Lyndsay Ely’s debut novel Gunslinger Girl is an exciting, must-read tale that takes everything you love about westerns and puts it in an intriguing dystopian future.
We spoke with Ely after devouring Gunslinger Girl and asked her a few of our most burning questions (including if we were going to be seeing more of this fantastic world she has created anytime soon)!
About ‘Gunslinger Girl’
Q&A with ‘Gunslinger Girl’ author Lyndsay Ely
1. What made you set a western in a dystopian future rather than in the past (either historical or alternative)?
From the beginning, I knew I wanted Gunslinger Girl to be a Western, but a non-traditional one. Setting it in a near-future world allowed me flexibility to play with the existing society and technology levels, as well as put some fun twists on the usual Western elements. Also, there’s something inherently dystopian already about the idea of the “wild west,” so it seemed like the genres would blend well.
2. What aspect of the world that you’ve created in ‘Gunslinger Girl’ was the most fun to dream up? What was the most challenging?
The answer to both is probably the Theatre Vespertine. I spent a lot of time thinking about classic past and current acts in circuses and carnivals, and how to put a sexy or deadly spin on them. Even though the theater performers are mostly minor characters, they were some of the most fun to come up with.
3. Annie Oakley is obviously (at least to me) an inspiration for the novel’s main character. Were there any other characters or female figures that inspired Serendipity Jones?
Annie Oakley was definitely an inspiration, though I suspect she was an even better shot than Pity. Other than that, I’ve always loved and been inspired by female characters who are unabashedly good at what they do — Sharon Stone’s The Lady in The Quick and the Dead, Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, Zoe Washburne, Princess/General Leia — the list goes on!
4. ‘Gunslinger Girl’ features a lot of characters in untraditional roles for their genders (a female bartender/security guard, a male costume and set designer, etc.). What drove you to not only give the women more traditionally ‘masculine’ roles but also some of the men more ‘feminine’ roles?
Honestly, I’m tired of characters in non-traditional roles for their gender being treated as anomalies. When I was a teenager, the idea of the female character breaking boundaries and doing a traditionally male thing was exciting and cool, but a couple decades later it seems like we’re still stuck on that same trope. I don’t think characters should be locked into roles because of gender any more than real people should be. So, in Gunslinger Girl, I decided to write a world where characters do what they love or are good at and no one questions or remarks on their gender while they do it.
5. One of the major themes I noticed in this novel is that of chosen family. In fact, most biological family ties are characterized as undesirable or even dangerous. Why did you choose to emphasize the importance and love of chosen families over biological ones? What makes them more preferable and supportive in this kind of world?
Feeling accepted and respected for who you are is such an important thing — whether by a biological family, a chosen one, or, preferably, both — and it’s something I love seeing people find, both in real life and in fiction. In regards to Cessation, where Pity ends up, I wanted it to be this lawless, decadent city, but also a place where anyone could be themselves, no matter what kind of self that is. Where Pity comes from is technically safer, but much less accepting, making Cessation (and the friends she finds there) the clear choice.
6. Were there any aspects of CONA or Cessation that you wish you could’ve explored more but that just didn’t quite fit in with the story or the characters’ arcs?
Oh, so many! This book could have been twice as long, easily. In the end, I had to keep to the details that mattered to the main story. That being said, I like not explaining everything in a fictional world because, well, that’s how you end up with midi-chlorians. And, as a reader, I like being allowed to fill in some of the blanks myself.
7. Lastly, I just *have* to ask: Do you have any plans as of now to continue exploring this world or following these characters we’ve all come to know and love?
There are definitely more stories in this world I’d love to tell, especially in regards to the side characters. Again, there were a lot of tidbits that never made it in, and some that ended up being cut from the book because they weren’t relevant. I definitely hope to get them out there, someday!
About the author
Lyndsay Ely (pronounced “eel-y,” as in those eels are looking very eel-y today) is a writer who currently calls Boston home. She is a geek, a foodie, a feminist, and has never met an antique shop she didn’t like. Her favorite color is crimson, and her favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.
Gunslinger Girl is her debut novel.