What is a Gothic Romance?

What is a Gothic Romance?

An interview with Sandra by Jenny Quinlan, of Let Them Read Books.

Jenny: What inspired you to take on the Gothic genre?

Sandra: I love reading old-school Gothic Romances such as those written by Victoria Holt, but I found it difficult to find many new ones that were still written with the “traditional ingredients.”


Tyntesfield, @sandrabyrd 2016

As an author, I also wanted to update the concept a little for modern readers.  I like more of the hero on the page than was present in quite a few of the gothic romance novel of years past, and I like my heroines to be a little bit less waifish and a little stronger minded than was popular then.  I wanted to include just a wee bit more hard history, and I like weaving in an element of faith.  But I tried my best to stick to the elements readers expect from a Gothic Romance, which include:

  • • A large country house in need of attention and affection, already in disrepair. In some ways, the house represents the heroine.
  • • A Byronic hero, who might be questionable and always conflicted. The heroine falls in love, but she has to know before she commits – will he prove true?
  • • Characters—especially servants, but others, too—that may be untrustworthy; our heroine does not know and must puzzle it out.
  • • Psychological underpinnings, perhaps including madness or a suspicion of it.
  • • A supernatural element, whether naturally explained or not.
  • • Parents who are completely out the picture, or dead, so the heroine must rely on her own wits and resources.

@ Sandra Byrd

Jenny: Women in the Victorian Era were defined and constrained by strict social mores and expectations. Can you talk a bit about creating a heroine from that era that today’s readers can still identify with?

Sandra: All of us are constrained in some ways from the full self-determination we would prefer. There are always roadblocks, prejudices, laws that do not work in our favor, spiteful people, or situations that bring sorrow and which are completely out of our control. And yet … the human spirit, a strong woman’s spirit, faces those challenges head on, tries to think through what she wants, and then plots a way toward it.  When roadblocks occur, she finds a way over, around, or through.  That was true a thousand years ago and is still true, now.

The very freedom of our age (for example, to work if we wish) has wrought a new set of challenges.  But we still find a way to triumph.  Seeing women do that, then, encourages me as a woman to do that, now.   If they can be contenders, so can I!

Jenny: How does your faith shape the inspirational aspects of your fiction? Sandra: My faith is central to my worldview and interests, so it informs the subjects I pursue in my books. Honestly, it would be anachronistic to write about 19th Century England and not have any mention of or interaction with faith; it was completely integrated into daily and weekly life. I don’t seek to write “Christian fiction” so much as it interests me how a strong Christian woman approaches a situation in her era and setting. I don’t set out, ever, in fiction, to teach, only to show and reveal and understand through the heroine’s eyes.  Hopefully, that makes for a good, engaging read whether the reader is a Christian or not!

{Photo Credit, Angel: Photo by Cosmin Gurau on Unsplash}