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Gail Carriger Author Interview
Whitney Sullivan: Your heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, has no soul (and her partner is a werewolf) - what does she find most inconvenient about these unusual circumstances?
Gail Carriger: She will turn supernatural creatures mortal when she touches them. This can be terribly embarrassing, not to say fatal, for said creatures. It also means that on several occasions certain baser elements of society are actively trying to kill her, without proper introduction – so rude. One side effect of her soulless state is that Alexia is very practical in her approach to coping with most problems (including said werewolf partner). She either bashes them over the head with her parasol, or talks at them, with equally disastrous results.
WS: Alexia walks the line between steampunk and urban fantasy, a woman who can face any situation head on with verve. Do you ever find yourself frustrated by your can-do heroine?
GC: Never. She is my favorite kind of character to write – practical to a fault, capable in a crisis, frustrating to the other characters around her, and all too often getting herself into impossible situations out of sheer nerve. It can be a little annoying trying to write myself out of the corner Alexia has gotten the plot into, but she is also rich in friends, so she has aid in times of dire need.
WS: Alexia loves her parasol, what's an accessory (other than your beloved vintage 1950s black Dior suit) that you'd hate to be without?
GC: These days I am rarely without some kind of octopus jewelry. I'm amassing quite the collection, and I love it! Also I have taken to traveling with a little heating coil and my own personal tea cup, not sure if those count as accessories, but I do love me my cuppa.
WS: You've set your Parasol Protectorate series in alternate Victorian London, what was something you knew had to be the same as our London?
GC: I knew I wanted certain key historical events to stay in place. Most major wars and battles still occurred, but the real reasons behind them were different. For example, King Henry the Eighth broke with the Catholic Church, but it was over acceptance of the supernatural (those divorces were just a front). I also knew I wanted to take the same tactic with the most ridiculous aspects of Victorian fashion. High cravats? Hide the bite marks. Confining bustle-skirts and healed boots? Keeps prey from moving too fast.
WS: You have just sold books four and five in the series, congrats! You called Blameless "an absolute nightmare" to write, what is something you did during the process that you will not repeat during your next books?
GC: After I finished Blameless I realized many of the events were happening to Alexia, rather than her taking charge of matters. It was out of character and it bothered my beta readers, my editor, and me. At the eleventh hour I decided I really wanted to fix it. In the space of two weeks I rewrote about 1/3 of the book. It was worth it, and it has become much stronger as a result, but what a pain! I'm not letting that happen in the next two books. But they are getting increasingly difficult to write for other reasons. There are now so many threads and minor characters to keep in mind, not to mention different elements of the world building to include, all while not loosing the irreverence and comedy of the early books and still keeping the plot moving. I never realized how difficult an (unplanned) series was to write. That said, I'm having fun spoofing different kinds of Victorian literature in each book: early romantic fiction, gothic horror, schoolboy's adventure stories, Holmes style mysteries, and even lady's travel journals.
GC: Absolutely, I love continuing to explore minor characters and exposing their hidden depths and secret pasts, especially if I have initially set them up to be one sided or frivolous. I enjoy writing with a full cast of well-loved quirky personalities. I'll also like to drop back in very very minor characters, who may have only been mentioned once, as a cookie to reward the careful reader.
WS: You've got quite a web presence, what would you suggest people new to steampunk use as a launchpad? (i.e. books, websites, podcasts?)
GC: I'd be remiss if I didn't say try the steampunk section of my website. Any other links or forums I could suggest are all mentioned there, and I'd probably forget the important ones if I just went off the top of my head. That page has my definition of steampunk; recommended websites, blogs, and salons; lists of books, magazines, YouTube videos, and films; and, of course, pretty pictures and a section all about steampunk fashion.
GC: I'm a terribly fickle mistress, I always love the one I'm with most, which means (right now) it's Blameless. I adore Paris in the background and the gargoyle. Everything is better with a gargoyle, don't you feel? Changeless gave me stick for certain, shall we say, "non-Victorian" reasons, which had to be explained-away in the copy-edits. That said, I like the teal color of that dress best (so much I had one made up for myself). I had a personal hand in the selection of the cover for Soulless, so it's still dear to my heart.