Tuesday, March 17, 2015


New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported from London. Her books are published in over a dozen different languages. Carriger has received the Prix Julia Verlanger and the Elbakin Award from French readers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Prudence, the first book in the Custard Protocol series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The Spotted Custard now boasted a completely finished exterior. Her balloon had been painted bright red with black spots and coated in the necessary lacquers and oils to make her weather resistant. She shone in the late afternoon light like some large, fat, round seedpod. The trim of the gondola section was picked out in shiny black, a stark contrast to the pale blonde wood. Railings and other details shone darkly beautiful in the late afternoon sun. Dama had insisted that black was the perfect choice being a color that matched to anything. "Now, when you lean picturesquely against the railings, my puggle, your dress will never clash." "Very well reasoned, Dama," had been Rue's straight-faced response.

Percy, on the other hand, looked about with utter indifference.

"Well, Percy," said his sister, drawing his attention to her presence, "What do you think?"

"Why name the craft after a comestible and then decorate it like a Coccinellidae?"

Rue knew better than to attempt reasoning with Professor Percival Tunstell. "Because I like it that way."

Percy wrinkled his nose at her and then, distracted, leaped forward. "Do be careful, those documents are hundreds of years old!"

Rue summoned Percy's valet with a subtle gesture. "Virgil, steer him up that gangplank and down below into the library, would you please? Spoo here will show you the way."

Spoo obliging appeared at Rue's elbow and nodded at the young valet. "Oi up, me duck?" She said, or something equally unintelligible.

Virgil looked askance at the soot covered girl, near about his own age but remarkably scruffy and laddish by comparison. "Good afternoon," he said, remembering his manners.
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book?
This is certainly representative of the beginning of Prudence. Since this is the start of the Custard Protocol series, I wanted to show Rue pulling together a crew full of outrageous personalities, as well as fixing her dirigible, the Spotted Custard, up to fly, decorating it, and stocking it with supplies. This scene illustrates the chaos of that kind of endeavor. In this scene, Rue's friend and soon to be navigator, Percy, arrives and sees the ship for the first time. It's clear he is not particularly interested and only cares about his books. Also, it illustrates that he is rather absent minded and has to be looked after by his valet, Virgil. (Virgil is a little young to be a gentleman's valet, but takes his duties very seriously.) In it we also see Spoo, a fun minor character throughout this series, meet Virgil for the first time. Spoo represents the decklings, the children who work on the squeak decks of Rue's new dirigible (as opposed to the sooties who work the boiler rooms below). Spoo and Virgil are destined to have a kind of sibling bickering affection, where in she is constantly shocking him with her tomboy behavior.

As a writer, I'm using this scene to show how Rue is already assuming command, in that she is organizing things (or in this case, Percy) to run more smoothly through manipulation. A lot of the backbone of this book is Rue learning about her capacities (and failings) as a leader, since she assumes the role of captain unexpectedly and must prove herself.

Would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on?
That's a hard question to answer. If you are familiar with my style and like my wacky full cast of characters, then yes, I think it likely. If you are the kind of reader who might get confused by how many different people appear on this one page, perhaps not. It's a chaotic moment, which can be confusing to read however intentionally frenetic. I write what amounts to a comedy of manners with action and romance thrown in, but this is one of the mainly manners segments that rests entirely on the personalities of characters already established in previous chapters and their reactions to a new experience, and interactions with each other for the first time.
Learn more about the book and author at Gail Carriger's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue