I was absolutely stiffed in American High School. Sure, we were assigned JANE EYRE, but my only loose grasp of “Gothic” was the tedious trend. Crushed velvet. Bell sleeved dresses with the skirts halfway to my ass and thigh high tights. Chunky, heavy shoes and Merlot lips. Eight eye Doc Martens, coffin shaped patent leather purses, Nick Cave and especially, especially Type O Negative. I had a trite obsession with vampires (sigh) but no grasp of what Gothic was, even though I was unknowingly addicted to it already. Although my favourite English teacher, Ms. Hessian (what a sexy name, I always think of shiny riding boots and Tom Thumb spurs when I think of her, even though she wore five inch stilettos every day. Damn, I loved her), covered the classical Hero’s Journey in Greek literature, she glossed over the anti-hero. I was cheated out of Heathcliff and unfortunately succored myself with Lestat. Oh the woe. Oh the regret. Most achingly absent from my early studies, though, was the tricksy and scandalous half Scot that was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Had I put all the pieces together back then, if I had “walked in beauty like the night” instead of stumbling through the entire collection of Anne Rice novels, I’d be better prepared to attack my current work in progress, WITCH OF THE BAYOU.
If only I had put all the pieces together back then. Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, the Brontë sisters (I like to think of them as the original and most heartfelt Sisters of Mercy) and most specifically, Lord Byron and his personal archetype. What a fucking legend the guy must have been. I mean really, what kind of personality must you have to inspire an entire archetype and all that throbbing and devastating literature that came afterward? Attracted to the “bad boy,” ladies? You’re so cute. Try to take on a Byron, ffs. If I met a larger than life man that had the snaps and traps of George, I think it might kill me for sure. I might die destroyed, with my heart sorely broken, but I would probably die fulfilled.
Now, I’m staring down the barrel of my own Gothic novel, and I’m worried I’m not up to the task. Come on! WUTHERING HEIGHTS, DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, JANE EYRE… I evidently suffer from an acute sense of hubris just to imagine trying to take this genre on. And honestly, is there even a real market for Gothic literature at all, anymore? (Crimson Peak notwithstanding). I’m stirring ideas around in my cauldron. Just pulling off the basic elements of a proper Gothic will be challenging enough. For all of those authors who will say “just write what’s in your head, don’t try to make it a Gothic.” NOPE. I want to write a Gothic. I have always wanted to write a Gothic. I want to plan ahead and try to drag the genre screaming into the American South and somehow do it remote justice. And so now, I must square off with my characters.
The story and my writing is gratefully, gratefully already instinctively Gothicky by a large amount. But there are some things that are unclear. I might try to pull off a Byronic heroine in Amelia Rose. I know, I know, flouting tradition. She has both aspects of dark lady/light lady (again flouting tradition), but is she a Byron? Does she have what it takes? Or do I want to turn the unfortunate Yves (her one and only lover) into a stronger, darker, more powerful force of nature in Amelia’s life? I can’t decide and so I hesitate… and in doing so, write pointless blog posts and procrastinate on my novel. In comments, feel free to discuss the idea of a female Byron, and in general the elements of a Gothic. I’d heartily welcome the opinions and viewpoints.