Around when Soulless released, Gentle Reader, I did a bunch of interviews.
Here are a few of my favorite Q&As from that time
1. What jobs did you have on your way to being a writer? Did they help you in any way as a writer? (HidingSpot)
I’ve been everything from a bartender to a tour guide, but I think my career as an archaeologist/academic has helped my writing the most. It gave me great research skills, familiarity with a variety of cultures both around the world now and in the past, good self-discipline, and a paranoia over making deadlines. Oh, and the ability to subsist entirely on a diet of Top Ramen and tea.
2. How would you react if you were you attacked by a vampire without even a proper introduction? (Fantasy Cafe)
I suspect writing is more of a curse for those around me. I get distracted and spacey at the beginning of a project, frustrated in the middle, briefly euphoric at the end, and grumpy when I’m not writing at all. I imagine it’s like living with someone who has a six-month rotation of some bizarre kind of pregnancy – all the time, over and over again.
Oh, I have no pride or gumption. I would run to the nearest public area yelling for the constabulary.
3. Give us one embarrassing author moment: (Jacqueline Cook)
I arrived for my very first in-person meeting with my agent with the back of my dress unzipped. Sigh. The moral of this story? Always travel with a lady’s maid. The moral of the moral? Sell enough books to afford a lady’s maid.
4. Do you carry a parasol for defense? (Jeff VanderMeer)
Sadly, no, I’m an unparalleled wimp. There was once an entirely unsuccessful attempt at karate, wherein I kept fretting about actually having to kick people and trying to convince the class to break for tea. Sometimes, however, I’ve been seen carrying a parasol for protection against the sun. I know, I know, crazy talk.
5. Given that your biography states that you are “fond of teeny tiny hats and tropical fruit,” would you please describe your favored method for combining the two, and the conditions under which said combination would occur? (John Glover)
How about a teeny tiny hat decorated with tropical fruit? Or wearing a teeny tiny hat and eating tropical fruit? Or cutting tropical fruit into the shape of teeny tiny hats!
7. Did you ever find yourself writing a bit of dialog and reading it back to yourself thinking “Wow. That’s just TOO over the top…”? (Nick)
Wait, have you read my book? Uh. No. I did get the reign-in from my editor on a certain bit of dialogue in the second book. I neatly avoided the issue through judicious application of laudanum. (To the character speaking, mind you, not my editor.)
8. CK: Any favorite vampires from lit, film, or TV? (Vampire Film)
I have many posts on steampunk over on my fashion blog. I thought perhaps you all might be interested in the collection.
Some are mostly photographs from steampunk conventions, a few are DIY blogs, and my favorite focus specifically on the more Victorian side of the equation. These are all taken from my wikia’s section on Steampunk: The Aesthetic.
2. There are many attributes associated with the octopus, why your fascination with this aquatic chameleon?
Octopodes are smart, cute, crafty, squishy and, when all is said and done, tasty. Can you think of a superior creature?
3. What’s the most positive thing a reader has said about your books?
Readers have been so amazingly kind, I hardly know where to start. I will say mail from librarians always touches me deeply. I had one email from a young lady in Bangkok who read one of my books during an uprising, and it helped her escape the horror. That was an amazing compliment.
4. The Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School books have both werewolves and vampires, what makes your books different from other supernatural novels?
There’s no magic. None at all. Instead, Victorian scientists are struggling to understand vampires, werewolves, and ghosts using the scientific standards of the day. This results in steampunk gadgets and crazy theories centered on the existence of the soul. In addition, the books are very lighthearted in their approach to the supernatural, possibly even silly (e.g. newly minted vampires suffer from fang–lisp).
5. I’ve seen your books described as comedy and urban fantasy as well, but to me, there’s a large dollop of mystery as well. What’s generally the impetus for the story, do you begin with the mystery in mind?
I actually don’t read mysteries. That was always my parents’ thing. But because of that, I was raised watching BBC mysteries all the time, so I suppose they leaked in. I’m not very subtle about it. Most of the time my stories are simply character driven dramas with lots comedy, and real mystery readers can figure out who done it easily. I don’t consider the mystery the impetus. For me the point is revealing how my main character figures things out, and how much trouble she gets into as she does so.
