Steampunkapalooza is here! Join us all month long for special guests, prizes, and mayhem in celebration of Steamed!’s 1st Birthday.
Today we’d like to welcome Gail Carriger, author of Soulless and Changeless to the Steamed! Blog. She’s graciously agreed to help us kick off our month long Steampunkapalooza in honor of our 1st birthday! Gail will also be giving away a signed copy of Changeless to one lucky commenter.
Lolita Suzanne: Thank you so much for joining us today and kicking off our Steampunkapalooza birthday bash– on behalf of all the Lolitas, welcome to Steamed! Usually we refer to our guests as “visiting Lolitas” but you come across as far too poised and polished to be a Lolita.
LS: I adored Soulless and am looking forward to reading Changeless, which released March 30, 2010. Soulless was so funny that I laughed hysterically through the whole book. I just love the cross section of the propriety of Victorian society and the supernatural world and how Alexia intersects both with dignity, grace, and witty quips. Can you tell us a little about Changless?
GC: Changeless is a kind of spoof of gothic mystery stories (just as Soulless was essentially a spoof of early gothic romances). It involves werewolves in kilts with (gasp!) bare knees.
LS: Oh, not the bare knees! Though, I do have a fondness for men in kilts. Was Changless easier or harder to write than Soulless?
GC: Changeless was easier to write than Soulless, actually. It’s a nice clean story and it went very smoothly. Blameless, on the other hand, was an absolute nightmare. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
LS: What inspired you to not only “go Steampunk” but to go paranormal Steampunk, effectively crossing Steampunk with Urban Fantasy?
GC: Given the tenor of my world the two genres just seemed to mesh really well for me. I love urban fantasy but I’m not wild about the modern setting and generally dark overtones, plus I’ve always wondered: if immortals were mucking about, why didn’t they have any effect on history? I also love steampunk. So having the vampires and werewolves causing an alt-Victorian steampunk past was an organic result of my own preferences.
LS: Well, I have to say, I adore the results. So, given the Steampunkyness of your books, does that mean that you do your signings in costume?
GC: At steampunk conventions, yes. I have had the cover dress of the second book made for me, so I may wear that, but most of the time, no I don’t. I dress up, but not really steampunk. That said, I do wear a lot of steampunk details in my daily life.
LS: Oh, the dress on the cover is spectacular. Now, most Urban fantasies that I’ve read lastly have been in 1st person. Why did you choose to use third?
GC: Honestly? I absolutely loathe writing first person. I’ve managed a few short stories in 1POV but most of the time I just don’t like it. I prefer being the goddess of my universe, all powerful and omnipresent. I also come out of a YA fantasy background, so that has had some effect on my voice.
LS: I know everybody has probably asked you about how you came up with your very unique world and the idea of supernaturals not being soulless but instead having an abundance of soul. But what came first, Alexia or her world?
GC: The idea of weighing the soul came first (21 grams according to a scientist of the day). I loved the fact that they thought of the soul as a measurable entity. After I read about these experiments, and certain other aspects of Victorian scientific theory/practice I knew soullessness was the twist I wanted for my character. All the other concepts flowed from there. Alexia’s voice came after.
LS: Speaking of Alexia, there is so much to love about your heroine. Alexia is a real “can do” gal and no matter the situation always comes off as the most capable person in the room, all the while still maintaining her persona as a proper lady. It really doesn’t seem like she has much further to grow as a character, though some of the other characters seem to have yet to realize exactly how capable she is. Was that your intention all along? Will there be a few surprises/lessons for Alexia to learn along the way?
GC: I like my main characters stroppy, dead-pan, and very practically-minded, luckily Alexia’s soullessness lends itself to this kind of personality. It’s fun to contrast her with a hero who, by his nature, leans towards and excess of emotion. Whether she likes it or not, Alexia has a lot to learn from Conall. That said, in the end, the world has a lot more to learn from Alexia. One of the things that she is always after is more scientific explanation as to her own nature. I think it frustrates her, as a bluestocking, that so little is known about preternaturals. But she has some challenges coming at her, it’s going to be interesting to see if being capable is enough to carry her through.
LS: So far the action/intrigue is set in the United Kingdom–will the series move to other lands (France? Germany? America?) Can you give us a hint as to what other adventures you have in store for Alexia?
GC: Yup. You can see from the cover of Blameless that she is headed to the Continent in Book III. I have no plans to ever send her to the Americas, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going there at some point within this world.
LS: Ivy, Alexia’s best friend is a hoot. Will her role expand in the future? And–what’s up with her challenged fashion sense and her horrible taste in hats? Do you have a friend, or family member, that you’ve based her on?
GC: Ivy has hidden depths, and she’d not going anywhere. She has a key role in the second book, and a brief but vital appearance in the third. In the interest of my own protection, I must say that she bares absolutely no resemblance to any person living or dead (cough cough, Miss K, cough cough).
LS: Alexia loses her parasol in Soulless. Will she get another?
GC: Oh my yes. She will get The Parasol!
LS: Most Urban Fantasy series are about single women. Is it difficult to keep up the excitement and adventure with a married woman? Are there any specific challenges in writing a married character?
GC: Yes there are certainly challenges. Much of the romantic tension vanishes, but there are so many other kinds of tension to play with. I’m lucky in that I’m such a crossover muddle of genres I can solve this problem by leaning further into steampunk, or comedy, rather than urban fantasy. Also, as I’m drawing heavily on Victorian tropes, I can switch around from gothic romance, to mystery, to high adventure. Also married women have far more autonomy in the Victorian world. That said, I’m a opposed to the idea that all nookie ends with a marriage. Rest assured, things stay hot.
LS: Speaking of hot, although Alexia is inexperienced, especially in comparison to the much older Lord Maccon, it quickly becomes apparent that she can match him “tit for tat” or in this case “bite for bite.” Is it because of her preternatural ability to “tame” him with a touch or is it just her nature?
GC: It’s a bit of both.
LS: Sometimes it seems that in matters of passion she almost seems to have him at a disadvantage. She is a refreshingly “lusty” woman which really balances well with her very proper persona. Did you plan for Alexia to be sexual or did she surprise you?
GC: She definitely surprised me. It was one of those cases when the character’s personality naturally steered her in that direction. Her pragmatic nature and lack of religious influence allowed her to be refreshingly un-Victorian about sex. Also there’s her disreputable father to think on. His journals broadened his young daughter’s mind quite extensively, not to mention her friendship with Lord Akeldama.
LS: When Alexia touches a supernatural and makes him human, if she were to get pregnant, would her child be human? supernatural? preturnatural? Something different all together?
GC: I take the fifth.
LS: But of course, lol. Characters really do take on a life of their own when writing. Did any other characters surprise you?
GC: Constantly. Lyall is always a surprise, Lord Akeldama, never. Ivy has a sudden moment of utter revelation in the third book, and I had no idea Felicity would turn out to be so horrible in the second book.
LS: What do you do when a character “refuses” to do what you want them to?
GC: I haven’t really had that happen yet with this series. Mostly, they do what I want. Sometimes one of them will run away with a scene, then I have to be quite strict and reign them in. That said, often they have a better idea of where things are going than I, so I let them run. I can always go back and edit later, and often they drop a cookie or start a thread that I didn’t realize I would need.
LS: Characters can be so smart sometimes. Do you have a favorite character? A least favorite one?
GC: I vacillate. I love Lyall because he is such a sweetheart and he has hidden depths. Lord Akeldama is easy to write. Tunstell, Ivy, and Lord Akeldama’s boys are all scene stealers. Madame Lefoux is a challenge. Alexia always has something snarky to say so she can voice the things others don’t dare to. Lord Maccon can be so endearingly buffoonish. I suppose, I like each one best when they are being the most extreme version of themselves, so it’s situationally dependent. I dislike each one when they are behaving out of character and I can’t figure out why.
LS: There’s just so much to love about your world and characters. How many books do you have planned for the series?
GC: Again, I must take the fifth.
LS: Again? I suppose. Can you tell use when will the third installment come out? Is there anything you can share with us about it?
GC: September, eep! It’s a bit more of a high flying adventure than the other two. You’re going to learn a lot more about what it means to be a preternatural, and there are Italians in nightgowns, and a man with a gun that shoots sea cucumbers.
LS: What’s not to love about that! Another thing I love is the “paper doll” game on the Orbit website. Will we get any additional characters to dress? Perhaps Ivy and her hats? Is there any chance they’ll make it an iPhone app? I’d never get anything done if they did.
GC: I love it too. I want them to do Lord Akeldama. Ivy would be awesome also. I would love it as an iPhone app, but I don’t know if they’ll do it. Would be pretty darn cool.
LS: Do you have any other projects in the works?
GC: I’ve a short non-fiction piece on steampunk fashion out in the VanderMeer’s new anthology, Steampunk Reloaded, this October. A short story in the Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance II. Apart from that, nothing I can talk about . . . yet.
LS: Thank you so much for coming on today! It’s been a pleasure having you on and I can’t thank you enough for kicking off our Steampunkapalooza.
Now, on to the important stuff. One lucky poster will win a copy of Gail Carriger’s Changeless. You get one entry for for posting a comment. You also can get an additional entry for Blogging/facebooking/tweeting/posting about Gail’s visit/steampunkapalooza will also earn you an additional entry (but, please, don’t spam. When in doubt, leave it out) Let us know where you posted.
You can also earn an additional entry for joining the Steamed facebook group or the Parasol Protectorate facebook group (or both for two entries). If you’re already a fan let us know as well so you can get your extra entries as well.
Winner will be chosen by random. The contest closes Sunday, April 4th at midnight PST and I’ll post the winner on or around Monday, April 5th. **UPDATED*** I’ll post the winner on Tuesday, April 6th at the beginning of our day’s post–featuring the art of <a href=http://www.strangling.com> Jasmine Becket-Griffith and a chance to win a signed print.
Stay tuned all month long for special guests, prizes, and mayhem. Don’t forget to join us tomorrow, Friday, April 2nd, when Dracula Clothing comes to visit. Saturday, April 3rdfor YA Author Shelley Adina as she blogs about her adventures in making a bustled petticoat. On Sunday, April 4 th we’re announcing a contest where you can win $150 GC to super fab Steampunk clothier Clockwork Couture. Donna from Clockwork Couture will be blogging on Steampunk fashion on Monday, April 5 th.