To celebrate the occasion of Prudence’s grand debut, Lilith Saintcrow interviews Gail Carriger about her upcoming new series, the Custard Protocol!
Lilith Saintcrow: Hullo, Ms Carriger! It’s marvelous to see you again. Do have some tea, and is the chair comfortable enough?
Gail Carriger: Well, hi there! I would love some tea, how very gracious of you.
First things first, can you tell me about Prudence, the first in the Custard Protocol series? I’m extremely intrigued.
Well it is a spin off from my Parasol Protectorate series. Although you do not have to have read those books to enjoy this romp. This first book features the titular character, Prudence (who isn’t very), and her dirigible crew of crack (or possibly cracked) friends dashing about the British Empire trying to thwart nefarious tea plots.
You have a vintage fashion blog, which I quite enjoy. What’s the most interesting vintage fashion choice you’ve ever seen or personally worn?
Oh, that is a really challenging question. I once saw a young lady doing a steampunk cross-play version of the 5th Doctor Who. She knitted a corset cover vest. It was remarkable. The 5th Doctor is already an 80’s take on early 20th-century dandy, so mixing it with steampunk and then feminizing really made a impression on me.
You do quite a lot of research for your books! What’s your favourite piece of research that didn’t make it into the finished book? What’s your least favourite that did?
I did a lot of research into the Enigma machine and early spies (like the Cambridge Five) which I never got to use for the Finishing school books. Also I delve into mythology all the time and it very rarely makes it into my books. I learned a lot about Indian gods and goddesses for Prudence, but could only use a fraction of what I unearthed. As for my least favorite, the Rakshasa are pretty vile. I always wanted to put them into Prudence, but they aren’t very pleasant when they finally show up.
You have very exquisite manners. What one piece of etiquette advice would you say is most important?
If you lead with kindness, infractions are forgiven.
What’s the one thing interviewers never ask you that you wish they would? And how would you answer if they did?
Do you also drink coffee? The answer is yes, yes I do. Specifically Italian espresso. Don’t get me wrong, I still adore tea, but that doesn’t mean I don’t partake of the sacred bean. I know, I know, your head just exploded in shock.
What’s one piece of modern clothing you wouldn’t care to live without?
That I own, or as a general rule?
That I own? Anything leather or cashmere. I’ve carefully cultivated a collection of soft jackets, warm gloves, smartly designed bags, fabulous shoes, chic snuggly sweaters and cozy hats. I shot at thrift and consignment stores mostly, but I will shell out good money for cashmere.
As a general rule? Modern hosiery. It’s so much more comfortable than in the past and with many more options.
What is one food seemingly everyone around you likes, but you can’t stand?
Soda. Don’t drink it, don’t like it, it’s far too sweet. In fact, I don’t approve of sugar in a beverage ever. Why would I want to drink sugar when I could eat it? Seems silly to me.
What is your biggest turn-off?
Usually it’s smell related. Anything from lack of showering to incorrect perfume choice… Don’t even get me started on Chanel #5. Shudder.
Describe, if you would, the perfect gentleman.
There’s a great tumblr feed for that, actually.
I guess I would say: good hygiene, fine manners, and a sweet disposition. I would add, for me personally, a certain quiet mellowness of spirit. I love calm grounded men.
If you had to choose only one regional cuisine to eat for the rest of your life (for example, Texas barbeque, New York deli, Szechuan, Bavarian, Bangkok Thai, etc.) which would you choose?
Thai. But I would suffer. Can I pick California fusion? Then I get bits of everything. One of the reasons I live where I do (San Francisco Bay Area) is the shear range of food choices. I love it all, and I want to try it all. My tombstone is likely to read: She only wanted to taste it.
The Parasol Protectorate is a marvellous series. Do you have a favourite character, one you secretly adore above all others?
I adore Lord Akeldama because he is so deliciously fun – all that mad italic–wielding action. I’m under the impression you need only read him to understand why.
Last but not least, what is your favourite historical era, and would you like to live in it? Why or why not?
What a dastardly question to ask an archaeologist. I have a mad passion for Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. I’m totally fascinated by the Inca and the Wari. I like transition times when one empire collapses and another rises up. I prefer large civilizations, but tend to focus on household rather than ritual sites. I’m obsessed with ancient food-ways regardless of geographic location. And, of course, I can’t pass up Rococo France or Victorian England because of the clothing! Would I want to visit any of these, absolutely. Would I want to stay? Nope. I’ll take modern medicine and diet, thank you very much.
You have, as always, been gracious and very kind. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for Ms Carriger!
Thank you for much for hosting me!