6. These books are very British, to the point where every time I read the writing, I hear a British person in my head. You seem to be American, how did this happen?
My mum’s a Brit (it’s probably her voice you hear) and I attended graduate school in Nottingham and spent summers in Devon as a kid, but I’m embarrassingly American. My US publisher is pretty strict about making sure all terms and words are Americanized. I dug in my heels about a few of the names, but a passing familiarity with Regency romances or BBC costume dramas is more than sufficient to understand the humor. I hope my books are filled with the kind of comedy that crosses cultural boundaries: farce, sarcasm, and indiscriminate irreverence.
7. Timeless is the last in the Parasol Protectorate series, how did you know it was time to end the series? Will readers get to see more of Alexia et al in the new series?
I’m the kind of reader who will not pick up a series until it is complete. I’ve been burned too many times before by a series (or author) dying early. It’s kind of morbid but I wanted to have one completed series under my belt, just in case. I like to end things, it’s very satisfying. It felt like Alexia’s arc was going to settle happily down at five books, so I stopped there. She and other characters from her series might show up in the Finishing School or the Parasol Protectorate Abroad but they will not be main characters.
1. How would you describe the Parasol Protectorate series for those who don’t know about it yet?
Imagine Jane Austen dabbling in science and steam technology. Then imagine P.G. Wodehouse suddenly dropped vampires into the Drones Club. The Parasol Protectorate books are the resulting progeny. They begin with a soulless spinster confronting Queen Victoria’s grumpy werewolf investigator over the issue of lisping vampires and go on from there.
2. How about the Finishing School series?
The Finishing School series is set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, only 25 years earlier, and features a finishing academy located in a giant caterpillar-like dirigible floating over Dartmoor in which young ladies are taught to . . . finish . . . everything . . . and everyone . . . as needed. There is steampunk etiquette! There is well-dressed espionage! There is Victorian fake food. There is a flying mechanical sausage dog named Bumbersnoot.
The first book, Etiquette & Espionage, was a New York Times bestseller and garnered star reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly.
These books feature a marauding team of outrageous miscreants in a high-tech dirigible charging about fixing things; loudly and mainly with tea. This series explores the wider ramifications of my steampunk British Empire, not just how technology has shifted but how vampires and werewolves have evolved differently in other parts of the world. The first book, Prudence, begins several decades after the Alexia books.
3. And the Custard Protocol series?
4. What genre are your peculiar books?
The Parasol Protectorate books are usually filed under Science Fiction/Fantasy, although some stores put them into Romance and a few have even stuck them in the Horror section.
The Finishing School books can usually be found with other Young Adult books.
The Custard Protocol occasionally and incorrectly goes in with YA (at best it’s New Adult) but should be in the same are as the Parasol Protectorate.
I consider my books a mix of steampunk and urban fantasy. I like Carrie Vaughn’s term “urbane fantasy” which nicely incorporates both sub-genres. There’s also the delightful term “teapunk.” There’s certainly enough tea in my books for that. I tend to gently spoof Gothic classics, so there is also a large dose of comedy in my books – giggling readers are good.
1896-1903 handle by Fabergé, The Victoria & Albert Museum1
Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Quirky Victorian Term explained:
Hemp “A useful plant, resembling the common nettle; which is sewn in april, and, like flax, will flourish best in rich ground: the outward covering, or peeling of the stalk, is the part made into cloth and cordage. What is Tow? The refuse of hemp after it has been dressed; this thick gross part, when separated from the stem, is frequently spun into a kind of yarn, of which packing-cloths are made: it is useful in stopping the effusions of blood, and in lighting matches for canon.”
~ Mangnall’s Questions, 1830
Quote of the Day:
“The personality of a house is indefinable, but there never lived a lady of great cultivation and charm whose home, whether a palace, a farm-cottage, of a tiny apartment, did not reflect the charm of its owner.”
Come visit me Gail! I have tea and custard! You like custard? Please please please?
First of all, Gentle Reader, it’s so very kind of you to think of me and to want to see me in person. I would, I promise, genuinely love to meet all of you. I adore my readers and have been charmed any time I had the opportunity to meet any of you face-to-face. I’m a particular fan of tweet-ups and kaffeklutches, as I feel I really get a chance to know you best at small impromptu gatherings.
