"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
We queried the
listers and here is what they had to say!
January 2001 Issue
: What do you think has been responsible for renewed interest in publishing
this type of novel?
Leslie T: I think trends tend to be cyclical, although many of the PNR listers have been demanding the return gothics since the demise of the Silhouette Shadows line (series romance). Perhaps the time is just right. Recently a good bit of television programming for teens and young adults have taken on a dark, gothic style, tone and have enjoyed popularity. This has inspired books connected with these series, which are also quite popular. I also think the great success of dark romance novels, such as the much acclaimed Dark Carpathian series by Christine Feehan, turned some editorial heads, because the acclaim extended beyond the paranormal romance readership. Though I have been given understand that the concept was in the Love Spell pipeline even prior that, we'll have to ask someone at Dorchester about that. At any rate I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth <g>.
Shelly R: I think that the renewed interest is not in the traditional gothic, but in a gothic as redefined for today's market. These run more toward dark paranormals, in which there has been an upsurge of interest. These books have a gothic feel, which I as a gothic lover will read because that's as close as I can get in today's publishing world.
There are some changes I am glad of. For instance, many of the old gothics have insipid heroines who are passive throughout the book except for shrieking. I doubt if we'll see many of those in these days of independent heroines. The old gothics I prefer are by writers like Elsie Lee, whose heroines are smart women who fight back.
Di: I can't think of anyone person or event.....I do think some people get interested by movies they see. With suspenseful type movies, viewers want to see/read more of this type of genre.
A couple of realities have caught up with the publishing world. First,
the market is bloated with historicals and contemporaries of the cowboy's/bride's
secret baby-type. Readers have read those themes over and over again
and they're getting tired of them. Second, a combination of technologies
is making it economically feasible for publishers to target smaller
market segments. Computerized, direct-to-plate typesetting makes smaller
print runs realistic, while the Internet is providing a low-cost way
for publishers to reach scattered target audiences
There's always been a small but devoted following of Gothics, but the economic realities of publishing as it was done even five years ago made it unrealistic for them to try to pursue that niche, except with a few well-known authors.
Gil: It's probably just time for it again. I think it goes in cycles. Plus there is renewed interest in witchcraft, and the like, because of films like (gag!) Blair Witch Project and Sixth Sense. Gothics are female oriented horror in a way. Paranormals paved the way. Plus the success of Anne Rice and other vampire authors hasn't hurt either. Rice has a terribly Gothic sensibility.
I think people are tired of the same old formula novels that work on
the same plot lines as hundreds of others.
PNR Q.: What do you think is the appeal of gothic romance?
Leslie T: I can only speak for myself, but first I love dark heroes, who are mysterious, powerful, yes alpha but with a secret vulnerability, a pain that only the love of the heroine can mend. Redemption is something that everyone hopes for at sometime in their lives.
And of course I love stories that empower the heroine. She may be frightened, but she has spine, she will face her fears and grow strong, and her strength and courage will ultimately be the hero's salvation.
Shelly R: It's a combination of mystery, romance, and slightly lurid horror. Those who like those genres separately would be drawn to gothics.
love the mystery of not knowing who the bad guy is at first. I love
only having the heroine's POV because it adds to the mystery, especially
when she misinterprets things. I like the supernatural
Di: The appeal of gothic romance, at least to me, is the darkness and the sense of mystery. In a dark castle with a shadowed tormented hero, a reader goes to places that they are not normally in. I do not live in a castle or near one, but I would love to visit one especially if my strong yet silent hero is there.
Karen M: I think gothic romances chronicle a girl's journey into womanhood, following her as she confronts major challenges that will make her "grow up" and grow into awareness of her own strengths and weaknesses, her ability to reach out to others, to love, and to heal others' pain through her loving and caring.
In the best gothics a helpless, vulnerable girl, faced with a life-threatening challenge, develops into a strong woman who can take control of her world, including a man who needs her.
It's a genre where a heroine can be strong and gutsy fighting the forces
of darkens, be they Mrs. Rochester in the attic or a ghostly visitor
who might be deadly (I'm thinking of Ammie, Come Home by Barbara Michaels).
It's got all the appeal of a King horror, with a female-friendly
You KNOW the heroine will survive. I really hate horror novels where at the last moment the villain pulls a rabbit out of a hat, and the good guys lose completely. I feel cheated. I can handle the hero dying, as in End of Days, but I prefer Evil to lose BIG.
Katherine S: Personally, the appeal to me is the sense of the dark and unknown. There is something purely psychological about the gothic novel that you just cannot get in an ordinary novel. It seems to reach deep inside the reader and pull from them some overwhelming reaction.
A: I started reading gothic romances in my
teens and loved them. I haven't read a "true" gothic in a
long time, but there are still a few out there to find. I think the
appeal for me of gothic romance has always been the dark house or castle
(since I adore castles) and the dangerous element of the (often) alpha
type hero. The mystery along with the romance has great appeal.
PNR Q.: What elements do you feel are vital to a really good gothic romance novel?
Leslie T: Alicia Condon, Editorial Director, Dorchester Publishing sited five requirements for gothic romances. (1) The Journey, (2) The House, (3) The Dream, (4) The hero/villain, (5) The fire
I agree, and will attempt to define these elements as I see them.
(1) The Journey: A drastic change of setting for the heroine, she is alone, unconnected, and "a fish out of water". The change is life-altering, inspiring both anticipation and anxiety.
(2) The House: This goes hand in hand with the journey. Traditionally these stories are set in a spooky house or castle. Whether or not the actual house is a factor, the key is isolation. This sets the heroine apart from her familiar world.
(3) The Dream: Dark elements that carry a foreboding of danger experienced by the heroine such as dreams, visions, and best of all paranormal occurrences. The purpose: to inspire intense emotional feelings. The two most important are, naturally, fear of and desire for the hero.
(4) The Hero: He generally has a dark reputation, whether he's earned it or not, and he's secretive, mysterious, which tends to support that reputation. He is perceived as dangerous. He expends considerable energy attempting to drive the heroine away, only to pull her back because his redemption depends upon her. Naturally she isn't sure whether she can trust him until the very end which makes the plot very exciting.
(5) The Fire: No necessarily a fire per se, but a event of major proportions which signals the change which jump-starts the heroine into take control of her life and what is happening around her. She must climb off the fence and make a choice regarding the hero. She must embrace the new life. This leads to an end to the suspense, resolution of secrets, and sets her free to find her happily ever after.
A lot is the feel of the book to me, dark, gloomy, pretty with the smell
of something rotten in the air, but it does require a couple of things.
An isolated heroine is a must, a mystery that puts her in danger, and
a limited POV. Gothics don't usually work for me if the hero has a POV,
because a large part of the mystery of a gothic is figuring out who
is evil and who is good, especially in terms of the hero. If an author
could write a male POV without giving the mystery
Di: Same as for the previous question.
Karen M: I think there are three elements that are absolutely vital to a gothic: a heroine who, for one reason or another, is suddenly forced to confront drastically changed circumstances; a hero who is both charismatic and a bit frightening; and a mystery that engulfs them both, forcing them to examine themselves and each other more deeply than people normally do, to find what's beneath the surface.
Gil: A strong, intelligent, gutsy heroine. A dark hero, with a past that's murky. An exotic setting--or at least an interesting one. I suppose it could work in Suburbia USA, but somehow that doesn't sing "Gothic" to me. I prefer my Gothic to have real supernatural events, but I can live without it, if the plot is strong enough and the characters are interesting. I don't care if it's set in the past (but if you do choose the past, get the history stuff right) or the present, so long as the story is tight and the characters work. You need a romantic, frightening setting, with a heroine who has a strong reason to stay there when common sense would indicate getting the heck out of Dodge (if the reason isn't compelling you end up with Idiot Heroine Syndrome, where she has more hair than brains, and behaves like the simpletons in slasher films who hang around even after 3 bodies have been found...that tends to lose my sympathy), and a hero who has a touch of darkness about him. They need to solve some sort of mystery together--and it doesn't hurt if it looks like the hero might be the villian and emotional aura are key.
I adore Gothics. I was madly addicted to Dark Shadows (both versions)and Twin Peaks, which was sort of Gothic.
As always, good plot, believable plot, well-developed characters, authentic
setting (whether historical or contemporary) and a sense of foreboding.
PNR Q.: Do you feel paranormal elements add to the appeal of these romances? Or do you think these elements lend themselves more toward the gothic/horror genre? In other words, is the blend comfortable?
Leslie T: Of Course! I think gothics can lean either way. I personally prefer a romance aspect to a horror one, and WE know paranormal elements can be used to enhance romance plots <g>. Colleen Shannon's new gothic novel does deal with traditional Lycanthropy. The werewolf is not a separate, misunderstood species, but a human being afflicted with a terrible, progressive disease that increasingly strips him of his humanity, leading to madness. This is a traditional horror element. But "The Wolf of Haskell Hall" is, without a doubt, a romance. Can the two be comfortably blended? You bet!
I don't get the distinction you're making. I think the paranormal is
at home in the gothic, and that's why they're being re-published (the
Di: Yes, the blend is what makes these books hard to put down until you have read the last page.
Karen M: Whether the blend is comfortable depends on the skill of the writer. Since the story is essentially about a girl's moving out of a sheltered childhood to confront a big, bad, scary world, paranormal elements can help extend the scope of that world. If they're handled well, paranormal elements can add another layer of resonance to the experience of the story. The werewolf hero, for instance, forces a heroine to cope with a man who's essential beast nature is completely unharnessed at certain times.
