I had the pleasure of visiting Dark Inklings, the blog of author/artist Shadow Leitner. Gothic Romance is our passion. Writing and reading haunting tales of forgotten places, tragic ghosts, and wayward magic. The supernatural muse for what we create, found along dark passageways and in the shadows.
Here's my interview with Shadow. Let's talk all things Gothic Romance!
Shadow Leitner - Was there anything specific that drew you to this genre?
Kathryn Hills - It was a dark and stormy night... Funny, I know. And oh so cliche, but for me those words always spark interest. A heroine (hero, or both), alone in a haunted mansion or scary castle. Unknown dangers. The weird, mysterious, and frightening. Strange things, lurking around dark corners. Shivers, and goosebumps, and I love it!
My affair with Gothic Romance started early. While others in elementary school were reading babysitting adventures, tales about animals, and biographies of famous people, my favorite books were spooky. Kids versions of Dracula and Frankenstein. My poor mother. Makes me wonder if she had to sit through teacher conferences, hearing about my odd taste in reading material. Although, she never said. Probably because she loved a good story as much as me.
In my teen years, I discovered mainstream romance. I became a big fan of the romance genre overall. Historicals, contemporaries, mysteries, and later paranormals as they grew in popularity. Far-off lands, grandiose adventures. Plus, the guarantee of a happily-ever-after made romances my go-to reads throughout college, and still to this day. Yet I’ve never forgotten my roots as a gothic reader.
Shadow Leitner - What is your favorite Dark/Gothic novel?
Kathryn Hills - I have so many, it’s hard to pick just one. They span centuries. But, as I mentioned, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817) Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) Daphne de Maurier’s Jamaica Inn (1936), Ann Rice’s Interview With A Vampire (1976) and The Mummy or Ramses the Damned (1989), and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian (2005) make my list of all-time favorites.
I’ll share one more—a favorite because my mother introduced me to it—The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle (1942).
Here’s the teaser from my old book’s tattered jacket…
One exuberant April morning Roderick Fitzgerald and his sister Pamela were exploring the famous cliffs of North Devon in search of a house. An alluring gorse-lined smuggler’s lane led them to the derelict but beautiful Cliff End, untenanted for fifteen years. The owner spoke vaguely of “disturbances” the last tenant had experienced…
Yup, hooked! There’s also a 1944 movie version, starring Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey, if you enjoy black and white cinema.
Shadow Leitner - What is your favorite Gothic motif/theme/element? Any particular reason why?
Kathryn Hills - Hands down, the haunted mansion. I love exploring great homes with troubled pasts. Haunted settings, for me, are especially exciting when characters can’t escape the conflict unless they work together, face their worst fears, take on the ghosts, slay the monsters. Mysterious, secluded, abandoned, often diseased, or decaying destinations… Step it up hero and heroine if you want your happy ending!
Shadow Leitner - Which resource/s helped you the most in researching for or writing your series?
Kathryn Hills - I rely heavily on personal experiences, many of which are paranormal. Exploring haunted locations is a regular thing for me. Living in New England, there are ample opportunities. Once impressions are set in my mind—my muse kicked into overdrive after a spooky adventure—I set about researching the history. For example, Haunting Highland House was inspired by a Victorian mansion on Cape Cod–Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. It’s a real place. You can visit. The history surrounding the time-setting (the late 1800’s) is something I explored later, through countless books and in every form of research material I could find. Facts meld with my imagination and personal experiences to create a book world.
Shadow Leitner - Do you have plans to continue writing in this genre? If so, is there anything you would be willing to share about it?
Kathryn Hills - Absolutely! These types of stories, inspired by paranormal investigations and haunted history, are a huge part of what I’ve got coming up. Book 2 in my Time Traveler’s Journey series - Hellfire and Handbaskets - lures readers deeper into the frightening world of time-travel and the dark magic that created it. The setting is the city of Boston, a modern-day hospital, and a medical school in 1895. And, the “Lair of Lucifer” a.k.a. America’s first subway system. An ominous place, under construction beneath the teeming city streets.
These books also explore woman’s issues—aspirations, sexuality, and their inevitable clashes with the values of society. Central themes of Gothic Romance, going back to stories like Dracula. I challenge the notion of a “woman’s place,” both in turbulent Victorian America and today. Whether she’s a modern woman traveling back in time, or a lady from the 1800’s stuck in our present day, it’s tough for my heroines. But their heroes get dragged along for the ride, so it’s all good. 😊
Shadow Leitner - Any advice or insights for other Gothic writers?
Kathryn Hills - Write what you love. And if possible, experience first-hand what you’re writing about. A wise man—renowned paranormal investigator John E.L. Tenney—told me something inspiring. Paraphrasing here, he said… “If you can visit a haunted house, explore the mysteries of the universe, experience the paranormal safely, then do it. Your life will be richer for it.” Obviously, don’t put yourself in harm’s way or break any laws, but get out there. Visit a place, hear the sounds, smell the air. Feel it.
I hope my writing is enriched by my personal experiences. I know my imagination skyrockets when I hunt ghosts or stumble through history’s mysteries. I also hope I’ve inspired you (the reader and/or writer) to explore that “dark and stormy night.” You never know what you’ll discover. Maybe the best, new story. One I’ll put on my “favorites list.”