HELLO, dahlings! Welcome to another Fangirl Friday and this time, gracious me, my little shiny plumblossoms, we are graced by the presence of none other than Gail Carriger (hard “g” in Carriger), the award-winning and NYT bestselling author whose fabulously attired and deliciously quirky characters inhabit her paranormal steampunk universe.
I am a huge fan of her work not only because I dig steampunk but also because I love its tongue-in-cheekiness with regard to Victorian mores, AND amidst her panoply of characters are those who are LGBT+. They are beautifully wrought and eminently human (even those who are paranormal), and I find myself missing them when I finish one of her books.
Her bio puts it best: Miss Carriger’s novels are urbane fantasies mixed with steampunk comedies of manners.
And indeed, if you have not indulged in Carriger’s work, I am afraid your soul is lacking. But that’s quite all right, as the place to start is the first in her Parasol Protectorate series, Soulless. The Parasol Protectorate is a series featuring Alexia Tarabotti, who is a “preternatural,” which means she “lacks a soul” and is thus able to render paranormals mortal should they touch her. The series follows Alexia as she deals with intrigue among werewolves, vampires, and other paranormal beings, falls in love, and maintains her very best manners and fashion throughout.
And please do peruse her YA steampunk Finishing School series, which is about young ladies learning the arts of etiquette and espionage (the two not mutually exclusive). And she is currently working on the Custard Protocol series, in which explorations of the steampunk British empire abound, and characters must deal with the effects of technology and the different types of paranormals around the world.
However, Carriger has also launched a few standalone novella series and that is why she is with us today.
At the beginning of this month, she published the first of her Supernatural Society novellas, Romancing the Inventor, which is set in her steampunk universe and features LGBT+ characters from her other works. Here, the exquisitely tailored madcap and delightfully urbane French scientist/inventor Genevieve Lefoux becomes the target of the ardor of one Imogene Hale: A steampunk lesbian romance featuring a maid bent on seducing a brilliant scientist who’s too brokenhearted to notice. Or is she?
AND, my lovelies, YOU have the chance to win a copy of Romancing the Inventor! Women and Words WILL GIFT A KINDLE COPY of this ebook to a most fortunate winner. To enter the drawing, please leave a comment below and make sure you include your email address in the comment fill-out form (but not in the comment body, as there is evil afoot on the Interwebz and we are trying to save you and your email address from being recruited into such). We’ll draw a winner WEDNESDAY 23 NOVEMBER (the day before U.S. Thanksgiving!) AT 9 PM EST. Good luck!
So let us now indulge in properly brewed tea as we chat with Ms. Carriger regarding the publication and writing of Romancing the Inventor.
Welcome to Women and Words!
ANDI: First, I am just thrilled to pieces that you’re joining us. I’ve been reading your work for a while, and I was so overcome with stokage to see that you’re doing novellas that feature your LGBT+ characters that I just had to contact you. At any rate, the first in your Supernatural Society novellas, which feature LGBT characters from your steampunk world, “Romancing the Inventor,” just released on November 1 and focuses on a romance between one of my favorite characters, French inventor Genevieve Lefoux (who also has a penchant for wearing men’s clothing in your alt-Victorian steampunk world) and Imogene Hale, parlourmaid for a vampire hive.
So what made you decide to do a series of novellas featuring your LGBT characters?
GAIL CARRIGER: What’s that saying? Oh yes: Because I can!
Seriously? I people my universe with characters of all types and sexuality, the opportunity to turn the spotlight onto any one of them is exciting for me. Like writing my own fan-fic. I suppose I feel an odd sort of responsibility to take a side character, a character whose differences I’ve worked hard to make palatable with humor and affection, and then show her/him to my readers as central, and flawed, and human, and lovely, and loveable. I want to write fiction that can be enjoyed by the queer community, but also by the hetero-normative community, so everyone stops feeling so very afraid of each other and desire and love no matter what form it comes in.
ANDI: That’s my #dreamworld. We put aside our fears about each other, get over it, and have lovely dinners and conversations and dance parties. LGBT+ representation (accurate helps) in various media is a huge deal to a lot of us who read and write LGBT+ characters. One of the things that I have really enjoyed about your work in general is that you include many different characters, some of whom identify as LGBT+ and though you contextualize them in terms of the alt-Victorian world you’ve constructed (certain mores about discussing/acknowledging such things), they have agency and myriad motivations for what drives them in your narratives. In other words, they’re three-dimensional, and intrinsic parts of your plots.
So going back to your initial works (Parasol Protectorate), could you expound a bit on your decision to include LGBT+ characters in your steampunk setting? (which we freaking love, BTW)
GAIL C: The short answer is:
There are queer characters in my books because there are queer people in my life and soul, always have been. It would not be my universe without them. They are as fallible, flawed, and as changeable as any other characters. They have their own morals, backgrounds, purpose, and agendas. As all characters should! There are also queer characters in my books because they correlate to the most dynamic part of any society, the part that brings about wonder.
If you want more about my own childhood that led to this kind of writing, I have a long and elaborate blog post on the subject. It was written early on in my career and with an eye towards readers already familiar with my books:
Queering-Up Genre One Akeldama at a Time.
I have another post in which I talk about Mercedes Lackey and her influence on my writing LGBTQ characters in particular.
ANDI: Thank you for that. And readers, Lord Akeldama is one of the fabulous characters that inhabits Gail’s world. He is a rove (meaning he is not attached to a hive) vampire in Gail’s London, and close friends with the lead character of the Parasol Protectorate series, Alexia Tarabotti. By the way, readers, Mercedes Lackey, like Gail C, is the shizzle.
Back to Genevieve Lefoux, the woman with whom Imogene Hale falls in love in “Romancing the Inventor”– who or what was the inspiration for that character?
GAIL C: She’s based on a mix of George Sand, Vesta Tilley, Q from the 007 movies, a character I personally portrayed at a Victorian Fair, and a parody of the prevalent mad scientist archetype in Gothic and steampunk fiction. She is an exercise in contradictions: a woman who prefers men’s clothing but makes no effort to disguise her own gender, an intellectual who loves too much, too soon, and too deeply. She’s an inventor who believes technology can solve all humanity’s ills, but uses that very technology for violence. She adores women’s clothing and fashion, but doesn’t wear it herself. Her motives are often in question, but her loyalty rarely is and she’s a flirt by nature. In a word: she is easy to love and glorious to write about.
ANDI: Indeed. I was hooked at first introduction and I remember thinking, “I DO hope Gail C decides to write something further with Lefoux! Because LEFOUX! OMG!” And ta-da, here you have done exactly that with this novella.
Do you perhaps foresee doing novel-length works in your steampunk world whose main characters are LGBT?
GAIL C: Yes. I never make promises about books I haven’t written, but it’s likely that the next novel-length Parasolverse book will have a queer main character. No guarantee until I actually start typing, though!
ANDI: I’m definitely watching for whatever this will be. And along those lines of possibilities, can you tell us a bit about future projects/books you’re working on in general? (unless you’d have to dispatch us or swear us to secrecy lest certain countesses in certain vampire hives become aware of such)
GAIL: I have a non-Parasolverse book in the works. It’s a spin off from my paranormal sweet romance short story, Marine Biology (about a nerd werewolf who falls in love with an ex-Goth merman). The rough is almost done, so I feel like it’s OK to start talking about. It’ll likely come out next year.
It’s a contemporary gay paranormal romance, that is delightfully crass and smutty and hilarious. It’s me, so I’m poking fun at all the tropes inherent in shifter fiction, not to mention urban fantasy, as well as the foibles of left coast LGBTQ communities. Nothing is sacred!
Secret project SAS (as I’m currently calling this book) features a pack of queer redneck werewolves who move to the Bay Area in search of acceptance and find so much more. That so much more includes: a failed mage with daddy issues, the supernatural equivalent of the DMV, and a 600 year old drag queen named Manifest Destiny. Oh yes, I went there. So many bad puns.
ANDI: LOL omg. THIS. So many times over, THIS. The punnage is indeed strong with you. I have a feeling there are many in the reading ‘verse who will be extremely excited to hear of these (I’m one of them). I’m going to refer to secret project SAS as QRW (Queer Redneck Werewolves), however, because I’m so in love with this idea that I CAN’T EVEN. So looking forward to it!
And that, my friends, concludes our lovely conversation with the one and only Gail Carriger, writer of steampunk and aficionado of fine tea, character quirkage, and the poking of fun at certain mores and social niceties.
Don’t forget to leave a comment on the blog and we here at Women and Words will hook you up with a copy of Romancing the Inventor.
Find Gail Carriger:
Gail Carriger writes steampunk comedies of manners mixed with paranormal romance. Her books include the Parasol Protectorate, Custard Protocol, Supernatural Society, and Delightfully Deadly series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in many languages and has over a dozen NYT bestsellers via seven different lists (#1 in Manga). She was once an archaeologist and is overly fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.