gail carriger

gail carriger

Sure. Okay, my name is Gail Carriger. I'm old enough not to confess my age anymore. [Laughs.] I suppose Oscar Wilde had that, "London is full of women who of their own volition have chosen to remain 35 forever," and I am now 35 forever. [Laughs.] I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area, on and off, most of my life. I go away and then I get sucked back in despite my best intentions.

Well, I've been a geek my whole life, so I've always been around gaming in some form or another, dating gamers or been in the steampunk world when a live-action roleplaying is going on, that kind of thing. So, but I, myself, don't really engage. I'm not a gamer myself. I like to say that I'm a writer because I want complete control of the universe, and even being a dungeonmaster doesn't give me enough control. [Laughs.] So, why would I want to play in anyone else's sandbox?

I'm an author and I write both adult and young adult steampunk comedy fiction, basically, of varying lengths. And I know, although I don't go visit, that I have a lot of fan fiction out there, mostly from the millennials. I have readers as young as eight or nine and as old as 95. So, quite a range.

Accordingly, I'll start with a broadish question: Depending on your age, despite what you just said, I think videogames and YA -- you may still get the stink eye in some circles if you're paying attention to it or consuming it. I don't want to go into this conversation with you thinking that's what I think, but I want to try to compartmentalize and talk about that mentality.

Sure.

That's why I wanted to find someone who did crossover in the way you're talking about. But what do you feel are the criteria that are necessary for you to please a younger audience and also be acceptable and interesting for an older one?

Oh, that's such a hard question. I do think that a good story is a good story and that's a terribly pat answer, but I myself generally prefer to read young-adult fiction, and I think that there's something about the sharpness and the speed of execution of plot and action: You tend to be thrust very quickly into the story with young-adult books.

Yeah.

It's not necessarily that they're less complex. In fact, in some cases, it can be more complex. But there's a sort of clarity in vision and execution in the best young adult, which I think is what attracts me the most. And I believe that I a lot of adult readers are attracted to that same thing. I'm sucked in really quickly to the best YA and then it keeps it me there, but the time commitment is also not so long. [Laughs.]

Yes. [Laughs.]

I can finish a young-adult book in a very short amount of time.

Well, they may not be that long.

Exactly.

But these can be long series, though.

Yeah, and you can gobble 'em up. And I'm specifically comparing this in the fantasy realm -- because that's my realm -- to something like an epic fantasy or hard sci-fi or something like that.

Right. So, I mean, is YA still useful as a label? I feel like it used to denote for some people, like "videogames," something not serious or people don't have to take it very seriously. But then I think of it, when you broaden it out even further, and you look at something like a movie like The Dark Knight, and that would still fit the criteria of what we would traditionally think of as YA.

I think there's a couple of components to your question. The first aspect is what readers don't often realize is that YA as a term is a marketing term. So, when I was the age to read young adult back before I like to remember -- when I was, say, 10 or 11 years old, there wasn't a category for young-adult books. You simply sort of read in the children's' room and then started migrating -- in my case, finished everything that was available and then migrated to the adult books, rather naturally through somebody like, I don't know, Mercedes Lackey or Anne McCaffrey, whose earlier, shorter works now would likely be categorized as young adult but back when I was young weren't because the category didn't exist. And then, I believe -- I don't know, I can't back this up with research, but it feels to me like marketing departments at major New York publishing houses realized that kids were getting allowances and had ready capital and that this was a marketing target demographic: teens.

And so then they invented the young-adult category in order to target that demographic, and also libraries and librarians.

Are you talking about with stuff like the Scholastic Book Club?

Yeah, exactly! And then it would have migrated through and then you get a different style of print run in order to target a library. So, instead of printing off pulp, mass market, which is specifically targeting an adult, you might take a fantasy novel that could be a young adult and repackage it with a different kind of cover and put it in hardback so you can get school libraries and kids and parents to fork out more money for this book. [Laughs.]

So, I think in large part the invention of young adult as a category for genre fiction or commercial fiction is specifically because it was a marketing scheme. And I don't think many people would challenge me on that. It has taken on a life of its own, and I think you could blame the enthusiasm on crossover readership on Harry Potter and then Twilight and all of those which follow. And now we have sort of "new adult" category -- so that's one aspect of it.