Me and some of my friends & Alpha readers at the SAS launch party
However, please understand that when I travel I’m not writing.
So you really have to decide whether you want the next book or Gail in person. Because you can’t have both. I need to sleep… sometimes.
That said, these days, whether I visit a convention, city, country, school, library or bookstore rides on many factors.
1. Have I been to that area within the last few years?
Since my books are published all over the world and I only do one event a month, I try to be as fair as possible and visit as many different places as I can where I can meet the most readers. Events take a lot out of me so I need to be judicious in my choices.
I’m not one of those authors who can write on the road and I usually need a few days either end to prep and recover. Thus I can lose a week or more writing time every time I travel, even if only for the weekend.
At Singapore Book Fest By SG Young
2. Have I done a similar event within the last year?
I try to spread the 12 events I do a year evenly: book tours, overseas visits, steampunk cons/gatherings, comic cons, large conventions, small conventions, book fairs, writing workshops, industry expos & conferences, drop in signings, speaking gigs, and library appearances.
With the Tunstells at a Steampunk Con
3. Have they invited me?
I hope you understand that as a professional, events that are willing to cover my expenses always take priority. Most events run on a tight budget and can only fly Guests of Honor, for which I’m not always popular enough to qualify.
When on book tour, I’m most often sent by my publisher to bookstores where I’m well known and well liked. That’s why you see me turning up regularly at the usual suspects: Mysterious Galaxy, Murder By the Book, Borderlands, Powell’s, and Books Inc. These stores make an effort to ask my publisher to send me to them, they know a lot of people want to see me in their city. And yes, it is always a city.
This is my job, after all. It must be worth the sacrifice in time I should be writing.
High tea event
I really hope this makes sense and that you do not take offense. I know 12 seems like I ought to have a lot of options but the spots fill up fast! Also early on in my career I fought burn out due to too much travel so I have drastically pulled back since 2017.
“Well-trained servants appeared by magic to remove all the breakable furniture…replacing it with a special set of chairs and tables made to smash. Senior officers bolted away to play bridge; the rest of us, who were young in years or at heart, began to enjoy ourselves according to the ancient customs.
Somebody found an enormous roll of webbing and swaddled up the fat gunner subaltern in it. A lamp fell with a crash. Wrestling matches began. A boy in the Punjab Frontier Force brought in a little bazaar pony and made it jumps sofas…
Hours afterwards, I left dust and din and walked back under the stars to the bungalow in which I had been allotted a room. I was extraordinarily pleased with myself and my surroundings. Everyone in my regiment was the best fellow in the world – and that first impression of mine has not been altered by twenty years of intimacy.”
~ Francis Yeats-Brown, 1870s (via Richard Holmes’s Sahib: The British Soldier in India.) And here I thought the Drones club was purely fictional.
Here’s why asking a “celebrity” to support your personal cause is challenging…
Here’s why it’s a problem, Gentle Reader.
When you ask for an endorsement, charitable or not, you’re asking me to trust you with my whole reputation as an author and as a decent human being.
That’s my livelihood and integrity. That is HUGE ask.
How do I know you aren’t a scam?
I don’t. So I have to spend hours researching your trustworthiness. On the internet! Because you Tweeted at me?
Your 5 second Tweet request has now taken up half my day.
So here’s what I can do:
I can support a select group of causes, schools, and libraries with both donated books and funding. I value literacy & education. That’s how I enjoy giving back to my community because that’s how I earn a living. I’m also queer and write queer characters, so many of my causes are tangential to my own identity and personal experience in life. (Occasionally I will offer exclusive special short stories to my newsletter supporting specific charities.)
Mostly, I prefer to stay private about the specifics of my philanthropic endeavors (see tzedakah). I spend a good deal of time researching to ensure every single one I choose is run efficiently and with few ulterior motives or agendas.
I simply don’t have the time or the money to research, qualify, and support every request I receive.
I receive a LOT of them.
It’s for this reason that I prefer not to endorse publicly (through retweeting or other means) additional charitable organizations. (Or non-charitable ones, for that matter.)
I’ve adopted a policy of proactively finding causes dear to my heart, rather than responding to solicitations.
