During this exciting week here in the world of the Witchbreed, I have the great pleasure of welcoming steampunk star, Gail Carriger to my online home.
Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urbane fantasy. Her books include the Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in 18 different languages and has 13 NYT bestsellers via 7 different lists (including #1 in Manga). She was once an archaeologist and is overly fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.
RLM: What age were you when you decided to pursue writing as a career?
GC: I was already an adult. (And no, I won’t own my age.) I had a successful career in archaeology. A year after Soulless released, I realized I might actually have a career as a writer. I still haven’t recovered from the shock.
RLM: Would you describe yourself as a “pantser” writer or a “planner?”
GC: I am definitely a planner. I schedule out my daily tasks, when to write, and my social events. I also outline my books and stick to them as rigidly as possible. I like to say that “I obey my outline overlord.”
RLM: You write in the often slippery steampunk subgenre. What draws you to steampunk? And what do you think are the essential elements of the genre?
GC: My Mum is a tea–swilling ex–pat. I was raised on British children’s books (Tom’s Midnight Garden, The Borrowers, The Water-Babies, Wind in the Willows) and I spent many a youthful summer in Devon, some months as a PA in London, and two years of graduate school in Nottingham. It was this, plus the fashion aesthetic, that first drew me to steampunk – the beauty of 19th century clothing but with a less rigid everyday feel.
There is a delicate balance to steampunk. Writers must research the language of the day. However, getting too flowery and Victorian can make a story inaccessible to the modern reader. It is hard to make everyone happy. There are always going to be readers who want hard science–orientated steampunk and others who can’t wade through all that techno–babble. I like to say I write steampunk–light – a gateway drug, if you will. I also feel you can’t go wrong with comedy, that’s always lacking, even in the broader genres of SF/F, romance, horror, and mystery (steampunk has been classified under any of the above).
GC: I conduct business in the mornings and then write from 2 to 7 pm every weekday – with breaks for tea. My policy is simply to hurl the nearest movable object at anyone who disturbed me. They eventually learn, even the cat.
RLM: Because many of your books contain strong romantic elements, I’d love to know what you believe is the key to creating a convincing and satisfying love story?
GC: Both characters have to be real and have flaws, and both need to have powerful personalities. My couples bicker but they also laugh. Because that’s what we all do in relationships.
RLM: Upon publication of Soulless, you became a major player in the fantasy genre. What has most surprised you in the wake of your success?
GC: Everything. I never stop being surprised. Nothing is ever as bad as I anticipate, or as good as I had hoped.
RLM: What do you want to have accomplished when you’ve come to the end of your career?
GC: I’d like to be at least one person’s favorite author. And I’d like to leave knowing I cheered people up and made them smile. I don’t think I could ask for more.
And makes sure to scoop up Gail’s forthcoming title: