Will and Jeff discuss the second season of Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power as well as Pose, which has just arrived on Netflix ahead of the new season coming to FX in June.
Jeff reviews Queer as a Five Dollar Bill by Lee Wind.
Gail Carriger talks to Jeff about her new novel, The Fifth Gender and some of the interesting stories about its creation. They also talk about how Gail went from archeology to writing romance, her process for world building and her travel podcast called The 20 Minute Delay.
Here are the things we talk about in this episode:
- Netminder – Deleted Scene on JeffAdamsWrites.com
- Netminder (Codename: Winger #4) by Jeff Adams on Amazon (pre-order through May 28)
- The Queer Creative Podcast website
- She-Ra and the Princesses of Power on Netflix
- Pose: Season 1 on Netflix
- Pose on FX
- Tracker Hacker (Codename: Winger #1) by Jeff Adams on Amazon
- Queer as a Five Dollar Bill by Lee Wind, narrated by Michael Crouch on Amazon
- Gail Carriger Interview
- Gail Carriger / G.L. Carriger: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
- The Fifth Gender by G.L. Carriger on Amazon
- The Dragon Riders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey on Amazon
- Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley on Amazon
- Soulless by Gail Carriger on Amazon
- Terry Pratchett on Amazon
- Christopher Moore on Amazon
- Jasper Fforde on Amazon
- Changeless by Gail Carriger on Amazon
- San Andreas Shifter series by G.L. Carriger on Amazon
- Shelley Adina on Amazon
- A Fool and His Manny by Amy Lane on Amazon
- Mary Calmes
- For Real by Alexis Hall on Amazon
- Being(s) in Love series by R. Cooper on Amazon
- 20 Minute Delay Podcast website
- The Custard Protocol series by Gail Carriger on Amazon
- Fan Service by Gail Carriger – Special Edition on Subterranean Press (pre-order until October)
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
Interview Transcript – Gail Carriger
This interview transcript is sponsored by Dreamspinner Press
Dreamspinner Press is proud to publish Hank Edwards and Deanna Wadsworth’s new book Murder Most Lovely. Check it out, and all the new mystery and suspense titles from your favorite authors like Amy Lane, KC Wells, Tara Lain, and Rhys Ford, just to name a few, and find a new favorite author while you’re at it. Go to dreamspinnerpress.com for everything you want in gay romance.
Jeff: Welcome, Gail, to the podcast.
Gail: Hello. Thank you for having me. I’m super excited to be here.
Jeff: I’m so glad we finally got you on the show because I’ve been, you know, reading since back with “The Sumage Solution” and it’s like, “We gotta get Gail on. We need to get Gail on.”
Gail: I am delighted. I am a devoted listener and so I’m quite honored to finally get to be here. It’s great.
Jeff: And you’ve got a book coming out or you’ve just had a book come out actually, “The 5th Gender” just released.
Gail: I did. Yes, “The 5th Gender,” it’s my like crazy, ridiculous, silly, happy yet cozy murder mystery on a space station with an alien with five genders and tentacles and purple.
Jeff: You don’t often get cozy mystery space station together in one package.
Gail: It is…it’s great. It was totally one of those spontaneous, I had like a strange thought/dream/idea to do this. And a bunch of us were joking on Twitter about the craziest mashups of genres we could come up with and somebody was like, “Barbarian noir,” and so on and so forth. And I was like, “Well, I wanna do space station, cozy mystery.” And then I started thinking about it and then it happened. Then I was like, “Oh, okay, I’ll write it, I’ll write it.” I was supposed to be writing something else, of course. But sometimes I succumb to the lure of the ooh, shiny.
Jeff: And it was a purple shiny too. So how could you resist that?
Gail: I could not. And he’s adorable, the alien character. And I, you know, I have a background as an anthropologist. I have an archaeology…couple of archaeology degrees. And so I just love the way if you’re doing an alien character, you can comment on human social structures and culture and interactions. And so I might’ve had a little too much fun with that.
Jeff: Well I was actually gonna get into that. I’ll hold that. Because we should at least tell folks, because I want to talk a little bit more about the origin story on this because you wrote about it. So just like, “I had this idea in the middle of the night, and then I tweeted it, and then it was a story,” which I love, but then there’s the fact that you went away to a retreat and worked on it and had to talk to other people about it while you were writing it.
