Monday, October 7, 2013

Haunting Houses, Haunted Hearts



My guest is historical romance author, Kat Sheridan. She is addicted to historical Gothic novels and feels the best romance novels include storms, castles, bat-shit-crazy villains, and a high body count. Oh yes, and larger than life heroes and heroines. Today she talks about a character present in all Gothic romances that we often forget.


With the coming of autumn we all tend to draw closer to the hearth. The weather is cooler, the sunny days fewer, and the rain and winds are the harbinger of the coming of winter. The days are darker, and night comes early. Now is the time of year I love to curl up in front of the fire with a hot beverage and a good book. And my favorite choice for this time of year is the old school gothic romance.

What’s a gothic romance? There are certain classic tropes that are usually included—an intrepid heroine, a dark, alpha hero, mysterious goings-on, and danger. But there is always one other character, the thing from which the genre actually gets its name: a house.

The term “gothic” originated from the Gothic architecture of the pseudo-medieval structures that were the setting of early gothics. It might be a mansion, an abbey, a manor, a hall, or a hotel, but it becomes a key “character” in the story. It’s more than just a setting, a framework for events. It takes on a life of its own. Consider these descriptions of the residences in some classic gothics:

“There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the gray stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and terrace.” ~ from Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.
“It was three stories high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman's manor-house, not a nobleman's seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look.” ~ description of Thornfield Hall from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
“Halfway down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst.” ~ House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

These haunting—and possibly haunted—houses are representatives of larger themes in the stories. When Manderley or Thornfield burn down, it’s a representation of finally destroying the past to make way for the future. Even the name “Thornfield” is thought to represent the “field of thorns” Jane has to overcome in order to find her happiness.

And so it is with Tremayne Hall, the mansion in my debut Victorian Gothic romance, Echoes in Stone. When Jessa first arrives, on a suitably stormy night, it’s described thusly: “The immense stone mansion loomed over her, perched on the edge of the cliff like a bird of prey. Three stories rose above her, stretching out to both sides from the central portion. Rounded towers punctuated stone wings at either end, topped with crenelations biting like giant’s teeth into the night sky. A light glimmered in a window, high in the eastern tower. An additional glow shone through the colored glass panes framing the massive Gothic arch of the front door. Otherwise, the house stood shrouded in darkness.”

I deliberately described the house as a living thing—a bird of prey—because it plays such a key role. As the story progresses, Tremayne Hall reflects the lives of the inhabitants. In the beginning, Jessa’s explorations reveal this: “But everywhere, there were signs of neglect. Paving stones had shifted, making the walkways treacherous. The dry fountain overflowed with leaves. Weeds all but choked out any blooming plants. It was if the lack of love and care in Dash and Lily’s relationship had spread itself over the house, cloaking everything in a miasma of decay.”

Does it get better? Does Tremayne Hall succumb to the ashes like Manderley or Thornfield, or can it, like the hero, Dash Tremayne, be transformed? Not to be a tease, but there’s only one way to find out!

  • So tell me. Do you have a favorite dark and stormy tale, or do you prefer to keep your reading on the sunny side?

                                                                                                                                                                                             

Echoes In Stone~

A Victorian Gothic Romance – Available October 1, 2013
BUY: AmazonB&NKobo
A letter from the grave… 
Lily is dead. But a mysterious letter launches her half-sister, Jessa Palmer, on a harrowing journey into the wilds of Cornwall to rescue Lily’s daughter from a tyrant of a father, a man who confessed to murder. Jessa follows in Lily’s footsteps to a forbidding castle on the cliffs, but discovers the past will not stay dead at Tremayne Hall. Someone—or something—wants to ensure Jessa is no more successful at escaping than was Lily.


A heart locked in stone…
Bitter, brooding, and tragically scarred, Viscount Dashiell Tremayne believes Jessa is just like her manipulative, unfaithful half-sister. He’s not about to let another treacherous woman into his home or into his heart. Particularly not a woman who’s come to steal his daughter. Only one can win in the battle for a child’s life. Then the accidents begin.

A passion that threatens to consume them…
Jessa wants only to take her niece and escape the grim manor. But Dash, fiercely protective of those he loves, gives up nothing that belongs to him. As the danger escalates, so does the heat between Jessa and Dash. Soon she’ll have to make a choice: surrender the child to a man she cannot trust or surrender her heart to the same fires of passion that destroyed Lily. Excerpt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              



Kat Sheridan is a former project manager and business analyst whose very serious exterior hides a secret romantic. She is fond of books, bourbon, big words, coffee, and shiny things. Kat splits her time between the Midwest in the summer and the South in the winter, sharing her home with the love of her life and an exceedingly dignified Shih Tzu. No matter where her body is, though, Kat’s imagination can most often be found on some storm-wracked coast, plotting historical romances that include forbidding castles, menacing villains, and heartthrob heroes. She loves to hear from readers, and can be contacted at www.KatSheridan.com, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.



48 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, I'm so glad you're finally sharing this fabulous story with readers. I love,LOVE the cover. Fits the story so well and I love the model for Dash. He even gives off that rakish slightly disreputable vibe. :-)

You're so right about houses being characters in gothic romance and often reflecting what was happening in the story. I think the thing I loved most about gothics, aside from the romance, was at the heart, the stories were suspense with an element of paranormal. I've always enjoyed reading them.

Congratulations, my friend!

Kat Sheridan said...

Thank you so much for having me here, Sia! And isn't that cover to die for? The moment I saw that model (whose real name is Harvey), I knew he was truly the emobodiment of my dark, brooding hero, Dash Tremayne. And you've perfectly nailed gothic romances--it's the suspense and spookiness that has always lured me in!

Jill Lynn said...

For me, it's The Flame and the Flower that I remember when I think of gothics. Oh, be still my youthful heart.

Looking forward to rediscovering the genre with Echoes.

Kat Sheridan said...

Ooo, Jill Lynn, one of the first epic, explicit romances! You know, it's funny you mention a book by Kathleen Woodiwiss. She passed away very shortly before I started writing, and I used to joke that she was sitting on my shoulder as a muse! Those romances are considered terribly politically incorrect today, but oh, at the time, I totally loved them!

saraleee said...

Hi, Kat, your book sounds fabulous! I love feeling like I'm actually living in the world where the story is taking place. And I think your hero sounds yummy. Can't wait to read the whole book!

Saralee

Susan Gee Heino said...

I have to say, I usually read lighter fiction but I was intrigued by this story so I thought I'd give a Gothic a try. And I'm loving it! I do really love meandering the corridors of the old Tremayne Hall and struggling along with Jessa, caught between what she knows in her head and what she feels in her heart. The setting is a perfect backdrop to the emotional storyline.

Robin Gianakopoulos said...

Loved your description of the house in your book, and enjoyed reading those from the old classics.

I adored my gothic romances, but my favorite was Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart. Great characters, and I've tried to figure out how exactly she made her hero so compelling and alive when you're never in his POV.

I'm going to have to grab up your book and read it, too!

Kat Sheridan said...

Saralee, I spent so much time "living" in that dark, stormy environment while I was writing it that I thought I was going to be permanantly wrinkled and develop webbed feet! LOL! And yeah, I kinda think Dash Tremayne is yummy too!

Kat Sheridan said...

Susan, you write such fun, wonderful, lightheared Regency romps (which I also love! It can't be stormy all the time!), and I'm so pleased you're enjoying my gloomy little Hall! Thank you!

Kat Sheridan said...

Oh, Robin! Mary Stewart was like my gateway drug to grown-up romance (along with Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Barbara Michaels, who gets thanked in my acknowledgements!) I went from Nancy Drew to Mary Stewart to Kathleen Woodiwiss, with stops along the way for my beloved Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca is still one of my favorites!) And yes, how does one make a hero compelling without his own POV?

I sort of encountered this with the character of Lily in Echoes in Stone. I used the chapter titles to draw a portrait of Lily from everyone else's POV, from what all the other characters say about her, in a way that I hope mirrors the way DuMaurier drew Rebecca through other people's view of her.