Gil: Many of the original Gothics from the early 19th century had paranormal elements. I've read my ay through The Monk (it's ghastly) and The Castle of Otranto--and people think today's books are perverse. Incest, rape, kinky sex--and helmet that kills the villain in Otranto. Even Wuthering Heights (with the two least likable people as protoganists) is a ghost story. For me the paranormal element strengthens the story, because then the hero and heroine face a darker challenge--it's one thing to deal with smugglers, quite another to handle an angry ghost or a dark vampire or were. It turns up the tension a notch. That may be the reason my fave Gothic author is Barbara Micahels.
Paranormal elements definitely add to the mystique of the gothic novel.
True paranormal elements do turn the novel more towards the horror genre,
but you cannot have a gothic without some strong psychological impact.
The blend is extremely comfortable to me and I would eagerly like to
see more of this style of publishing.
PNR Q.: Some folks feel that the plots of gothic romance offerings do not differ significantly from the currently popular romantic suspense novels, do you agree? If not what do you see as major differences?
Leslie T: I would definitely categorize gothics as romantic suspense, I doubt that every romantic suspense novel can be categorized as a gothic as defined by the elements I've mentioned above. In other words while all cats may be animals, all animals are not cats.
I have noticed that some novels defined as romantic suspense have most if not all the elements of a gothic romance. One that comes to springs to mind is "Shadow of a Doubt" by Karen McCollough. It has a policewomen heroine with something to prove (she's not so much innocent as more open than her colleagues), a mysterious hero (famous, but reclusive artist) who harbors a secret that makes him a murder suspect and he's living with his ailing mother in a derelict house that virtually no one ever visits. Torn between duty and a growing affection for the man, she begins to doubt her renowned instincts. There is no physical journey, but because of the nature of her dilemma she must handle it without the aid of her peers. Not surprisingly Karen's next release will be a paranormal romance. ***(editor's note: Karen's response was purely coincidental!).
I believe that there is a niche for these (gothic) novels and when people want something, authors/publishers will find a way to sneak them in through a back door. We've seen the way many paranormals are disguised as something else to "trick" readers in to giving them a try. Whether this tactic works is a question for the marketing folks, but the stories are out there.
Shelly R: Some romantic suspense is slightly gothic, but they aren't that close. Most of the RS I've read contains a hero who works with the heroine to solve some mystery (strike 1). She isn't usually isolated (strike 2). The contemporary world with the internet and cell phones make it pretty difficult to isolate a heroine, although some authors manage it. You get everyone's POV including the villain's, who's identity isn't hidden half the time (strike 3). I think romantic suspense owes more to the popular mysteries that are hot right now (like Kay Scarpetta etc.) than old gothics.
Di: There are big differences between regular romance novels and gothic romances. I find regular romance novels too predictable - the plots aren't as original. With gothic/paranormal, the imagination of the author makes the storyline exciting and new.
Karen M: I've always thought of gothics as a particular subset of romantic suspense involving a young and somewhat naive heroine, an enigmatic hero, and a claustrophobic setting. In light of the fact that I've been told there is a significant plot parallel between my currently available contemporary romantic suspense novel, Shadow of a Doubt, and one of the first Candleglow gothics, I think I'd have to say that there are definite similarities.
of a Doubt has almost all the characteristics of a gothic, since it
has a big, spooky house, a troubled hero who has a 'big secret', and
a spunky heroine. But my heroine is a police detective, investigating
a murder. She's not dependent and vulnerable, searching for a sense
The heroine's conflict isn't about whether she can cope with her world in general, or the man and his secrets in particular, it's more about whether she can resolve the contradictions within herself when the duty she owes to her job clashes against her developing love for a potential suspect. Ultimately, I suspect, it's not much of a difference. It comes down to semantics: how do you want to define the term "gothic novel"?
Romantic suspense doesn't usually have paranormal elements, as I see
it. The difference is more in tone than in plotline, because some books
blur the edges. Mary Stewart wrote romantic suspense--contemporary settings,
no paranormal elements, simply a Woman in Jeopardy. Michaels, on the
other hand, at least always hinted at something out of the ordinary,
even if the paranormal was explained. There's something dark and brooding
about a Gothic that a suspense novel lacks. The setting tends to be
more integral to the story, and the atmosphere is paramount. When I
think of romantic suspense, it's a woman fleeing from a figure holding
Denise A: I do believe most modern romantic suspense novels are different from older style gothics. Really, though, there are so many possibilities and combinations in romance that you can "mix and match" elements from older style gothic and modern romance novels and get a delicious combination.
My March 2001 release FOREVERMORE, is a reincarnation romance, but I tried to give it a modern gothic feel. A big house, a sinister castle, a dark and dangerous hero, and a heroine "I" first person viewpoint (often prevalent in gothics). I also added humor here and there.