Gail: Yes. So for those…I should preface this by saying that for those who don’t know, I have two names I write under. So I write under Gail Carriger and I write under G. L. Carriger and the G. L. stuff has a much higher heat level. So it’s super sexy. And this book, “The 5th Gender” is a G. L. book. So warning for anybody who doesn’t like nooky because one of the things I realized through the course of that particular writing retreat was that if you’re writing about a species with five genders, human curiosity wants to follow them into the bedroom to see what it’s like down there. And so I thought about trying to kind of clean it up a little bit and it just…it didn’t work. So I was like, “Okay, we are going into that realm.”
So I was supposed to go on this retreat and write something else entirely, and instead I just spent the entire week writing this book. And one of the funniest stories from that was me being like, “Oh shoot, what does alien jizz taste like?” Because we all know, at least we do if we’ve been reading my San Andreas Shifter series that wizard or mage jizz is fizzy and werewolf is spicy. And I was like, “Well, what do aliens taste like?” And this meant that I literally had to go and you’re never…on a retreat, you’re never supposed to disturb the cooks in the kitchen. But I was like, “If there was ever a question for cooks, this is it.” There is a crazy author running into the kitchen in the middle of them making shepherd’s pie and being like, “Oh, you guys, what does alien jizz taste like? Debate.” So we had a long debate about it and we finally decided, and you’ll have to read the book to find out.
Jeff: Yeah, I wasn’t gonna ask you to spoil that, but I do have to know what exactly did the cooks make of this question?
Gail: The cooks were quite game actually. I think they were pretty charmed because normally like they’re doing their art form and we’re doing our art form and never the twain shall meet until meal times. So it’s really rare for one of the authors to actually want the cooks’ help on something. So I think they were kind of pleased to be asked.
Jeff: That’s very cool because some of them might have been like, “I’m sorry, what?”
Gail: Oh, they know what I write. We’ve been going for a long time with the same cooks for a while, so.
Jeff: So this group knew you so they weren’t necessarily surprised by…
Gail: No. Well, it was a little out of the blue. I haven’t been writing the super sexy stuff for very long. Like normally my questions are like, “What’s the most ridiculously named, you know, Victorian dessert you can think of,” kind of thing. But yes, it was a little different from my usual questions.
Jeff: And tell us what this book is about, this cozy mystery on a space station.
Gail: Well, the tagline is an alien race with no word for murder has a murderer aboard their spaceship. And essentially the galoi are the aliens in question. And they are these purple…they’re these adorable sort of purple tentacled kind of, you know, High Elf, slightly looking alien creatures. And they are super isolationist. And the only thing that humans know about them is occasionally they will kick one of their genders. It’s always as one of the examples of the fourth or fifth genders and they’re kicked off and they’re in exile, and those galoi, which is the name of this alien race, go and live amongst humans. And humans actually adore them because they think they’re like sweet and cute and adorable. And they have no…they’re pure exiles. So they have no national allegiance, they have no planetary allegiance. And so they make really great attaches.
They’re kind of really kind of comforting and lots of different alien races like to be around them. So they often become attaches to like ambassadors and stuff. So a lot of space stations….space stations consider it really lucky if they get one of these. And the main character, Tristol, he’s one of these aliens and he has a mad crush on the human security chief/detective that’s onboard the space station named Dre. But he doesn’t really get kind of like human flirtation and courting rituals. So he’s sort of…the book sort of starts with Tristol trying to figure out what cats are and why you would wanna keep them as a pet because he’s been asked by some human friends to cat sit. And then, of course, the cat escapes and hijinks ensue on the space station because what happens when the cat gets into zero gravity. Nobody wants to find that out.
Anyway, and then the galoi are like super xenophobic, so they never reach out to humans. And then suddenly a galoi ship approaches his space station, which is crazy in many, many ways because they shouldn’t be approaching a space station that has an exile aboard it and they never talk to humans anyway. And they have this incredibly complicated non-pronoun language that kind of indicates status and has to do with all of these different genders. And so the humans are kind of panicking and freaking out. They don’t want a war. They don’t know what’s going on. And the spaceship basically says, you know, “We have a murdered galoi and we don’t know what to do. We don’t have security, we don’t have murder investigations. We don’t. So we came to you, violent humans, to figure this out for us.” And of course Dre, the human love interest is the detective. So he and Tristol have to team up because he needs Tristol’s help to explain how the galoi work. And so the two of them gonna figure out who done it and that’s basically it in a very large nutshell.
Jeff: How did you go about creating the galoi? I mean, five genders, no term for murder. There’s like so many things that kind of click into this. Is there like…?
