Going *There*: How Author Barbara J. Hancock Conjures the Gothic
As we move further into fall and feel the days grow shorter and the veil thin between this world and the next, it’s time to stop and talk about the g-word.
And by the g-word, I mean the Gothic.
Gothic stories, with their harsh, lonely settings, troubling mysteries, high emotion, and details of death and decay are some of my very favorite to read. Frankenstein, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, and of course, Wuthering Heights are classics on my shelf whose tension I still try to emulate.
As I mention in my feature interview with Grave Tells, Jane Eyre was the first romance I read that got its claws into me. I won’t go into a deep literary analysis here, but its Gothic influences – which were much more subtle than the Monster brought to life by lightning – and strong heroine changed my literary landscape. Very few stories have affected me as emotionally and physically as Jane Eyre, and it’s one of the reasons seeing a real moor was on my bucket list!
And just in time for October, when we start to feel the world cool and watch the shadows grow longer, I have the perfect author for you to meet: Barbara J. Hancock. Barbara J. Hancock writes modern Gothic romances, and they are amazing.
Read on for my fascinating interview with Barbara, and be sure to comment on this post or sign up for my newsletter by Sunday, October 8 to be entered into a drawing for a Kindle version of BRIMSTONE SEDUCTION, the first book in Barbara’s modern Gothic romance series.
It's a book that I COULD NOT PUT DOWN, and I think you'll love it as much as I did!
Barbara, I am excited to share a little bit about you and your writing on my website! For folks who may be unfamiliar with your work, tell us about yourself and what you write.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Brandi! I'm a survivor of a childhood with an alcoholic parent. One of the things that helped me get through those years and come out on the other side as an optimist was make believe. I took myself away from the fear and pain with books, movies, fairytales, music, theater...you name it if it...anything with a “Once upon a time …” vibe. Especially stories in which relationships helped people to overcome hardships. Love heals. I absolutely believe that and I write about it in every book.
How did you begin writing paranormal romance? What was - and continues to be - the appeal for you?
Again, escapism rocks. Nothing takes me away better than fantasy, romance and science fiction and those genres come together to create paranormal romance. Even now when my environment is safe, happy and fulfilled, I still enjoy escaping from the mundane. There's a step in the Hero's Journey that's titled Call to Adventure. That's what writing and reading is to me. And that's why I so enjoy writing paranormal romance. Nothing is more adventurous to me than a heroine receiving the Call to Adventure in the form of, say, a cursed man with Brimstone in his blood or a legendary shapeshifter.
On your website, you have a wonderful post about "the Gothics" - novels like JANE EYRE which influenced you over the years - and the appeal of the Gothic hero and heroine. In your opinion, what makes a really good Gothic hero or heroine?
For the hero: Mystery. Ambiguity. Maybe even an element of danger. The Gothic hero is not Captain America. The Gothic hero is the Winter Soldier. He's usually damaged. He needs to be saved no matter how powerful he seems on the outside.
For the heroine: She's proactive. She has agency. She is not going to shy away from answers even if it puts her in danger. More than anything, even if she is physically not as strong as the hero or the villain, the Gothic heroine is the savior. She's Wonder Woman and Nancy Drew and Jane Eyre.
How is this type of hero and heroine different than, say, the hero or heroine you might read about in a contemporary or even an historical romance?
I think the elements of mystery and ambiguity in the hero is stronger in a straight Gothic than it is in a contemporary or historical. Although romantic suspense heroes often have this quality, as well.
Gothics are primarily from the heroine's point of view. We don't know as much about the hero's intimate thoughts and motivations. One of the main differences between my Shivers Gothics and my Harlequin Nocturnes is you get more from the hero's point of view in a Nocturne. My Nocturne heroes are still dark and damaged, but you'll be taken along with their feelings and sensations as they fall in the love with the women who will save them from the darkness.
JANE EYRE is definitely a book that influenced me as a writer, too. That one line in the book, when she addresses the reader for the only time, and says, "Reader, I married him ..." sent chills down my spine the first time I read it. But to get to that moment, Jane Eyre had to go through a LOT of dark moments. I remember physically hovering as I read about her time at Gateshead Hall, Lowood School, and what she endured on the miles of moors when she fled Rochester. In other words: Bronte really put her through the wringer! But a good author has to torture her characters to get them to earn their HEA, doesn't she? I'm curious how you "torture" your darlings. How do you know as an author what to put your characters through so that they earn their HEA?
I go *there*. What hurts? What frightens me? What would I avoid at all costs if I was the heroine? I love to explore bravery in stories. I face my fears every time I write a book! And my heroes and heroines never let me down. If I'm crying once they reach the happily ever after, I know I've taken them close enough to the possibility of losing their HEA to make the story satisfying for the reader. One thing I've learned is to go as close to the edge as I need to go and let the editors tell me if I've gone too far.
