Gail Carriger: Remember to Behave
Gail Carriger was born in Bolinas, West Marin, CA. She attended high school at Marin Academy, and did her undergrad work at Oberlin College. She got a master’s of science in archaeological materials at Nottingham University in England in 2000, and went to the University of California Santa Cruz for her MA in anthropology, with a focus on archaeology, graduating in 2008.
First novel Soulless debuted in 2009 and began the Parasol Protectorate series of Victorian-era steampunk romances, which continues with Changeless (2010) and Blameless (2010), and has final volumes Heartless and Timeless forthcoming. The books became bestsellers, and Soulless won an Alex Award from the American Library Association. Carriger was a finalist this year for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
“I’m like a lot of science fiction and fantasy readers, in that I started really young. My parents read me Tolkien when I was ten. My mom’s British, so she’s a wonderful reader. She’s got a lovely British accent, and she does all the different voices. But she’s too slow, and so when she got halfway through Tolkien I took it away from her and finished it on my own. That was the beginning for me. It took me much longer to get into science fiction. I found some of my fantasy authors who had written science fiction, and that was my entry.
‘‘My best friend in high school got published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress #10, when she was around 15 years old. It wasn’t really a jealousy thing, but it certainly made me think, ‘Well, if she can get published, I could probably get published.’ And I did get published a couple of years later, when I was 18 years old.”
“There isn’t a lot of comedy in science fiction and fantasy. There are some big names, by and large male, writing a certain kind of humor that appeals to a certain kind of audience. I was interested in seeing if I could write the kind of humor that would appeal to female readers, because they are the majority of readers and I’ve always enjoyed reading women authors myself. Also, I started writing Soulless at the beginning of the economic recession, and I wanted something that would cheer people up. I don’t want to be gritty or edgy; I just want people to giggle when they read my book, and I want them to be smiling at the end of it. So that was what I went for.”
“I knew from attending a lot of conventions and talking to a lot of other wannabe authors and people from the industry, that authors are responsible for a lot of their own promotion now. If you want to make it a career (writing became my livelihood, and I do depend on its income), you need to think of yourself not as an artist but as an artisan. In other words, you have to write stuff that people want to read, and you have to consider the market when you’re creating your product. Whether you like it or not, both your books and you as an author are a product now that has to be sold.”
“There will probably be a total of five books in this Parasol Protectorate series. I just finished Book four, and Book five is all planned out. I mostly tie up the main story lines, though I do leave some little things hanging. It isn’t one big overarching plotline. Soulless is pretty much a standalone, Changelesss and Blameless kind of go together, and then Heartless and Timeless are more like standalones again. I don’t bother to re-explain my world all that often, so you might be a little confused if you jumped straight into the latest, but you can usually pick that up if you’re a perceptive enough reader.
‘‘After that, I’ve left myself the option to play in the universe a lot more. I hope to have the opportunity to work with the next generation of characters, and I also like the idea of earlier history. There are a lot of really popular minor characters in my books that I could give their own books: to see what they were like in the past. While it is lovely to write in a contemporary setting and just be able to write without having to think about anything else (it’s so fast!), I do love history. It’s my playground, and always has been.”
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