Gail: I just, so like I said, I have an anthropology background. I mean, archaeology is blank, so obviously the biology and skeletal structures and things is what I mostly studied via anthropology, but you get a lot of like gender studies and cultural representations of gender and all that sort of thing as part of an education in the United States if you do an archaeology degree. And so it’s always been super, super fascinating to me. I have a minor in classical mythology with a focus on gender. It’s just something that has interested me. It’s really hard to tease out in the archaeological record. It’s prone to misinterpretation by archaeologists and historians and anthropologists. So there’s a sort of storied history with our own relationship from a scientific perspective with understanding gender.
And so I just took a lot of that both kind of my education and, you know, how the world now is changing. I spent far too much time on Tumblr, so I have a lot of like non-binary and gender fluid and gender queer fans. And so I’ve just been kind of reaching out to friends and acquaintances. One of my best friends in the world is a bioethicist and a medical ethicist. And so she deals with training doctors in how to talk to people appropriately about gender. And so I’ve had all this sort of stuff messing about, and I was like, “Well, a way for me to explore this and have this kind of conversation with myself and the world is through an alien lens.”
And so I just…I love thought experiments, and I was like, “So what if we have a race with five different genders and how would their language evolve? How would their culture evolve? How would they treat each other?” Like all of these, you know, archaeological things to think or anthropological things to think about. And then how would humans, even future humans, react when encountering that? And so that’s kind of where the conception started. And then I just made them purple because I like purple.
Jeff: Why not? I’m a big purple fan too. Was there a lot of research kind of building this?
Gail: Yeah. I actually have multiple blog posts that either I’m releasing them right now or I’ve just released them recently, speaking from the past into the future. But I have a bunch of blog posts about like a bunch of the research that I did and like some book recommendations and stuff like that, both from a fictional perspective and a nonfictional perspective and different blogs and stuff like that. But I like that. I like researching a lot. I try not to rabbit hole too much because the point is to write the actual book. So mostly what I did is I did that intensive week where I sort of just vomited forth this whole book. And then I went back and like teased it apart and looked into different…almost as…I almost treated it a little bit as if it were a nonfiction piece to go back and see what sources do I need to look up, what like different pronoun terms might be being used in hundreds of years, you know, by humans. That sort of thing. And it’s…since both the humans involved… I try to be complex in my races, whether they’re werewolves or aliens in that like…and to not either dystopian or utopianise either race, either humans or aliens.
So both races still have issues. Both are still dealing with how the cultures have evolved and all of that sort of thing. So I’m not setting the galoi up as like the perfect model of a possible future. They have a different evolution, a different model. And they’re merely a vehicle for which we can examine perhaps some of our own biases and prejudices now. And that’s getting very, very serious because mostly what I want my books to do is make you happy and cheerful and be excited, delighted. And if it makes you think a little, that’s great. But really I just want to make everybody happy and hopefully Tristol will do that because he’s delightful. I love him.
Jeff: What kind of, I guess, beta reading did you do to see how your various fans handle the gender discussion?
Gail: Well, I have trans and gender queer and gender bending characters already, both in my main universe and in my traditionally-published books and in all of my…like my independent and my self-published works and in my novellas and stuff. Some of the main characters, some of them side characters. And so I know that they’re open to it, and I also know that the one that, you know, for lack of a better term, I have like a queer-centered, progressive kind of comfort food brand or business model or whatever, however you wanna explain it. And so I feel like most of my super fans are gonna be excited because what they want from me is that comfort, is that sort of upbeat, fun, slightly fluffy, slightly thoughtful, but ultimately, you know, everything’s gonna be all right. I’m never gonna depress you. There’s never gonna be like scenes of torture. It’s never gonna be angsty, you know, all of those things. It’s always gonna be delicious, I guess.
Jeff: I like that as a term for a book. That’s just really fun.
Gail: Yeah. It’s just gonna be tasty. Yeah. So they know that and that’s the part that they trust and generally I feel like they’re pretty open minded about how I’m gonna go there and explore that. I don’t think I would’ve done this book, you know, five or six years ago because I wasn’t sure. I had to kind of test the waters with the San Andreas books and some of the other stuff. But I think they’re pretty open to it. I don’t know. You never know. We’ll see how everybody reacts. Yeah, so I mean, and I have beta readers and some of them have read it. I was more careful with this book in making sure that like I had sensitivity, what I call delicacy readers. So people within kind of the gender nonconforming community, again, for lack of a better term. That was more important to me really. I don’t wanna offend, although, you know, everybody’s opinion is their own and everyone is entitled to it. So I’m sure if you come to any book with the idea of being offended, you’re probably going to be unfortunately. So, but I did put essentially a naked purple dude on the cover as a kind of like, “Be aware, there’s gonna be sex in this book. We’re gonna go there. We’re gonna go far out there.”
