her fans and keep them waiting for years.
With all her writing, is it hard for her to find time to read other authors?
“Not anymore,” Carriger answered triumphantly.
Her new policy is to no longer try to write while traveling. This gives her more time to read.
“I’m a voracious reader, most writers are. Or if not, they ought to be… I’m very suspicious of an author who doesn’t read.”
Right now, she is trying to read more debut authors, her way to pay it forward. She picks about one book a month to read. Fans can follow along in “Gail’s Book Group” discussion board on Goodreads.
Carriger says she’s a picky reader, but “If there’s a book where a girl dresses as a guy to defeat the patriarchy? Sold. I’m there,” she said enthusiastically.
Interested? Gail Carriger jokingly described her books as a steampunk “gateway drug.”