And then the idea that young adult can be taken seriously or not seriously. Personally, for me, I generally prefer not to be taken seriously ever.

[Laughs.] I'm so sorry to be taking you seriously right now.

[Laughs.] No, no! [Laughs.] But I write comedy so I'm never gonna be taken seriously, which is fine. You can get away with a lot if you write comedy. So, there is that, too, of course: Which is if you discredit or discount a genre like young-adult books or romance is another good example of this, then they can get away with a lot in that genre, right? You can be very subversive, you can challenge the status quo because people aren't taking you seriously and that's great. [Laughs.]

I think that makes sense that it's a marketing construct, but I think however these lines get drawn, people want to pick them up and run with them and sort of act accordingly. Then we see these weird ersatz class systems that pop up.

Yeah. Oh yeah.

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Is there a divide on your side between YA and literary fiction?

Yes. Well, there are certainly awards, like the Newbery, which are given out to children's books that have included young-adult books in the past that are considered high quality and on great literary merit. So, it's not completely ignored by what I would call the literati, which is a specific kind of awards and, sure, a level of respect I guess in terms of academic standing, perhaps? But it doesn't -- I don't know. I grew up in geek culture in a time when it was a disenfranchised culture, so it doesn't bother me. Occasionally, I suppose I could get a little annoyed. But I always assumed that because what I write is kind of fluffy, frivolous, silly stuff that I'm gonna be dismissed no matter what and I'll just carry forth in my own bubble of lots of food being thrown around and silly things that I write about and be happy.

Yeah.

I always look at someone like Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams or other kind of gods of writing and no academic school back when Terry Pratchett was super-popular is gonna teach Terry Pratchett. [Laughs.] Despite the fact that he's a great commercial success.

Right. And mentioning book awards, I'm sure you know about the Costa Book of the Year awards that was, what, like a week or two ago? My numbers might be wrong on this, but didn't Frances Hardinge just become the first children's author since Philip Pullman 14 years ago to win?

Oh.

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It sounds weird because it's not really like youth culture and adult culture are necessarily pitted against each other, but what I'm talking about is children's authors "beating out" stuff for adults.

Yeah. Well, that's great. She's -- have you read her stuff? It's quite fabulous. It can be very funny, actually. She is really skillful with word execution, kind of wordplay in the style of P. G. Wodehouse or something. But, no, I wasn't aware. Frankly, I don't really pay attention to what's going on. [Laughs.] I always say I'd rather just make people happy and have them enjoy reading over anything else.

I just say what someone who has never won an award would say: Well, what do awards matter, anyway?

[Laughs.] Someone did a calculation once on the Campbell or the Hugo Award and exactly how many sales it might translate to or something like that.

Yeah, but you can't fixate on that if you're trying to make stuff.

No, you can't.

It's gonna skew what you make. But you don't look at stuff like that as "victory" for one side or the other, if what you’re saying?

I don't think so. I mean, it would be nice once in awhile to see -- but I kinda feel like this about anything from the Oscars too -- I'm always a little chuffed when genre wins something or funny wins something just because it's so unusual.

Yeah.

But I feel that way -- you could just classify me as egalitarian. It's an intellectual form of diversity, I guess, but I wanna see more women win director awards and I want to see more people of color win. It's all part and parcel with that, I guess? I don't know. I don't want to trivialize diversification in any way.

No, and I don't think that'll read like that.

But I do feel like there's a mental -- I don't know quite how to put this but there's a feeling in humanity in general that what is funny or what is light or what is easy and what gives you pleasure is less important than what is sad. Or less meaningful. And I don't think that's true.

I don't think so, either.

That's just a personal philosophy, I guess. Just thinking about -- it's Oscar season right now when we're having this conversation and I'm just thinking about some of the movies that have been chosen and they're all, as a general rule, dark, heavy, kind of depressing, man against nature -- you know. And I find that kind of thing exhausting. I wish humans placed more importance on things that brought joy.