Jeff: It’s cozy with sex and it’s funny and it’s sci-fi. It’s got a little bit of everything in it.
Jeff: Do you think you’ll revisit this later as like as a continuing series?
Gail: I’d love to. Actually, I have another murder mystery and like I don’t consider myself like a mystery writer at all, but I have this thing as a writer where I don’t write a book until I’ve had what I call the epiphany, which is I need to actually see a scene with characters in dialogue. And it might not necessarily be the first scene or whatever, but until I see that I have that crystal moment, I don’t feel like I can write the book. So I have a lot of books that I’d like to write, but I’ve never had the epiphany with. So they’re just sort of sitting there. And I’ve had an epiphany for a second book in this series with Dre investigating another murder and Tristol still there and everything. But I don’t know how people will receive this one, so I don’t know if I will write that one, but it’s definitely there percolating already. So it’s a possibility.
Jeff: It’s a possibility.
Gail: Yeah. And the universe on the whole, because it is a science fiction universe, actually does have another, of all things, young adult series that’s set at it that’s kind of been on the back burner for a really long time which kind of has nothing really to do with this series except that the same conceits in terms of faster than light travel. And human…like colonization and planetary evolution are the same. And there’s like a couple of crossover alien races, but that’s about it. But it is the same sort of basic far future.
Jeff: If you’ve got the universe, you might as well keep using it. So you don’t have to just keep reinventing the wheel.
Gail: Precisely. Yes. That’s my feeling.
Jeff: What do you hope readers take away from this romp?
Gail: Well, like usual, I just want them to be like… My favorite thing is somebody writes to me and says, “You either humiliated me because I was laughing loudly on public transport,” and I’m like, “Yes.” “You kept me up all night.” “Yes.” Or, “You just left me with a big smile.” So that’s really what I genuinely want is a big smile on people’s faces. But it would be nice if people who read it thought a little bit about…a bit more about gender and how we intimately link biological sex with gender and that perhaps that’s not necessarily the…I don’t know, ethical thing to do – that perhaps gender is in fact a social construct. Or cultural construct. It’s something that anthropologists just accept.
Like if you’re an anthropologist, you just accept that as a fact. Like we know, we have seen all of these different ancient and modern races or cultures with varying different interpretations of genders and it just…I don’t think it would ever occur to an anthropologist to like not be like, “Yes, gender is cultural,” but it seems that in the world today that isn’t an accepted principle. And so I guess, if anything, I want people to kind of get it, to maybe think a little bit about pronoun use and all that sort of stuff, I guess.
Jeff: Now, as both Gail and G. L., you run across a lot of genres. You’ve got your urban fantasy, you’ve got some paranormal. Now you’ve got cozy mysteries in space. Comedy definitely cuts across all of them. Is there a genre you like most?
Gail: I would say I have wheelhouses more than anything else. So there’s a podcast called “Reading Glasses” that talks about as readers we tend to have wheelhouses and if you read heavily in romance, you define those often as tropes. You know, like, “I like the enemies to lover,” or whatever. But a wheelhouse kind of has other things. So, and I would say that there are definitely wheelhouses I gravitate to. So I always write the heroine’s journey. I never write the hero’s journey regardless… Again, this is the gender thing, right? Regardless of the biological sex or stated gender of my main character, they’re always heroines’ journeys because a heroine’s journey, it doesn’t matter who’s undertaking it. So I would say that is one of my things. I always do ‘found family’, and I realized recently I had this big revelation that one of the reasons I strongly gravitate to reading gay romance in particular is because found family is a really popular trope within gay romance for obvious reasons because if you come to the queer community, it’s usually partly found family that brings you there because real family rejected you, at least often did when I was younger. So yeah, and I just love that as a trope, for lack of a better word.
And so I have found family in my books all the time. I tend to have extremely strong female main characters except when I’m writing gay romance, of course. Yeah, and lots of queer. I was thinking recently that a slogan I really embrace would be queer comfort because I feel like that’s kind of in all of my books even the books that have heterosexual main couples. It’s really hard. At this juncture, I guess you could say that I trust my readers enough to relax and just write what moves me. I wouldn’t have written this book if I didn’t think at least some of them would enjoy it. I mean, what a privilege and kind of a blessing and a joy to get to do that. But it has been 10 years. So it did take a while.
