#Gothtober – A Tour of The Gothic

GothtoberOne of the reasons Gothic Fiction was so prolific in its time, was the escapism and wonder of writing about a place your audience has only ‘vaguely heard of’. The mystery and terror of the unknown is the genre’s bread and butter.

However –

Nowadays you can actually VISIT the places these stories are set. And if you decided to do a tour of the Gothic, these are the places I’d recommend.

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The Castle of Otranto, in Otranto Italy.

The Mysteries of Udolpho, in the Spanish/French Pyrenees.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Frankenstein’s Germany, maybe don’t make the Arctic trip. Spoiler Alert… they don’t make it.

Dracula’s Romania, Bran’s Castle Transylvania. (This one I’ve actually been to. Blog coming soon).

As for the English Gothic Fiction Novels, you’ll notice they invoke mystery in a different way. In the form of ACTUAL mysteries. Murder or otherwise.

So if you can’t make it across Europe for your tour of the Gothic, maybe visit my Gothic Fiction Event in Lympne, Kent. Get a taste of the Gothic first hand.

And if you haven’t entered our #GothGiveAway – Comment below with your spookiest story!

 

#Gothtober – Gothic Fiction 101

Gothtober

Before Pride and Prejudice could create an idyllic wonderland of Georgian Society, before Charles Dickens could address the poverty and hypocrisy of London life, before Matthew Lewis could creep us all out with The Monk (honestly, I’m not sure I’d recommend you read it) Walpole created The Gothic, a literature movement which would go on to shape countless genres, books and authors, with elements and tropes undisputable and almost undefinable.

I mean, I love Gothic Fiction, but have you ever tried to look up a definition?

Gothic fiction, which is largely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled “A Gothic Story” – Wikipedia.

Seems a bit of an oxymoron – how can Gothic Fiction be a subgenre if the origin is attributed to a book over two hundred and fifty years old? I love Gothic Fiction. It’s spooky and moody, and full of creepy monsters. And it’s not super obvious because it was created during a time of great change.

That said, all the great Literature movements were.

In April 1721, Sir Robert Walpole became the first prime minister – sort of. He was made chancellor of the exchequer, and given 10 Downing street, and his responsibilities were not dissimilar to the responsibilities our current prime minister has (when he remembers… *cough cough*). This continues, no matter his failures, wars with the Spanish, and other messes, right up until 1742 when Walpole resigns as prime minister. He would die three years later.

His son, Horace, aforementioned creator of The Gothic, was Eton and Cambridge educated – though he never completed his degree. He started hanging out (and this is the part where it should be super clear this isn’t a real essay) with Conyers Middleton – a clergyman against superstition and bigotry. Noteworthy due to its rarity. H Walpole also became a politician, but wasn’t as committed to it as his father, choosing instead to focus on his writing, and his beloved palace – Strawberry Hill, Twickenham.

Image result for strawberry hill

If you haven’t been – I’d definitely recommend it.

You see that bit of building which isn’t painted bright white? That’s where I studied Gothic Fiction. In the home turf of the creator. In a cute little lecture room with wallpaper which had about six different greens in it, and spooky paneling and a genuine real hidden door which popped open when I leaned on it. It was just a cupboard full of paper towels, but it was still cool. It created a new trend for architecture and became the template for spooky Ghost castles.

Anyway, back to Gothic Fiction. Travel had become a cosmopolitan luxury. People were traveling further, experiencing more than ever and writing all about it. And everything that was ‘other’ and ‘alien’ was terrifying. And literature, being the easiest and most accessible sponge, allowed the world to see without ever leaving their homes. Walpole had been all over France and Italy. It took him years to visit places it can take us two hours to fly to. (Sixteen if you’re flying Sleazy jet). 

Horace Walpole wrote The Castle of Otranto in 1764. The second in a long list of books he’d write developing his Gothic tropes. And thus an era was born.

On 3… Review of The Rabbit Girls

IMG_20190909_083536_264Usually, I preface these reviews with the intro about how I only read three chapters being interrupted by my mum… yada yada. But today’s review is part of a #BlogTour for Anna Ellory and I’ve decided to take a slight detour – so, if you’re ready for the emotional rollercoaster, sitting comfortably etc, I’ll begin.

Storytime: (If you’re not interested and want to just read my review, feel free to return at the **)

Five or six years ago, I was an ad-hoc daytime companion for a lady named Erna. She had dementia, was bedridden, amongst a long list of other ailments. She couldn’t watch television for more than five minutes without changing the channel a hundred times, unable to concentrate on anything, distracted or irritated. She hated having a pillow under her knee, but the nurse insisted. She’d try and trick you into moving the pillow, but you had to stand firm against her wily fragility. And she would scream or cry if left alone for more than two minutes, even if she’d asked you to make her a tea or fetch the paper.

