Please welcome our honored guest this week: Vicki Delany. Vicki is one of Canada’s most varied and prolific crime writers. Her popular Constable Molly Smith series (including In the Shadow of the Glacier and Among the Departed) have been optioned for TV by Brightlight Pictures. She also writes standalone novels of psychological suspense, as well as a light-hearted historical series, (Gold Digger, Gold Mountain), set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush. Vicki’s newest book is More than Sorrow, a modern Gothic thriller published by Poisoned Pen Press.
Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Vicki is settling down to the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario where she rarely wears a watch. Visit Vicki at www.vickidelany.com, www.facebook.com/vicki.delany, and twitter: @vickidelany. She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave (http://klondikeandtrafalgar.blogspot.com)
-------------------------------------The traditional Gothic novel is making a comeback in very modern form. As a reader as well as a writer, I’m delighted to see it. The Gothic as I remember it from my youth, of stubbornly independent governesses, brooding widowed employers, lonely castles on windswept hills, has been replaced by stories of modern women (and a few men) struggling to overcome events of the past. The usual isolated location – which can be isolated in metaphysical terms as well as physical – no longer needs to be a castle in Scotland but can be just about any place with a creaky staircase and an old secret.
One of the characteristics of the modern Gothic is the dual narrative format. Two storylines running though the book that connect in some way at the end. In the modern Gothic the contemporary characters usually have to confront in some way the dangers or secrets of the past in order to be able to more forward, free themselves from danger or some such.
In books as diverse as Susanna Kearley’s The Winter Sea, Peter Robinson’s Before the Poison, Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden, Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and many others the dual narrative helps to not only slowly reveal the secret at the heart of the book, but also goes a long way toward drawing comparisons between our times and the past.
I have taken a break from my Constable Molly Smith series and written a standalone Modern Gothic thriller for Poisoned Pen Press (fear not, dear reader, Molly et al will be back in A Cold White Sun in August 2013). The book is titled More than Sorrow and is set on a contemporary small scale organic farm in Prince Edward County. The backstory concerns Maggie Macgregor, a woman widowed by the death of her Loyalist husband during the American Revolution. Maggie comes to Canada with the Loyalist refugees mainly because she has nowhere else to go. She is widowed, her child dead, disowned by her Patriot father and brothers. She’s taken in by her husband’s cousin and slowly comes to realize she’s nothing more in their household than a slave, in reality if not in law.
In the contemporary narrative, Hannah Manning is an internationally renowned journalist. She’s injured in an IED explosion in Afghanistan and goes to her sister’s farm to recover. The recovery is not going well, and Hannah fears that she will be dependent on her sister and her husband. Her brother-in-law is making it clear what he thinks about that situation. The two story lines are trying to say something about the status of women – one of whom had no choice in her life, and the other who fears losing her independence.
As Hannah struggles to regain her memory, she fears she is taking on the memories of someone else.
I lay on my back, eyes wide open. Thoughts jumped around in my head, unbidden. Memories that were not mine. People I had never known.
Traces of white mist formed patterns in front of my eyes. I blinked. They were still there. I’d shut my door and the room should have been completely dark. Yet I could see tendrils of white, stirred by the fan, dripping along the walls, curling across the floor. I shuddered in the cold.
The women may have lived two hundred years apart, but their lives are about to dramatically intersect.
For a writer who isn’t really a historical writer, but wants to peek into history, and perhaps draw some lessons, the dual narrative and the Modern Gothic suspense format can’t be beat.