Since it’s October, and Halloween is upon us, I thought I’d let you in on a little-known secret of mine. I love Gothic romances. Give me some Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, or Frankenstein, and I’m a happy camper, although a slightly on-edge camper.
My Gothic romance fetish might seem a little odd to some because I write sweet romances with a lot of humor thrown in, for good measure. But it’s all about the season and a mood for me. Just as I enjoy a good holiday book for Christmas, and I enjoy a relaxing beach read in the summer, when the weather turns cool, and reminders of ghouls are everywhere, I’m in the mood to be a little dark and brooding.
I see writers’ websites and blogs devoted to the darker side, as well as promotions and giveaways aligned to the season. Even students get in on the dark mayhem at school, enjoying a bit of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. When I was a high school English teacher and taught American literature, I’d plan my schedule around teaching Poe in October. When I taught British literature, I’d schedule Frankenstein to coincide with Halloween. I’d also throw in a few ghost stories for good measure.
But my Gothic romance fetish didn’t simply end with reading the literature; I also love to write it. Which is not such an easy task. Writing the kinds of convoluted stories that are inherent in Gothic fiction takes some planning. Things have double meanings and secret significances and symbolism oozing from their intricate cores. People in Gothic romances are broken and there are few happy endings to be had, and if a happy ending is found, it is hard-fought and paid for with a great price. The stakes—as it were—are much higher in a Gothic romance. And, for me, the rewards of such a journey are great—no matter the work to get to the conclusions.
Writing Gothic romances, however, takes a huge amount of planning. I’ve always been a plotter, but that kind of writing takes far more effort to plot than a contemporary romance. First of all, having a meaningful theme is essential. The characters cannot be put through all the hullaballoo if the reader cannot learn some kind of valuable lesson from the ordeal. Many Gothic stories are filled with allegory, and the reader must search for the double meanings in the plots. And then there is the symbolism—ah, the symbolism. Do not even attempt to begin to write a Gothic novel without huge doses of symbolism. A crack in a wall may stand for a fissured family. Icy mountains may represent the barren interior of a man’s soul, and a silver tea service may stand for the wealth of a family. Let that silver get tarnished, and the family is affected, too. Damage or sell the symbolic silver and the family is destroyed.
One of the most important things in a Gothic romance, however, is setting. Don’t even try to set a Gothic story on a sunny Caribbean island—though it’s possible, it’s way more difficult and not a likely setting. Try a dilapidated castle or an old church or an ancient forest—or the frozen tundra. Throw in some bad weather, and you’re off to a good start. In fact, it is tempting—though never a good idea—to start Gothic stories off with “It was a dark and stormy night.”
No matter the difficulty, though, I’ll be tempted during the month of October to conjure stories of a more intense nature, to look beyond the blank gazes of strangers on the street to try to figure out their secrets and sins, and to imagine characters for future novels. October is my prime time to take notes and file them away in my “melodramatic file” because my little secret love of Gothic fiction needs to breathe—at least for a season. And then I’ll get back to writing sweet romances like Bikers and Pearls, my last release with Bliss through Entangled Publishing. Until then, Happy Halloween!
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Bikers and Pearls
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo