Books · Gothic Fiction

What Book Made You a Reader?

During my childhood, I would spend most of my time playing out of doors and watching television of an evening, so I never really spent much time reading. It was not until I discovered one book, in particular, that happened to change all of that.

That book was Dragonwyck by Anya Seton. This book would lead me to read within the Gothic genre, as well as horror from Stephen King and mysteries, such as Sherlock Holmes. Combined with my film and television viewing, where my interest was with horror and suspense movies and police dramas, it was inevitable my choice of reading material would be in the same vein.

When I discovered Dragonwyck, I was not looking for that book, let alone a book to read. Before that time, I cannot recall even reading an adult book. I came across this book merely by chance.

Frequently we would holiday down the south coast and it was when I was about ten years old that my parents eventually bought a caravan while we were down there. The previous owners had cleaned the caravan out, however, when perusing the cupboards, I stumbled upon a book lying in one of them. I don’t know if they left it behind intentionally or by accident, but the book title and description caught my interest. I began reading and I was hooked.

I enjoyed the romantic aspects as well as its dark themes, such as family curses, hauntings, and murder. Dragonwyck introduced me to the Gothic genre, and it was also through this book that I became familiar with Edgar Allen Poe.

I knew that Nicholas Van Ryn was a dark and menacing character, but as a child I was unaware of some of these darker topics until I grew up. When I saw him again through adult eyes, I was even more horrified, which only heightened the terror of the novel.

Some years after reading this book for the first time, I happened to come across the film version on television. The film stars Gene Tierney of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir fame, and one of my old favourites, Vincent Price. I only saw it the once, but I do remember the ending of the film version was somewhat different from that of the book, which disappointed me. At the time I was also disappointed with Vincent Price being in the lead male role, but all these years later when I think of it, it seemed appropriate. Now whenever I read the book, I can’t help but hear his voice in the role of Nicholas. Chillling! 😉

There are a number of things I owe to this book, for not only did Dragonwyck make me a reader and introduced me to the Gothic genre, but it cemented my decision at the age of ten, that I wanted to be a writer. And for that I’m eternally grateful.

What book made you a reader? What is your favourite genre to read? Have you ever read Dragonwyck? If you’ve seen the film version starring Vincent Price, what did you think?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing

Genre Writing – Gothic Fiction.

Recently I have been questioning what my chosen genres as a writer really are.  Then I experienced my ‘light bulb’ moment and wondered why I had not thought of it before.  I was about ten years old when I discovered Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck.  That book really reeled me in and I’ve read it many times since and it inspired me to read more within the genre of gothic fiction.

Gothic fiction combines both horror (psychological and/or physical) and romance.  There is a heavy emphasis on atmosphere in order to help build suspense.  Gothic fiction usually deals with past eras, using medieval settings or in more modern times Victorian England and pre Civil War Southern United States.

Gothic elements usually include some of the following:

  • Medieval setting, usually in a castle or 19th century mansion
  • An atmosphere of mystery and suspense
  • Supernatural or other inexplicable events, which can include ghosts, werewolves and monsters
  • Women in distress
  • An ancient prophecy, omens , visions, dark secrets
  • A tyrannical male, villains and Byronic heroes
  • Mad characters
  • Romance

Stories that are considered gothic fiction include The Mysteries of Udolpho, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Rebecca and of-course Edgar Allan Poe.  Some of the works by Charles Dickens and Stephen King are considered to be that of gothic fiction.  And who could forget Jane Austen’s take on it all in Northanger Abbey?

What I love about gothic fiction is that it combines horror, suspense, mystery/crime, the supernatural, history and romance – all genres I enjoy reading; it all fits under one big umbrella.  So that’s who I am – a writer of gothic fiction.

Do you enjoy gothic fiction?  Do you have a favourite?  If you’re a writer, have you experienced a ‘light bulb’ moment in your chosen genre/s?

Free image by Simon Howden courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net