Thursday, March 1, 2012

Day Four of Gail Carriger and The Parasol Protectorate Week: Author Interview

Welcome to Gail Carriger and The Parasol Protectorate Week here at SunnyReads!

All this week we will be celebrating The Parasol Protectorate series as a whole, and specifically the release of the concluding book in the series, "Timeless - The Parasol Protectorate: Book the Fifth."

Today, I am very excited to share this with all of you!  Ms. Carriger was kind enough to agree to do this brief interview, (My first EVER!), and I'm very grateful to her for taking the time out of her busy schedule.  So without further ado - The Interview!


Award winning & New York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger was born in small California town to a British ex–pat gardener with a tea habit and a woodworking Dane who sidelined as a philosophical scribbler.  She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning, including a BA with Honors in Classical Archaeolgy, an MA in Anthropology, and an MS with Distinction in Materials Archaeology. She ended up back in California with a tea habit inherited from her mother (she insists on Twinings gold label (black box) English Breakfast imported from the UK), a scribbling habit inherited from her father, and a penchant for gadding off to foreign countries in hot pursuit of fascinating ancient artifacts – dragging both habits ruthlessly in her wake.  When her writing and promotional duties allow her to be at home, she enjoys food, fashion, and fabulous shoes.  She names inanimate objects because it is rude to yell at them without calling them by name, and she rides a motorcycle named Carmen.

SunnyReads (SR): Anyone who is familiar with your work is probably also aware that you have studied and worked in the field of archaeology. I’ve read that you have worked on archaeological sites in Peru and Northern Italy.  Where else has archaeology taken you, and what do you miss most about being at an excavation site, since your authorial duties have kept you away from that work?

Gail Carriger (GC): Those are the only two overseas projects I worked on. I'm a lab tech by training so I've worked on a wide range of artifacts from 12th century Islamic to Romano British. I miss the work itself, being very meticulous and exploring ancient cultures, but I also miss spending an extended time on foreign soil. I enjoy the privilege of becoming fully immersed in a culture, not to mention eating as much of the local food as possible. As an author, the longest I've been able to get away is five days and then I was only a tourist.

SR: In your writing, you present some issues that would have been social taboos in Victorian England, such as the tolerance and acceptance of minority groups and different sexual orientations, and you handle these topics with amazing sensitivity.  Is the social commentary in your work and its’ relationship to current events deliberate?

GC: It is deliberate, but it is not meant to be a political statement. I was raised in a very open-minded alternative town much affiliated with the beat movement, and later, early 80s counter culture. It has affected, some might say skewed, my ideas of a Utopian society. As to queering up genre fiction, I have an entire blog post about that you can read here:

SR: That is a fascinating blog post and I highly recommend that anyone interested in the subject take a moment to read it.  So, moving on to a something a little more fun, this question actually comes from one of my readers (my Little Addicts, as I like to call them).
Rebecca would like to know: "Lord Akeldama is a favorite character for many of your readers, and one of his endearing qualities is his liberal use of various epithets, but I don’t think he ever uses the same one twice!  Does he keep a list somewhere, or does he just make them up as needed?"

GC: He makes them up as needed, and since he hijacks my blog for a semi-monthly "Dear Lord Akeldama" column there are ever more epithets in my life. He always calls Alexia something food or flower related. (I tend to write them down as I think of them, and I keep a long list in case of emergency epithet needs.)

SR: That must be a very long list indeed!!  
Now, with the release of "Timeless" today, I have to admit I personally am completely obsessed with the zombie porcupines that showed up in “Heartless,” and the mechanical ladybugs in “Blameless.”  How did you come up with these ‘creatures,’ and will we be seeing something similar in “Timeless?”

GC: No, but mechanimals, as they are called, have a key and long running role to play in my new young adult series, the Finishing School. Events in this series, which take place some 22 year before the Parasol Protectorate, will make the appearance of the zombie porcupines, in retrospect, all the more shocking.

SR: Oh very interesting!  Something to look forward to!  
Another thing that I’m curious about is Floote, who may be your most mysterious and enigmatic character, and who appears to keep a great many secrets from Alexia.  Is this for Alexia’s protection somehow, and will we learn more about Floote’s past and the secrets that he keeps in “Timeless?”

GC: Yes indeed. Many of Floote's secrets are finally revealed, as are the sins of the father, as it were.

SR: Very mysterious indeed! 
Now, I noticed in the FAQ on your website (which is a veritable fount of amazing information), you have a list of “Throw away temptation lines” for each of the Parasol Protectorate novels.  The line for “Timeless” is “Not for the faint of hat,” which seems to be an obvious reference to Ivy Hisselpenny.  Will she have a more prominent role in “Timeless?”

GC: Oh yes, Ivy is back in full force, along with her husband and assorted additional attachments. And nothing is funnier than Ivy's idea of appropriate travel attire.

SR: I shudder to think!  
Now, my very favorite moment in the series so far is when Alexia inducts Ivy into the Parasol Protectorate by administering the oath.  While reading that scene I dropped the book, jumped to my feet and hollered “YESSSSS!” which was a tad bit embarrassing as I was in the middle of a coffee shop at the time.  How did you come up with this scene and the oath itself - had you been planning it all along, or did it suggest itself as you were writing?

CG: I always knew Ivy understood more than she let on about Alexia's life. And I knew I wanted these books, as the series title implies, to detail the inception of the Parasol Protectorate secret society. The mantle of the protectorate (or should I say, the sunshade?) is taken up in full as a complete and covert operation by Prudence in the new series, the Parasol Protectorate Abroad, set some 20 or so years later. I'm delighted you liked that scene because it is, in it's way, the beginning of everything. I came up with it by imagining what Ivy would want from an induction ceremony, combined with how secret societies were viewed in Sherlock Holmes mixed with the antics foisted up the members of the Drone's Club by Wodehouse.

SR: Looking back over the five books in the series, now that "Timeless" has been released, what have been your favorite and least favorite scenes of the series, as far as what happens in them and how easy or difficult they were to write?

CG: That's a difficult question to answer. I think some of my hardest scenes were in Blameless, as I had a complete rewrite of most of that book, which required some scalpel work that still gives me a headache to think on. My two favorite scenes are the ending sequences with Lord Akeldama in both Soulless and Timeless. I also adore the last fight scene I got to write for Alexia in Timeless, it's really a doozy.

SR: I can't wait to read that!  Some readers may already be aware that you have two new series of books coming out in the not-too-distant future.  Can you tell us anything new about what we can expect from “Etiquette & Espionage” (Book 1 in The Finishing School series) and “Prudence” (Book 1 in the Parasol Protectorate Abroad series)?

CG: Well, I sort of already did. I can say that Etiquette & Espionage was a blast to write. I'm having fun with technology that shouldn't exist, and doesn't anymore; a protagonist with a crafty mind and no special powers except her wits; and the usual cadre of totally absurd and ridiculous side characters. I haven't started writing any of the Prudence books yet, but I do have her character well formed and I can say that she is what you might expect from a young lady raised by multiple eccentric parents. You can expect to see many familiar faces in the background as she carries out her various missions and assignments.

SR: Sounds fantastic!! Finally, even though you are creating new adventures in Alexia’s world with your other projects, as “Timeless” brings The Parasol Protectorate series to a close, what will you miss the most about working on this particular series?

CG: Oh, I shall miss Alexia's voice. She was a part of me for so long, I shall miss the way she regarded every problem and encounter in an entirely practical and prosaic way. Prudence has some of this, but she is more excitable than Alexia, and Sophronia (the Finishing School protagonist) is a natural spy, her mind is far more analytical and suspicious than Alexia's. Alexia had a strange kind of innocence and I will miss looking at the Victorian world through her eyes.

SR: I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions, as I know you must be busy with the promotions for “Timeless.”  Best of luck, and thank you so much!!

Thank you for asking me such interesting questions!


Gail Carriger has several online homes:

And that's The Interview!  Thanks for joining me today, (and all this week), to celebrate the release of "Timeless."
If you haven't gotten your copy yet, you won't want to wait!  I've just started reading my copy and so far it's fabulous!

Don't forget, today is the official release date for both "Timeless," and also for the "Soulless" manga!

Check back tomorrow for the final day of the "Gail Carriger and The Parasol Protectorate Week" here at SunnyReads!  See you tomorrow!


  1. I SOOOOO need to read these books! :)


  2. Great interview! :)

    As with Kell, I haven't read these books yet . . . but they're definitely on my TBR list!

    1. Thanks! I'm sure you'll love them once you get to them!

  3. So fabulous! Must now go shopping for a new parasol and floating attire to match!

    1. Make sure you purchase your floating hats from Biffy - He's the best!!