Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat

Gothic Romance in the 21st Century

When winter winds howl and the night is as dark as a witch’s heart, all you need is a glass of blood-red wine and a twisted Gothic tale. It just so happens I have one of those. Check out Zoraida Grey HERE and let me know what you think.

If we have to put a label on it, Zoraida Grey is a modern Gothic Romance. So what the heck is that?

First–A little refresher in case it’s been twenty years since your high school English class when you were more interested in the good-looking but unattainable teacher anyway.

Gothic Romance enjoyed most popularity in 1700s and 1800s. Romance in this usage refers to an imaginative, fanciful, adventurous tale and not necessarily a story about a relationship.

Mary Shelley’s  Frankenstein, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey—a bit of a satire on the genre––are classic Gothic novels. Edgar Allan Poe carried the Gothic torch through much of the nineteenth century and authors like Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney brought it into the twentieth century.

These days, many who write Gothic tales also use the paranormal label because. . . . marketing.  Paranormal is a broad term that can mean anything from werewolves to space aliens, vampires to ESP to androids.  Gothic tales tend to be more specialized. A classic Gothic tale may include:

  • A plucky, but inexperienced female protagonist
  • Handsome, brooding, and possibly evil men along with handsome, charming, and possibly evil men
  • Ghosts or supernatural creatures (or suspicion of same)
  • A castle, ruined mansion, ancient forest, abandoned cemetery
  • A storm
  • Sounds and sights and smells and tastes and so vivid they transport you to another time and place.  These images create a forbidding atmosphere guaranteed to raise the hair on the back of your neck.
  • Conflict mostly within the protagonist. She will have to face her inexperience/forbidden desires/ bad judgement/unjustified and justified fear.

So how do you modernize this venerable genre and excite a new generation of readers to jump face first into the dark, disturbed, and down-right wonderful world of Gothic Romance?

  • A female protagonist with not only pluck, but skills and common sense. She’s nobody’s patsy and she doesn’t need rescuing every time a spook says “boo.” As a matter of fact, she’s likely to say “boo” right back. She’s not perfect, but she likes who she is.
  •   We keep the handsome men. Good or bad, these guys should never be ordinary.
  • Spooks, magic, and the macabre, but no nose-wiggling or gimmicks. The laws of physics rule, though they may be stretched or re-interpreted.
  • Fear is in the mind, so the setting can be a sunny beach just as easily as a dilapidated tomb. Add any event that signals chaos—storms, earthquakes, droughts––and an atmosphere freaky and forbidding as hell.
  • Humor. Comic relief makes the fear more intense.
  • Sex. Whether it’s blazing hot or just steamy, a modern Gothic story explores the sensual nature of humans –in a spooky, kind of creepy way.
  • Conflict! Intense external conflict and action plus heightened internal conflict. Our plucky protagonist confronts the antagonist as well as her own fears.

Your Turn!! Leave comments and be sure to sign up for the newsletter.

What sounds like the most fun part of reading a Gothic novel? (it’s ok if you say sex.)

If you are already a Gothic fan, what are your favorite books/authors?

If Gothic Romance is a new idea for you, are you willing to give it a try?  

Tune in next week when I’ll give you a list of modern takes on all things Gothic in movies and books.


Oh, by the way, I’m working on my It’s Nearly Spring Newsletter. Use the sign-up form below or in the top left of the page. Giveaways include a tarot reading by yours truly, an e-copy of Just Like Gravity and an e-copy of Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones.

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