But I sat with her, for hours, days, because I loved her husband, John Kidson, like an adopted granddad. And if he needed me to sit with Erna whilst he went to the rugby, Tescos or any other reason – I would be there for them.

At around one o’clock, the nurses would come. They’d always politely suggest I go have something to eat or leave the room so Erna could be bathed, changed and everything else. In my young and selfish mind, I was really glad I wasn’t the one who actually had to care for Erna. That I could walk away.

Stories about anyone in this position always make me uncomfortable, because books are an escape for me. A separate world from my own which is – hopefully – slightly less tragic than the Brexit hellscape we’re currently living in.

But with Rabbit Girls… I didn’t feel I could put it down. Not just but because I’d agreed to do this blog (I was actually two-thirds of the way through it when I was asked) but because the writing begged to be read. The story deserved to be told. And I’d agreed, whether consciously or not, to keep my promise and find out how it ended.

** The Review.

 Speaking of hellscapes… In half the story, the Berlin wall has fallen and in the other half, the Holocaust plagues our charming and compassionate characters as they’re tortured, experimented on and systematically destroyed. Both stories are intertwined by family, hope in the darkest of times and rebellion. Miriam Winter is caring for her dying father, Henryk, when she discovers an Auschwitz tattoo under his watch strap. Miriam, needing to understand more about her father’s past, discovers an inmate’s uniform which has letters smuggled within it.

What you should expect before going into this is:

  1. You’re going to cry. A lot. Have tissues etc prepared.
  2. You’re going to question yourself, whether you’re a good person. Whether, like me, you’re selfishly hiding from cruel realities others have suffered.
  3. You’re going to be in awe of the writing. It’s incredible, there’s no denying that.

Anna Ellory is a master (with a Masters) craftswoman of literary fiction, historical realities, and intriguing characters and narratives. It feels authentic, and it hurts. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

And I’m really excited to say this, to Anna’s face (potentially in an aggressive-loving-kinda-way) next week when I see her.

100/10 would recommend. Thank you for letting me be part of your Blog Tour!

 

Do you believe in Luck? (Nerd Alert)

Luck
noun
  1. success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

Luck – as we understand it from the above definition – is quite a modern concept. From as late as the 1500’s we’ve wished each other ‘Good Fortune’ – thanks to the Dutch and Germans from whom we stole the words. But the idea that we rely on ‘luck’ to achieve what we want is only a hundred and fifty years old or so.

Before that, if we wanted something we’d have to manoeuvre things to suit our needs; whether that’s work hard, work smart, network with the right people, develop skills or gain cultural capital: this is very much my mentality.

When I studied A Level Psychology, we completed several small experiments and one in particular which is relevant to ‘luck’ is whether you’re a ‘Type A’ or ‘Type B’ personality.

 

Type A Personalities generally:

  1. Live at a higher stress level, feel the pressure of time to work flat out.
  2. Enjoy the achievement of goals, especially if they’re deemed ‘difficult’ to achieve.
  3. Find it difficult to stop once they’ve achieved these goals
  4. More competitive. Hate failure.

Type B Personalities generally:

  1. Live at a lower stress level.
  2. Do not stress goals unachieved, do not fear failure but enjoy the ‘taking part’ process.
  3. Are more likely to be creative and enjoy exploring new ideas and concepts.
  4. Are more likely to be reflective.

Thanks to Changing Minds.

This means Type A Personalities are less prone to believing in luck – they’ll deconstruct failures and take credit for successes, whereas Type B Personalities tend to be the types of people who say ‘that’s life, I guess’ or ‘that’s the way the cookie crumbles’ – attributing their success or failures not to their actions but to a ‘greater, uncontrollable plan’.

And as a control freak – that’s just not acceptable to me.

So back to the psychology experiment –

We sat in a circle and my teacher asked us to look at a selection of cards with three lines on. One was longer than the others and we had to answer which one was longest. Now, I was unaware that the first three people would answer honestly, the fourth person would pick a line at random, and the rest of class then had to copy that fourth person. As the experiment continued, and we got the 8th or 9th card, I was getting more irritated that people didn’t seem to be taking this experiment seriously, just copying each other.

My teacher revealed the experiment was on me – and that I’m a Type A personality because I refused to follow the crowd in case they were wrong. And this is a mentality I’ve carried with me ever since.

That’s not to say I’m not creative, or reflective. But I do reflect over both my successes and my failures, working out what I could have done differently to improve. As a teacher and a writer, this is a key skill. No point on relying on Luck to get me published.

The Greeks used to believe in The Fates – but they didn’t ‘help’ people. People’s fates were usually tragic – and I don’t need that kind of drama in my life. I’ll continue to work hard so that my success is of my own making – because luck might not be recreated, but hard work can be.

Do you agree? Or do you believe in Luck? Leave me a comment and let me know!