I think we as adults are just kind of bad at having fun or acknowledging the fact that just savoring ridiculousness or being goofy has value.

Yeah.

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I wonder where that line is between all those pieces I see online about "What This TV Show Says About Such and Such" and just, like, enjoying a thing. Is here even one? Or do we really need to be bettering ourselves all the time?

Yes.

Do we need to be told why Adventure Time is --

Or playing a videogame. Yeah.

I knew you were gonna take us there.

I'm taking us there.

[Laughs.]

I mean, my partner just loves RPGs as a general rule. And I think it's necessary. I don't know. It's a form of escapism that I think the human brain needs. I think we emotionally need it sometime. We just need a break. And not to feel guilty about it, I think, is very very important.

But I think there's an aspect of our culture that won't allow honor on frivolity or whimsy, which is sad, but there it is. And then if we took it seriously, then it would cease to be fun. So maybe it's important that we don't? [Laughs.]

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When these lines start to blur between what is seen as something for adults and something for children, when they intersect -- I don't know if you remember this, but do you remember when Neil Gaiman won a World Fantasy Award for short fiction in 1991? Do you remember?

I don't.

The response when he won that award was it really offended a lot of the literary community. So much so, if I'm remembering correctly, they changed the rules that a graphic novel couldn't win again.

Ugh.

I think years later they changed their mind, but there is that system shock. You exist in a different world of writer-dom from me, and we both do from Neil Gaiman, but aside from labeling it simple snobbery, why are these divisions so important to people?

Well, we like to categorize. Human beings like to try to make order out of a chaotic universe and put things in boxes. I'm guilty of it myself. My favorite thing in the universe is making spreadsheets of things and trying to fit them into categories. So, I think that's part of it and I think part of it is what you study.

We're writers, right? So to me it almost always comes down to a semantical discussion. So if you're trying to come up with "best" as a term, what do you mean by "best?" Right? And so, for the literati, "best" has all of these components that they're educated in and they teach each other. So, it has to have a certain style and use of language and a kind of execution.

And, again, I bring this back to discussing Oscar nominations. My partner, who's a film studies major, and I were talking about what "best" meant to us in terms of movies -- or I suppose you could take any form of entertainment culture. Does it mean something that lingers with you? Does it mean something that you want to rewatch? Does it mean something that made such a drastic impact on you that you couldn't bear to rewatch it because you don't want to go through that again?

So, it is a semantic idea about what constitutes "best," and in some places the concept of an award is dictated by the body that's granting that award's interpretation of what that word means. What "best" means. And so, in that way, I guess, that award is then qualified by the body that's endowing that award. So, for me, there comes a point where I'm like, "Do I want to be part of that club?" [Laughs.] Right?

Yeah.

Or would anybody? Or does graphic novelization wish to be included in a literati award or should they just go off and create their own award? [Laughs.]

Sometimes these things sort of drift into circles where it -- not that it wasn't intended for, but more of a, "Who would've thought?"

Yes.

And then it gets picked up and then people try to do what you just said. Whether the category is, "Maybe we should give this an award," and in this case it did. Or -- you know, the response could be anything. It's weird. Am I bending back to answer my own question?

[Laughs.]

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When some people think of YA in the modern times, things like Harry Potter or Twilight or Vampire Diaries or some of the ones you mentioned before, the perceptions of those, do those impact you at all professionally?

Well, I do. I mean, I have noticed, for example, personal, on a purely personal/professional level, that I have a lot of Harry Potter fans who have sort of found me. And I don't know if it's merely a demographic breakdown that such a large percentage of readers in general read Harry Potter when they were that age and then a lot of those found me. But, for example, I'm on Tumblr and I'll see a lot of my followers are always reposting Harry Potter things and everyone's a big fan of that. I was a little too old for it -- I mean, I read it of course and enjoyed it very much. But it didn't have the same impact on me that it did of a generation or two younger than me.