Where do you find your writing inspiration? What do you do to "refill the well"?
Oh, this is my favorite question! Because I am a story enthusiast I'm also a rabid fan girl geek. Books. Movies. Television. Etc. I love Youtube for re-watching all my favorite scenes from television and movies. I love Twitter for suggestions. Three or four mentions of "Olicity" and I'm going to check out Arrow to see what the fuss is about. It's always about romance for me. I "collect" 'ships and couples. Some of my favorites besides Arrow would be Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Battlestar Galactica, Lucifer, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead...anything with relationships that are twisty enough to take me away!
I'm also a history buff and even though I write contemporary my interest in history and vintage *everything* usually inspires me and comes through in every book.
Let's see...music, art, nature...all those things refill my well too.
Tell me a little bit about your process, Barbara. What does a typical writing day (or hour) look like for you? How do you get started, and when do you know to put down the pen or turn off the computer? Any tips, tricks, or rituals that keep you writing?
I write from 10 to 2 usually on a regular schedule. But I'm not one of those "write every day" people. I write to a deadline and I know how many words I need in a week to reach the necessary word count...with days off to recharge and renew. With discipline, you can have time off, I promise!
I'm also very active with band kids and I help to take care of my elderly mother. Basically, my process is to set goals and meet them with time off for good behavior. I will also shut everything else down if I'm suddenly inspired to crank. Occasionally, I have a Lost Weekend. Oh, look, here's 15k that wasn't there on Friday!
Pinterest is a HUGE part of my process. I liken it to self hypnosis. The book board is a place I can go to change gears from mom and daughter to author in just a few minutes.
Four score and seven years ago....no really...my journey to Harlequin Nocturne was a long one interrupted by the birth of twins many years ago. My first full for Harlequin was requested back when Silhouette Bombshell was a line! I sold my first Nocturne Bite in 2008 and my first full length Nocturne at the age of 46. I was 44 when I signed with my first agent. Believe. That's the biggest piece of advice I can give anyone. Just believe.
What were some joys and challenges along the way?
Did I mention twins? Ha! EVERYTHING you can imagine can happen and does happen. But I kept writing even when I wasn't submitting. Because story is my life.
What advice would you give to other aspiring writers who'd like to write for these houses?
Perseverance. Learn from feedback. Stick to your voice and your vision, but still be open to wisdom and savvy people who can teach you how to convey the stories in your heart. We've all been in that place of being unsatisfied with your vision once it's on the page. Keep going. Keep learning. Those visions will get closer and closer to each other until you're finally at a place that your vision is realized most of the time. Write. Submit. Repeat. That's the key.
Also do your research. Read where you plan to submit. Follow editors and agents and publishers on Twitter and other social media sites. I connected with Lucienne Diver because I saw her Tweeting about what she liked and was looking for!
Tell us about your latest releases and what reader have to look forward to over the next year!
BRIMSTONE PRINCE is coming in October! It's the third book in my first Harlequin Nocturne series and it concludes the Brimstone series with a bang! Here’s a little summary:
“A match made in hell.
The adopted daughter of the daemon king, Lily Santiago has lived her life in darkness. After one glimpse of desert sunlight, she begins to understand what she's been missing.
Michael D'Arcy Turov might be heir to the throne of hell, but he has firmly rejected that legacy. All he wants is to play his guitar… Until he meets Lily, and her kiss awakens the Brimstone burn he's long suppressed.
A pawn in the war between her foster father and rogue daemons, Lily is determined to let Michael keep his freedom. But what if his desire for her is enough to take him back to hell?”
In 2018, I have three Harlequin Nocturnes in a new series, Legendary Warriors. That new series begins with LEGENDARY SHIFTER in March and continues with LEGENDARY WOLF the following summer, and then concludes with the White Wolf's story next winter. This series was inspired by Game of Thrones and Wonder Woman. It's about cursed legendary shifters and the warrior women who save them. It's set in Eastern Europe and features a lush Carpathian Mountain setting and Russian witch mythology.
From Entangled Teen, I have a YA Gothic Thriller, AFTER ALWAYS. In this book, sometimes "I'll love you forever" is a dark promise. I don't have a release date yet, but I'm so excited about this book. It's a true Gothic with thrills and chills and a violinist heroine that is braver than I could ever be!
Lastly, a fun question: If you could have one paranormal power in the world, what would it be and why?
I never knew how I would answer this question until I watched The Flash. I had no idea running at the speed of light would mean I could eat all the pizza I wanted without gaining weight. That power wins hands down for me from now on!
Want to connect with Barbara? Follow her here: