It may sound as though the acclaimed steampunk author Gail Carriger is outlining her usual weekend plans, but she’s actually referring to one of her new series of books due out next year.
Carriger is an archaeologist and an accomplished author of steampunk fiction. She has a master’s in archaeological materials and a master’s in anthropology. She is also obsessed with quiche. When I inquired about her most recent obsessions Carriger confessed that she’s “obsessed with creating the perfect basic quiche recipe. It’s been the work of the past year and I’m narrowing in on it. I know, I’m a crazy daredevil.”
Carriger earned national attention with her Parasol Protectorate series. The books blend Victorian romance, comedy and alternate history. “Soulless” follows Alexia Tarabotti as she navigates the dangers of vampires, werewolves, ghosts and social etiquette (she even kills a vampire with her parasol). The books are whimsical and fun, but they’re also written with sharp wit and sophistication.
Carriger has two new book series that will be released in 2013. Etiquette & Espionage, the first book in her Young Adult Finishing School Series comes out February 5th. Carriger explained that this series “is set in the same world as The Parasol Protectorate series, only 25 years earlier, and features a finishing academy located in a giant caterpillar-like dirigible floating over Dartmoor in which young ladies are taught to…finish…everything…and everyone…as needed.”
Her new adult series promises just as much excitement, it’s called “the Parasol Protectorate Abroad. If you’ve finished Heartless then you know who that series will feature! The first one will be called Prudence and the second Imprudence.”
So where does a New York Times best-selling author find inspiration? “I pay very close attention to my friends when they’re drunk, but usually inspiration comes to me when I’m contemplating the absurdity of the universe and at the most inconvenient time – like in the shower.”
Carriger explained that her creative process involves climbing into the voice, “which can involve a lot of BBC costume dramas and a flat out ban on reality TV. I tend to only allow myself to read original material when I’m writing a first draft. That is, lots of Dickens, and ladies’ journals from the 1800s, Victorian medical texts and the like.”
Carriger’s work reflects this blend of humor and intellect. While her books are incredibly funny, they also interrogate important and topical themes. For instance, while much of steampunk is about embracing technology, there is also some resistance to it. Carriger explains the ambivalence: “This ties into the Gothics like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which represented a switch from fear of religious monsters (for example, moral corruption like that in The Monk) to the demonization of science and the creatures it could produce. The irony of such books, and now steampunk, is that if we, mankind, create the monsters of our own corruption we also become responsible for the devices that might save us from our own creations. Technology is both our downfall and our salvation, this, is in the end a very modern issue, relevant to our time that steampunk can explore in a wonderfully outrageous way.”
This combination of critical insight, imagination and humor has earned Carriger a well-deserved literary celebrity, the pressures of which she handles well. The Parasol Protectorate series was recently optioned. Adaptations are often sensitive subjects for writers who fear the loss of creative control, but Carriger offers a different perspective; “I’m not precious about my work. I’ve written the book, if you want the truth in my words that’s the media in which you should consume me . . . as it were. The manga is an artist’s interpretation of my words. I love it, but it’s not the way I would draw my characters. That’s the point, and the beauty, it’s an interpretation. A TV series would add someone else’s voice to the mix. I can hope it won’t be awful, but I know I will have very little sway in the process and I have to make peace with that or risk insanity.”
Make sure to check out Carriger’s new series coming out next year, but it would also be a very wise decision to explore her current body of work. You won’t be disappointed.