Particularly, in the case of something like Twilight or Divergent or The Hunger Games or something like that, I don't know how much of that is a new version of genre disregard. I mean, when I was young and when I admitted to reading science-fiction and fantasy, that got disregarded, right? And now you can even still encounter factioning within genre where somebody is a hard sci-fi reader and sniffs at people who like high fantasy and all those elves. Bah!

And part of that is as human beings like to club and ostracizing. Or, like, "I do this and I don't do this and I'm gonna, like, mock you for what you like because it's not something that interests me." My feeling tends to be on the super-popular young-adult books that anytime anything becomes very very popular you're always going to get a rebound effect of people who are gonna be opposed to it and against it and annoyed with it.

Yeah.

But also, personally, my feeling is that the beauty and joy in something like the Harry Potter phenomena or the Twilight phenomena -- because I do think that that's what they are -- is that people read. Is that we were leaning, in general, away from reading and both of those series has brought people back into the fold of just voraciously reading and I cannot, would never, as an author criticize those phenomena in any way because they encourage reading and it's not for me to take a stand on the subject matter as a result of that, I guess.

That's like, the complete opposite of what's been happening in videogames the last couple of years, which is interesting. People will read that and go, "Huh.”
So people in YA are more mature than us?" [Laughs.]

[Laughs.] I don't know that I really represent the masses, frankly.

No, you don't.

But I get this question about steampunk occasionally, because there was a time a couple years ago where steampunk was going very mainstream and, like, Hot Topic had steampunky clothes and it seems to have died down now. But at the time, people kept asking -- well, asking me to sort of render judgment, like, "Well, that's not really steampunk. You're not really steampunk. You don't have enough gadgets on your outfit." I don't know what there is to render judgment on, but essentially, I'm always of the opinion that if you love something and other people want to share it and love it with you, they're allowed to make their own interpretation of it first. And second of all, there's always enough love to go around. Just share it.

[Laughs.] It's okay. It doesn't in anyway ruin your enjoyment of that thing, whatever that thing is if someone else enjoys it differently or has a different interpretation of it or even, frankly, if someone else is criticizing it. That's their own thing. That's their own opinion. It doesn't change your love of it. But I do feel like sometimes there's this "hold the party line, object to whatever" and somehow you have to defend your love of something because if someone else doesn't love it, too, then they don't like you? [Laughs.] It's a personal affront? I don't know. I find that whole concept a little odd.

There's a lot of that in videogames and it's not unique to videogames, but I think it's just people.

Yeah, unfortunately, I'm afraid I have to agree with you that there is an aspect of this in consumer culture. Come on guys, just eat the cake! [Laughs.] Share the cake! Eat the cake! Don't worry about the calories. [Laughs.]

You think it's more about bringing people into the fold of that activity rather than whatever the quality of that phenomenon. But then, how do you think the successes of those impact the ecosystem?

God, that's a good question. God, I'm getting very intellectual. There is certainly a cultural zeitgeist question. You do have to consider, I guess, a level of imperfection that might occur when something becomes too popularized in terms of that, like a dilution of the general populace appreciation of something. Now, is that separate from the individual's involvement? I don't know. Sorry, I got really -- you're stretching me into epistemological arenas that I hadn't anticipated without having had eaten lunch first. [Laughs.] I can't do philosophy on an empty stomach!

This happens with both videogames and any kind of major cultural phenomenon that has commercial outlay, which is that you are going to get copycats. The market will attempt to satisfy what they perceive as a need and that is in and of itself is going to dilute the sort of general pool of the original cultural occurrence, phenomenon, whatever it is. Right?

Yeah.

In a very crude example, you're going to get knockoffs, cheap costumes at the pop-up store right before Halloween of whatever major movie recently happened, and those costumes will not be particularly faithful or accurate. They might be misnamed if they don't have the licensing fees in place. [Laughs.]

But does a Wizarding World that looks vaguely like a Harry Potter costume cheapen Harry Potter itself? I don't think so.

I think you could make the argument that it enriches it.

It might! Yeah. Well, it brings somebody who may not be able to afford to get a super-nice costume or may not be able to make their own costume and have that skill set -- they can still get this costume and go around trick or treating and everybody knows to what it is alluding.

Yeah. It creates a new point of entry.

Yeah!

And it becomes, like, this strange new bullet point under that heading, whenever you see a bizarre, you know -- I went to Lithuania about nine years ago and I found a Russian nesting doll of The Simpsons.

[Laughs.]

And that is my favorite thing of Simpsons paraphernalia.

That's wonderful.

And it wasn't official!

Yeah.

And I guess I should feel bad because I didn't give money to the creator, I gave it to some guy on the streets of Europe.

There is that aspect, of course, which as a creator I have to acknowledge. But there's a not-for-profit segment of this arena as well, so, fan fiction for me -- there's other things around it, but one of the things I do get is a lot of cosplay. So, these people are dressing up as my characters with no intent to sell anything or make money off it, just to go to a convention because they love -- I have a lot of clothing in my books and I describe them and I have a lot of characters that are very much iconic to an object, like a very silly hat or a parasol. My main character of my first series always carries a parasol. And so, it's kind of cosplay gold. They can kind of basically be these characters and I love seeing that. I love it. And even if the person doesn't look like I imagined my character looks, I'm not upset by that.

Yeah.

But part of that, I think, is because for me personally, I'm not very precious about this books. I've had a graphic-novel adaptation, which is a manga adaptation, and I know manga art, I'm familiar with it, I like it very much. So I knew my characters were gonna look younger and hairless and all of the things that you get with manga.

Huge eyes.

Yeah, and the huge eyes and the cutesy expressions -- which is all fine. [Laughs.]

Right. Well, it's adapting to the style.

Right. And that's because if you want to know what my work is, you read the original book. If you want to see a manga artist's interpretation of my work, then you can get the manga graphic novels, right? I don't believe in being precious, which is one of the reasons I'm not particularly precious when books become movies, either. It's a new medium. You can't put everything on the screen that's written on the page. It would be long and clunky. [Laughs.] And some adaptations are, of course, better than others, but they are always adaptations because it is a new form.

Alan Moore had said something about -- I don't know if you saw the Watchmen movie.

I did. But I haven't read the comic.

That was sort of the thing you were talking about, where it becomes another point of entry.

Yeah, a totally different thing.

He was talking about how disdainful he was about any of his things being made into movies. This is what I have in my notes, that what he said was he made his comics and he "designed them to be unfilmable." Many of the series we mentioned above, some of them have movie series as well.

Yes.

So this is an established thing, now, that YA can be made into movies. And this is broad, but do you have a sense of how it is impacting the types of stories that get told in YA? Is it narrowing it? Is it broadening it? Is it having no effect?

I don't know. I mean, that question is all wrapped up in what's being bought and produced out of New York versus, like, the whole self-publishing arena.

Self-publishing can be very much faster and much more reactive, and you'll certainly get trends in books that can be tied to the popularity of a movie. There's no doubt about that, whether that movie originated in a book or not. It's kind of like knockoff fashion from the runway or something.

It can be. Yeah.

It can be. Sometimes the new entries are better, for my taste, than the originals. Sometimes not. If you are the type of reader, and there are a number of these readers who just voraciously want to consume the same sorts of stories and tropes over and over and over again, I imagine this is a little like having a chain restaurant that you love and always going back and ordering the same thing or variations on the same thing. [Laughs.] There are lots of readers like that.

People dress that way, too.

Yeah, exactly.

They have one outfit and they're freed up to think about other stuff.

Yeah, they want they want. You can't blame authors for giving it to them, frankly. [Laughs.]

Yeah.

So, I don't know if I have a judgment to make on that in any way.

Oh, I'm not asking you to make any judgments.

I mean, I myself have specific tropes that I like to go after and read for and I'm interested in. I imagine this must be a little bit like -- there's different styles of videogame players, right? There's first-person shooters and there are quest players and they are willing to jump to a new platform, but they want another quest game with a different world to explore they want another FPS game with different guns to use. [Laughs.]

So, I think readers are not dissimilar to that. I mean, I will definitely myself go through fads where I'm like, "I just wanna read this same kind of book with these tropes by different authors" for a couple of weeks and then suddenly I'll be like, "No! I want to read something completely different now!"

