How do my books make you feel? This author asks her readers for emotional support.

Dearest Gentle Reader,

Here’s a story about me asking you, my readers, for emotional support and why.

Over the years many have told me that they seek out my books for comfort. Well, recently, I took to my Facebook group to ask for the same in return. Essentially, I asked them to tell me about the emotional residence of my Tinkered Starsong books. At the time of this request 2 of the 3 had released.

But then I realized I had asked in a dangerous place, Facebook, and that I wanted to keep a record of this interaction for myself. So I crafted this post here instead.

Here’s the original question:

Gail Carriger How did tinkered starsong books make you feel

I’m not going to include all the responses because some were very spoilery (spoiler warning in general, frankly) and some were almost too honest, but here are a few. Some addressed bits of characterization or plot that I worked really hard to get right, so seeing them noticed made me feel wonderful. Even though my FB group is a fully public forum, I abbreviated people’s names just in case they felt that, here, a more “official” venture, would be too exposing.

People’s Feels on the Tinkered Starsong Series

I love that Phex can be so important but also is allowed to stand behind his counter and serve coffee because that makes him feel safe. Each character is themselves.” ~ Elizabeth C

“Hoo boy so many feelings on this. When Phex started talking about how his childhood didn’t feel bad even though everyone said it that hit me. I grew up with an alcoholic father and stuff that was so normal to me that I then say something or joke about as an adult and then people look at me horrified. So I identify with Phex a lot. In how he feels, in how he reacts. Lots of it.” ~ Kelsey R

“The parts that resonated the most with me was Phex and his love and care for his found family. His feelings of fear and unworthiness of the love, but still willing to do anything for them.” ~ Shauna G

“Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Loved the subtle (and layered) emotional depth of both books. Could, and have, spoken at length about the impact of these books both in terms of world building and emotional resonance. The quiet scenes in the kitchen, the considerable layering of ideas like: “What is beautiful? What is a bad/scaring background and if you don’t know any better does that change the impact for you? For those around you?” Love the exploration of these themes through all the lead characters, across both books. And so much else besides. Your handling of big, dramatic events like their performances and breakthroughs, as well as smaller scale more personal scenes like taking comfort in food or physicality are masterful.” ~ Caroline C

“I really gravitated toward the other members of Phex’s family. Like, I know Phex is the protagonist, but I love me some snarky Kagee and I want to see where he goes. And I adore Berril. I also love how you made the different sapien and non-sapien species make sense. Often, I think authors say that someone is nonhuman, but then just write a human with a funny hat, basically. The Dyesi are so different.” ~ Sylvia S

Portland Signing green black roses velvet hat Gail carriger

“So. Many. Feels. I identify so much with Phex. It took me years to convince myself that it was worth having what I wanted. So of course I cried… like, ugly cried. And every Phex needs a Berril. Mine is my best friend. Whom I miss terribly because we don’t live close anymore, so there was that adding to the feels as well.” ~ Sarah K

“I’ve read and enjoyed most of your books, but Divinity 36 blew me away. I read it straight through in one sitting. I was intellectually fascinated with the overlap between religion and entertainment. I also really resonated with Phex’s social isolation. Berril was adorable, and I wanted to hug her.” ~ Peggy S

“These books very quietly got under my skin. I found myself returning to the ideas, characters and events again and again. The universe felt so true that it kind of added to mine and went to visit it and check in, slightly worried about some of the characters and how they were doing. In particular I found Phex’s post trauma lack of expectation and inability to notice and process his emotions heartbreaking . Especially in the smaller moments and everyday parts of life. This world and these people just keep popping in to mind all the time.” ~ Sophie B

“When Phex tries asking for what he wants, for the first time ever. I was so deeply touched and shaken by the courage.” ~ Michelle H

“Phex’s trauma responses are really good writing. How he isn’t as bothered by his past as everyone else is. How he’s the “mom” of the group. And how he puts his own feelings and safety way below everyone else’s – to the point where he can’t even motivate himself. His lack of trust when it comes to other people liking/loving him not just wanting something from him. Physical responses like throwing up but also feeling like that isn’t that big of a deal. And Phex being more capable or skilled because of his past, but being emotionally immature in unexpected ways due to lack of models and experience.

One of the reasons I really like this character is that a lot of times after a character is out of the situation it seems like the narrative is that everyone and everything is ok and that there isn’t this lasting effect or that the only lasting effect is angst.

