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Powell’s Q&A: Gail Carriger

Describe your latest work.
My new young adult Finishing School series, set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate only 25 years earlier, features a lady's seminary located in a giant caterpillar-like dirigible floating over Dartmoor in which young ladies are taught to finish everything — and everyone — as needed. There will be steampunk etiquette. There will be well-dressed espionage. There will be Victorian fake food. There will be flying mechanical sausage dogs named Bumbersnoot. The first book, Etiquette and Espionage, releases on February 5.

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Let It Steep: Chronicles of a Wierdo between Tea Breaks

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands, and why did you read it?
These days I'm really into rereading some of my past favorites. It's like visiting old friends. I just went back to Sorcery and Cecelia, a deliciously fun and very polite romp by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.

Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
Not unless you count going to Boston Worldcon to meet Tamora Pierce.

Describe the best breakfast of your life.
Oh, this is an easy one. At the Denver Worldcon in 2008 (an all-around awesome trip), the hotel I stayed at (across from the Convention Center) had, in my book, the perfect breakfast. It was a little stew pot of tomatoes with spinach topped with two poached eggs and toast tips. (I ordered it without the ham.) I've been trying to get back to Denver ever since in the hopes of eating that breakfast again.

What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?
Puff pastries, anything custard or passion fruit related, German half-sweet Rieslings, shellac manicures, large-scale fish consumption, bitter greens, poached eggs, massages, hot tubs, Italian leather shoes, vintage dresses, patterned tights, industrial-inspired jewelry, whole milk, imported tea, expensive bed linen.

In case you hadn't guessed, I like to eat, sleep, and dress up.

Who are your favorite characters in history? Have any of them influenced your writing?
I like powerful women, and I gravitate to any point in history when a female has significant power. I can spend hours researching any such amazing lady, from Ching Shih to Hatshepsut to Boudica to Zenobia.

Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration.
I love stand-up comics, particularly those who have embraced podcasting. Some of my current favorites include Doug Benson (Doug Loves Movies); Judge John Hodgman; John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman (The Bugle); and Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira (the three-man team behind Nerdist). I'm also addicted to any quiz show featuring comics, like QI, The News Quiz, and Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! I suppose you could say I enjoy dissecting humor, determining what makes me laugh, and then trying to employ similar techniques when I'm writing.

In the For-All-Eternity category, what will be your final thought?
Where's the tea?

Five primary sources for writing about the late Victorian era:
Baedeker's London and Its Environs by Karl Baedeker
Hints to Lady Travellers: At Home and Abroad by Lillias Campbell Davidson
Things a Lady Would Like to Know Concerning Domestic Management and Expenditure by Henry Southgate
Plain Home Talk Embracing Medical Common Sense by Edward B. Foote, M.D.
A Thousand Miles up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards

Since those are hard to get a hold of, here are some other book recommendations...

Five books that will make you laugh:
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Laughing Gas by P. G. Wodehouse
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

÷ ÷ ÷

Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. The Finishing School series is Ms. Carriger's first foray into young adult fiction. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported from London.

Books mentioned in this post

Gail Carriger is the author of Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1)

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