My participation in the A World of Gothic series was my proudest moment as an author last year. Talented, award-wining authors penning suspenseful stories with a definite Gothic vibe, each set in a different location around the world, all taking place in a remote, awe-inspiring mansion. As a number of amazing titles have been available since the series launched last April, I felt I should bring them to your attention again, from a different angle this time. So, each week, I’ll invite one of the series’ authors here, spotlight her book and focus on the heroine, the hero, and the backbone of any good Gothic story, the house/castle/mansion that tends to hold the key to solving the mysteries piling up.
This week, it’s my turn. I published House at the Edge last May, and although the setting is again Alonissos, my favorite Greek island, the ambiance is a complete one-eighty from my usual summery scenery. Read on for a complete breakdown of House at the Edge.
He wants her out of his house. The house agrees…
After losing everything—her family, her home, her sense of self—former heiress, Daphne Alesi, has no choice but to start anew. Broke, unwanted, and suffering from a rare condition that makes defining her emotions mind-numbingly difficult, the only thing she has left is a strong will to survive.
Starting over on a remote Greek island, in the dead of winter, just because it was her grandmother’s birthplace might be a foolish plan, but staying in England is not an option.
The people of Alonissos are far from welcoming, not least the brooding recluse whose home she literally invades. The infamous House at the Edge is rumored to host a ghost—the soul of the enigmatic owner’s deceased wife. But it will take more than an angry spirit to send Daphne fleeing.
Being emotionally detached has some benefits, after all.
I’ve done a Q&A with the other authors in the series, but it would be weird to answer my own questions, so I’ll just segmentize the anatomy.
What writing a Gothic means to me.
This was a challenge. But although I live a consciously drama-free life, since it threw my way enough challenges to make me not seek out more, writing-wise I’m a thrill-seeker. When Alicia Dean called for submissions for the A World of Gothic series, I jumped in without even thinking it through. I had no clue about the story I’d write. And the mystery suspenses I’d read were books published in the mid-twentieth century, not exactly fresh stuff. All I knew was that my heroine had to be stranded in a remote place, the setting should be the exact opposite of warm and fuzzy, and the hero had to be mysterious and aloof, casting a shadow of danger. Oh, and a ghost should be lurking somewhere. Cakewalk. Not. But a delicious challenge it was.
My female lead: Daphne Alesi
I love writing complex characters, and I don’t limit this only to my male heroes. I needed a plausible reason for Daphne to go to a remote Greek island in the dead of winter and stay there despite everyone’s negativity. Also, the biggest driver for me to write romance is the healing power of love to damaged characters, and their denial both that they are damaged and that they need healing. So Daphne had to be immune to everyone’s logic. The islanders efforts to chase her off shouldn’t scare her. But that would only be true if she wouldn’t emote. As in suffering from an emotional disorder. Once I reached that conclusion, it was easy to research and decide she’d suffer from alexithymia–inability to decipher emotions and react accordingly. On the other hand, since she’d lost everything back in England and was desperate to find her roots in the island her great-grandmother gave birth to her grandmother, deciding to move to that island and then stick mulishly to her decision despite looming dangers made more sense.
My male lead: Manos Varnezis
Owner of a remote mansion? Check. Ruggedly handsome and aloof? Check. A reclusive widower with a traumatic past? Check. Okay, good stuff for the Gothic vibe this story needed, but he sounded kind of cliche. I dislike standard romantic heroes whose wealth is a static thing, and they do nothing but sulk. Manos had to do something constructive with his life. So I made him a certified speech therapist, working with kids with learning or speech difficulties online. The power of the internet gave that recluse the ability to do something useful with his life and made him a more developed character for my book.
The chemistry between the two? It was a slow build, but a fire that erupted out of nowhere (hello, ghost!) made it burn hotter than the flames. Daphne imposed herself in Manos’ residence as the cook he didn’t know he needed, and she gradually reminded him that he actually needed human interaction as well. Love bloomed, but the house wasn’t down with that. Then things turned ugly.
Wearing the casting director hat
Oh, Jamie. Disclaimer: I’m not a 50 Shades fan. At all. But Jamie would make the perfect Manos. The scruff, the piercing gaze, the baritone voice. It’s all there. In spades. And Zooey Deschanel would be the ideal Daphne. Quirky yet strong and determined with a skewed self-image, thanks to her ex-model, gorgeous mom who she hasn’t taken after, Daphne finds herself with nothing but fights to earn her right to happiness. They’d make a beautiful couple. I actually had Zooey in mind when looking for stock photo models for the book cover, and I think I nailed it 🙂
The antagonist: the House at the Edge (from the book)
The rain was falling in sheets, forcing me to squint, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the house. The ground floor was dressed in dark natural stone, while the upper level’s façade bore the signs of neglect with streaks of brown, angry scars on a once pristine white surface. Shafts of gray granite lined the domed windows, and if the metal arched mullions weren’t a Gothic nod, the thick turrets pointing to the pewter sky made me think I had entered a portal to a different world—one miles away from a Greek island.
A dazzling white streak of lightning slashed between the beckoning lightning rods perched on the tips of the turrets, pulling me from my trance. I let the bike drop onto the brown slush and ran up the wide marble steps. Somewhat protected under the portico, I stood and stared at the dragon-shaped metal door knocker.
The thought that I was in over my head evaporated with the rumbling thunder, crashing behind me. No, there was no going back.
The greater setting: the island of Alonissos
The stereotypic image of a Greek island makes an unlikely setting for a Gothic mystery romance. But the Greek isles, removed from the throngs of tourists and frequent ship routes, can be quite inhospitable in the winter. Alonissos is no exception. It’s small with a population of just over two thousand, fighting recession like every other part of Greece. So an ignorant English-speaking girl who suddenly lands there, demanding to find employment when the island can’t feed its own would certainly not be welcome. And if she catches the attention of the island’s most eligible bachelor, hostility can turn to danger.
That’s it from me, today. Tune in next week for another awesome Q&A!
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