Open Door is a traditional, gothic drama set in Eureka Springs, AR. In genre, it is similar to a few other series, like The Amber House series, The Aurelia LaRue series, and Beautiful Creatures. I blogged about “the New Southern Gothic,” and I’m looking for other young adult series that fit into this niche.
How did I come to write it? Well, I’ve seen other writers, most notably Stephen King, say that they can try to explain where ideas come from, but that, in fact, they have no idea. I wrote Open Door in 2009-2010, but I had a baby in December of 2010 and I was late to the self-publishing party. It’s fascinating to me that all of us were working on various stages of our series at around the same time, though—and independent of each other, as far as I know.
I can tell you that I had one daughter reading the Twilight series who had loved the Harry Potter series before that. She didn’t love Twilight, but she read it. My other daughter would read neither series, but she liked the Twilight movies. So, these things were on my mind. They were on everyone’s mind, though, so, you know, so what?
Here’s what: I did not want to do wizards. I did not want to do vampires. I love the Harry Potter books and I don’t think anyone will ever top them. I love the vampires of Joss Whedon and Anne Rice, and I don’t think anyone will ever top them, either. My daughters’ entertainment reading/viewing showed me what I would not be doing, since those genres were already done. And done. And…well, you get the picture.
Here’s what I did want to do: traditional gothic. Rambling mansions, the ingénue in a white dress, an unimaginable challenge and the secret knowledge empowering one to overcome it: these are still story-telling tools that, although they have been done, have not been done to the point that there’s no more to be said.
There’s still room to do something new. “Southern gothic,” in the past, has been used to expose social injustice in a setting contemporary to the author. This still holds true for all the series I mention, above. The difference is that the confrontation of social injustice plays a supporting role to the front action, which has more to do with the agency of the central female character—or male character, or both, as in the case of Beautiful Creatures. It’s also interesting to note the central gothic ingénue in this sub-genre might be of mixed or ambiguous cultural heritage or she may be in an inter-racial relationship. The revelation of social injustice is still a part of the New Southern Gothic, it’s just done in a new way.
However, with the literary elements employed to tell the tale, you will find that these Young Adult series utilize traditional gothic elements. In one form or another, there’s the house: in a traditional gothic tale, the house is a character, not just a setting. In Open Door, I had fun with this element. There’s also the ingénue, the older female advisor, the menacing male who either contains the ingénue in the house or threatens her from outside. There are other elements, but those are enough to get started.
The story behind Open Door is just this: I wanted to write a Southern novel, and I wanted to write a traditional, gothic novel. What I find amusing and engaging is that, at that very moment in time, I was not the only one!
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Genre – Young Adult
Rating – PG/PG13