Ever since I published "The Tragic Tale of Teddy Woven" last week, a lot of people have been asking me to explain the genre of Gothic horror and romance to them. This experience has made me realize that this genre is rather obscure, almost small in comparison to the better known ones. As for myself, I have been interested in Gothic fiction all my life. I can easily list off a bunch of authors that are both influential and known for their work in this particular field, such as the Brontë sisters, Daphne du Maurier, Mary Shelley, Eleanor Hibbert (Pen name, Victoria Holt), and Anya Seyton. Once I have listed these well known authors and their books, all I receive is a shrug of their shoulders or a blank stare. At first I was shocked by these experiences, but after some seriously contemplation I have decided to dedicate the rest of my novels in this genre for the next two years.
Traditionally, Gothic novels have a prevailing theme of mystery and terror. Gothic romance is intertwined into an otherwise suspenseful story. In most cases, the story-line has something to do with a leading female character that falls in love with an enigmatic, and often times mysterious male character. Gothic novels are generally taken place in a well isolated area, sometimes barns, castles, houses, forests, or uninhabited places. The female character finds herself in this eerie setting, and must navigate her way through this mysterious place. There are times when the female protagonist's life is in danger, but there are others where their eccentric love interest also has their life threatened by some unknown supernatural being. Gothic fiction, particularly romance focused ones were the most popular in the 1970s. I have just discovered this phenomenon, and purchased a vintage copy of "Mistress of Mellyn," since it was one of the most famous novels in this genre during the mid-twentieth century.
The influence of classic literary tropes from classic Gothic fiction novels can be seen in "The Tragic Tale of Teddy Woven." I was inspired by several film adaptions and novels I read in my adolescents, all of which compelled me to write this chilling read. I will mention three published works that had a strong influence on my writing and the plot-line for my latest novel below.
The Fall of the House of Usher
“There were times indeed when I thought his unceasingly agitated mind was laboring with some oppressive secret."
Admittedly, I watched the film adaption staring Vincent Price, before I ever had the chance to sit down and read Edgar Allan Poe's work. This is hand's down one of the best films I have seen with Vincent Price to date. His highly eccentric character with troublesome quirks and a full range of temper inspired me to write Teddy Woven. Teddy's sensitivity to sounds and his need for things to be a certain way was also inspired by this film adaption. Vincent Price's character, Roderick Usher, also had some part to play when I was deciding the appearance of Teddy Woven. In the end, Teddy's tall, lean figure and prominent nose was inspired by the famous horror actor of the twentieth century, Vincent Price.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
"He himself could not help wondering at the calm of his demeanour, and for a moment felt keenly the terrible pleasure of a double life."
I was still reading this novel when writing "The Tragic Tale of Teddy Woven." There are certain segments in the novel where I seem to be echoing the spirit of Wilde's novel, or at least the heightened feeling of suspense as Teddy Woven withholds a crucial secret from his love interest, Sela.
"The Picture of Dorian Gray" is a beautifully poetic novel with vivid imagery and playful language that it nearly brings me into a state of tears (in a good way). I have read some of Wilde's poems and famous quotes online, but this novel was a true treat for me. I highly recommend everyone to give it a read, and if possible own several copies in beautifully bounded hard cover books.
There is an obvious influence of Wilde's character, Dorian Gray, in my most recent novel. The idea of a tortured soul with a terrible secret that he must hide from the world, played a crucial role when I was writing the first draft of this story. There is also Teddy's proficiency in playing the piano, in the same way Dorian was praised for his pianist abilities that entertained many of his guests at home and abroad. The desire to decorate a home with the most priceless novelties, antiques and art work was also influenced by Dorian's character. Of course, there is also the great emphasis on dress and physical appearances that Teddy and Dorian both share a partiality towards, especially when around their love interest. When I took up the book "The Picture of Dorian Gray," it was at the height of lock-down and a time when I desperately needed an escape from the world that was severely impacted by covid-19. Oscar Wilde's book saved me- not only in terms of some much needed escapism, but also for inspiring me to write this short Gothic fiction novel "The Tragic Tale of Teddy Woven."
Dragonwyck by Anya Seyton
“He was all sin and mystery, and Miranda feared the pleasures he offered as she feared the fires of hell. Yet when she succumbed at last, it was not because her body was weak but because her mind was curious.”
A couple of months ago a writer friend of mine recommended this 1946 film adaption to me. I found it online for free on Youtube and watched it from beginning to end with absolute awe. This film enthralled me, captivated me in a way that I had to watch it two more times the following week just to have my fill. I had not been so invested in a film adaption of a classic novel since Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. When it came time to sit down and write the character Teddy Woven, I knew that I had to have this film on in the background. I wanted to hear the soothing, and yet, hypnotic voice of Vincent Price. As you can see from the image above, I took inspiration from the visual appearance of both Miranda and Nicholas Van Ryn. I thought the severe height difference would add to the power of Teddy Woven, not only in his elite position as Sela's employer, but also in a threatening way once she starts to unearth the secret that lies beneath the ancestral home of the Woven's residency. If you happen to watch the film, or even read the classic novel by Anya Seyton, I am sure you will see some more similarities that were unintentionally influenced when writing of "The Tragic Tale of Teddy Woven."
Gothic fiction is an interesting genre that is treasured by a select few. I would argue that Gothic romance is even more selective in terms of its readers. You have to love reading a romance story set in a darker, and far more sinister setting. If you are a fan of this genre, however, you will find it to be a thrilling read from beginning to end. Due to the limitations of this blog post today, I have decided to withhold some of the other works of literature that have inspired my latest book. I have good news, however, for I have went into great deal about this in an interview with Exeter Publishing. In this interview I talk about author's, poets, and other literary works that inspired me to write "Cursed" and "The Tragic Tale of Teddy Woven." It is expected to come out in the month of September, so make sure to subscribe to my email list to learn more.
On one final note, what is your favourite Gothic fiction novel? What do you consider it to be? Feel free to express your opinions down below. I would love to have a conversation with you, and learn some up and coming books that fall into this genre as well.
Thank you for taking the time to read this,