I hope that my Gentle Readers out there will understand and respect my wishes in this matter.
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GAIL’S DAILY DOSE
Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Jenaveve Lester sketch Gail Carriger Octopus
Quote of the Day:
“Tzedakah is not a benevolent contribution given to be kind or nice to those who need it, it is a balancing of the scales, an active working towards justice. One should donate to the local food bank not to gain favor with a god, or to be nice to those with less than ourselves, but because it is unjust for anyone to be without food, especially while others have plenty. Correcting injustice, balancing the scales, evaluating the distribution of power and creating equity is tzedakah.”
I’m a self-confessed Marvel girl, Gentle Reader. Yes, I read some DC but it was always Marvel that I collected.
I like the idea of being a mutant, of being special. I branched out to Dark Horse once or twice, but in the end I prefer to read about teams, superheros working together. Partly because, early on, this was my only chance to see more than one female superhero in action. I mean X-men had, like, three! (God forbid there actually ever be more females than males on a team. Or that the female be in charge of the team on a permanent basis, and not be a bad girl . . . but I digress.) In case you hadn’t guessed from my own writing, friendship is a theme that appeals to me.
I’ve never been one for the Hero’s Journey, one man struggling against the universe blah de blah. I find Batman totally lacking in appeal: rich man with dark past and too many toys all on on his own taking on the bad guys? Yawn fest. Add Robin into the mix and a little homoerotic tension and I perk up, but basically meh to the Batman, Spiderman, and Supermen of the world.
So who are some of my favorite female super heroes?
I may be the only person in existence who actually collected New Warriors comics. But they were my team. I loved them so much. I knew when the next one was due to come out and I would haunt my local comic shop waiting for the shipment.
As the series progressed I became a particular fan of Speedball but it was Angelica Jones who drew me to pick up my very first comic ever. I adored her on the Spider Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon when I was a kid, so I hunted down the comic that featured Firestar as a main character. I loved that the New Warriors were all teens ~ that their concerns felt more personal to me as a result, and that their character arcs were all about learning to work together, building friendships, and relationships, very like my own journey through high school. (Only I couldn’t shoot microwave energy out my hands, sadly. Life would have been so much better if I could.)
Shadow Cat Kitty Pryde had one of the coolest super powers, phasing through solid matter. She was part of the X-Men but I didn’t start reading her until she’d joined Excalibur. I adored her character and she came complete with pet mini-dragon.
Why do we love Anna Marie so much? The ultimate Romeo and Juliet relationship with Gambit, of course. Gambit, only the hottest X-man ever. No, not Wolverine, Gambit.
French bad boy who can charge and throw deadly playing cards, ex-con and thief, develops a mad passion for the sweet southern belle whom he can never touch. Le sigh. Yeah, Rogue’s powers suck. But unrequited love with a hot snarky bad boy? Mmmm. Plus after sucking Ms Marvel, Rogue can fly.
Leaving aside the abysmal portrayal of Emma Frost in recent movies, she’s a wonderful character. She wavers from being an all out bad girl, with her Hellions, to having some good moments, to eventually taking on teaching duties, building Generation X and even joining X-men. I liked that her strength was in her mind, that she was the leader of her group, and that she was a very strong woman. I also loved her costume. What can I say? I’m shallow like that.
Of course, who did I really want to be when I grew up? She Ra, Ceetara, or Xena. I’m not picky. So, what about you? Any comic readers out there? Who’s your favorite comic book heroine?
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Being an Essay based on Hearsay, Family Tradition, and Opinionated Preferences
Let us talk about tea, Gentle Reader. That great and fateful, that wonder of all wonders, that calmest and most civilized of drinks. I have been pleased to note, of late, it is making a comeback at steampunk events in particular. At Nova Albion the ConSuite consisted of nothing but tea and biscuits – as it should. In Seattle the steampunk convention greenroom boasted some of the best loose leaf I have ever had. Private stock, of course, but there it is.
Let us not discuss the travesty that is iced tea, the mockery that is Long Island iced tea, or that Thing that they do will all the sugar in the South (you can’t see it, but I shudder at the very idea). Let us not delve in to the wondrous exoticism of those foreign notions, primordial and progenitive as they may be: white, green, oolong. Lets us not even think about decaf, for low it really does taste every-so-slightly of fish. Oh no, let us discuss the truth in tea, the tea of my people, the dark, the honest, the black.
