Gail Carriger is a busy bee, touring around for her new book Etiquette & Espionage, but she took some time to answer a few questions about the new series. They are a bit spoilery in regards to the general ideas of the series, so if you want to know nothing before reading this excellent book proceed with caution. Now, here’s Gail!
Tell us a little bit about this new story. It’s set in the same world as The Parasol Protectorate, but with a (mostly!) new set of characters. Talk to us a little bit about developing the concept of the Finishing School.
Etiquette & Espionage features a lady’s seminary located in a giant caterpillar-like dirigible floating over Dartmoor in which young ladies are taught to . . . finish . . . everything . . . and everyone . . . as needed. There will be steampunk etiquette. There will be well-dressed espionage. There will be Victorian fake food. There will be flying mechanical sausage dogs named Bumbersnoot. The idea is to delve into what it is like to be entirely human in this crazy steampunk meet urbane fantasy world I have invented. At the same time this series is a commentary on Victorian society how it might be manipulated by spies and evil geniuses and hurling food. My characters always seem to be hurling food.
I’d heard rumors that you were going to write something with Prudence as the main character, so I was a bit surprised when I realized this story was actually set prior to the time in The Parasol Protectorate. Tell us a little bit about how you decided to explore this time in the new stories.
Prudence will get her own book, but for this series I wanted to delve into the past. I wanted to explore the concept of technological abandonment, when a culture voluntarily ceases to use a technology despite the fact that it would make life easier. As an archaeologist this has always fascinated me. Readers of my adult series will notice that there are far more mechanical servants and toy mechanimals in this book than later on in my steampunk history. What happened to them? Why did they disappear? Sophronia will tell us that story along side her own.
Etiquette & Espionage’s main character is a curious and adventurous teen named Sophronia. Talk to us about developing a new main character. Was it hard to say goodbye to Alexia? How different was it writing in the voice of a teen versus a grown woman?
It was a challenge at first, I had to try to remember what I was like at that age. I worked to create a more youthful and accessible voice and a main character who would grow and change with the books much as we all change throughout high school. Sophronia has a different world view than Alexia. She’s private and introverted and must become more self actualized along the way by making new friends and discoveries. Her focus is on her immediate environment, less political, more personal. It wasn’t difficult to let Alexia go, I felt that she told me her story and that it was time I left her alone to get on with life, stopped interfering and throwing ladybugs at her. Poor thing, she needs a rest.
This book is called Book the First, so it’s safe to assume there will be more. Will they feel like stand-alone stories, or will there be an overarching theme running between them? I ask because the adventure that occurred in this book seemed to end in a somewhat complete way, without major cliffhangers.
There are four books in this series. Each book has an internal plot that stands alone, so that readers have the satisfaction of reading a story arc to completion, but the four books are also tied together with one overarching plot. In each new novel Sophronia learns more and more about the machinations of the supernatural creatures and the Picklemen that populate her environment. At the end of Etiquette & Espionage Sophronia thinks she has a handle on the situation, so does the reader, only I know that there is more to uncover. *insert evil laugh here*
Want more Gail? I was lucky enough to have an audio interview with her at San Diego Comic Con 2012, where she talks about more general ideas like her writing and her first series. It’s a great interview, check it out here if you’re interested. You can also follow Gail on Twitter (@gailcarriger) and check out her website www.gailcarriger.com.