Jeff: And you mentioned that you’re not known for mystery, certainly. So you’ve taken this turn now to at least explore it once. Are there other things out there like, going after and trying to write a mystery, that are still things you want to do, things you’re looking at towards the future?
Gail: Absolutely. There’s always… Like I adore high fantasy. Obviously, I’m really into world building. And so like I have a young adult high fantasy. It’s actually techno fantasy, kind of like the Pern books or “Darkover.” And so, you know, I’d like to do that. There’s a bunch of stuff that I kind of am excited and interested, and I’m a pretty voracious and pretty wide reader. So I think that makes you, generally speaking, a relatively wide writer. I think it’s unlikely I would ever break the trust contract that I have with my reader base and write anything dark. I certainly would never write anything gritty or gruesome. I don’t like to read that, so I’d never write it. And I think I’m out of my dark phase now that I have left high school. I don’t do the really kind of dark or angsty stuff.
I was thinking about contemporary recently actually. And I don’t think I could write contemporary. The moment I start to think about writing something that’s just a contemporary romance or like women’s lit or even something, you know, Heaven forfend, like proper lit fic, it immediately just goes fantastical. I can’t, I have to inject. And if I were to describe myself as anything, it is, you know, science fiction and fantasy rooted, I like the world building a lot. And so I think it’s unlikely that I’ll ever write something that doesn’t have at least that as part of the component.
Jeff: So how did you go from studying archaeology and getting these degrees to now becoming full-time author, writing all these books? What was that path?
Gail: Oh my goodness. So I’ve two master’s degrees and I was working on my PhD and I always thought I would be an academic. I genuinely love archaeology. I’m one of those incredibly lucky people who left one career that she adored for another career that she adored. So, you know, tragedy of choice. And I was about to do my defense and I was about two years out which would have been my thesis years finishing my PhD. And I always wrote. I just grew up on what essentially amounted to kind of like a hippie commune kind of thing, and surrounded by artists. And the only thing I had learned really from that is that artists never make any money. And so being an author was really a bad idea.
So I was like, “Okay, I’ll be an academic because, ooh, profitable.” At least it’s quasi reliable, right? But I always wrote, I just had that need. It’s kind of like breathing or something. And I figure if I write, I might as well submit. And so I was submitting, writing and submitting. And then I wrote “Soulless” as kind of a challenge to myself. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I have a propensity for rewriting things over and over and over a million times and never actually finishing anything. And so “Soulless” was like, “You will take six months, you will write this weird book.” This was during the paranormal romance and urban fantasy bubble of the late ’90s, early 2000s. And I was like, what I really want from…I want a bunch of things, right? I want women to write funny stuff in genre, commercial genre. And that’s pretty rare. Most of the writers I knew who wrote funny stuff were like Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, Jasper Fforde, like a bunch of dudes. And I was like, “Where are my ladies writing funny? Where’s my urban fantasy set in a historical time period?” You know, I wanted all of these things and nobody was writing it. And finally I was like, “Well, that means I have to.”
Jeff: Take the challenge.
Gail: Take the challenge. And I really did write it as a challenge. And “Soulless” is a mashup. It tends to be what I write, obviously. I mean, I’m here talking about, you know, space, cozy mystery romance. So I obviously like mashing up things. And so “Soulless” is steampunk, urban fantasy, comedy of manners, romance. It’s a bunch of these different things. And I was like, no one will buy this because I had been in and out of the publishing industry and submitting short stories and I was like, “This…it doesn’t have a place in the market. There’s no shelf it sits on, like, no one’s gonna buy this. But I wrote it so I might as well send it out.” And I had one of those slush pile telephone calls from New York where they like…within a month somebody wanted to buy my silly little bit of fluff. And I was like, “No, you’re joking.”
And so “Soulless” was a slow burn. It hit the market and it was really word of mouth. The librarians and the independent bookstores were like behind me 110%. They just loved this crazy little book. And I think it was mostly the funny, but you know, super strong heroine and, you know, like gruff, overly emotional werewolves and queer characters from the get go. And it just appealed to, you know, a kind of segment of society. So I was right about to do my defense when “Changeless,” my second book, hit the hit The New York Times and that kind of seed changed everything. It changed marketing, it changed how much money New York was willing to offer me and my partner at the time was like, “I make enough money to support us. Why don’t you see if this…why don’t you take a break from academia and see if this writing thing works?” And I did and I haven’t been back.