“Tea at the refreshment rooms of railway stations and on board steam-boats is often a mere parody on the real article – a fearful decoction which appears capable of performing a principal part in the historical episodes of Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamund, and of which one hesitates to partake, lest it should have speedily fatal results.”
~ Hints to Lady Travellers by Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889
My mother is a British ex-pat, who brought with her very little, stayed for 50 odd years, and retains even less. However, she still has her accent and she still has her tea – every day at 4 pm, sometimes 5 – rain or shine. She has done this my whole life. When I was little, I was permitted milk and a dash. Now I take it stronger than she, and I have to reminder her, every time, to let it sit a bit longer for her strangely evolved daughter.
I dabbled briefly in coffee during my rebellious college years and I have, upon occasion, tested my own will power by giving tea up entirely, but I always returned to it. My safe haven. It is the taste and the peace and the joy that draws me ever back, but it is also the ritual.
This is a teapot carriage cozy carrier, read about it in this post.
I brought a gentleman caller home to my mother’s several years ago. A fine upstanding young man, large and Greek in appearance but very American in sensibilities. In an effort to impress, after the tea was finished, he began to wash the dishes. My mother and I, chatting away, almost missed it.
I saw him out of the corner of my eye. Mum must have guessed, from the horror on my face, what he was about to do.
He was going to wash the teapot!
It was like one of those slow motion cartoon moments. Mum and I, arms pin wheeling out, agonized drawn out cries of “Noooooooo!” as we dove towards him.
He didn’t drop the pot in surprise at our behavior, but it was a very near thing. Fortunately, the soap covered scrubbing brush never touched the vaunted and scared interior of that well cured teapot. Thank goodness, for it was the work of decades.
A teapot should never be washed. You may swish it out with boiling water. But it should never ever be washed. This is a teapot, by the way, that is only used for black tea. You want to drink that appalling herbal tisane stuff, use a different pot.
So how, many have asked, do I brew a perfect cuppa?
My training is specific to my mother, as hers was to her grandmother, and so forth back as far as any of us can remember. It is not the training of every tea drinker. And there have been, dare I say it, studies showing that not all the steps are necessary for taste, but who would trust scientists on such a religious matter as tea.
Here is how I do it.
1. Select a pot, a good china one, with a spout that does not drip, and a lid that stays on. Most pots these days produce four mugs worth of tea, but one should measure to see how many it take.
Gail’s current favorite teapot comes in multiple colors and sizes. DOES NOT DRIP!
2. Boil enough water for the pot and then some. Boil it. Boil!
3. Swish a dollop of the boiled water around inside the pot to heat it.
“First, the water must not be too hard, and it must really be boiling. Secondly, the teapot must be well scalded, before the tea leaves are placed in it, and the boiling water poured upon them. And thirdly, and lastly, the tea must be allowed to draw just long enough to be strong, and not long enough to acquire the bitter flavour of the tannin.”
4. Choose a good quality loose leaf black tea. I prefer Twinings English Breakfast Gold Label from England (not the red box American). The quality of a tea can be determined by the smell (not too spicy) and the taste (not too bitter) and the color (for EB a rich dark chocolate brown with hints of rust when seeped) and the size and shape of the leaf (generally larger is better).
5. Place a heaped tablespoon into the pot, one for each mug. If the pot is a 6-er or larger, also include “one for the pot.” One will soon learn the quirks of each tea and each teapot and what relationship works best.
6. Add the recently boiled water. Fill the pot all the way, but not so far it will spill when poured. Stick a spoon in and give it a good couple stirs. Cap and cover with a tea cozy.
7. Those who are too immersed in the culture of green teas will allow only a three minute seeping. Those fancy tea timers are equally precipitous. I have even had proprietors of tea shops, who should know better, try to poor for me ahead of schedule. Oh, no no. There will be NO WEAK TEA for this girl. I prefer a five minute seep at least, but I take my tea strong.
“Over-strong tea acts as a powerful stimulant, but it has the worst possible effect upon the digestion and the nerves; the constantly repeated doses injure without producing any other effect. It is a thousand pities to abuse by excess one of the most rational, pleasant, and innocent indulgences which are open to the use of womankind.”
