Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

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Interview with NY Times Bestseller ‘Finishing School’ and ‘Parasol Protectorate’ author Gail Carriger

New York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Ms. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported from London.

‘Etiquette & Espionage’ is her YA steampunk most recently released, and ‘Curtsies & Conspiracies’ is book two in that Finishing School series, out November 5. The graphic novel (manga) adaptation of her third book, ‘Blameless’, is also due out this year in November.


For what age audience do you write?

To the best of my knowledge, my youngest reader is 10 and the oldest is 95. The language is Victorian in tone but modernized to be more comfortable than, for example, Dickens might be for a young reader. These make great gateway books for Austen. While ‘Soulless’ did win an Alex Award it is not intentionally young adult. There is violence (generally comical) and nookie (not overly explicit) so if you are concerned please skim through the text first yourself. That’s one of the many reasons I wrote my new ‘Finishing School’ series, which is intended for a YA audience.

As for genre, my adult books are usually filed under science fiction / fantasy although some stores put them into romance and few have stuck them into horror. I consider all my books a mix of steampunk and urban fantasy. I like Carrie Vaughn’s term “urbane fantasy” which nicely incorporates both sub–genres. There’s also the delightful “teapunk.” There’s certainly enough tea in my books for that. I like to spoof the original Gothic classics so there is also good dose of comedy in the ‘Parasol Protectorate’ – giggling readers are good.

Henry: “Teapunk” I love it!

Tell us about your latest book

The ‘Finishing School’ series is set in the same world as the ‘Parasol Protectorate’, only 25 years earlier, and features a finishing academy located in a giant caterpillar-like dirigible floating over Dartmoor in which young ladies are taught to . . . finish . . . everything . . . and everyone . . . as needed. There is steampunk etiquette! There is well-dressed espionage! There is Victorian fake food. There are flying mechanical sausage dogs named Bumbersnoot. The first book, ‘Etiquette & Espionage’, released Feb 5, 2013 as an instant New York Times Bestseller. It can be purchased anywhere fine books are sold. The second book ‘Curtsies & Conspiracies’ is out Nov. 5 of this year, just in time for the holidays.

Henry: I can totally see a dog-owner naming their Dachshund Bumbersnoot!

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I want to cheer people up and give them a fun read. Maybe keep one or two readers up all night. I love it when people complain I made them laugh out loud on public transport. Other then that I have no real agenda. I also would love to be at least one person’s favorite author.

Henry: There is also the hard-to-attain goal of making someone laugh so hard that their drink comes out their nose. But first, laughing while on public transport.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Honestly and rather crudely? 1. Sit your arse in that chair and write. 2. When you’re done writing only then do you get to edit. 3. Give it to three highly critical people to attack with red pens. 4. Fix it and submit it. 5. Let it go, sit your arse back down and write something else as different from the first as possible. 6. Wash and repeat.

Henry: Yup. Persistence and developing one’s craft. That’s writing craft, not aerial craft.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Dum spiro spero which means “While I breathe, I hope” (paraphrased from Theocritus and Cicero). I also like Terry Pratchett’s FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC the motto of The Ankh-Morpork City Watch. I have a weakness for Latin… and pseudo Latin.

Henry: The Watch’s current motto is “FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC”, as inscribed on the old Treacle Mine Road Watch House. Apparently, the last part of the original “Fabricati Diem, Pvncti Agvnt Celeriter” (“Make the Day, the Moments Pass Quickly”) was deleted. The motto is actually pseudo-Latin, and doesn’t actually mean “Make my day, punk”, although it should.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I require a cup of tea, as a general rule. But I don’t think that’s strange.

Henry: Not at all. Plus, writing without “t” would be the far less interesting wriing.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The ability to breathe under water. I practically live in the water already, and this would simply be a useful extension of my natural proclivities.

Henry: It would also protect you from the risk of drinking your tea too quickly.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

P.G. Wodehouse, Jane Austen, and Gerald Durrell. Because I think that would be hilarious conversation.

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully provides: “Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was an English humorist, whose body of work includes novels, short stories, plays, poems, song lyrics and numerous pieces of journalism. He enjoyed enormous popular success during a career that lasted more than seventy years, and his many writings continue to be widely read.

Gerald “Gerry” Malcolm Durrell was an English naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author and television presenter. He founded what is now called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo (now Durrell Wildlife Park) on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1958, but is perhaps best remembered for writing a number of books based on his life as an animal collector and enthusiast.”

Jane Austen was… well, if you don’t know, you should stop reading my blog and go read ‘Sense and Sensibility’ or ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“Classic author moment, “Oh dear, did I kill that character or not?”
or perhaps.
She would rather have drowned in tea.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.