Another thing I like is the complete crazy around fame. I like how you call them gods and the idols in shops etc. All of these gods were normal people and still are to some extent only they have a valued talent. The books have that Art Deco vibe and really invokes the radio hall where people swooned at performances and music was being broadcasted, however, at a different quality but still moving. I think that is really clever in such a futuristic setting to involve the past.

~ Colleen C

“I felt seen in the neurodivergent queer space chilis and transcended to a different plane.” ~ Ty

“You write so deep and Phex is central with his courage and wanting, but all of them grow together. Having that connection with others is amazing and makes me look at my connections. I feel you have always written books that are as deep but the humour may have distracted us a bit from the very important issues you write about. These books look at interactions between people (alien and human) from a really different angle. I get my son’s neurodivergent queer flavour from this. I don’t know if he will like the books, but my every day conversations with him are so close to the themes you write about. I so love your style of writing.” ~ JoHanne G

Gail Brown Check Black Cardy Signing france epinal

“The theme(s) that hit me the hardest was (were) self-identity and finding where one belongs. The concept of one of the group being The Sun and the others’ subconscious dependency on them.” Melisande F

“So many times it made an impact, but I think especially in the first book, when Phex is asked back. I have had a similar experience in that as an introvert I tend to avoid people but I also really love non-interactive helping people (in my case trash pickup, not barristaing) and I kind of assume from the primarily odd hostile reactions I receive as a result that nobody likes me. But then in the less “normal” groups of people, I keep getting enthusiastic feedback which throws me off. I am not saying I am a sun, but that moment when he realizes oh, even though the “normal” sapiens hate me, the aliens loved him I was like hmmm I relate to that so much. Sometimes when I feel utterly rejected by the “normal” society folks I can remind myself hey, you don’t work well with them, but maybe you have another group who DOES want you.” ~ Alexa C

“In D36 when Phex returns to Attacon 7 and realized how lonely he now was and that he had been for basically his entire life. That one brought out all the feels.” ~ Erin R

“So many things in these books. Overall, I find them comforting reads, probably because Phex analyzes things similarly to me. In some way it validates the way I see the world. The characters have a lot of depth and subtlety, which I really appreciate. But moments that triggered strong emotions:

Gail Carriger Signing pink pretty

  • Anger at the manipulation of the purple-eyed Dyesi to get Phex to do what he wanted. Using his loyalty to his boss and job. As a theme, the way the Divinity plans things and never tells the pantheon anything.
  • The catch in Missit’s throat the first time he meets Phex and sees him smile.
  • Berril’s annoyance that Phex was just starting to relax and someone made him tense again.
  • Kagee’s way of provoking those he cares about and his sharp, pointy jealousy.
  • Kagee’s annoyance at Phex putting himself in danger mirroring Phex’s annoyance at Missit putting himself in danger.
  • Phex’s massive amount of loss and realization from being sent home. You can do everything right and still lose.
  • When folks admitted how untethered they were while Phex was gone.
  • Relief when Phex and Kagee learn to communicate because they’re really too much alike at the root.
  • How Missit shows his wisdom in such a capricious and intentional way – the first time he sings with Phex and all the results.
  • Frustration at how much Phex misreads Missit’s intentions.
  • Amusement at Phex kicking out Missit and Zil when they stop by on their return.
  • Appreciation of the easy way Tyve mentions her true-self surgery. So much social depth added to the world in one sentence.
  • The way Jin supports Phex physically in the hospital bed after his attack.
  • Approval of Berril standing up to the high eyrie reps.
  • I adore Phex’s wondering about the mechanics of the dome and what is possible and how it works.
  • I also really like Quasilun’s perceptiveness and step-removed amusement. I wish more adults had that ability to not take things personally.
  • Of course, I loved the way the Dyesi in the pantheons showed their support for the couple and the impact of that.
  • Amusement at allergies. I’ve often felt like I was allergic to all living things.”

