This Sunday, Catherine Lundoff will be teaching a class that’s particularly apropos for this Halloween-laden month, on one of my favorite flavors of horror: gothic fiction. She talks about some of the influences that have brought her to gothic fiction, and what she loves about it.
Edward Gorey was one of the guiding lights of my teenage years. I saw his sets for “Dracula” on Broadway when I was about twelve and it was like coming home, aesthetically, at least. I loved his black and white drawings, his weird stories, his obsessions with cats and opera singers. I still do. I like to think of him as my posthumous Fairy Gothmother, who opened the door to a marvelous dark universe where I could wear black all the time and didn’t need to pretend to be happy if I wasn’t.
I read Dracula, of course, and “Carmilla” and Poe and Wilde and Northanger Abbey. Austen turned me on to Ann Radcliffe, but I found Byron on my own. I discovered fashion, the kind where you rim your eyes with liner and wear multiple black on black outfits that have, perhaps, a hint of lace or silk, if you are lucky. And when I got to college, it was 1981 and there I found Adam Ant and Prince and Siouxsie Sioux, along with glorious morbid folk rock bands like Steeleye Span. So many murder ballads! So much gender play and glorious costumes! All of it became a part of me long before I thought of myself as a writer or a teacher or as Goth.
I devoured Gothic romances by the likes of Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, Gothic horror in its multimedia splendor, even more murder ballads, artwork, outfits with all the black lace my teenage heart could imagine. Starting to write ghost stories and tales of haunted mansions could not be far behind, though in my case it started with vampire stories and editing the first (to the best of my knowledge) anthology of lesbian ghost stories. From there, I moved on to writing ghost stories myself as well as monster tales, media tie-ins, psychological horror, each story shaped and honed by my earlier reading and watching.
These days, I’m a huge fan of Gothic horror and romance films and shows like Crimson Peak, Penny Dreadful and The Addams Family. I’ve written horror tales for publications like Respectable Horror, Fireside Fiction and one of the Vampire the Gathering 20th Anniversary tie-in anthologies, as well as my own collection, Unfinished Business: Tales of the Dark Fantastic. A childhood enthusiasm has morphed into a lifelong affinity for ghosts, haunted mansions and various interpretations of the monstrous.
I love watching authors and other creators turn their eye to new interpretations of female and queer monsters and different kinds of outsider survivors. The Gothic Heroine doesn’t have to be a cisgendered white Final Girl or married under dubious circumstances to a love interest who is, perhaps, not to be trusted. I want to read more of these stories, as well as classics like The Woman in Black and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Let me help you bring your dark fiction into the light and help it come alive, no pun intended. Crimson Peaks and Menacing Mansions is an online class that I’m teaching on 10/13 from 9:30-11:30 PST at Cat Rambo’s Academy for Wayward Writers.. It will include a mix of lecture, discussion and writing exercises, as well as the opportunity to ask questions. I hope you’ll be intrigued enough to check it out!