THE ELEMENTS OF SOUTHERN GOTHIC ROMANCE

The popularity of Southern Gothic Romance ebbs and flows but its continued existence and entertainment value is never in doubt. Why? Because this is a subgenre with a potent mix of dramatic ingredients. In honor of the recently-released-stateside Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance (which includes my novelette “Dream, Interrupted”), here’s my list of What It Takes To Be “SoGoRom”:

Mandatory

Set in the South: exact geographic boundaries are debatable so, to be safe, stick with one of the five “Deep South” states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, or South Carolina.

Romance: perhaps an even more hotly contested definition than what states should be considered southern is what “romance” is, especially when the element is not a central part of the story (RWA, I’m looking at you).

Gothic: even trickier to define than romance. Gothic fiction has been around for centuries.

Gothic novels were labeled as such because their “imaginative impulse was drawn from medieval buildings and ruins, such novels commonly used such settings as castles or monasteries equipped with subterranean passages, dark battlements, hidden panels, and trapdoors.” – Encyclopedia Britannica

But gothic fiction is more than just a story set in an old building. Notable authors who wrote gothic fiction include Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe, and Nathanial Hawthorn.

Strongly Advised

The Aforementioned Old Building: Encyclopedia Britannica doesn’t lie. It all starts with the setting. For SoGoRom that means, in addition to a Deep South state, you gotta set your story in a castle, an old manor house, a crumbling mansion, or the like.

Supernatural Creatures and/or Characters: Ghosts, witches, vampires, zombies (a la Frankenstein’s monster)… If there’s magic, it has its own feel; more magical realism than sorcery.

Graveyards: the older and creepier the better, even if you don’t think real graveyards are such. Mausoleums, memorial sculptures, and cemetery statutes too.

A Sense of Menace and/or Isolation: ofttimes there is a darkly handsome, potentially sinister man and a young, vulnerable woman. (The man usually has a hidden vulnerability and the woman inner steely grit).

Atmospheric: Related to the sense of menace but includes the entire “southern creepfest” milieu.

A Mystery: the reader doesn’t really know what’s going on. Not necessarily a whodunit, but something is amiss and part of the reason readers keep reading is to figure out what’s going on.

Eccentricity or Even Outright Insanity: Nearly everyone in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre. Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca. The Narrator from Tell Tale Heart.

Southern Drawl: Yeah, it’s hard to get this right if you’re not actually from the south, but it’s hard to take a southern story seriously if there’s not even a nod to this.

Optional

  • Spanish moss
  • Oak trees
  • Magnolias
  • Antebellum anything
  • Alligators
  • Wrought iron
  • A curse
  • A tragedy
  • Voodoo or folk magic
  • Dreams, portents, or omens
  • A swamp, bayou, or other body of water
  • Endless rain, heat, and humidity (a.k.a. “steaminess” – in the weather sense 🙂 )
  • Parasols
  • Gowns
  • Southern drinks and food (e.g. biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, mint juleps, sweet tea)

Did I get the mix of elements right in my novelette “Dream, Interrupted”? I’m not sure (which is acknowledged in the story itself).

But you know what the most important ingredient is? Having fun. So if you can twist these elements in a unique way that’s fun for you – do that.

Interested in reading more about southern gothic fiction?

More About the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance

gothic romance, dark fantasy

Set in a lush, steamy world of ceaseless rain, swamps, alligators, overgrown cemeteries, and home-grown magic, these are dark and scary, yet pleasurably thrilling stories that unfold sinister secrets at every turn. These paranormal, suspenseful Southern Gothic romances are by both bestselling authors and bright up-and-coming talents, including Erin Kellison; Jessa Slade; Laurie London; Shelli Stevens; Coreene Callahan; Bec McMaster; Jill Archer; Elle Jasper; Angie Fox; Kait Ballenger; Tiffany Trent; Michele Bardsley; Sonya Bateman; Shiloh Walker/JC Daniels; JD Horn; Dianne Sylvan.

BUY LINKS:

More About Dream, Interrupted

What if your snoring really did wake up the dead?

When Corelei Neverest ends up at a sleep disorder clinic, she’s searching for a cure for Apnea Anima, a rare sleep condition that occurs when a person’s snoring wakes the dead. But after countless therapy-filled days and terror-filled nights, Corelei’s almost ready to call it quits when an old crush shows up.

Alluring, irresistible, and beguiling, Caradoc Ambrose has had his eye on Corelei for years. When he hears Corelei is a resident at the Oneiroi Institute, he can’t resist meeting her at breakfast one morning. They’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship that feels like one big dream, interrupted to Caradoc. He wants a chance to convince Corelei to stay with him, forever.

Approx. 13,500 words, “Dream, Interrupted” is a stand-alone story.

Giveaway No. 1

I’m giving away one print copy of the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance. If you entered my previous MBOSoGoRom giveaway, you are automatically entered for this giveaway. This giveaway is open to international so long as Book Depository ships to your address. If you live in the U.S., I’ll send you a signed copy. The cover will be the one shown in this post. (I’m not sure what happened to the previous cover. I really liked it and it fit my story better, but I’ll admit that the cover pictured in this post in immediately tells readers that most of the stories are set in the Deep South).

To enter to win, comment below, use my contact page to send me a message saying you are interested in winning the book, OR tweet one of these tweets (one entry per person):

I love gothic romance! Win copy of Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #gothic #romance

I love dark fantasy! Win copy of Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #fantasy #anthology

Does Corelei Neverest really suffer from Apnea Anima? Win Mammoth Book of SoGoRom: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #shortstory #mystery

Will Caradoc convince Corelei to stay? Win Mammoth Book of SoGoRom: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #fantasy #romance #mystery

Giveaway No. 2

So… my new kitten, Nutmeg, got into one of my boxes of books and chewed the corner of one of my copies of Fiery Edge of Steel. Bummer. But maybe it will be to someone’s benefit. I’m giving this slightly damaged copy away (U.S. only). I’ll sign it (or, if you wish, I’ll sign it on behalf of Nutmeg — kind of funny since cats were a big motif in the book 🙂 ).

Nutmerg-Gnawed FEOS
BAD KITTY

Fiery Edge of Steel  Final

To enter to win, comment below, use my contact page to send me a message saying you are interested in winning the book, OR tweet one of these tweets (one entry per person):

I love Nutmeg-Gnawed #Books! Win copy of @archer_jill’s Fiery Edge of Steel http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M #fantasy #UF

Virtute non armis fido. Courage over weapons; #cats over sanity.” Win copy of @archer_jill’s Fiery Edge of Steel http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M

Giveaways will be open until midnight EST on January 16, 2015. I’ll announce the winners here by January 23rd.

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Open to international participants 18 and over. For my official rules for website giveaways, click here.

Now go forth and purchase, tweet, read, write, etc. 😀

Hope everyone is having a great week!