We were talking before about lines drawn between YA and adult literary fiction. Do you feel that either of those have a different focus or emotional range? Are some of those open to you in one that aren't in the other?

Between literary and YA or between adult and YA?

The latter.

The latter two. Because I think there is certainly literary YA out there and nobody's gonna contend that. Something like The Yearling or Where the Red Fern Grows or -- a lot of stuff that is unfortunately foisted upon us when we're children and told to read something and they handed it to us and if you're me you're like, "Where are the magical horses? I don't read about someone dying. I don't read about a child dying or an animal dying again! No more Watership Down. I'm taking a stance!" Anyway.

So, there is literary children's and young-adult fiction. Nobody contests that. It's whether I'm interested in reading it or not, which is mostly no.

But so far as adult and YA, yes. There's definitely thematic differences. In terms of publication industry, they tend to take a stand in terms of length to a certain extent and the age of the protagonist and then graphic sex, violence, and language. Although, depending on where you're gonna nest, contemporary young adult is more permissive in certain arenas than not. But that's kinda what editors in New York publishing houses are looking for in young adult and what they'll make you edit. If they really like a story they're gonna help you fix it up regardless to make sure that it suits what they imagine is the brand that people are looking for, and that it in turn has to do with what libraries and schools are going to buy and what parents and teachers think suit the age range. So, to a certain extent it's based on feedback. And also what's selling at the time, and things like that. So that's the commercial difference between adult and young adult.

And then from a writer perspective, there are other aspects to consider. I always consider young adult -- I always try to take myself back to my high school experiences, because that's the age that my characters are in my young-adult stuff. And kind of what is it about that time in my life that mentally I was changing. And I always perceive it as a shift from what I would call "the necessary selfishness of childhood," where everything is "me, me, me" partly out of instinct for survival but also partly about all of these parents hovering over you and giving you things all of the time, right?

Yeah.

You need your space.

To, what happens when you are becoming a teenager during high school, which is sort of separation from your parents, discovering your own identity, but also discovering sort of genuine and meaningful friendships for the first time and all of that which, eventually, leads you into realizing that there is a whole world out there and that you're gonna have to find your place in it and how you and the universe fit together. And so, for me, the best young-adult fiction is part and parcel to that journey. That journey from individual focus and selfishness to kind of, I guess, a world consciousness.

Why do you think you have an audience age range that is older than what is typically thought of or expected with YA?

Well, I came to YA from adult and I brought a lot of my readers with me. So, I'm very lucky in my readership in that they're incredibly loyal and what they like from me, I think, in general is kind of this whimsical charm and humor and thought and lighthearted fun aspect. And so, they don't particularly care -- some of them did, I did get some people who are like, "I'm not interested in young adult. I'm not gonna read this." But most of them don't particularly read whether the target age range is younger or older so long as it still has kind of my style of writing, which is this comedy of manners, Victorian-ish, offhand casual style that I write in, this sort of conversational style. Very, very character-driven. And so people love the characters and I have crossover characters between my adult and my young adult and so they're reading because they like my style and they want to see what the characters were like when they were younger or what they're like when they were older and how they graduate between them.

Do you approach that work differently?

When I write for adults? I do.

Yeah.

I do. I have a different style for the two different books, I think. In terms of the directness of the plot, there's way less kind of waffling. There's basically less description in general. I'm very much more spare when I write for younger readers. What else is different? I usually have multiple points of view when I'm writing for adults and then a single point of view when I'm writing for young adults. And, yeah, just less machinations and complexities of plot. Although, I did get pretty complex in the young-adult series because it was about spies, so it had to have certain levels of secrecy and uncovering plots and stuff. Those are some of the basic stuff. I also use slightly different language. I wouldn't say that I diminish my word use, but I certainly can get very flowery and quite ridiculous when I'm writing the adult stuff and I'll use French terms and things just assuming that my readership, if they're interested, will go and Google it and figure it out. Whereas, I will limit that when I'm writing for younger readers.

Is there a word that you've always wanted to slip into one of your works but it's either gotten edited out or --

[Laughs.] No, usually they let me get away with it, frankly! [Laughs.]