~ Amanda S

“Phex’s journey around love and friendship and feeling like he deserves those things resonates really strongly for me.” ~ Steph L

my first signing ever

“I love Phex. It’s wonderful and refreshing and freeing to see a character who has trouble with social situations and who is still capable of finding community. I cried in the middle of the first book, (and almost put it down for good) when that was threatened. (My oldest kid, on the other hand, sobbed through the vomitting scenes.) I found both books joyful. I find this rare, and I treasure it in your books.” ~ Meg N

“Phex has childhood trauma that he is unpacking as an adult, I feel that. Berril and Jinyesun I understand on levels I find frightening.” ~ Corina D

“The found family aspect of it and the coming together around food and beverages really touched me deeply. The fear of losing the found family also resonated strongly as well. Wanting to fit in but not sure how. Honestly there were a lot of little moments that were huge feels for me. A lot of your writing does that.” ~ Theresa N 

“It was the comfort food of books for me.” ~ Anna L

“IRL I feel like I don’t relate to people very well. I didn’t go to high school or college. I never got married. I’ve had nine surgeries and cannot have children. I always feel like I relate to your characters. These maybe even more so because they reminded me of working on cruise ships.

  • Scars no one can see? Check
  • No family? Check
  • Introvert shoved onto stage? Check
  • Bouncing around with no home? Checkedy check check check

HOW DO YOU DO THIS SO WELL Miss Gail Carriger?!?!” ~ Murphy L

“I’m only halfway through Divinity 36. The slow burn of Phex acknowledging his feelings keeps pulling me in more and more. And Berril is a thin edge of the wedge he needs, and she’s so real. “You you you!” ~ Teresa M

Tea Shop Full Gail Signing Fans Donna

“I adored Phex’s growing emotional self-understanding throughout the two books. I had lots of moments of cheering for him, and plenty more of thinking OMG do you seriously not get it (while understanding why), especially how he didn’t recognize his own value to his pantheon and to Missit. Hit some really tender spots for me personally; since my family has a mix of autism and ADHD, we’re all doing extra work to understand ourselves socially and emotionally, and I grew up with a family that was dysfunctional by way of emotional neglect. That said, the overall tone/experience was positive, gentle in a way I really appreciated! I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the hardship, just grateful that Phex had so many good people around him who kept being patient with him. I loved how the different cultures force the characters to work at understanding each others’ emotional behavior patterns, and how they would accept and adjust for each others’ unique needs: Berryl’s clinginess (and her rock!!! The rock was so funny. I loved that it was a HUGE deal for her but not completely explained.), Kagee’s snarkiness, Fandina’s social assertiveness, the Dyesi’s sensory needs, Phex’s quietness and his need to physically care for his pantheon and have his own space. I also really appreciated how much the romance was centered around emotional connection, safety, and mutual value.” ~ Liz C

“I saved these two books to read on vacation last weekend and I’ve already done a second read of both! You write your characters so well, they all have clear, distinct, personalities. The way you used themes of adjectives attached to specific characters is very evocative. Especially for Missit (maybe because I believe in Missit!) golden, molten, melting, just immediately puts the reader in the right frame of mind. My favorite scene is the first time Phex and Missit meet. This one, like many others, shifts after reading Demigod 12 – new meanings and nuances come through. I also chuckle when reading about Phex’s first steps on a planet, it being prime ragweed season now my allergies sympathize!” ~ Emily W

And there were even more.

If I missed yours perhaps it was late or I am old and my memory like that of a steel colander, my apologies. And thank you for commenting no matter what.

Gail Signing Line ComicCon 2012 Fan Tardis steampunk talking crowd

I post this knowing most of you won’t read it.

But that’s okay.

Above is a lot of text in these days of quick responses, and mobile devices, and image or video lifestyles. But I am a writer, lots of text is my bailiwick.

Besides, this is for me and my records and emotional needs.

In going back over my blog (15 years!) recently (I’m feeling nostalgic these days), I realized this space is more a chronicle of my own life as a writer than it is anything else, and that keeping a record of these things is important. I’m of an age where I’m getting direct exposure to parental memory loss and grappling with mortality. It’s making me very reflective, but also instilling in me a deep yearning for a record of Things Important in a way that is digital but not utterly ephemeral.

Like it or not, everything is forever on the internet, even this one authorbeast’s silly blog. But also, nothing you want or need to find is ever available on Facebook.

So yeah, that’s why I did this post today.

I promise I will return you to your regularly scheduled frivolity shortly.

Gail Signing Navy Polaka dots mysterious galaxy bookstore

For now?

This post is for me.

I didn’t ask that initial question on Facebook with any ulterior motive. I was simply seeking reassurance. As writers, we want our books to make people feel things deeply. But because everybody brings their own life experience to reading, we don’t always know what your feelings about our words actually are.