Jeff: Well done. Ten years on.
Gail: Yeah, a lot of it’s serendipity. And a lot of it is good friends. And then a lot of it was also like, I am super…I’m an archaeologist. Archaeologists are like the organizers of anthropology departments. You know, we’re logistics, we get large groups of people into foreign lands and then make them shovel dirt around, you know. We feed them and house them and blah, blah, blah. You know, we’re big on spreadsheets and organizing. So I already had that kind of part of my personality that I think not a lot of authors have. And so when I was successful, I was ready to be like, “Okay, let’s figure out how many books I can write in a year. Let’s figure out, you know, like… I like trad, but maybe this independent publishing thing is interesting. Let me go research that and experiment with that. You know, let’s try this thing.”
I’ve always been like that. Even with my traditional publishers, like they would be like, “You sell really good in eBooks.” And I was like, “That’s because I have romance readers.” And they were like, “How do you feel about maybe doing this strange BookBub thing?” And I was like, “I think that’s a great idea. Why don’t we do that?” You know, it’s like I am game. So I think that has also helped is I’ve always been willing to take a risk, partly because I have a safety net. It’s like I can always go back to being an archaeologist. That’s fun too.
Jeff: What’s your overall process? I mean, it sounded like, if I understood from our “The 5th Gender” discussion, it almost sounded like you did the first draft of that book at the retreat.
Gail: Yeah. I work really well, it turns out, in a competitive environment. I didn’t realize, but if…I really am one of those writers who I’m social in terms of I like to sit across from somebody at a cafe and just type and just the act of having another writer or a bunch of writers around me also typing is really helpful to me. And part of it is kind of looking over and being like, “How many words have you done? Oh shoot.” And then just typing some more, you know. But yeah, so I do this one retreat every year and I know I can do 40,000 words at that retreat, which is either one novella or most of one of the G. L. books. So I usually sort of get prepared ahead of time with that preparation is writing the first 10,000 or just get…I’m an outliner, so I’ll get all the outline ready. I’ll get all the world building ready. And once I hit the ground there, I can just turn out a bunch of words and that’s great.
I try to do a couple of other kind of long weekend baby retreats. I’d love to find other week-long retreats. But the style that I like is pretty rare. And the style that I like is just a bunch of writers writing and no workshops or critiques or anything. So I do that and then most of the rest of the time I am not somebody who can handle multiple projects. I learned that about myself the hard way. So I have to be working on one book and then close that book out and then move to another one. And so if it’s an independent project, what I’ll often do, so if it’s something that I’m gonna be self-publishing, I’ll often write the whole thing on a retreat or over the course of a couple of months. And then just put it to bed and then focus on incoming copy edits or a proof pass or writing a completely different project, and let it sleep if I can. I find that that marination really helps. And then I’ll go back and do a reread.
And I’m a multiple editor. I think a lot of comic writers have to be because I do passes for like different kinds of comedy. So I’ll do like a word play pass and then I’ll do a sort of a slap stick pass. And then I’ll do like rule of three descriptive passes to try and get as much different kinds of humor back into a book as possible. And so, and then I have an alpha reader or two and they read before it goes either into my New York editor or off to my beta readers.
And then I actually hire and use a developmental editor for my independent stuff as well probably because that tends to lean more romantic. And when I first started writing it, I didn’t really think of myself as a romance author. So I wanted to make sure that I was getting kind of the beats right for romance. So I have an editor who specializes actually in gay romance, who reads all of my romances and gives me feedback. And then it goes to beta readers for the Parasol-verse in particular because they’re like, they’re 25 books in that universe and there’s lots of crossover characters. So most of my beta readers are actually just super fans who are obsessed with the universe and have written me like either critical letters about mistakes that I made in terms of like getting character names wrong or eye colors or something. And usually I’ll be like, “You, would you be interested in being a beta reader?”
Jeff: Right. Put those people to work.
