Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Modern VS. Historical Gothics by Jane Toombs

Do you think of gothics as spooky stories?  I do.  Of course they’re also more than that.  A gothic may come close to horror, but never really is because there’s always a happy ending.  Nor is it just a romantic suspense story because darker elements are always present.  And almost all gothics are paranormal in some way.  Modern gothics also differ from the earlier ones as far as sex goes--they can be as sensual as the author wants to make them.  Earlier ones were filled with sexual yearning, but consummation was missing. (Though that’s not true of  Rebecca because the hero and heroine are married even if we don’t see any consummated sex between them.) 

Modern gothics differ in other ways from earlier ones, in that the heroine is rarely, if ever, a shy virgin.  Neither, as a rule, is she too stupid to live.  No more midnight ventures down a dark hall in a spooky old mansion with a wavering candle the only illumination and usually clad only in her virginal white nightgown.   

The hero does not have to be the stereotypical tortured and brooding loner, either--many times a widower suspected of killing his wife.  He can be whoever an author decides is right for the story. 
Many of us gothic writers have loved gothic books over the years, but have not found  many gothics available today. Which is one of the reason I‘ve written a few lately..  Only I don’t call them gothics, because some of the criteria are missing-- an isolated house, the dark hero, and so on.

Actually my Dagon House Trilogy s for Champagne is gothic in tone, though not in set-up,  We do have the mysterious house and, yes, ghosts, but each set of hero/heroines in the three stories is at the old house for different reasons.

Taken In, the first book  is out now and features two strangers who are thrown together by a murder , get involved in a car crash and have to take refuge at Dagon House.  More of a suspense romance , really.  But the ghosts provide a gothic atmosphere, as does the cat who keeps vanishing.

In the second story, Where There’s Smoke, the heroine has fled the city because of a stalker and is hiding out at Dagon House.  The hero is a vet who’s lost a leg in Afghanistan and a fiancée who has rejected him because the artificial leg freaks her out. It heats up--literally, because the stalker is an arsonist when he finds out where the heroine is. Again a ghost is involved.

The third story, Ghost Hunt, has for a heroine the woman and her child  who were already living in the house when the heroine of the second book showed up.  They’ve fled an ex-husband and father who threatened to kill them.  Since the sheriff of the nearby community has been involved with Dagon House since the first book, he’s the hero of this one. All the ghosts converge in the final book, giving  a dramatic conclusion to the trilogy. 

And yes, gothic elements appear in each story, even though none of them are true gothics. 
The gothics I wrote earlier  for Champagne were all historical ones.  I find it much easier to write a real gothic tale set in the past.  Maybe when I finish this trilogy, I’ll just slip back into the past and make that my next book for Champagne… 
Blurb for Taken In:  Gail flees New York City after witnessing a murder.  Afraid the hit man has seen her, she heads for the Adirondacks.  Jason, a secret agent reaches her before the hit man, but with the hit man on their tail, Jason swerves onto a narrow mountain road, losing the hit man, but crashing.  Both are forced to take shelter in a old Victorian called Dagon House where a terrible danger awaits… 

Jane Toombs


Annabel Aidan said...

I always loved gothics. It's nice to know elements of them continue to work. I look forward to reading this trilogy!

January Bain said...

Sounds fascinating!!!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

The atmosphere surrounding a gothic is haunting in itself. Greg Iles uses that mood when he begins two of his books in graveyards.

Looking forward to reading yor books.