~ Hints to Lady Travellers by Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889
8. Now, we move on to teacups instead of mugs. Tea always tastes better out of a teacup, I feel, and a smaller portion allows one to drink it entirely before it gets cold. Choose your cups and saucers with care, you want a nice delicate rim, in makes sipping much more enjoyable and prevent dribbles.
But I will admit, these days, I often use a mug because it is easier to carry about the house with me.
9. Put the milk in first.* Good quality whole milk, organic if possible, un-pasteurized if risk is appealing. Lemon is only for the truly quirky. Then poor the tea in after through a strainer. No sugar please. A tea that requires sugar is not a very good tea. A person who requires sugar is not a true tea drinker, they should be excused onto something more banal. Raspberry cordial, perhaps?
“There cannot be a doubt that the intemperate use of this most delightful and refreshing beverage is becoming a grave evil amongst Englishwomen. From the washwoman, who keeps her tea-pot on the hob, and takes the contents, like Sarah Gramp, ‘when she is so dispoged’, to the fashionable woman, who indulges in the same luxury six or seven times a day, from her early tea till the last cup which awaits her in her dressing-room on her return from the evening’s round of amusements, there is probubly too much tea drunk, and with too little discrimination.”
~ Hints to Lady Travellers by Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889
The hostess always pours the tea for herself first, unlike most other endeavors. This is because she should test the strength and quality upon her own pallet, and not subject her guest to weak tea, over-brewed tea, or spoiled milk.
To drink, one picks up both the cup and saucer, then raises the cup to drink with the free hand. No, the pinky is not stuck out. The cup is returned to the saucer without clinking.
Never dunk anything into your tea. All you end up with is crummy tea.
And one last moment of comedy. Should you over-brew your tea, my friends and I refer to this as: strong enough for a mouse to run across.
* Speaking as an archaeologist I’d like to put an end to the sorry insult to porcelain that suggests this most high tech of ceramics cannot survive boiling water without cracking! Porcelain can take it! It was designed to do so. In fact only very cheap glazes such as those on mugs from Ross, or Medieval purple and green wares can’t take direct boiling water. This has to do with the clay paste to glaze interactions layers. But, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, there is probably no actual reason behind putting the milk in first versus second, humans are seldom so logical. It’s lower class to put milk in first, upper to put it in second.
That said the most likely explanation I’ve found is that you would milk first if your milk was close to spoiling. Since the wealthy could afford to throw away a cup of tea tainted by adding expired milk (which curdles on contact with hot water) they put the milk in second. However, the poor could not afford to waste tea, so the milk went in first, that way if it was close to turning it would not curdle. (Incidentally, this is the same principle for mixing acids and milks: if you’re making a piccata sauce, for example, cream into the rue, then slowly add the lemon juice. Never add cream to an already acid sauce, it will curdle.)
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Just because I feel like being terribly droll here is a list of silly confessions . . .
Weird Gail Carriger Confessions
I like adverbs and I think they are much maligned in the popular press.
I talk to animals as if they understand. To the robin, “My, aren’t you handsome?” To the cat, “You got problems.” To the barking dog, “You’re not impressing anyone.”
I find bureaucratic inefficiency more irritating than anything else in life. Except maybe that jiggly leg thing, argh!
I have the smallest bladder of any grown woman. I secretly believe I was subjected to covert government experimentation and there is a mouse somewhere with my badder that never has to pee.
The thing about me that the AB finds most impressive is my ability to slice bread perfectly straight. Seriously. (My mum also swears she and my father divorced because she can’t cut bread properly.)
I’m currently infatuated with real French macarons.
I loathe Venetian blinds. What happened to good, old fashioned, curtains? Or better, shutters?
I have trouble remembering to drink water.
I did karate for three years and had the best spin kick in the class but gave it up when my then-boyfriend joined as I couldn’t stand sparing with someone I kissed.
I have very strict doughnut protocols. My doughnut of choice is a French crueler. If they don’t have it, I will walk out sans doughnut and feel very proud of my self-control.
