Do you like creepy old manors full of dark secrets (and possibly ghosts)? Do you find yourself attracted to mysterious gentlemen in Victorian attire who may or may not be villainous? Do you think the best outfit for investigating mysteries is a lacy white nightgown?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you probably like gothic romances.
The gothic genre has been around for hundreds of years and got big in the Victorian Era with novels like Dracula and Jane Eyre. It had a revival in the 1960s (Do a Google Image search for “gothic romance covers.” You won’t be disappointed.), and if you’re looking for a more recent example, think Crimson Peak.
When I wrote The Ghost Machine, I wanted to mix steampunk with gothic romance. It influenced everything from the setting (featuring a haunted asylum and shadowy castle), to the plot (the main character, Ella, can see ghosts), to the characters (her love interest is a Byronic hero, and she suspects him of being a murderer for part of the book).
I always associate gothic romances with the 1800s, though they can be set in any time. Maybe it’s because those Victorians were surprisingly morbid, with their creepy photographs of dead family members and the elaborate mourning attire they were required to wear. Or maybe it’s the popularity of spiritualism and their fascination with ghosts.
That’s why I think gothic romance meshes so well with steampunk, which also has a heavy Victorian influence. It lets me play around with steampunk technology that can detect and manipulate ghosts, and I can throw a mad scientist’s laboratory into one of those gothic castles and get a Frankenstein vibe going.
But what I like best about gothic romance is the aesthetic: the dark and sinister mixed with the beautiful. While I’m not a fan of the jump scares and gore of the horror genre, give me the subtle feeling of lurking dread that permeates a good gothic novel any day.
That’s the aesthetic I wanted The Ghost Machine’s mood board to reflect, and that’s what you’ll find in the novel itself.
Ella Rosenfeld is a lunatic. Locked away in the remote Auttenberg Asylum, she undergoes torturous treatment to cure her hallucinations. Yet the longer she remains within Auttenberg’s austere halls, the more gruesome her visions become, until Ella is sure she’s seeing ghosts, and Auttenberg’s doctor knows it. He doesn’t plan to cure her; he wants to study her ability by dissecting her.
Ella refuses to accept her fate. She assaults her captors, scales the asylum fence, and finds sanctuary in the castle of Baron Viktor Szarka. Young and arrogant, the baron offers her protection, but he’s rumored to have locked a woman in the asylum to hide his dark past, and he has suspicious dealings with Auttenberg’s doctor. Unable to trust him, Ella must uncover the conspiracy surrounding the asylum, her visions, and the baron’s secret…or join the rest of Auttenberg’s ghosts.
About Kristen Brand
Kristen Brand is a total nerd. She writes speculative fiction with lots of danger, snark, and a bit of romance. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading novels or comic books, and she’s probably drinking tea right now. You can find out more about her work and read free fiction at her website, kristenbrand.com.