Of course I could read reviews, but people don’t always say how a book made them feel in a review. Sometimes they do a lit-crit analysis, sometimes they rehash plot or character, and sometimes they can be mean or cruel. I don’t like to read my book-babies being criticized. While I understand it is a reader’s prerogative to talk however they like about a book, it’s also my prerogative to protect myself from them by avoiding the bad reviews. Besides, reviews aren’t for authors, reviews are for other readers.

I knew that by asking in my fan group, I would mostly get positive responses.

And I did.

And right now, at this point in my life, with the substantial overwhelm of releasing three books back-to-back plus some personal life drama, I really just needed to read positive things. Especially positive things connected to this particular series.

It is no secret that this series is very dear to me. In many ways, the act of writing these books was an act of self preservation for me. It got me through the last of lockdown, and helped me cope with various traumas associated with that experience.

So, this post was for my own peace of mind, and so I can come back and read this whenever I’m feeling down.

Signing for Gail ComicCon2012 Side

Thank You, Gentle Reader

I’m going to add here at the very end that I can’t tell you how grateful I was for people being honest in this way with me.

Many of you, as readers, have no idea how important it is for authors to hear stuff like this.

Often it feels like we bleed on the page and then send our words out into the void and we only crickets respond. Or criticism. Or demands.

Oh I understand that our contract has been fulfilled. If you purchased my book, and you read it, and you enjoyed it, that’s all I can ask for.

But closing the loop and letting us authors know that our writing moved you in any way? That is really impactful. It makes us authorbeasts realize, and understand, we are not scribbling alone.

I am so grateful to everyone of you who responded to my little plea of the universe.

  • And I am also so grateful to everyone of you who takes the time to review my books, in whatever venue you like.
  • And for those of you who tell your friends about my work.
  • Who make library and bookstore requests.
  • Who go out into the world and support me.

Sometimes I think you also probably feel like you do it alone. But I see you.

Porter Square Books

I understand, that in most instances reviews are for your fellow readers, and not for us authors. That was why I made this request, I needed people’s words about my books that were meant for me. That doesn’t mean I devalue your reviewing efforts on my behalf at all. Thank you for serving your fellow readers community too!

So I guess, in summation, this post is a grateful thank you.

  • For the reviews over the many years.
  • For all of the times that you left a comment in response to my newsletter survey, simply saying how much you like my words and my universes.
  • For all of the calling cards you have sent me over a decade telling me I have touched your life in any small way.
  • For all the nice things and the kind of things that you, my readers, have done, and said, and sent my way.

I may not always respond in the way you wish. Occasionally (often) I am simply overwhelmed and awed.

It is a true privilege to get to reach out and touch people, many of them strangers, with my silly fiction books. Thank you for trusting me enough to let me move you in this way. I am honored to get to do this job.


Miss Gail 


Divinity 36: Tinkered Starsong Book 1


Direct from Gail

The aliens are coming for us and they want our voices.

New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger brings you a gloriously warm and unique scifi about the power of art, celebrity, and found family.

Bowling Green Daily News says of Divinity 36:

“Certain things will always reel me into a book: Good world-building, fun dialogue and something new. This book has all three, and more.”

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Miss Gail’s Tea Party

Tisane of Nifty 

Stained glass gift from readers. I don’t have a good window for this in my office so I made it part of a lamp instead

Stained glass gift from readers. I don’t have a good window for this in my office so I made it part of a lamp instead

Author Nibble 

Parasolverse Tattoos Fan Art

Parasolverse Tattoos from over the years

Quote to Sip 

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Posted by Gail Carriger

3 Responses

  1. Janis said:

    I found you through the Tinkered Starsong series, and (seriously) The Heroine’s Journey. Then read The Finishing School series on a very long airplane ride. Next I stayed up way too late many nights in a row in the company of the Parasol Protectorate, and then The Custard Protocol. When I finished last night, and read the immensely satisfying afterward from Goldenrod, I wondered what I was going to do with myself now.
    Fortunately, I was not left bereft… there is more to discover in the Parasolverse.
    Thank you for sharing your wild imagination and sense of adventure.

  2. fetive.com said:

    Reading through your comments on the emotional resonance of my Tinkered Starsong series brought tears to my eyes. It is both humbling and heartwarming to know that my books have provided comfort to many of you. So when I found myself needing some emotional support, I turned to my readers, my dear friends, for help.

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