Mystery Subgenre: the Gothics by Amy Reade

20131548           A friend asked me to write a post recently on the definition of “gothic” mysteries. When I tell people I write gothics, often their initial expectation is vampires and fangs. But that’s not what I write.

This subgenre of mystery has indeed encompassed monsters, vampires, ghouls, and crones in its storied history, but it has evolved to have a more nuanced meaning.

“Gothic” fiction began in the 1700s with Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto. And in that title lies one of the most recognizable elements of the gothic novel: the castle, often crumbling and decrepit, always spooky, always evoking a feeling of terror. And the castle, or its modern counterpart, the decaying mansion, is often present in more contemporary gothic novels.

 

Today gothics tend to have several, or all, of the following elements:

  • Female protagonist (with mid-twentieth century gothics, you can almost always tell you’re looking at a gothic book by the wispy, gauzy-clad woman on the front cover, running in fear from the forbidding mansion behind her)
  • Hero (almost always a male)
  • Villain, either male or female
  • Aristocratic characters
  • Dark family secrets, often something that happened in the distant past that haunts the minds of the characters in the present
  • Remote and desolate landscapes
  • An overall sense of fear and foreboding, or even evil
  • A brooding setting as important as any character
  • Love, whether powerful, unrequited, forbidden, or broken

The gothic mysteries I like to read and write also have components in common with today’s cozy mysteries; notably, the absence of gore, the absence of foul language, and the absence of explicit sexual passages.

How is the gothic different from the traditional mystery, you might ask? It’s a hard question to answer, but I believe it’s generally true that a traditional mystery tends to move a little faster while a gothic tends to take its time building suspense and fear in the reader. A gothic might also tend to have subject matter that is a bit darker than a traditional mystery, though that isn’t always the case.

houseofthehangingjadecoverwithusatoday2          So if you’re interested in reading gothics, where do you begin? I have some suggestions, but I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe

            The Monk by Matthew Lewis

            Tales of Terror and Mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Dracula by Bram Stoker

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Black Amber by Phyllis Whitneysecretsofhallsteadhouseebook

The Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt

Stolen Memories by Mary Miley Theobald

My favorite thing about the gothics? So many of them allow me to travel to exotic and fascinating locales without leaving my home. I’ve learned about history, other cultures, and other faiths. And through all my armchair trips, these books keep me guessing until the last delightful, suspense-filled page.

Here’s the rub for authors who write gothics: it’s not a huge market when compared with romance or thrillers or fantasy, so sometimes it can be hard to find readers who don’t even realize they’d love gothic books.

So what’s an author to do? Here are a few ideas that have worked for me:

I follow bloggers who write about and review gothic books, and I leave comments on those blogs. This has the advantage of getting my name out there to people who are interested in gothic-style books and it keeps me engaged with communities of readers who have interests similar to mine.

I join social media groups devoted to reading the gothics.

I write posts like this, to introduce readers to a genre they might not have known about.

I cross-market my books in gothic, horror, and suspense categories.

I started my own Facebook group devoted to gothics. My plan is to transition my author page fans to the gothic page and that way the group members will see all my posts. This is still in the planning stages, but if you’re interested in being one of the inaugural members, please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/1072888142732536/.

When I’m at a book signing and meet readers who don’t know me, I discuss the gothics with them. Often they’re familiar with the more recent gothic theghostsofpeppernellmanor_ebookcovernovelists (Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt), but they don’t realize there are others out there right now (like me!) writing the type of books they love to read.

If you’re a readers, I hope you’ll give the gothics a look—and if you do, don’t forget to leave a review! If you’re a writer of gothic mystery, don’t give up! Try some of the tips above and let me know how they work for you. And if you have ideas of your own, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments.

Thanks for having me on Bookbrowsing. It’s been an honor and a privilege.

 

Author Bio:

Amy M. Reade, a recovering lawyer, lives in southern New Jersey. She is the author of Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of Hanging Jade. She is currently working on Book Three of The Malice Novels, a series set in the United Kingdom. The first book in the series, The House on Candlewick Lane, will be released in February, 2017. She loves cooking, reading, and traveling.

Amy can be found online here:

http://www.amymreade.com (website)

http://amreade.wordpress.com (blog)

http://www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor

http://www.twitter.com/readeandwrite

http://www.pinterest.com/amreade

www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade

www.amazon.com/Amy-M.-Reade/e/B00LX6ASF2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0.

And finally, here’s the publisher’s copy from her next release, The House on Candlewick Lane:housecandlewicklane_final1

It is every parent’s worst nightmare. Greer Dobbins’ daughter has been kidnapped—and spirited across the Atlantic to a hiding place in Scotland. Greer will do anything to find her, but the streets of Edinburgh hide a thousand secrets—including some she’d rather not face.

Art historian Dr. Greer Dobbins thought her ex-husband, Neill, had his gambling addiction under control. But in fact he was spiraling deeper and deeper into debt. When a group of shady lenders threatens to harm the divorced couple’s five-year-old daughter if he doesn’t pay up, a desperate Neill abducts the girl and flees to his native Scotland. Though the trail seems cold, Greer refuses to give up and embarks on a frantic search through the medieval alleys of Edinburgh—a city as beguiling as it is dangerous. But as the nightmare thickens with cryptic messages and a mysterious attack, Greer herself will become a target, along with everyone she holds dear.

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10 thoughts on “Mystery Subgenre: the Gothics by Amy Reade

  1. Thanks for clarifying the nuances of gothic. Differences between genres can be subtle and tricky. An excellent post for helping readers find exactly the reading experience they crave.

    • amreade says:

      Thanks, Nancy. So often the lines between genres are blurry almost to the point of invisibility. It helps to have them defined every so often. I’m glad you stopped by!

  2. amreade says:

    Thanks so much for hosting me on Bookbrowsing today!

  3. Very nicely done! Hopefully, folks will gain a new appreciation of the genre!

    Have a great day!

    Sharon

  4. This is great, for the list of Gothic expectations, the list of classic books, and the advice. I love to read Gothics, but I don’t think I can write them. Might be fun to try doing a short story. Thanks for taking the time to spell this out.

  5. amreade says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Jan. I’m glad it helped! I think it would be fun to read a gothic short story.

  6. maggie8king says:

    Jane Eyre is one of my all time favorites. I have Hanging Jade on my Kindle—looking forward to getting into a gothic!

  7. maggie8king says:

    And there’s that spoof of the gothics, Northanger Abbey.

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