Hi! Let me introduce myself, my name is Linda Watkins and I’m the author of the MATEGUAS ISLAND SERIES which chronicles the life of the Andersen family, who are forced by circumstance, to relocate to a remote island off the coast of Maine. Reviewers have labeled the series as supernatural-suspense, contemporary gothic, horror-suspense, and romance-suspense, to name a few genres. However, it is my personal opinion that the novels fall most appropriately into the gothic genre and it is that category of fiction that I wish to talk about here.
However, before I begin, let me first state that this is by no means meant to be a scholarly treatise on the genre. No, I will leave that to those more schooled in literature than I. This is merely a blog post. It is meant to be slightly informative and, hopefully, fun.
Gothic fiction has been around since medieval times. Sir Horace Walpole’s THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO, published in 1764, is often credited as being the first English gothic horror novel.
But what makes a novel gothic? There are numerous subtleties that go into creating a gothic novel and even more when you consider all of its sub-genres (horror, mystery, romance, etc.). However, I’m just going to touch on some of the more common elements of gothic fiction here.
All right, let’s begin. First of all, we must consider the setting. Gothic fiction is usually played out in a place that is dark and gloomy, conjuring up an atmosphere of horror and dread. For example, in THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, Poe calls the estate ‘melancholy’ and a ‘mansion of gloom’. In Shirley Jackson’s classic novel, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, the house is described as ‘holding darkness within’. In my novel, MATEGUAS ISLAND, when seeing the island for the first time, Bill remarks that while it is beautiful, it looks ‘cold’. And, then there’s The Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s THE SHINING and the ruined castle where Jonathan Harkness first meets the Count in Bram Stoker’s classic DRACULA. Need I say more?
All right, we have our setting, what next? Most gothic novels involve the appearance of supernatural beings – ghosts, specters, vampires, zombies, and other things that go ‘bump in the night’. In THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, the house itself is suspect, whereas in MATEGUAS ISLAND it is a malevolent Native American spirit that plagues the Andersens in their new home. In Henry James’ classic, THE TURN OF THE SCREW, the governess sees the ghost of Peter Quint and in THE SHINING there are numerous ghosts, most notably those of former caretaker, Delbert Grady, and his murdered daughters.
Okay, we now have a dark and gloomy setting that is the home to some ghosts or specters. What do we need next to move the plot along? How about some dark curses or prophesies? In Walpole’s THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO, there is an ancient prophecy that Manfred, the lord of the castle, seeks to avert by marrying his dead son’s betrothed. In THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, Roderick believes his family to be cursed by incurable madness. And in REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier, the unnamed heroine must come to grips with a dark and terrible secret being kept by her husband.
So, now we have a dark and dismal setting haunted by ghosts and subject to a terrible curse or prophesy. But what about the human characters? Often, we find the pivotal character in a gothic novel to be a woman in jeopardy. For example, in MATEGUAS ISLAND, it is Karen who finds herself strangely transported to a dark and dangerous trail leading deep into the woods. Wendy Torrance in THE SHINING, Lucy and Mina in DRACULA, and the governess in THE TURN OF THE SCREW all find themselves facing mortal peril at the hands of supernatural beings. In THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, it is Eleanor who tends to experience dark phenomena to which others in the house are oblivious. And, in REBECCA, the narrator finds herself living in the shadow and mystery of her husband’s former wife.
But is gothic fiction only peopled by damsels in distress? No! To counterbalance the ladies, the gothic genre often employs characters who can be seen as heroes or antiheroes. In the final chapters of THE SHINING, the clairvoyant cook, Hallorann, comes charging through a blizzard on a snowmobile to try to rescue Wendy and Danny. Dex Pierce in MATEGUAS ISLAND sees himself as Karen’s knight errant and rushes to her side when she collapses in the backyard. In Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS, Heathcliff enacts the role of both a Byronic and demonic hero. In DRACULA, it is Van Helsing who eventually saves the day.
Okay, now we have a beautiful woman transported to a dark and dismal setting haunted by ghosts and subject to a terrible curse or prophesy who may, or may not, be saved by a dashing or nt-so-dashing hero. So, what comes next?
Romance, of course! In gothic novels, romance can take many forms. It can be a powerful love, heart-stirring, and intense. Or, it could be an unrequited or illicit love. Basically, anything goes! An example of a powerful love can be found MATEGUAS ISLAND when Dex realizes he has fallen deeply in love with Karen and vows to do anything necessary to protect her. In WUTHERING HEIGHTS, we have both powerful and unrequited love in Heathcliff’s desire for Cathy. In Charlotte Bronte’s JANE EYRE, the heroine falls head over heels for the brooding and moody, Mr. Rochester.
So, what have we put together with all these elements? We have a story of beautiful woman living in a dark and dismal place, haunted by ghosts, and subject to a terrible curse or prophesy who meets and, may fall in love with, a dashing or mysterious man who may, or may not, save her! And with that, my friends, we have laid the groundwork for a gothic novel!
For more information about THE MATEGUAS ISLAND SERIES, please visit http://www.mateguasisland.com.
Born in New England, Linda Watkins’ family moved to Michigan when she was a child. But her east coast roots remained strong and, each summer, she journeyed back to visit relatives. Her favorite place to stay was a remote island off the coast of Maine, accessible only by boat.
When she graduated from college, (Carnegie Mellon ’70), she relocated to San Francisco Bay Area where she lived and worked for thirty years. But the allure of that special island remained strong and, in 2006, she packed up her four dogs and belongings and fulfilled her dream, moving to Chebeague Island, Maine (year-round pop. 350).
She lived there for seven years and, while a resident, she penned her award-winning novel of horror and suspense, MATEGUAS ISLAND (published in April of 2014). In December of that same year, she published the sequel to MATEGUAS, aptly titled, RETURN TO MATEGUAS ISLAND.
Today, she resides in Western Michigan and is at work on the 3rd full-length novel in the Mateguas Series, GHOSTS OF MATEGUAS.
MATEGUAS ISLAND is the recipient of several major awards:
- 2014 Gold Medal in Supernatural Fiction, READERS’ FAVORITE INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARD COMPETITIION
- 2014 First Place Award in Contemporary Gothic, CHANTICLEER BOOK REVIEW, PARANORMAL AWARDS
- 2015 Outstanding Novel in Horror/Suspense, IAN BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARDS
The sequel, RETURN TO MATEGUAS ISLAND, was named 2015 Finalist in Horror by READERS’ FAVORITE INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARD COMPETITION.
All net proceeds from sales of THE MATEGUAS ISLAND SERIES are donated to the Raison d’Etre Fund for Dogs, Dedicated to Rescue and Research.
Links to her books:
Mateguas Island: A Novel of Terror and Suspense
RETURN TO MATEGUAS ISLAND: A Tale of Supernatural Suspense
SECRETS: A Story of Love and Betrayal (Mateguas Island Book 1)
THE MATEGUAS ISLAND SERIES