Yes, I am as obsessed with tea as you think I am. I own 6 teapots, 3 electric kettles, 2 tea cozies, 24 mugs, around 40 teacups and saucers collected for over 20 years mostly from thrift stores ~ The Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition uses my collection for their tearoom. This assortment is currently scattered between 4 houses (friend’s and relations).
The first full sentence I ever wrote was: my dad is always dusty and my mom is always dirty. (My dad is a carpenter and my mum a gardener.)
I like cheap sweet champagne, mid range full bodied red wines, and very expensive fruity whites.
If I don’t write it down, I won’t remember. No, really.
I’ll eat or drink anything three times, on the theory that it hasn’t been prepared right the first two. This means I’ve consumed guinea pig, alpaca, most animal innards, bathtub gin, homemade chicha, every exotic fruit I can get my hands on, and lots of cheese.
My favorite thing in life is to have friends over, feed them, and laugh.
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So thank you, Gentle Facebooker, for the prod in the articulate direction.
Before we start!
Here’s something readers don’t know: authors are not often asked about pronunciation in their books. Usually the narrator is handed the manuscript and left to flounder.
My traditional publishers sometimes ask, the narrators sometimes ask (if we are allowed contact with each other), but not often. Sometimes no one knows to ask. Often I assume they everyone just knows (see Kirt in the San Andreas Books and the word “Marin” which I thought everyone just knows). Like my last name, Carriger, sometimes it just never occurs to me that there is more than one way to pronounce a thing. With narrators who are British, I generally let them have free rein.
Sometimes, honestly, I don’t care. I figure audio is partly a new art from, and therefore an adaptation or a reinterpretation. I’m not precious about my books. I don’t like to fuss.
Mispronunciations, therefore ARE NOT THE NARRATOR’S FAULT.
Please don’t negatively review a narrator because they pronounce something wrong. It’s a horrible thing to do and shows mainly that you do not understand how the industry you’re consuming works.
My character names & how I pronounce them in my head
Here are a few specific names from my series that I get asked about a lot…
Maccon ~ Mack-CON (Not like Bacon, sadly. I chose it for the meaning.)
Akeldama ~ Ak-el-DA-ma (It’s mispronounced in the first audiobook because they didn’t consult with me until the second.) I don’t know how it would be pronounced in the original language but it has to be pronounced DA-ma for reasons that become apparent in the Timeless. This is the only name I have ever been fussy about.
Lefoux ~ Leh-FOO (I pronounce it that way in my head, but I think it may rightly be pronounced differently. We all know how faux-pas is pronounce. The name is an inside joke amongst my friends.)
Sidheag ~ SHEE-ak alternatively pronounced SIDH-hey, just to make matters confusing. (Again, chosen for its meaning, all the pack names are.) I have no idea how it’s really pronounced.
Dubh ~ Duv
Featherstonehaugh ~ fan-shaw (Chosen because I knew it was one of “those” British names and I just wanted to mess with people. Also, I’m a big fan of the movie adaptation of the EM Forster novel Maurice in which it’s pronounced fest-tin-hew.) There’s contention over this one and I think it is pronounced differently in different classes and parts of the UK. If anyone who HAS this name wants to tell me more, please do.
I’ve no excuse, I’ve actively avoided modern American history my whole life, my interest in history tends to end when corsets do. His real name, Phineas B Crow is a reference to a friend named Phineas (by permission) and the Jim Crow laws, since I was hoping readers might look into understanding them more. Again, I apologize for clumsy handling, I will strive to do better.
Gentle Reader, fan-fic is a touchy subject amongst us authors. I’ve found fan-make (and fan-dub) to also be of concern, so read on if you dare!
Why am I discussing Fan Fic?
Someone recently (very politely, I must say) asked me for my thoughts on fan-fic written for my universe. I must admit I had to reply with a very polite cop-out answer.
I HAD to do it, but it was a cop-out and I’m distressed by this.
I try to be as honest as possible here on the interwebs, so I’ve been feeling guilty over my behavior and certain recent events have convinced me to address this subject, as delicately as possible.
Why am I discussing Fan Make?
I am also going address fan-make, which is a necessary side effect of steampunk meets Etsy.
For the purposes of this discussion, I am defining fan-make as items crafted and labeled with my characters or universe and then sold for profit.
As opposed to cos-play or fan-art which is much more like fan-fic, in that it is a one-off original artistic endeavor not intended for profit.
