Friday, 19 August 2016

Australian Gothic

I have been having great fun reading old romance novels from Jennifer Blake. I’m talking 1970’s circa stuff. Her books have been re-released on Kindle and they are routinely offering them free to generate interest and sales.
I am a lifelong book hoarder. I will grab a free book that I think I might (one day) get around to reading.
The quality has been a little spotty, but the ones I am enjoying the most are the full on Louisiana Gothic romances. I know some of the story elements are problematic, especially the way it treats the slaves. Recently, I read the original Gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho. It was a trip, I tell you. I wondered if anyone had re-written it; updated or modernised it, but I couldn’t find any evidence of it - other than Jane Austen writing her own satirical version in Northanger Abbey. Amongst the overwriting and the bad poetry is a great story. One that has been read since 1794 when it was published.
Some months ago I read a Dean Koontz writing book and Gothic was one of his categories. This is his recipe for writing a Gothic romance novel:
A young heroine, alone in the world and often an orphan, goes to an old and isolated house to live with her last living relatives. Everyone in the house is a stranger to her. At the house, the heroine meets a cast of suspicious characters (servants, the lady of the house, one or two sons) and soon finds herself plunged into some mystery—either of supernatural or more mundane origins, most often concerning the death of someone in the house. Inexplicably, she becomes the target of the supernatural or mundane killer's attacks. Concurrent with the development of this mystery plot is the growth of a romance between the heroine and one of the young men in the household. Either this man is her only safe haven in the dark events of the story—or he is as much a suspect as any of the other characters. The conclusion of a Gothic must always promise marriage or the development of genuine love between heroine and hero.
Louisiana Gothic adds in the environment, the bayou, as another thing against the heroine and the slaves provide the supernatural element.
After I finished the last Blake book, I went to bed and I had a revelation.
I could move the entire thing to Australia. The whole Gothic recipe would work in Australia. Isolated, dangerous, a family estate, sons fighting over inheritance, and the element of magic/supernatural could be from Aboriginal Australians.
‘I’ve invented a new genre,’ I told myself.
Next morning, I google it … curses. It’s existed forever. It was just that I hadn’t worked out that everything from ‘The term of his natural life’ to ‘Picnic at hanging Rock’ is categorised as Australian Gothic. Patrick White has won literary awards for this genre. Australians are particularly good at putting this into film. Mad Max and even Wolf Creek fit the style.
I’ll file that one away in the ‘nooo brain' box I made for ideas I can’t work on right now. Maybe it’s not an original idea, but I still reckon it’d work.