Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Californian Cub Corespondent on Carriger

As I walked in, having arrived early for the Gail Carriger author reading event at the Sunnyvale Public Library, already I knew I was in the right place with several people decked out in full Steampunk regalia. Mostly, however, it was a subtlety of Steampunk; an octopus necklace here, a gear pin there. There was a particular irony in that nearly everyone waiting was playing on the modern technology of their smart phones. I, however, was standing, pen and pad in hand, in a vintage look which tends to be my regular attire, but was also intended as an homage to what I understood to also be the author’s every day style.

When the doors finally opened, I sat quite literally front and center. Hey, I’ve never been accused of being shy, and I wanted to absorb as much as I could from this lovely and talented lady. She appeared in an elegant 50’s ensemble, and lit up the room from the moment she entered, starting with some basics of introductions for the odd few that perhaps merely wandered in after the crowd trying to comprehend the “interesting” clothing of several of the other attendees.

Ms. Carriger then delighted us by reading excerpts from her new book Etiquette and Espionage, the first in her upcoming young adult series set some twenty or so years previous to her famous Parasol Protectorate, though set in the same alternate Victorian Era Steampunk universe. The book starts with the protagonist in the midst of quite a kerfuffle. Yet again the reader (or listener) is drawn in by humor, calamity, and gloriously independent and interesting characters. She, of course, left us hanging, and most definitely wanting more. We did eventually find out that there will be some repeat characters from the afore mentioned series! I must interject here that, guaranteed, the majority of the audience contemplated absconding with that single copy of Etiquette and Espionage as it will sadly not be released until February 2013. Such is the nature of the publishing industry.

Soon enough, Ms. Carriger entranced us with her effervescent, gracious, and mannerly comportment. What followed was an afternoon of what seemed an intimate conversation among new friends, but which masqueraded as a Q and A session. A bevy of topics were covered – would that I could convey them all in a timely manner in this article. Instead, I will give a few highlights and hope that, should the occasion occur for you to attend such an event, that you will indulge and attend to discover for yourself Ms. Carriger’s grace and wit.

She waxed about her beginnings in a small artist/beat poet community where she went in the very different direction of archeology, so that I began to think of her as a young Mary Cassatt (or Diane di Prima) - Indiana Jones hybrid, but with panache. Ms. Carriger had a friend who, at 15 years of age, had a short story published. Describing herself as someone who was constantly writing, Ms. Carriger realized at that moment that SHE could be published as well. And she did have short stories published here and there. So she continued to write, branching into novels… and be rejected for nearly 10 years. At some point she noticed what would get published was her humor, whereas her novels generally followed another style. When she sussed out how to stretch comedy, which she defined as creating “the opposite of expectation,” into a tale the length of a book, she was finally an author.

So that’s the road she took to get here, a very successful Steampunk author. How she writes is equally interesting. Ms. Carriger says for every hour she writes, there is an hour of research that goes into it. She is a “social writer,” preferring to write with an author friend sitting across from her. Both being comedy writers, she says they will be doing their own thing and one will start snickering a devilish little laugh at something they just did to one of their characters, and the other must, of course, be told what is funny. Or one will be stumped with how to phrase a particular idea, or trying to come up with that word that is eluding them at that moment, and enlist the other’s aid. Personally, I think this would be the ideal writing environment, though both Ms. Carriger and I are aware it isn’t suited to everyone’s style.

One of the things Ms. Carriger delights in is the naming of characters. She says that they are often “cookies” (in the gaming sense) to the nature of the characters. A little Google here and there will lend considerable insight. When this question came up, she commented on how much fun she has with it, and mentioned how she didn’t understand authors who used names like John… or EDWARD. I must say, this brought the best laugh of the day. I’ll take an Akeldama or a Hisselpenny, a Featherstonehaugh or a Tarabotti over the prosaic, common names every time. I might add, for me, a favorite of her names, purely for the humor of it, is Major Channing Channing of the Chesterfield Channings… and boy-howdy, does he live up to it!

So many interesting things were covered, far too many to put down here, but what I most came away with was the knowledge that the author actually outshines her fantastic books. This was underscored at the end of the event when she took the time to talk with anyone who stood in line to meet her or get an autograph or photo. Also, I’m so glad she wears vintage 50’s white gloves, too… I thought I was the only one.

This is your Cub Reporter*, signing off.

*Thanks to my bestie Moxie aka, my Californian Cub Reporter, for covering Gail's Sunnyvale event for Steampunk Summer. I think it was fate that she was supposed to attend, do you notice how amazingly their outfits complement each other! A perfect ending for the Gail Carriger portion of Steampunk Summer, make sure to stop by Friday to see which author or authors will be next! Also, be sure to enter my giveaway to win Steampunk Swag, one of which is Gail's favorite book! Moxie will hopefully be back later in the summer to discuss Warehouse 13 with me (that's if I can get the article rolling). She also claims she will be my dedicated photographer for Teslacon III, though I'm sure her outfits will knock it out of the park compared to mine, so that you'll get a few more high quality photos of my costume, which I'll be discussing as per usual in my Sartorial Sundays post.


What an informative report! I had wished to attend myself, but alas I reside in Arizona and the distance was simply too great. Now I really wish I'd made the effort, though! Your report was the next best thing - thank you! :)

I'm glad me and Moxie could give you a vicarious fix! Arizona is a bit of a trek, hopefully one day she will come closer and you can meet the awesomeness of Gail yourself!

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