I was gonna say: This could be your chance here.

Yeah, no, they let me do what I want. [Laughs.]

This next question comes from a 14-year-old girl who I had interviewed and she said she always had questions, and I had told her how I've been looking for some to talk to for this and I let her know and so I will just read verbatim because the wording will obviously not be mine: "One thing I noticed that YA and videogames have in common is most of the time the main character is some special snowflake that has magic power or is just better than everyone else because stupid very good reasons that make them the only one able to defeat the metaphor for something plaguing our real world but of course we can't have a well-developed character saving everyone."

Yes.

It sounded like you were agreeing with every part of that.

This would be "prophecy syndrome" as we know it, or the prophecy trope for us writers.

Yeah.

I think it has a very simple explanation, which is you only have to look at the popularity of Star Wars, for example, to realize that everybody wants to be an ordinary person who is discovered to be special. And if we do nothing else as authors or videogame writers or whatever it is, it is we are trying to make the person who is experiencing our entertainment want to be the main character or want to be like the main character. We want them to identify in some way with that character. Otherwise you lose them as a reader or a player or whatever. And everybody wants to be special. And that's like a home truth. [Laughs.]

Yeah.

So I think that's why that trope is so popular.

What's very hip in your neck of the YA woods as far as what's going on in storytelling right now?

Oh, gosh. I don't know. [Laughs.] I don't know. You're better off asking an editor. What's super-popular?

Well, more, just what do you feel like you see a lot?

Oh, Sarah J. Maas has the Throne of Glass series, which is about, I guess, fairy assassin. It's just a regular assassin? Some sort of assassin. Anyway, I keep seeing that turn up in my universe. You know, my corner of the universe is my own bubble of the internet so that might just be that the people who also read my stuff are really attracted to right now. But that one's very popular as far as I can tell. And that's absolutely -- I think I've maybe read the first one or second one and that's absolutely the special snowflake situation.

Do you personally as a consumer of media and art, do you have a philosophy about what's considered "high" art and "low" art?

Well, it is certainly true historically that if you look back, often what is "low" art becomes "high" art in a couple of generations. [Pause.] I don't. I guess I like what I like and I suppose most people would say that but -- I mean, my habit is fashion. I love high fashion and there are certainly million-dollar dresses that I'll look at and be like, "I appreciate that as a piece of art and understand why it's so expensive." But that doesn't mean I'm gonna run out and buy it or anything, and I think the same thing about art in museums or whatever.

So, I guess I don't really -- there is a quality of, and I'm gonna get archaeological because that's my original education, but, there's a quality of man hours and workmanship, I think. So, sometimes you can look at something and you can just be like, "Wow, someone put a lot of work into that.”

And even if the art that is out the other end I do not appreciate personally -- and this can hold true for an incredibly well-written book, like a very literary book. I'll give you a good example: Like, Margaret Atwood, who I can read her stuff and totally get why people gravitate towards her and she'll have sentences that I'll read that just kick me out of the story. I forget what's going on in the story because the sentence is so beautifully crafted. And I can appreciate that, but that doesn't necessarily mean I want to read everything she's written. I don't want to escape into her world. I find her world occasionally dark and kinda depressing. So, I feel that way about a lot of art, I guess, which is there is certainly a quality of art where I can appreciate the workmanship -- best movies, for example -- but that doesn't necessarily mean that I enjoy it. There's a difference between the two.

The parallels with the audience. I know we talked about it before we started, but what are your interactions with your audience like?

Me?

Yeah! You.

Oh! Pretty absorbing. [Laughs.] And distracting. Yeah, I'm on a lot of social media platforms. I really like talking to my readers and my fans. I have a friend, Matt Wallace -- because my books are essentially comedies of manners, he likes to joke that I'm the only person on the internet who's making it more polite. [Laughs.] Because everybody feels like they have to interact with me as though they were interacting with an etiquette professor or something. [Laughs.] Everybody is like, "Dear Miss. Carriger, may I please ask you a question?" [Laughs.] You know? Everyone is super-sweet and very genteel.