Carol said...

Setting as character in the story isn't a new idea but in the case of gothics that concept is very specific. I love every one of the examples you gave, but I admit to a particular weakness for Thornfield Hall. Jane Eyre was the first romance I read--I was 12. The sense of atmosphere in those books is palpable.

I haven't started reading my copy yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

Jo said...

Years ago I used to read Victoria Holt novels, she was a master of Gothic. Yes, wonderful houses in all of them. I look forward to reading your story.

L.G. Smith said...

Oh, wonderful. Now I'm in the mood for a good gothic type romance novel. It's so true, too, about those large estate houses becoming characters themselves in the novels.

Kat Sheridan said...

Carol, you hit the key word: atmosphere! I love being drenched in that while I read. I know it's not "fashionable" right now to spend much time writing about setting, but I like it and the grounding it provides when I'm reading.

Kat Sheridan said...

Hi, Jo! Wasn't Victoria Holt just amazing? She caught me with surprise twist endings more than anybody I know. "The Shivering Sands" still makes me, well, shiver!

Kat Sheridan said...

L.G., I hope you enjoy it! There's just something about this time of year, when it gets dark and the winds start whistling in the chimney that makes me want a good gothic romance!

Yolanda Renee said...

Harvey needs to change his name to Dash!

Perfection!

Congratulations!

Kat Sheridan said...

Yokanda, he is quite "dashing", isn't he?! In real life he's a fitness trainer with a couple of adorable little girls, which is kind of awesome since Dash Tremayne, the hero of Echoes, also has a little girl that he adores!Credit also goes to Kim Killion of Hot Damn Designs for creating such a gorgeous cover for me (and for photographing Harvey in the first place!)

~Sia McKye~ said...

I loved Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart. There's another author I also enjoyed that wrote some serious spookiness into her stories, but I can't recall her name.

One of my favorites of Victoria Holt is Manfreya In The Morning, it opens with, "To see Menfreya at its best was to see it in the morning." Also Bride of Pendoric with its foreboding Castle. Her stories were so rich in atmosphere and menace even in seemingly peaceful scenes.

Jill, I loved Kathleen Woodiwiss, too.

Olivia Cunning said...

Showing my extreme geek-i-tude here, but I'm currently rereading the Harry Potter books and I'd say if ever there was a castle that had life and personality, it would be Hogwarts.

You descriptions of Tremayne Hall are gripping, Kat. Congrats on your debut!

Mason Canyon said...

Kat, houses are so much a character in some books. The moment I began reading your post I thought of REBECCA and that stately manor, Manderley. I've seen photos of houses and thought they would be great in a story. Tremayne Hall sounds like it's a great character. Wishing you much success.

Sia, thanks for the coffee. It's been raining here this morning and that was a nice treat. :)

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's cool you described it like a living entity. It's fitting for a haunted house story.
I don't write horror although I do like to read horror-thrillers.

Kat Sheridan said...

Sia, there were some great gothic authors! Barbara Michaels wrote them, and Dorothy Eden. Zebra had a whole line of them back in the 80s or 90s. I think I own most of them. LOL!

Kat Sheridan said...

Olivia, Hogwarts!! That is just the PERFECT example of a residence as a living being, a "character" central to the story! And I am a huge Harry Potter fan--the kind who sat on the front porch on release day waiting for the UPS guy to deliver my copy!

Kat Sheridan said...

Mason, I love spooky looking places and collect "inspiration" on my Pinterest board called "Book Inspiration". I look at some of them and it instantly fires up my imagination! But yes, Manderely. Author Anna Campbell also loves Manderely. We've never met but we've bonded over our mutual admiration for that sad and doomed mansion!

Kat Sheridan said...

Alex, there was an era, toward the last period when gothics were popular, where they became much more true horror oriented, with actual evil and encounters with satanic forces and such, with names like "The Devil's Daughter" or "House of Hate". Much more horror than romance. I remember one horrific one where the heroine was turned into some sort of blood-sucking plant-person, but hey, the hero "sacrificed" himself by infecting himself with the same disease so she wouldn't be alone! Not terribly romantic, and scared the whoopus out of me!

