Sunday, November 9, 2014

The autumn of spies: Gail Carriger & the Lit Up Ball

Autumn is in the air and the time is for spies? Apparently so, judging by book calendar.

October 18th marked the library's Second Annual Lit Up Ball held at the Artisphere in Rosslyn. The theme was James Bond, so attendees went all out dressing 1950s/1960s vintage style or costumed as their favorite Bond character. A live big band played an array of tunes while couples danced away on the floor. Or they could sip their Vesper cocktails while playing a fun spy game where you unscrambled clues and found the right people for the answer. The night was quite a lot of fun, if a bit loud. If they do it again next year, I'll start thinking ahead of time for costume ideas, because last minute shopping and plus sizes is difficult at best.

The library commuter club meets November 20th to discuss John Le Carre's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy". I finished reading it quite early to my surprise. I would be interested to comparing it against the filmed versions to see how they tightened the narrative.

But this afternoon it was back to school at the International Spy Museum to finally meet Gail Carriger, author of the Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School series. I've been following her books since nearly the beginning, but alas schedules have never quite agreed. This year she was attending the World Fantasy Con in DC, so she did two additional signings in the area at Bethesda Library and the Spy Museum. Having liked the venue and slightly easier commute, I chose the Spy Museum one.

I was running late because I realized I actually owned a teal/turquoise sweater that suited the color theme of Waistcoats and Weaponry cover, which I paired with my book necklace I bought a few years back at Small Press Expo. (Carriger has been coordinating her dresses to go with the release, so all of hers are similar colors.)

I arrived about ten minutes late, so I don't know how many questions were asked before or if Carriger gave any sort of introductory speech.

I was following two lovely ladies dressed in full steampunk attire with corsets and bustles. They were quite a sight to behold on the DC Metro and they won copies of the book and a beautiful parasol for the costume contest. I talked to them while waiting for our books to be signed. Quite enjoyable getting to hear about their costuming ideas. One had not read any of Carriger's books, but was big into the steampunk aesthetic.

I quite enjoyed meeting Gail and explaining who I was. There is even photographic evidence (exhibit A) so I must be a terrible vampire if I show up on film.

What I remember:

- The Parasol Protectorate books have been optioned for television and the deal has been renewed a few times, but beyond that, no particular news. She doesn't hold out a lot of hope because her books will be expensive to create with the period costuming, locations and CGI involved. Also they've optioned the world and the character, not necessarily the actual story, so it could wind up very different (i.e. True Blood/Charlaine Harris books). She'd love if one of the Japanese animation houses like Studio Ghibli would adapt them, because her books are so popular over there.

- Favorite spy methods seem to involve something deadly. She's worries she's a bit more of an assassin than spy. But she likes the codes and communication methods. She loves writing dialogue and it's fun to write a conversation without necessarily things being spoken aloud. She likes showing the range of the girls' abilities so we can see girls like Sophronia with her skill set compared to say Preshea or Monique with their rather different ones.

- Favorite comedy method: she loves bad puns and will slip into chapter titles.

- LOVED Tamora Pierce books when she was young. She recalls how she'd have to get the release dates from the librarians so she could acquire them from the bookstore. She contrasted Pierce's main heroines: Alanna the hero vs Kel the general.

- Carriger describes herself as a "militant outliner". She mentioned using Rachael Aaron/Rachel Bach's 2K to 10K ebook with a layering outline approach for her next book. She also claims she can spot a pantser when reading and really has no interest in going on a discovery with this author. She'd rather a nicely planned adventure.

- Has developed a large timeline of character ages and dates she has on her wall, so she can look at a glance and see how old someone was and whether they'd fit into certain adventures.

- Sophronia and her friends are basically her and her best friends. One friend is basically Dimity and is still a beta reader. Carriger told a funny story of how she only picked up on who Dimity was about fifty pages into the book and then went "Heyyyyy..." like "I resemble that remark." Said friend was her character beta, so she could usually spot when someone was OOC or not working. The funniest ones are the unintentional ones. Friends were surprised she'd included one gentleman with red hair and tight pants. To his credit, the inspiration of Tunstall was very aptly cast because he declared he'd change his hair and wear the pants for the next book signing!

- described herself as a "failed goth girl" because she couldn't with all the black. Was thrilled to discover steampunk embraced color (i.e. brown). She loves fashion and dressing up. Mike Perschon (aka SteampunkScholar) dubbed her faction "Carriger Pigeons" for their tendency to dress in a wide plumage of colors.

- her time management skills were complimented by one person, especially for also doing various blogs and etc. She has an assistant that handles a lot of the day to day itinerary type stuff, but sometimes she'll give her specific research-y questions she doesn't have time to look for. It's very very very easy to go looking for one detail and find yourself still reading three hours later and you haven't written a thing. (Oh, how well I know this!)

- wants to write some other short stories or novellas set in the Parasol/Finishing school world after the books are done and she's had a bit of a breather.

- talked a bit about her archaeology work and why she finally had to make a choice between the two. She's a ceramicist and her work mostly focuses on the transition between two types of firing ceramics. She's a materials specialist, so her work is not region specific, so she went wherever the technologies cropped up, rather say focusing on Egyptians or Minoans. She mentioned two digs, an Etruscan one and one in Peru that she quite enjoyed. She was quite fortunate to be able to make a living as a writing now but really reiterated what I've heard elsewhere about not giving up your day job. She'd reached a breaking point when she'd developed carpal tunnel from typing PHD thesis, grading papers, and then going home and writing all night. So something had to give. She still keeps in contact with the archaeology job, but choosing was hard. 

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