Good afternoon, Gail! Thank you for joining me for an interview today! I am so excited to hear about your writing process, your books, and your vision of steampunk.
This is going to be fun, I am looking forward to it.
So tell me about The Parasol Protectorate!
Well, I like to call it comedy of manners steampunk. It's a fun, light-hearted romantic romp through my oddball steampunk universe.
Sounds delightful. What sets your steampunk world apart from those of others?
I have an oddball approach. Instead of writing alternate history, I like to take history that actually happened and re-explain it. For example: King Henry still breaks with the Catholic church, but it's because he wants to use Vampires and Werewolves openly in his army. The divorce thing is just a front.
I love that idea. It offers a new way to include vampires and werewolves in a market that's getting oversaturated with them.
Exactly. Also, it allows me to explain away everything that confuses me about Victorian England. How did one tiny island conquer an empire? They had werewolves in the front lines.
Did you have any concerns about your vampire/werewolf lore getting lost amid the rest?
Concerns? Not really. My approach is rather flippant. Also, I based my vampires on wasp hive dynamics, which no one else seems to have done.
So they are more of a hive mind?
Yes, tethered to a queen. The queen is the only maker, and she is trapped in one location with her vampires and drones (human servants) tethered to her. Unless, of course, something awful happens and she has to swarm. I wanted a contrast to the werewolf Alpha model, with a strong female center to the vampires.
A matriarchal system! Nice to see that in vampire lore.
Exactly! And the queens are pretty darn powerful; for one thing, they lead fashion.
I'll come back to the matriarchal theme in a minute! But to chase a rabbit - is fashion a big influence in your world?
Oh, yes. Very important. Mostly because Victorian fashion is so ridiculous it's an opportunity for humor, and to show how the vampires influence culture. Those high neck cravats? Excellent for hiding bite marks.
I'm trixy like that. And I just enjoy having fun with my world-building.
I noticed your main character’s last name is Tarabotti. I wrote about Arcangela Tarabotti’s proto-feminist essay Paternal Tyranny in a women’s art history class a few semesters ago, so that really grabbed my attention. Is there a connection?
Yes! That is so, so cool that you know of her!
As I was constructing my world and playing with the idea of soullessness, I came across her treatise defending women as having souls. I just had to name Alexia after her. Also, it gave Alexia an Italian heritage and a swarthy complexion (great marginalizing character elements).
And, of course, fun irony for those who knew the original Tarabotti, that Alexia does not, in fact, have a soul.
Great reference to an amazing woman and an early feminist. Since you mention marginalized characters, is there any commentary on the colonial conquests of Victorian England?
Ah, not in my first two series. The Parasol Protectorate is more concerned with London's culturally marginalized, particularly LBGT characters. The Finishing School (my YA series) tackles issues of class. My new series, The Custard Protocol, is going to touch on imperialism. I don't write with a message in mind, but these things sort of leak in. Because I write comedy, I can get away with a lot.
Sounds like you take on some heavy themes with a light touch. I think the story first, message second method really creates the most natural end result!
Yes, exactly. And I really don't do it intentionally, it just sort of leaks in.
What are you working on currently?
Right now I am late (sigh) on edits for my fourth and final Finishing School book. Then I start writing the second book in the new adult Custard Protocol series, due out in 2016. I'm horribly behind.
Sounds like you have a very busy schedule!
I do. I'm hoping to slow down in 2016. Eyes on the prize!
Who are you reading lately? Any memorable reads from 2014?
Oh my goodness, I've been reading so much. I was on vacation and then sick, so... you know.
I read the YA One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva, which I enjoyed (I read a lot of YA). I have a list of my 10 Favorite books of 2014.
Wonderful! I love browsing the end-of-year book lists.
If you asked me to pick one? Rachel Bach's Paradox series was wonderful. It's a military space opera, but she uses urban fantasy tricks for pace and romance, it's fantastic.
Sounds cool! I will check it out. One last question - what would you tell writers who are just starting out?
Finish what you write. Nothing can happen if you don't finish.
That is a good New Year's (and all year) Resolution for us all!
It is, indeed.
I really appreciate you taking the time to share some of your writing life with us.
Thank you so much for having me!
New York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urban fantasy. Her debut novel, Soulless, won the ALA's Alex Award. The following books were all bestsellers. She was once an archaeologist and is currently writing her YA Finishing School series. She is overly fond of tea.
You can find out more about Gail's books on her website! Be sure to follow her on Twitter for the latest updates.
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