You can imagine my reaction, then, when I got a copy of Sara Foster's Beneath the Shadows (which you will be able to read starting June 5th!) Beneath the Shadows wasn't a parody, it wasn't an ironic reimagining - it was the genuine article, a classic gothic updated to a believably modern tale. It was not surprising when I discovered Sara was already a bestseller in her adopted homeland, Australia.
Is there a cold wind creaking the ancient oaks outside? Do you hear a mysterious howling out on the moor? Pour yourself a pot of tea and let Sara tell you how it all began...
I didn’t set out to write a gothic novel. The seed for Beneath the Shadows was my vivid imagining of a vulnerable woman called Grace, who is utterly alone, undone by the mysterious circumstances of her husband’s disappearance, and trapped by her own fears and uncertainties. Only as I began sketching out the details of the story did it become clear it was a gothic suspense. By that time, many of the elements were already present: a woman in distress, threatened by her surroundings; dark symbols and disturbing local legends; and a touch of romance.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. My favourite writers as a teenager were the Brontes and Daphne du Maurier, who could pull me into their spine-tingling stories of love and loss so completely that I would sometimes be part of them in my dreams. Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca even wound its way into Beneath the Shadows. My character Grace reads it and is absorbed, just as I was, while her external life occasionally touches on or parallels the second Mrs de Winter’s.
For a truly gothic story, you need a fabulous, foreboding setting. My knowledge of the North Yorkshire moors was a gift given by my in-laws, whose cottage is not dissimilar to Hawthorn Cottage in Beneath the Shadows. They introduced me to this stark and beautiful landscape, and by the time I had learned many of the old stories and symbols, I had an abundance of material I could use. The hardest part was deciding what to leave out.
However, despite these traditional gothic allusions, Beneath the Shadows is also intended to be a thoroughly modern tale of a woman ensnared in shifting circumstances. Grace is caught between the past and the future; the city and the country; modern and traditional life; the safety of the familiar and the courage required to face the unknown. On top of it all, she must confront supernatural as well as psychological explanations of everything taking place around her. In gothic literature, the fortunes of female protagonists can be varied, and the stories I love most are not only concerned with thrills, but also highlight the determination of these women in extremis. These heroines might be pushed to the edge by fear and intimidation, but they also find ways to confront and move past their fears, however insurmountable, to ultimately set themselves free.
Intrigued? You can find out more about Sara Foster and her books at her website. You can also read her blog, follow her on Twitter as @SaraJFoster and friend her on Facebook. Sara also writes for Holiday Goddess, one of the most popular woman-oriented travel sites on the web. All you pack-a-bag-and-go gals need to check it out!