Fan-fic or FanFic or Fan Fiction
An early reviewer called Soulless fan-fic gold, and I will say that I took that as a compliment. However, I will never get to read any Parasol Protectorate fan-fic and here is why:
Michael Stackpole of (defunked) Dragon Page fame had some very wise things to say on the subject and I agree with him in this matter. I can’t find an article of his to link to, but the meat is as follows:
If we, as authors, have dropped the right threads and cookies then the Careful Reader will know where the story is going.
If a fan then puts this into writing before the next book is published and their predictions are correct, they can (and have) sue the author.
Basically, this means that authors really can’t read any fan-fic for our own protection.
We must have plausible deniability.
Thus if you link, email, or comment with anything to do with Parasol Protectorate fan-fic the most I can say is,
“Thank you for the compliment, I trust it is an excellent piece of writing, but I am legally unable to read it.”
Fan-Make or Fan-Craft or Fan Gadgetry
I cannot admit, for legal reasons, to having seen any fan-make. Let us say, hypothetically, that certain things have turned up on Etsy.
Here are my manifold reactions:
First, unlike fan-fic, these items are for sale. Quite practically, I am not seeing any money from this and it is my intellectual property. Mine, mine, mine.
Second, the items must be considered allied with me, as the author, yet I have absolutely no quality control or creative influence. I have no way of knowing for certain, but I would rather junk were not associated with my world.
Third, within any movie/TV option merchandising is part of the contract, and it is a deal breaker. If the production company were to happen upon all these Parasol Protectorate items for sale all over the internet, they are likely to pull out of an offer. This could cost me not just the money, (and really you guys want me to make money because then I can continue to afford to write more books), but it also costs you, the fans, the possible pleasure of seeing these characters brought to life on screen.
Finally, and by far the worst as far I am concerned (you all know my personality), my permission wasn’t asked. And this upsets me. I’m easy to find on the internet, all it would take is a nice little note and some building of trust and relationship. And I could say, “So this is what you can do and this is what will get you lawyered.”
This only recently came across my radar (2019). There is a YouTube (etc) sensation for voice talent to read picture books or comics while showing the book on screen. Apparently this has happened with my manga.
Unfortunately, showing the contents of an image-based book in greater than 10% is copyright infringement. I legally must protect my copyright or it will be taken away from me. Also, it’s a part of my contract to report it when I find it.
Copyright is my livelihood and it’s not that you are necessarily stealing my readership, it’s that you are establishing a legal precedent that I am allowing it to occur: THIS CAN BE USED AGINST ME IN COURT. A pirate site could for example screen cap and steal all those images and then republish. I know you didn’t mean harm, but they sure do, and you enabled it.
Feelings, Nothing More Than FEELINGS
I am so sorry we live in this litigious world.
And I am so sorry I can’t me more generous about your enthusiasm and my IP.
But this is the age old battle, as Dickens would have it, “between art and commerce.”
If there were good systems in place for Shared World action, I would jump that band wagon in a heartbeat. But there isn’t, not that also protects my livelihood. I’m in the enviable position of being just popular enough to have this happen to me in increasingly odd ways. And not so popular that I have a team of IP lawyers on my side, nipping about the internet and deciding when to pursue and when to clamp down (see Harry Potter or Star Wars).
So there it is, a not-so-official statement on fan-fic and fan-make. I hope that it articulates the reasoning behind my behavior on the subject, and why, under certain circumstances when I should like to be personable, generous, and polite (especially to artistic and creative people) I simply cannot.
If the world were a different place, if wishes were tea bags… I should always be drinking Twinings gold loose-leaf.
But it isn’t and I’m not, and out there on the net there are sharks, and pirates, and all sorts of nastiness.
In the end, we authors are just as easily taken advantage of as anyone else, more so sometimes, because there is this very strange idea that a book is public property. I am, therefore, engaged in the epic struggle between profit and etiquette.
Sadly, I am no landed aristocrat to frown upon trade, this is my livelihood you are dabbling with, and in the end, I need to eat… for one can not survive on tea alone.
I love cosplay & fan art. I love to see it and I love that you do it. Just don’t sell it publicly branded with my sheez, OK?