Guest Post – Claire McKenna

Hi All, firstly I’d love to thank Auburn for letting me provide a few words on her blog during
this very strange time when our book launches are being delayed or cancelled. As you are all aware
(at the moment of my writing this article) we are all being menaced by an unspeakable fear that is
causing a great worldwide panic, and confining us to our homes…
Wait a minute, if that doesn’t that sound like the start of a gothic story? Certainly our
favourite collision of horror and romance (with just a dash of science fiction to explain things) is
filled with people trapped by one circumstance or another in a mouldering mansion (or apartment,
or simple abode) with not a lot to do and with nobody to interact with other than our family and
close neighbours who we don’t really know, and who have always seemed rather odd….
And what about the monster in the basement? Gothic fiction abounds with monsters, and
although they exist, most often they are explainable in the end (The mad cousin, the unwanted ex-
wife, the farmer’s boy who committed a terrible crime and must forever be punished…)
But of course pure gothic stories will walk in close step with Realism, its 18 th century parent.
No paranormal shenanigans here. Our ghost is not a ghost, our werewolf a pitiful fellow with a
disease, our vampire a serial killer with an odd fetish. Even our real monster in Mary Shelley’s
Frankenstein was created by a very real scientist, using a new technique that wouldn’t seem so out-
there to a reader of the time (Galvanism, if you were in the 18 th century. Today Frankenstein would
more likely be created by cloning and genetic modification, rather than bits of body sewn together
and brought to life with electricity.)
So the sub-genre of Gothic Fantasy provides the mysteries than cannot be explained. At the
more commercial end we can see it’s fingerprints throughout even big commercial series like
Twilight and the works of Anne Rice, brief glimpses in the aestetic corridors of Harry Potter’s sub-
plots, though the strangeness of The Night Circus and the magic in any dark, lush fantasy. Gothic
fantasy uses the same tropes as gothic fiction, but plays fast and lose with the explained mystery.
The reader will have an explanation , but it will be couched in the elements of spell-casting and
magic, unlike a neat, real-world ending.

For my fantasy gothic novel MONSTROUS HEART I started with a classic premise: a story in
the midst of an industrial revolution, the woman confined to a lighthouse, the neighbour with a
terrible secret, a wild landscape a thousand miles from home. But such a thing could not easily be a
straight historical novel, or an alternate one—even books such as Outlander worked best with some surreal time-jumping to give their female protagonists some extra power and purpose. So my main
character Arden is given a very specific talent that ties her… and only her… to the lighthouse flame.
As we know with all gifts, sometimes they cause more trouble than they’re worth. And once
I’d developed a reason for a young woman to be so willingly sent to the end of the world to tend to a
physical property—a reason more more magical than scientific, other complications also arose. Who
else was so talented? What would be their use? How can you work and live freely, when you are
And when you are isolated, and lonely, can you trust yourself to make the right decision in
who you choose to love?
If Gothic Fantasy tickles your appetite, please check out my book MONSTROUS HEART! It is
available in all formats, print and paperback, via Harper Collins, Amazon and all good book stores
from the 31 st March 2020. Read it and let me know what you think at my website

Urban exlorer, traveller and adventurer, Claire McKenna is an Australian Science Fiction and
Fantasy writer. Her debut novel Montrous Heart was caught up in all the coromavirus delays, so she
is taking to the internet as part of a virtual book tour.

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