Gail: Exactly. I was like, “If you’re going to do this anyway, how would you like to get everything ahead of time?” And I give them lots of extra perks as well, special editions and stuff. Yeah, so it’s quite a process at this point. But my beta readers are killer. I’ve got just a team of four now and they’re really fast and great. I love them. And then I have a couple of awesome copy editors that I use and then a proof. The Parasol-verse gets a woman named Shelley Adina, who’s a fantastic steampunk author in her own right and a regency and who’s really, really good on the Victorian era. So it gets a world – like historical proofing basically. And then I have a formatter. I’m a big fan of finding people who are really good at what they do and hiring them to do it for me. Like I could change my own oil, I’m sure, but I’d really rather find a good mechanic, you know. And that’s how I feel about the book world as well. So I have a fantastic cover art designer I love working with and I just got to put my team in place and then hope that no one gets sick.
Jeff: Right. That’s the key. Nobody can get sick. Not right now.
Gail: Nobody get sick. Nobody can leave me. Very floored when that happens.
Jeff: So you mentioned that you read a pretty broad swath of stuff. What are you reading right now that you’re loving?
Gail: So I just did a reread on Amy Lane’s “A Fool and His Manny,” which because it got nominated for the RITA award and it was one of the few that did that was queer. So I had read it before, I just did a reread on that and I still love it. It’s very cute, and I love Amy. Amy’s one of the nicest human beings in the world. So that was really fun to redo. And I’m a huge fan of Mary Calmes. I don’t know how to say her last name.
Jeff: You actually got it right.
Gail: Did I?
Jeff: You did.
Gail: Oh, good. Yes. I will read… Pretty much she’s an auto buy for me. I just find…I know that there are tropes in place that…but I just find her stuff really…she’s a comfort read for me and as somebody who writes what I hope is comforting for others, like I’m always hunting for authors that give me that same sensation. One of my like constant of all things, comfort, reread rotation is Alexis Hall’s “For Real,” which is a fantastic BDSM, but it’s just like, I don’t know what, the writing is so good. And I will reread R. Cooper until the cows come home, the “Being(s) in Love Series,” which I really, really adore. So, which is an urban fantasy basically.
Jeff: So you’re a podcaster also on top of all this other stuff.
Gail: I am. I know. That is like completely not connected to anything, side project.
Jeff: Well, I’m looking at you, I’m reading the website, getting to know kind of what I wanna ask about. I’m like, “A podcast? Wow. Okay.” And it’s about travel hacks called “The 20 Minute Delay.” How did this come about?
Gail: So one of the things that happened to me in the course of this career is I went from being an archaeologist, I traveled a lot as an archaeologist, to being an author where it turns out I travel like five times as much. When I was booked, where I’m regularly, I was doing two book tours a year at least. And that was not counting all of the conventions and stuff I was doing. And a book tour is like 10 cities in 10 days. I mean, it’s crazy traveling. So I turned into a frequent traveler and I’m an organizer and I like to hack things and figure out the most efficient way to do everything possible. And I realized I was doing that with travel. And there are two things that I can talk…well, there are three things that I could talk about, books that I love, like literally until the cows come home, food that I love to eat, and travel hacks.
And then I met my friend Piper. And Piper has a day job that has her traveling 80% of the time. And she has, if possible, more travel hacks than I do. I was basically like, “Piper, let’s do a podcast. It’ll just be like 20 to 30 minutes and we will just get on and we will chat about a place that we’ve been recently, and some like delicate matter of etiquette when traveling, like whether you recline your seat or not and how you deal with that,” or recently we did a really good one actually on rental cars. I don’t rent a car that often, but Piper does all the time. And she had some awesome tips for like how to get the best rental car and, you know, what apps to use and all that sort of stuff.
And then we do a little gadget where we’re just like, we test a gadget, like a new neck pillow or something and then we talk about, you know, what is that little gadget thing. And sometimes it’s just like, I like the snacky bags. Like you should always have at least two plastic snacky bags with you because they just always come in useful. So sometimes it’s a gadget like that, but we have a really, really good time. And I’m a voracious podcast listener. Like when we started, I’m a fan of this show. So I figured, generally speaking, you eventually become a podcaster if you are a big fan of listening to them.
Jeff: That’s probably true. And I think for any of our listeners who are, you know, thinking about, you know, their trips to GRL come October, start listening to “The 20 Minute Delay” now to get all your travel situation put together.
Gail: Because Piper and I are both authors, like we don’t…we try to couch our tips as much as possible in terms of anybody can use it. But we are both women. We are women who travel alone and we are both authors. So we will tackle things like how to travel with a bunch of books, like how to fly with 50 bucks or what have you. And we also talk about like safety when you’re staying in a hotel by yourself and that sort of thing.
Jeff: So what’s coming up for you next this year with the writing? We’ve got “The 5th Gender” out, what’s coming next?
Gail: Next, I have the final book in my Custard Protocol series coming out, which is “Reticence.” And that’s book four of the Custard Protocol that comes out at the beginning of August. And that’s actually rounding out the series in the Parasol-verse for a little while, my steampunk universe. I’m not ruling out doing another series in that universe, but I think I’m gonna take a little break. And I’m on proposal for a new Young Adult series. So who knows? It’s traditional, so it could take forever, could suddenly happen. You never know. And then in October I have a special collector’s edition coming out from Subterranean Press called “Fan Service,” which is for my super fans, which has my 2 supernatural society novellas bundled together with an exclusive short story that’s a hardcover fit, super fancy addition that there’s only gonna be 526 of those printed. And so that’s my October release. It’s so pretty. They can be very pretty covers, Subterranean.
Jeff: That’s cool. And what’s the best way for folks to keep up with you online so they can keep track of all this?
Gail: Well, in addition to everything else, so in case anybody’s in any doubt, I kind of have no life. I just did…this is like what I…like, I listen to podcasts, I read, and I play online, and occasionally I write, you know, because that’s my job. So I am on all the things online. I genuinely like social media. I know. I know, it’s crazy, but you can pretty much find me on any platform that you like. If you google Gail Carriger and then the name of the platform, I will probably pop up. And I try to use the platform in the way that it’s best suited. So, you know, there are pretty pictures on Instagram and there are lots of pinned gorgeous dresses on Pinterest and historical dresses and crazy aliens. And then I also have a newsletter. The newsletter is definitely for super fans. So it’s very chatty and it’s full of like sneak peeks as to what I’m actually writing and not talking about online yet. And I do freebies and giveaways and stuff there.
Jeff: We’re going to link to all that good stuff in the show notes, of course, so people can find it easily. Gail, thanks so much for hanging out. It has been so much fun.
Gail: Oh, it’s been a real pleasure. I can’t say how delighted I am to be on and I can’t wait to listen to this from the other side.
Here’s the text of this week’s book reviews:
Queer as a Five Dollar Bill by Lee Wind. Reviewed by Jeff
Fifteen year old Wyatt lives in Lincolnville Oregon where the town is obsessed with all things Abraham Lincoln–there’s a parade on Lincon’s birthday, there are civil war reenactments and Wyatt’s parents run a the Lincoln Slept Here B&B. When he’s got to do a book report on Lincoln, he ends up assigned a book that implies Lincoln was in love with Joshua Fry Speed. When Wyatt delivers his information to class he discovers his town is even more homophobic than he thought and how far people will go to defend their version of history no matter the cost. It makes it even more difficult for him to come out–until he finds some amazing allies who say it’s okay if he’s gay and if Lincoln was gay.
My love of the book starts with the teenage characters. Wyatt so much wants to do right by everyone, even if it means keeping himself in the closet. He wants his parents B&B to be successful. He doesn’t want to make waves in the town or at school. But he finds his breaking point too where he’ll fight for what he believes in. As he’s researching history, Wyatt discovers Martin’s YouTube channel where he’s talking about history. He eventually meets out and proud Martin because it’s Martin’s mom who swoops in to help Wyatt’s parents with some legal pressure the town is applying the get Wyatt to stop talking about Lincoln and Speed. Martin helps Wyatt realize the importance of what he’s doing and that it’s okay to live as yourself. Even the jerk high school kids are written with so much authenticity and dimension that you fall into their stories too.</p
The actual history mixed into the book is brilliant. We’ve all heard about Lincon being gay from time to time, but this book–through Wyatt–really lays out some of the facts. There’s an interview with Lee Wind at the end of the audiobook where he talks about the research he did because he wanted the history to be accurate. The comparisons to Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. were great too. It was a history lesson without feeling like a history lesson.
While there’s a lot of history in the book, the overall story is very much of our time. Wyatt’s story goes viral with Martin’s help (Martin knows how to work the Internet) and soon Wyatt’s in over his head. As things escalate–including Wyatt ending up on a Fox News-esque talk show, the school and town doing everything they can to silence him and lots of other insanity–I sometimes thought it was over the top. Except…it really isn’t. We live in these crazy times where we can look at the news and go ‘what the hell was that?’ Lee perfectly captured that and it grounds the book with a very here-and-now feel.
Quick shout out to Michael Crouch, who is also the voice of Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. He does a great job with a large cast of teens and adults. Really great to listen to another book from him.