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Manners, Mutiny, and Manuscripts: An Interview With Gail Carriger

gailcarriger Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urbane fantasy. Her Parasol Protectorate books, their manga adaptations, and the first three books in her YA Finishing School series about Victorian girl spies were all New York Times bestsellers. Waistcoats & Weaponry won Steampunk Chronicle’s 2015 Reader’s Choice Award for Best Young Adult Steampunk Fiction. Her newest book, Manners & Mutiny, is out November 3rd. She was once a professional archaeologist and is overly fond of tea.

Rachel Cordasco: MANNERS & MUTINY concludes your bestselling Finishing School series. That said, are you satisfied with the series or do you wish it could have continued?

Gail Carriger: I always planned Finishing School to be a four book series and I feel like it comes to a really satisfying conclusion. I love writing the last book in a series. It’s easy for me because it’s a matter of tying up all the loose ends and dealing with characters I already know really well. There’s no uncertainty to the final book for me as an author. It feels delightfully tidy.

RC: Has writing this series inspired you to write future series along similar lines?

GC: I have several ideas for entirely new and different YA projects, but right now I have the next several years mapped out for other writing. YA will have to simmer on the back burner for a bit. Occasionally, they wake me up in the middle of the night and I have to write notes, but I’m OK with taking a break for a bit.

RC: You explain on your website that, in terms of steampunk fashion, you would suggest beginning with the clothing, rather than the character. Which style has taken your fancy lately, and how have you personalized it?

GC: I’ve always been a traditionalist at steampunk events. Which is to say I like to wear a steampunk style that harkens to the Victorian era quite closely: full skirts, lots of layers, hats, and intricate details. I tend to modify my outfits with things writing- and tea-related, because, well, that’s what I do and what I love. In others I love the same thing, but I also like very simple and classic takes on steampunk concepts: clear points of view, whimsy. I think if the person is having fun with their costume it shows, and that makes me happy.

RC: Follow-up: how has Sophronia’s taste and style evolved over the course of the series?

GC: Sophronia always was one to sacrifice style on the altar of subterfuge and practicality. I think she has realized, however, that the right appearance can actually help her. She’s learned the value of social manipulation with fashion, and I think that she will take great care with her presentation, until, of course, it is no longer necessary to look the part.

RC: What are you currently reading and why?

GC: I’m working on the rough draft for Imprudence right now (the second Custard Protocol book) so I’m reading lots of P.G. Wodehouse. I really love the way he writes and his style of humor and I am hoping it will influence me (without being derivative, of course). A girl can dream, right?


RC: What are your short- and long-term writing plans?

GC: My short term plan is always simply making my next deadline, whatever that may be (draft, edits, proofs). That said, I’m learning not to beat myself up too much if I can’t quite do it. I realized last year that while I can guide my creative process, I can’t necessarily predict it accurately. I will plan to be done at my usual pace for my usual word count, and the book will decide to run long, or life will derail my pace, or I left myself more than the normal number of research fixes. I’ve learned to accept that not everything about my writing process is entirely within my control, scary but true. In the long term I’m turning my attention to the business end of writing for a while: overhauling my website, that kind of thing. There’s a lot more to being a professional author than writing books. I jumped in fully without much preparation; six years down the line it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate myself as a business. Fortunately, I enjoy the business end of things. I’m a sucker for analytics, demographics, and spreadsheets. I know, you’re looking at me like I’m a mad woman, but it’s fun!

RC: Thank you!

GC: Thank you.

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