What: A Steampunk Soiree, Book Talk and Signing
Who: Gail Carriger and Lauren O’Farrell
Charing Cross Rd
When: Monday the 9th of April
Why: To Promote Timeless (The Parasol Protectorate #5): Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire’s second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell’s acting troupe’s latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia’s enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.
Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?
Now I have to begin this report by confessing that I haven’t read any of Gail’s work prior to attending this event. Her book Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate #1) has been sat on my Amazon wish list for quite a while but, like a lot of books undeserving of my maltreatment, has been buried as other books have been added on top of it. However I absolutely adore Cassandra Clare’s:The Infernal Devices series and I’ve enjoying dipping in to Trisha Telep’s anthology, Corsets and Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances so I thought I’d take the opportunity to learn a bit more about this genre and one of its authors.
The first thing I discovered (while queuing) is that I was underdressed. Jeans and trainers just don’t cut it at a Steampunk soiree! Steampunk fans take their fashions very seriously. The majority of gathered fans were liberally sprinkled with goggles, top hats, visible corsets and clockwork mechanisms with about a third of those gathered, including Gail Carriger herself, kitted out from head to toe in Victorian inspired regalia.
The second thing that steampunk enthusiasts, or at least Gail Carriger fans, take very seriously is Tea, a sentiment I embrace whole heartily. On entering The Gallery at Charring Cross Foyles, the room had been set up as a tea parlour, complete with towering cake stands of fondant fancies, fairy cakes and jam tarts with bucketloads of hot, strong tea, poured from colourful, assorted sized tea pots. I partook of three cups of perfectly made tea, but decided to shun the confection following the chocolate excess of the Easter weekend.
Once the accompanied guests were all suitably fed and watered we were introduction to Craft book writer extraordinaire Lauren O’Farrell, author of Stitch London. I loved her knitted book covers and her knitted octopus (knitted from used plastic carrier bags). Alas I have not a single crafting bone in by body so I’ll just have to admire such creations from afar!
Gail Carriger began her segment of the evening reading from Soulless. Despite her very American accent 😉 Gail beautifully brought to life her very English characters and read a passage that highlighted an eye for detail and a delightfully British tongue in cheek humour. I really can’t wait to start this series.
A question and answer session revealed that Gail’s writing process begins with a single scene, which she visualises like a scene from a movie, and the rest of the novel takes shape around it. Soulless, originally intended as a standalone novel, began with Gail visualising a couple of proper Victorian ladies discussion how one of them had accidently killed a vampire the previous evening.
Initially attracted to the aesthetic of the steampunk movement, Gail felt that it was the perfect genre to combine her love of Victoriana and her interest in science (particularly medical science) with her desire to write about immortals and their influence over history. A lot of the kookier parts of the history of the British Empire, it can be explained, by werewolves soldiers in the British army and vampires as members of the aristocracy!
Tea is absolutely vital to Gail’s writing process! Growing up with a British ex pat mother, Gail was weaned on tea, starting with milk and a dash of tea and graduating to a strong builders brew. Each afternoon after school her family would take tea, a tradition she keeps to this day. If she’s had a good writing day she will treat herself to a little chocolate with her tea. In fact Gail’s writing is dependent a personal reward system; one good days writing equals Chocolate, when she finishes a draft she treats herself to sushi and a finished book brings new shoes!
When asked how she would imagine her vampires would fair in an encounter with a certain modern incarnation of *cough* vegetarian vampires Gail replied that she likes to say that her vampires sparkle… because they are fabulous!
I came away with a signed copy of Soulless in traditional paperback form and the Soulless graphic novel, a first for me.
Verdict: A thoroughly enjoyable event enhanced with lashings of tea and a very humorous hostess. Now please excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, while I go and Google corsets!
Post by Caroline