Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Power of Art and revisiting Gothic Romances

Hi everyone,

Today is a two fold discussion today. I will be talking about an amazing artist/illustrator and also talking about my latest project, a Gothic romance.

Back in 2005, when I was in my first year of college, I joined a lovely art site called Deviantart.  I have a profile there still and upload my photos and drawings.  While making friends on this site I came across the lovely, and frankly too talented Joanne Renaud (Joanne, you are the best, truly! I'm so envious of your amazing talent).

Joanne has a true gift when it comes to art and she is a professional illustrator. Her portfolio is extensive and impressive.  See below for more of her art.


A little while ago, Joanne took on the impressive task of creating graphic novel pages for one of my all time favorite authors: Lauren Willig. Joanne drew several pages of scenes from Willig's novel "The Secret History of the Pink Carnation."  For those of you who love historical books of any kind, check this out! The series is absolutely fantastic. Sexy, humorous and an overall delight to read.

Needless to say I was enraptured with Joanne's work for Willig and I finally, after finishing my book "The League of Rogues" was able to contact Joanne and ask her to do some art for me.  She agreed and brought my six men of the The League to life! It was a dream come true to see my men on the page, in colors and shapes, not just words.  She got their expressions, personalities and clothing perfect. 

For those of you who are like me, and love to see your characters breathed to life.  Definitely contact Joanne and talk to her. She's full of talent, and has a passion for historical costumes. Not only does she have passion, but the talent to back it up!

Thanks Joanne, for making these men come to life!

Now for something completely different

I just spent the last 28 days writing a short story which I plan to submit for publication. It was a hard journey, but a fruitful one. After many harrowing and frightful rough drafts, I completed a 20,000 word story in less than a month and sent it to my agent for submission.

The story called The Shadows of Stormclyffe, is a part historical, part contemporary Gothic romance.  I'd never written this type of story before but I did my best to channel the great Gothic writers: Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.    Gothic romances have always appealed to me. As cliche as they can be, there is something undeniable enchanting about mysteries in crumbling castles, lost loves and ghosts haunting the living who dare to cross their paths. 

Part of the trick with writing this particular story was that it was required to be scary. I am quite the chicken and jump at most shadows. I've never managed to watch any horror movie all the way through. So naturally, this story was quite the change for me and I had to learn to adjust my writing to try and make it scary, without crossing into the "horror writing" territory.  It is more than just writing about blood and pain. The way the character feels, what the character sees and experiences, both mentally and physically add to the level of tension and heighten the reader's own senses to where they feel they are in the character's position, sharing the terror.

Here is an excerpt of when my heroine, Jane, encounters the ghost of a woman who died two centuries before, at Stormclyffe Hall:

The countless photographs she’d collected over the years hadn’t prepared her for the raw beauty and power of the structure. The worn battlements were still fully intact, facing the sea like warriors, ever defiant in the face of nature’s force on the coast. The steep cliffs merely a half a mile from the castle itself were stark and threatening.
No fence lined the cliffs’ edges. No warning signs guided visitors away. Jane repressed an achy shiver of woe as a heavy cloud stole across the sun’s path, dimming all light.
The gray stones of Stormclyffe stood stalwart and proud, challenging her to drive closer. The road turned to gravel and thinned even more, leaving only enough space for her car.
Sheer desolation seemed to pour off the structure as she pulled into the drive in front of the castle. If not for the five work vehicles from various electricians and plumbers, Jane would have thought the castle was devoid of all life. It felt as though not a sole was present.
Even though a strong breeze whipped her hair about her face until it stung, there was an unsettling silence on the grounds, like something unnatural muffled the sound of the sea. No crashing waves, no whistle of wind again the castle’s stones. Just a heavy silence.
The house seemed to be wrapped in an invisible layer of thick wool, where sight and smell was dulled. The wind’s icy fingers crawled along her shoulder blades and dug into her hair. The castle walls had eyes that stared at her, sized her up and found her wanting.
Despite the work vans only twenty feet away, she saw no signs of life. She spun about, suddenly fighting off a rush of panic at being alone out here.
A twinge at the back of her head made her feel she was being watched by something malevolent enough to cause a wave of coldness to wash over her body. She whipped around to look at the deserted landscape.
There was a woman in a long white dress, hair loose down to her waist. She stood hesitantly on the cliff’s edge, staring back at Jane, half turned towards the sea. Her skin was grayish and her eyes were shadowed with black circles as though she hadn’t slept in years.
            Sadness filled Jane’s chest, choking her. As though pulled by an unseen force, she took a step in the woman’s direction. But black roots burst forth from the ground at the woman’s slippered feet, winding up her calves and digging in like thorns.
Jane had no time to react—her breath caught in her throat as the woman’s eyes widened and Jane struggled to reach her. The woman opened her mouth, a silent scream ricocheting off the insides of Jane’s skull. Then the thorny roots ripped her off the edge of the cliffs and into the sea.
“No!” The breathless gasp escaped Jane’s lips, barely above a whisper. Her skin broke out in goosebumps and she shook her head, trying to clear it of what she’d just seen. A woman had fallen off the cliffs.
Before she could even run to the edge, a voice cut through her shock. “Don’t be thinking you saw anything real, miss.” A quiet voice intruded on her terror.
She glanced over her shoulder to see an aging gardener carrying a pair of huge shears. His face was heavily wrinkled and his brown eyes studied her with a mixture of pity and concern.
“What did you say?”
The old man sighed, set his shears down, leaning them against his knee while he rubbed his palms on his brown work pants.  “What you saw there, was the lady in white. Isabelle. She’s haunted these cliffs since her death.”
“You believe in ghosts?” Jane sat back on her heels, turning her face once more to the cliffs.

What sort of stories scare you the most? Do you prefer classic gothic novels or slasher stories?