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Friday, April 29, 2016

Gothic or Horror, or Gothic Horror?



Horror of horrors, I realized while researching and preparing for a talk at the Hanford Library here in California tomorrow, that I write Gothic Fiction. And all along I thought I wrote Romantic Suspense—and I do, but there’s this little fact that erupted to bring in a whole other dimension. (Oh, and I’ve also been told I write horror fiction—you have to read my short stories to see that.)

My early influences in life were fairy tales before I was in First Grade. I can still remember viewing the fairy tale murals on the walls while listening to the stories read aloud. When I began to read, I absorbed every fairy tale from every country I could get my hands on, and

the Grimm fairy tales were my favorite—the ones with dark themes (not the Anderson/Disney ones)

When all the fairy tales and folk tales were exhausted, I switched to Gothic Romance; Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, Phantom of the Opera —moving on to other Gothic fiction; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein and Dracula and Interview with a Vampire. I never really thought about the fact that those were all Gothic (a branch of the larger Romantic movement in the late 18th Century).  

Oh, and did I mention Poe? Yep, popped his Gothic horror stories into my brain like I was eating candy.

According to Wikipedia on Gothic Fiction, there's a heavy emphasis on atmosphere (check!), using setting and diction to build suspense and a sense of unease in the reader (check!). The common subject matter was supernatural, family curses, mystery and madness (check!). So, yeah, I guess I do write Gothic fiction, only updated from settings in European castles and dark foreboding houses to the dark jungles and caves in Mexico’s Yucatan—filled with supernatural elements.

But wait!. Amazon lists it under: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Fantasy and Paranormal & Urban. Jeeze! Is it any wonder I can't settle on a niche?

I always felt odd that I couldn’t nail down what I was writing (Was it women’s fiction? Suspense? Romantic suspense with paranormal elements? It was all very slippery and none of those quite captured what I write thoroughly enough. 

So I guess I could describe Dance the Dream Awake as Gothic Romance meets Romancing the Stone with paranormal elements of Carlos Castenada’s Don Juan’s supernatural escapades. Add that it might be Fantasy or Sci-Fi. Whew! See why I have trouble with this?

But wait, Wikipedia weighs in with another possibility; Romantic thriller--think Hitchcock.

"Romantic thriller in discussion of genres, is more a metagenre that merges two or more genres together. It is different from established and historically specific cinema movements like Gothic horror or Golden Age detective. A genre works on two levels. First a specific theme exists. Then general relationships, patterns and structural elements are interwoven to the specific theme. This is why there can be a large variety of visual styles and story structures in romantic thriller."

You see why I'm in a mobius loop with this?

At lease my second novel, Haiku Dance, fits into the Romance genre--historical romance (uh, with erotic overtones and supernatural leanings--oh, well . . .  I'll try to figure it out another day). 
(You can read more about Haiku Dance on my website.)

So, now, your turn—comment and tell if you’ve had that problem with your novel(s), or did you always write clearly in one genre? (I’m jealous if you say yes.)

Am I the only one who’s had this issue?