I mean, occasionally I get a screwball something on the internet but I think that's part and parcel. Yeah.

What do you make of the role of YA in games or what do you think of your genre's ability to crossover into games? So, in other words, also interactivity's potential to be deployed in YA.

I don't know much about it, frankly. Although, if you ask me to take a guess, I'd say there's a tidy connection between the two. Partly because of that clarity of vision and a story arc that I articulated as one of the reasons why I like YA. I suspect that would translate to some kinds of games very well.

Yeah. But I'm afraid as a non-player myself I can't really render too much other judgment.

Are you interested in building a game off your books?

Someone once called. Well, the rules of my universe are set up in such a very clear way that it would make a great RPG game. And there have been some not-for-profit LARPing and RPGs of my books at various conventions over the years because there's a very stratified, clear-cut society you can pick rank and sort of skill sets and roll for charisma or whatever you wanna do. So, it is set up that way. I mean, I've built an extremely complex world which people want to play in. Some people want to fanfic in it. Some people want to do something else, right? I have a massive wiki now where you can delve into the world for days if you feel like it.

So, it's certainly a distinct possibility.

But what most people don't realize when they ask that question is for most authors, gaming rights are always tied up -- or most, again, I'll qualify it -- with film rights. So, if your film rights have been optioned, you don't have the gaming rights anymore. It's tied up because of the merchandising clause.

And it's frankly, totally understandable from Hollywood's perspective. If Disney buys your book to turn it into a Disney movie, they want it handed over to their gaming department to make a tie-in game.

They don't want those rights sold to anybody else.

Because, full circle, it's another bullet point under the same heading.

Yeah.

When you talk about parallels with books, these are series of things that have been created that can have romances in them or they have endings that are very divisive and relationships that people get pretty caught up into. In videogames, it's happened where a section of the audience has been so vocal and so intense about wanting a different ending.

Ah. Yes.

And companies have actually acquiesced --

Wow.

-- and created them. Have you ever heard of anything like that in YA?

I mean, there's Veronica Roth, of course. But you can't talk about that because that would be a spoiler. Or we can, the statute of limitations is up. The books are out. You either read them or you don't.

[Laughs.] I'm not sure who in your audience or mine is going to be reading this who we just spoiled something for.

Oh! Sorry everybody. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

Yeah, I was having a charity fundraiser tea party with some of my more devoted fans and I said, "Yeah, she killed her main character, guys, at the end." And boy did the internet throw a hissy fit, because in YA you're just not supposed to do that. Like, the accepted standard -- aside from literary YA is that the hero is a special snowflake who conquers all. The hero is not a special snowflake who martyrs herself. So, it caused quite a fervor and you have only to look at, like, the Amazon reviews of the last book to see the freakout that occurred. But, everybody bought the book, so there you go. [Laughs.]

So, there is that kind of thing. Changing an ending, I can't imagine. There's certainly incidences where authors have written and self-published or printed through a traditional publisher like a novella or a spacer book because people were upset that there maybe was a time hop between two books and they wanna know what happened between those two books or they feel like a side character was dropped and they wanna know what happened to that side character. And authors will occasionally just be like, "Well, I kinda wanted to know also so I'll just write that story as a sideline."

One of the blessings of self-publishing in this day and age is that authors can also spear off and write non-standard lengths of works and other things with their characters that people love that is then available. So, I think we're gonna see more of this amalgam of what fans -- because authors are interacting with their fans more than we ever did prior to the internet. And I think this is another stance that is a way in which I am different from a lot of my colleagues: I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to be influenced by the market. Especially if it's your market. So, if the fans are crying out for a side character to get their own baby story and you're like, "Actually, I'd really like to write that," then by all means go ahead and write it. You don't have to stick to the original dominant paradigm of one or two novels of X length out of a traditional publishing house. We have the luxury of choice which we never did before.

So I think going forward you're gonna see kind of interactive and reactive responses from some authors. Not all. Some authors become authors because they want to do what they want to do and that's all they want to do and they don't care about public opinion. Or they'll tell you they don't care about public opinion. [Laughs.]

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