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?


11 comments:

Nancy LiPetri said...

I definitely have the same problem as mine combines mystery and relationship/sex/marriage yet isn't a typical mystery or romance, from the publisher's romance division but I think it is best understood under "other titles" and contemporary fiction. Marketing is a challenge, but when we find readers who "get us" it's SO rewarding! ­čśů

Gloria Getman said...

Yes, it can be a problem. But if the story is good, readers will come.

Susan Tuttle said...

You're in good company, Cora. It seems as though everything I write is a mixture of genres. I write suspense that's heavy on my characters' personal lives, mystery with a touch of horror, suspense with paranormal elements, a series with a PI who has paranormal abilities - and time travels! Now YA elements are sneaking in... I remember when my "Proof of Identity" was turned down, years ago. It was paranormal suspense, which didn't exist back then, and because I didn't recognize it was a new genre, I lost out... but it's one of my most successful books now. When I'm reading, I love books that cross genres. Then i know I'm in the hands of a good meaty writer! Keep on mixing!

Cora said...

Your words are very encouraging. I will take your expert advice to heart. Thanks, Susan.

Cora said...

I think the confusion is more a problem then the writing of mixed genres. I will hang on the words..."write it and they will come."

Cora said...

Yeah! A fellow mixed genre writer that understands. Thanks, Nancy.

amreade said...

My publisher calls my books "women's fiction," but then men wonder if they can read them, too. I call them "women's fiction that read like gothics" or sometimes just plain "gothics." When I look on Amazon, I see they're listed as "occult." What the what? There's no occult within ten miles of what I write. The problem is that for some algorithms to find the books, they have to be pigeonholed- then readers who disagree with the pigeonholing will pan the book because it doesn't meet their expectations. Sort of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't problem. I say write it and promote it as a cross-genre book.

Maggie said...

When I wrote Murder at the Book Group, I didn't intend for it to be a cozy. To me it was a traditional mystery. But when my editor said I had to remove my swear words and tone down the sex talk (that's all they did was talk!) I asked why. She said that cozy readers wouldn't like it. "It's a cozy?" I asked. "It's too edgy to be a cozy. If anything, it's a dark cozy. And some people swear---I'm going for authentic dialog." She maintained that it was indeed a cozy and that I had to ditch the swear words.

Sunny Frazier said...

Loved your speech at the library. Had no idea you were a "goth."

Cora said...

Thanks, neither did I!!!

Klavye ─░┼čaretleri said...

Horror ways... S.─░.L.