Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
I grew up reading and re-reading Verne, Kipling, Stevenson, Doyle, and the not-Victorian mysteries of Agatha Christie while trying to memorize the entirety of Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott” for reasons I’m still not certain I could articulate. At the same time, I fancied myself something of an amateur naturalist (though at 10 I probably wouldn’t have used that word) and spent an inordinate amount of time messing around with age-inappropriate powders and vials that resulted in the cigar-box pinning and labeling of many unfortunate insects. My teen years were draped in velvet, and at 16 I felt that elbow-length black silk evening gloves were appropriate for almost every occasion, including math class. And I spent too much time thinking about and trying to procure tea, which was not at all easy to come by in my small mountain-ringed Utah town.
In other words, Gail Carriger is in oh so many ways the wheelhouse of my formative years, discovered slightly later, but no less welcome for that. The world she creates (and it is a world, both on and off the page) is full of dirigibles, social commentary, mechanicals, custard, tea, diabolical secret societies, werewolves, proper manners, perfect curtsies, and treacle tarts, which is to say it’s delightful and immersive and subversive all at once. If you’re looking for fun and froth, mystery and adventures, parasols and poison, Gail’s world is what you want; if it’s an ongoing and masterful dismantling of the Hero’s Journey, the Parasol Protectorate series is just the thing; if an unusual heroine (“with family and friends,” as Spike bemoans) flying cheese pie, and subtle examinations of race, class, and gender, among other things, sound exciting, you need to meet Sophronia, of the Finishing School series. Or you might be, like me, waiting for the release of Prudence (The Custard Protocol: Book One) on March 17th because it’s impossible to resist a book wherein “a marauding team of outrageous miscreants in a high tech dirigible [charges] about fixing things, loudly and mainly with tea.”
Please imagine me performing one perfect curtsy here. Thank you, Gail!
Always Something There to Remind Me
- Photo by Robert Andruszko
Please describe your teenage self.
A demanding, arrogant, overachiever nerd-type with an unexpected interest in fashion who was constantly reading or writing. Not all that different from now, frankly. Except perhaps the overachiever part.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
An archaeologist, because I wanted to touch history.
What were your high school years like?
I actually really enjoyed high school. I met, made, and kept most of my still-dearest friends. I remember laughing… a lot. I wasn’t a depressive kid. I didn’t have an identity crisis. I was proud to be weird, nerdy, and an outsider. I spoke up in class. I had a healthy relationship with food and exercise. I went to my first convention. I learned to sew and took up cosplay. I was the first to drive amongst my group, so I had purpose. I was a scholarship kid at a prep school so I was challenged. I had some fantastic teachers. And if I did need to escape, I just read books.
What were some of your passions during that time?
I remember being obsessed with Monty Python, Tamora Pierce, and dancing. I was on the swim team, but never really a team player. Dressing up and thrifting for unique fashion was very important. This was the 90s, so grunge was in and it was easy to be stylish on the cheap. I got into throwing massive costume parties and my house quickly became one of the primary gathering places (I had the “cool parents,” still do).
Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?
My parents’ divorce was rough, but then I had plenty of role models. Nearly all my friends were also the children of divorced parents; I just came to it later than everyone else. It didn’t really effect how I thought about romance, but it did force me to rethink how I conceived of family. As a result threads of friendship, and the concept of building one’s own family, and the importance of loyalty weave through many of my books. My main characters are never going to be solitary agents against the universe in a hero’s journey kind of way. In fact, I react strongly against that archetype. Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Gail Carriger