RKR Interviews Lyndsay Ely, Author of Gunslinger Girl
1) GUNSLINGER GIRL is your debut novel, congratulations! How did you come up with the idea? Mainly through a love of gunslingers and casinos, combined with a dash of dissatisfaction. I adore Western stories, but most of the time they center men. And even when they do have female protagonists, those tend to be characters following in a man’s footsteps or taking revenge over a murdered lover/husband/father. With GUNSLINGER GIRL, I wanted to write a heroine whose path was entirely her own, as well as a Western that featured women in many of the roles traditionally occupied by men (with a twist thrown in here and there).
2) Pity is a strong, female protagonist with some impressive fire arm skills. What inspired you to construct a modern-day Annie Oakley as your main character?
Well, Annie Oakley was definitely an influence! I loved that Oakley performed in a Wild West show, because she was using her very real skills in a very dramatized setting—which is basically what Pity ends up doing. Also, having Pity be a skilled sharpshooter from the beginning of the story (instead of honing her abilities along the way) allowed me to play with plot problems that couldn’t be solved by her simply shooting her way out of them. (Because if were that easy, she would do it!)
3) The theater’s concept and description are simultaneously glamorous and terrifying. How did you choose to juxtapose those two views of what the theater represents?
Something that I try to keep in mind when I’m writing is that the accepted morality of our world and the world of a story don’t necessarily need to align. And in the setting of Cessation, where there are no laws and a lot of decadence, the twisted, elaborate “justice” of the theatre fits in perfectly. Beyond that, I don’t think the Theatre Vespertine is even that unusual. Escape artists, air shows, Cirque du Soleil, pretty much any performance with a wild animal involved—these are all glamorous theatrical experiences that involve an aspect of danger, and people go to see them every day. The Theatre Vespertine simply takes it up a notch or two.
4) How did you come up with the notion of “The Finale,” and what are you hoping that people take away from Pity’s desire not to participate in them?
At one point in the story, a character refers to the Finales as “feeding the beast.” Writing Cessation, I knew that an entirely lawless city wasn’t really a believable (and sustainable) setting. So the Finales provided a way to create consequences in a manner that the city would both accept and enjoy. For Pity, the Finales force her to challenge her perceptions of what is right and wrong. And while neither of those things are easy to clearly define in her world, I’d hope that the reader takes away that Pity ultimately has a choice in how she chooses to participate in regards to them. (Even though her choices may come at a cost.)
5) Pity’s relationship with Selene is different than with the other residents of Cessation. Why do you think that Pity often toes the line between defiance and obedience with Selene?
I think Pity’s relationship with Selene is different because of the somewhat unpredictable way Selene exercises her power. She can be incredibly generous as well as dangerously unforgiving (which Pity learns the very first time they meet), both ruthless and protective. A part of Pity respects what Selene does. But at the same time, it’s not in Pity’s nature to be unquestioningly obedient. She sees the kinds of sacrifices Selene is willing to make to get what she wants, and it doesn’t always sit well with her.
6) You didn’t leave the book on a cliffhanger, but you did conclude it with a rather open ending; are there more adventures to come in Pity’s future?
I hope so! (And maybe not just in Pity’s future?)
7) What is next for you? Are you working on another book?
Always! I probably have five or six projects fermenting in my brain at any given time. But fantasy was my gateway genre, so I think I’d like do something there next.
To learn more about Lyndsay and Gunslinger Girl click here.