SFRQ: When and where do you usually write?
Gail Carriger: I usually write the first draft at home or in my office, at my desk, in the afternoons. If I’m really struggling, I find a change of location helps, so I frequent a local coffee shop. I must hide away and do my second draft when the office is empty, because I read the whole thing out loud. If I did that in public people would think I was bonkers. I usually red pen a hard–copy of the third draft on an airplane, things just arrange it so I’m always traveling at that point in the writing process. I go over the copy edits with my best friend and beta on the couch in her living room with many cups of tea and much companion hilarity.
What are you most proud of about the series? And is there a serious underlying theme that you hope readers will pick up on?
I’m most proud that these books combine so many different sub-genres without, so far, really offending anyone. I’d rather they were not taken too seriously. I’m hoping they bring people joy. I like to think my books are more like a nice cup of tea than a three-course meal. That said, I suspect, whether I like it or not, there are underlying themes. Tolerance and loyality, for example, are key in all my writing. Also, I tend to write pragmatic women who are capable in their own right but accomplish things with the help of others. I’m not one for the “solitary tough guy against the universe” plot. Alexia, Sophronia, and Rue are all strong, but a good deal of their strength comes, as each series progresses, from a growing band of friends.
Mad scientists are the villains in the first book, and invoke Dürrenmatt’s play “The Physicists”, which questions ethics in science. What are your views on regulations on science and scientists? Do you see such dangers (both in the form of mad scientists and overly strict regulations) in today’s science?
In this aspect I was parodying 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. However, if you look at some of my other books you’ll realize that I myself am not entirely supportive of this demonization. It is not the science itself that is at fault, but a lack of ethical grounding. My real fear, and the thing my characters are always battling in society, is obsession. What’s bad about my evil scientists is not their science, but obsession with that science, allowing them to take it too far. In Changeless, for example, I vilify obsession with immortality. In Blameless, I tackle religious obsession. In Curtsies & Conspiracies it’s obsession with stopping the bad scientists!
What one steampunk book would you recommend to readers who are unfamiliar with the genre but would like to give it a try?
I’m going to branch out and pick a graphic novel. There’s none better than the original League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Before getting published you were part of the SF&F literary community for a while. What changes have you noticed in these broad genres, and are these good or bad changes?
Everything is shifting. I need hardly say, the publishing industry is struggling to cope with both digital media and social media. Something’s going to give soon and it sure as heck isn’t either of those medias. The subject matter is changing too. Everything is turning YA. Steampunk is struggling to define itself. Hard core sci–fi is dying. Urban fantasy is the sub–genre no one wants to acknowledge is there to stay, but it is. I’d bet good money on epic fantasy shrinking into something more snack–sized and less falooting. As to forms? Hardback will become a luxury good. In fact, it already has. Are these good or bad? I have no idea. Neither I, nor any of my characters, can see the future.