I hadn’t been sitting at the bar in the Fairmont Hotel at the World Fantasy Convention, nursing a Bombay Sapphire and tonic, when this dame slides onto the stool next to me. But a second glance proved this to be no dame, but a lady looking as if she had stepped out of a 1940s noir film. I wondered if she was packing heat in that little clutch. Wearing a vintage ensemble complete with white gloves, Gail Carriger made a striking first impression, and the conversation quickly went interesting places, her book that just came out, her career as an archaeologist, time spent in South American Inca ruins and elsewhere, and the book launch party she was throwing on the Saturday evening of the convention. Her first novel, Soulless, came out in September from Orbit. The book launch party proved to be the smash hit of the convention, complete with Victorian and steampunk costumes, a variety of homemade adult beverages, and fabulous food the likes of which one only hears about in books. Treacle tart or Scotch egg anyone?
TH: Can you give a brief arc of your career as a writer/author?
GC: Well, let me tell you! I had a stunning debut at age eight with a brilliant saga of calico cat goes adventuring on flying carpet. Sometime after that, I hit high school with a vengeance producing several acclaimed exposés on the nature of Roman battle tactics. Sadly, I hit a real low spot during my university years concentrating on rightly snubbed short lived treatises on gender dynamics in Ancient Greek plays.
Yeah, Soulless would be my debut.
TH: What is The Story of Gail? Is it a novel? A short story? A penny dreadful with goggles, crumpets, and corsets?
GC: Soulless is a mash up of multiple genres: comedy, romance, steampunk, urban fantasy, mystery, alt-history, and possibly one or two more I’ve momentarily forgotten about.
TH: How did you conceive the idea for Alexia Tarrabotti? Which came first, Alexia or the story idea?
GC: The world came first, then the scientific underpinning, then Alexia, and then her story. I usually work that way.
TH: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you know?
GC: There was an incident to do with the end of Lord of the Rings. I didn’t like it, so I rewrote it. I think I was ten a the time. I believe my parents cast their proverbial hands up to the heavens at that point (How could we raise not only a fantasy reader, but one who insists on happy endings?) and realized they’d never get a retirement out of me.
TH: Every writer has things they would like to accomplish, e.g. first sale, next sale, first novel sale, first bestseller, etc. What accomplishment are you striving for right now?
GC: Two little words: earning out.
TH: Do you have any writing stuck away somewhere that will never see the light of day, but nevertheless helped you build your skill to publishable?
GC: Who doesn’t? Luckily, I never finished any of the novels, bad habit of my youth, and I’ve recognized the pathetic nature of the poor short stories. They live happily together in a little file marked “Coffin.” And I may write paranormals, but I don’t do zombies.
TH: What are some of the things that inspire you?
GC: Reading Victorian primary sources, long motorcycle rides (or any other activity where there is no possible chance I could write anything down ~ sigh), talking to certain friends, listening to certain other friends when they’re drunk, you know, that kind of thing.
TH: What about the writing process most appeals to you? What is the most fun?
GC: The first pass editing when I get to utterly eviscerate my own writing, and the last pass editing after I’ve totally forgotten what I wrote and I get to realize it isn’t as bad as I thought.
TH: Have you reached the point at which you realized that you had “made it” as a writer and author? If so, can you describe the milestone or circumstances where you had that realization? Do you recall how that felt? If not, what is the milestone you’re seeking?
GC: When I walked into a bookstore store and saw Soulless on a shelf for the first time, there was sputtering. (I blog about it at http://dkollin.livejournal.com/17822.html)
TH: Some say that professional writers have to look at themselves as a business, a branded commodity. Do you take that approach?
GC: Partly, but that’s mostly an excuse to have a second wardrobe full of the vintage dresses I always wanted but never had an excuse to wear before.
TH: Can you explain your attraction to vintage clothing?
GC: I can but it’s a tad indelicate. As my everyday life as an archaeologist is not very glamorous, lots of mucking about in jeans and sweaters. Appearing as an author is an opertunity to let my stylish side out. Why vintage in particular? Well, I’m a pretty darn curvy girl and that’s the only kind of clothing that always fits me properly. I’m also on a one woman quest to improve the calibre of dress in the SF/F community.
TH: What can readers expect to see from you in the near future? What are you working on?
GC: I have two more books in the Parasol Protectorate series, Changeless and Blameless, coming out in April and then November of next year ~ we hope. I’m dabbling with a YA sci-fi that may or may not see the light of day. I’ve a few more ideas kicking about, we shall see what the next year brings around.
TH: What do you want to have accomplished five years from now?
GC: Ten more books, three more contracts, 100 readers with sleepless nights, a trip to Australia, and my very own apartment. I dream big.
TH: What is the most memorable moment (good, bad, or other) you have had in your life as an author?
GC: Shortly after the ARC was released I wandered into my favorite local independent, Borderlands (http://www.borderlands-books.com/), and a lovely lady I didn’t know actually squeaked and bounced over to tell me that she really liked my book. I didn’t know what to do or say.