And did you know Louisa May Alcott, who wrote Little Women, also wrote a gothic novel? "A Long Fatal Love Chase." I haven't read it yet but I need to find a copy!

oberongwonch said...

Kat! I love old houses, and I love your book!

Kat Sheridan said...

Thank you, Obe, and I love old houses too, but only to look at! Give me all the conveniences of modern plumbing please. LOL!

Libby said...

A wonderful post, Kat. So glad to see your book taking its place in this hallowed ;-) genre.

Libby McCord

wendychristy said...

Kat, I am beyond thrilled for you. I have reserved today to read this scrumptious story.

Kat Sheridan said...

Libby, you funny punster, you crack me up! Thanks for stopping by!

Kat Sheridan said...

Wendy, thank you! I hope you have appropriately stormy weather and a cup of hot coffee (or other adult beverage!)

Sheila Deeth said...

I've always been scared of fire and the burning of those fictional halls used to terrify me--but I still hid the books under the sheets and read by the streetlamp outside with my curtain turned back.

Janie Mason said...

What alpha hero with any self-respect could live in anything but a dark gothic mansion? No roses bushes and picket fences for Dash! I loved the book!

Kat Sheridan said...

Sheila, how cool to read by the light of a streetlamp! I used to have to sneak a flashlight in bed. It's wonderful what we'll do to get our reading fix! Sometimes I like reading what scares me, even if I have to do it in broad daylight to keep from scaring the wits out of myself!

Kat Sheridan said...

Janie, thank you for the kind words! I entered it in a contest one time and got smacked by a judge who found it trite and suggested I try something fresh like having him live in a cottage and having them meet on a picnic! Um, no. Although Jane Austin's Northanger Abbey is a parody of a gothic, with the heroine expecting dark and scary happenings only to discover that everything is perfectly normal!

James Rafferty said...

Hi Kat,

I loved the plot of Rebecca and Manderley helped the story come to life. I hope Tremayne Hall will work in a similar way for your novel. Many congrats and best luck with this novel.

James

Kat Sheridan said...

Thank you, James! It's hard to top Manderley, but I gave it a shot!

Unknown said...

I've been looking forward to reading this a long time, and ordered it tonight. Looking forward to reading it.

Other Lisa said...

HAH, I was going to mention NORTHANGER ABBEY. It's really quite funny!

Kat, you and I grew up on a similar Gothic reading list: Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Barbara Michaels. Mary Stewart and Barbara Michaels were my favorites. I will always remember reading Mary Stewart when I was a kid -- there was something so deeply satisfying about her books!

HUGE congratulations on getting ECHOES IN STONE out there! I am really looking forward to reading it in its finished form!

Kat Sheridan said...

Unknown, I hope you enjoy it! And Other Lisa, thank you! And yes, there's just something about Mary Stewart that is so magical, so addictive! So many people remember her so fondly. I think it's time for gothic romanance to come roaring back!

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Nice to meet you Kat :)

Kat Sheridan said...

Nice to meet you as well, Optimist! Thank you for stopping by!

Judi Fennell said...

My favorite gothic romance novelist?

(Seriously, is there a question???)

Kat Sheridan! :)

congrats, my friend. Enjoy the ride. 'Cause, ya know, I enjoyed the story. :)

mmmwwwaaahhhh!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Judi--that's the perfect answer! Love it! Now that you mention it, I must concur. :-)

Mark Koopmans said...

Kongrats to Kat (Oh, I am just tooo funny:) and looking forward to hosting her Oct. 14.

PS... I *just* started WIP#3 and it is definitely dark and stormy :)

Kat Sheridan said...

Judi, that's so wonderful of you to say!!

And Mark, you ARE too funny! And thank you for your offer to host me! I'm low maintenance. Really. Just some hot coffee, fresh towels, and good bourbon. Wait. You're in Hawaii. Make that pineapple and rum drinks and Mai tais!

Kat Sheridan said...

BTW, Mark, good luck on WIP #3! I do like that dark and stormy stuff!