In Victorian England, Sophronia’s mother, desperate for her 14-year-old daughter to become a proper lady, enrolls her in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Though the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette are all part of the curriculum, the academy is actually a school for aspiring spies, located in a flying dirigible. Such is the premise of Gail Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage, released by Little, Brown on February 5, which opens the four-book Finishing School series. Marking Carriger’s YA debut, the novel is set in the same world as her Parasol Protectorate series for adults, and has had an auspicious launch.
Little, Brown ordered a 100,000-copy first printing for Etiquette & Espionage, which has received four starred reviews to date (including one from PW), and landed on the New York Times bestseller list its first week on sale. Little, Brown’s Finishing School Tumblr site has been a hit with fans and bloggers, and Carriger’s February 12 appearance on the publisher’s Live at the Lounge video chat series has been viewed more than 1,300 times. A resident of the Bay Area, the author has visited a number of California bookstores since her novel’s pub date, and will be a featured guest at AnomalyCon (an alternate history, science fiction, and steampunk convention) in Denver next month.
Kate Sullivan, an editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, was so impressed by Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series that she asked the author’s agent, Kristin Nelson, to let her know if the author ever tried her hand at writing YA. She was equally impressed by Etiquette & Espionage when Nelson submitted the manuscript to her. “Gail is very intelligent, and really cunning with her humor,” Sullivan says. “She has created a wonderful world with Victorian and steampunk elements, and the mix of sophisticated humor and glamorous fashion is great.”
Sullivan notes that Carriger has amassed a sizable fan base through social media and her frequent attendance at fantasy and steampunk conferences. “Gail has a lot of interaction with her fans, and they are so supportive of her,” she says. “Her Parasol Protectorate series crossed over well to YA readers. Now, adult fans of that series are coming to Etiquette & Espionage, and a lot of her younger fans are excited that she’s writing a series for them.” The second installment of Finishing School, Curtsies & Conspiracies, is due in November 2013.
Maggie Tokudo-Hall, children’s department director at Books Inc., who recently hosted Carriger at an event at her company’s Opera Plaza store in San Francisco, notes that Etiquette & Espionage has been on Books Inc.’s bestseller list repeatedly since its release. “I’m definitely seeing the novel cross over to adult readers,” she says, adding that she expects YA readers will gravitate toward the Parasol Protectorate novels “once more kids get their hands on Etiquette & Espionage.”
Her store’s February 5 event with Carriger drew more than 60 fans – many festively attired. “We gave prizes for costumes, and a large amount of the crowd was in full steampunk regalia, including the entire Books Inc. staff,” she says. “The author is very personable with her fans, many of whom she knows well. However, we were really pleased at how many people came who had never been to a Gail event before.”
At Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach, Calif., book buyer Emilio Flores says that many of the 100-plus attendees at his store’s February 10 event hosting Carriger and Ally Carter also showed up in costume. “There were lots of people in steampunk garb and ridiculous shoes, because apparently Gail loves shoes,” he says. “She even had a photographer going around taking pictures of everyone’s shoes.” Flores adds that the event was among the largest his store has held in its 18 months of operation, noting, “It was kind of like moths to a flame. Gail is charming and funny and relates very well to her fans, some of whom had driven two or three hours to see her.”
Flores says that Etiquette & Espionage was his store’s bestselling book the week of Carriger’s visit, and that sales of Parasol Protectorate novels are “gaining steam.” Remarking on the author’s crossover appeal, he says that the crowd at the Mysterious Galaxy event “was half adults and half teens, with quite a few mothers and daughters attending. The author really appeals to both age groups, and she doesn’t talk down to her teenage readers. For some YA authors, that is hard to pull off, but Gail really gets it right.”
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger. Little, Brown, $17.99 Feb. ISBN 978-0-316-19008-4