Author Interview: Gail Carriger

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Gail Carriger is the acclaimed author of ‘The Parasol Protectorate’ books, of which the third installment is in stores now. She took some time out of her busy schedule to let us know a little more about her.

Tell us about your series ‘The Parasol Protectorate’?

Imagine Jane Austen took a fancy to dabbling in science and steam technology. Then imagine PG Wodehouse suddenly dropped vampires into the Drones Club. The Parasol Protectorate books are the resulting progeny. They feature Alexia Tarabotti, soulless, autocratic Victorian harridan, and her increasingly eccentric group of friends.

Alexia is prone to charging about London, then across England, and eventually through Europe on her quest to foil various evil plots. She is assisted, and sometimes hindered, in her endeavors by a band of scruffy werewolf soldiers, a cadre of gay vampires, a cross-dressing female inventor, and a very silly best friend with a predilection for atrocious hats.

gail carriger

Where did the inspiration for ‘The Parasol Protectorate’ come from?

The simple fact is: this was what I wanted to read. I like steampunk but it tends to be a little too dark and riddled with technobabble for me. I enjoy urban fantasy but am not wild about a modern setting. So I thought I might just combine the two, and then shake it up with a jot more romance and a whole lot of comedy.

Then I started thinking about what kind of world could accommodate all these different elements. I’m familiar with the Victorian era and I find it a rich source of amusement in and of itself. Those ridiculous fashions and that obsession with etiquette seem the perfect time period to drop in vampires (dictating such things) and werewolves (chaffing against them) not to mention steam technology.

It seemed to me that what comedy I couldn’t supply with plot and character, an alternate Victorian London could provide just by being itself.

When did you decide you wanted to be a published author?

The moment my best friend had a short story accepted. She was 15. I figured if she could do it, so could I. Two years later I sold a short to the same market. She now works in the publishing industry, so I’m still trailing behind.

How did you break into the industry?

Well, let me tell you! I had a stunning debut at age eight with a brilliant saga of calico cat goes adventuring on flying carpet. Sometime after that, I hit high school with a vengeance producing several acclaimed exposés on the nature of Roman battle tactics.

Sadly, I hit a real low spot during my university years concentrating on rightly snubbed short lived treatises on gender dynamics in Ancient Greek plays. Yeah, Soulless would be my debut. I submitted it to the slush pile and an editor called me on the phone two months later.

Do you share any character traits with your lead character Alexia Tarabotti?

Alexia and I are similar than I’d like to admit, I suspect. Oh, wait, I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I might incriminate myself! Actually, bits of my personality come out in three of my characters, one of which doesn’t appear until the second book. I’ll leave my readers to guess which three.


I have heard the series described as ‘steampunk romance’, can you explain to us what that is?

Steampunk is a re-imagining of the past where steam technology never died, and electricity never dominated, and a Victorian aesthetic overshadows all. I use steampunk, comedy, and our own modern perspective on romance to parody gothic and Victorian romantic fiction. So that may explain the moniker. I prefer “urbane fantasy,” or possibly “teapunk.”

How did you decide which elements of history to use and re-explain?

I like to sneak in crazy Victorian gadgets that actually existed whenever I can, or modify them to suit my needs. Some of the technologies in my books are built out of flawed Victorian scientific theory that I made real. I knew I wanted certain key historical events to stay in place.

Most major wars and battles are still there, but the real reasons behind them are different, and those came to me strangely organically. 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 your prey from moving too fast.

What can we expect to come next for Alexia Tarabotti?

Well Alexia is busy waddling about London dealing with a mystery that involves, for the first time, a death threat on someone who’s not her! Also there may (or may not) be zombie porcupines.

Gail Carriger seems to be more of an alter ego than a pseudonym, would you like to share with us how that came to be?

You know, my friends do find it a bit creepy sometimes because I refer to her as separate from myself. As in, “Gail has her own wardrobe but we share shoes.” To which one of them will say, “You do realise you are the same person, right?” Often, these days, I wonder if she is more real than I am. She is certainly very demanding.

What similarities do you and Gail Carriger share?

Well, to give my friends credence, we really are the same person, so . . . all of them. It’s just some qualities and quirks she has in moderation and I have in spades and the others are visa versa.

What direction do you see Gail Carriger’s career taking once ‘The Parasol Protectorate’ series reaches its conclusion?

Well wouldn’t say no to writing more books set in the same world, but there are other worlds out there waiting to be explored. Then again perhaps I could retire and take up shoe shopping. I am also on a one woman quest to improve the fashion sense of genre readers. It’s an uphill battle that could take the rest of my natural life.

Are there any plans for you to write as yourself, or using any other aliases?

Nope. Can you imagine, I’d have to buy yet another wardrobe. Ooo, now wait a moment . . .

What does being a woman mean to you?

More clothing options!

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