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09 January 2013

Interview with Gail Carriger

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

First in a four book YA series set 25 years before the Parasol Protectorate but in the same universe.

1) Hello! You can tell us something about you and your book “Etiquette & Espionage “ the first book of the series “ Finishing School “?

Etiquette & Espionage is the first of a four book young adult series! The Finishing School Series is set in the same world as my adult five book The Parasol Protectorate series, 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 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. I am excited. The first book will come out Feb 5, 2013

2) How and why have you started to write? Were there something or someone that gave you an impulse?

I became a writer because of a healthy does of insanity mixed with a reckless disregard for my own survival topped with ingrained escapist tendencies. The moment my best friend had a short story accepted I realized it was possible to be a writer. She was 15. I figured if she could do it, so could I. Two years later I sold a short to the same market. She now works in the publishing industry, so I’m still trailing behind. I always wanted to be an archaeologist, writing was rather more like breathing, just something I did. It was only with Soulless that I realized I might actually have a career as a writer. I still haven’t recovered from the shock.

3) Is that something you have in common with the main character Sophronia?

Sophronia isn't much of a writer or academic, she is sneaky and devious and tough. A bit of an introvert. WE are similar, but she is more like me when I was in high school, I've gotten a lot more gregarious over the years.

4) While you're writing, have you discovered a character that you where developing feelings of love for? And was there a character that gave you headaches?

Soap is my favorite character so far, and little Vieve. They are easy and fun characters to write. The bad characters are always a challenge to me. I want them to be realistic and self actualized and complex, as well as nasty. That's challenging to write.

5) How have you done your research for this novel?

I had a fair bit of expertise in certain aspects of the era (fashion, food, manners, literature, theatre, upper class courting rituals, antiquities collecting) when I started but great gaps in other areas that I quickly realized needed to be filled. I spent a lot of time researching the gadgetry and technology of the day, travel and communications techniques, medical and hard science advances, not to mention other things like major wars and military strategies, spy training, victorian schools, dancing, courtship, and government policies. That’s the thing, you never know what information you are going to need until you need it, and inevitably the internet doesn’t have it. Since I’m writing alt history I can always disregard the facts, but I like to get it right first, before I mess with it. Most people won’t care to look up the details (or get it wrong by confusing my setting with Austen, I’m specifically 1851 in these books) but even if it doesn’t make it into the book, it will irritate me if unwritten background information is flawed.

6) In the end, would you like say some words to your fans from Romania?

I can only give you the bit most writers hate:

Honestly and rather crudely. 1. Sit your arse in that chair and write. 2. When you’re done writing only then do you get to edit. 3. Give it to three highly critical people to attack with red pens. 4. Fix it and submit it. 5. Let it go, sit your arse back down and write something else as different from the first as possible. 6. Wash and repeat.

Only that I'm grateful to have you, I know my books are challenging to find and I'm delighted when anyone takes the time to read them.

I am also trying to write a book right now and I would be interested in some pieces of advice that are coming for someone as important and worldwide known as you. If it is not a big deal, of course.

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