A big thank you to Lily for giving me spooky space on her blog today to talk about my ghost story, The Portrait.
Things that go bump in the night…
I recently read an article by Susan Hill, author of The Woman in Black, about what makes a good ghost story. It made me wonder if the same principles would apply to an erotic ghost story. How do you create the atmosphere needed when the core of the tale is an MM romance?
It’s one thing to sit around a campfire spinning spooky yarns and controlling your audience with the drama of the moment. Unfortunately it’s not possible to issue atmosphere instructions in the preamble to the book:
- Do not read unless you are situated in an appropriately spooky setting. E.g. graveyard, abandoned asylum, haunted house.
- Weather must be atmospheric – fog, heavy rain, thunder and lightening are all acceptable.
- Watch a really good horror film to get yourself in the right state of mind i.e. ready to jump out of your skin at the least provocation.
- Switch off all lights and read by candlelight.
I have to confess that when I wrote The Portrait and its sequel Black Dog I wasn’t consciously considering which elements would work when it came shivers of fear. I was more worried about shivers of desire between the two main characters. In either case there is a fine line between giving your readers a thrill and sending them into fits of laughter. How do you avoid the traps and pitfalls of stereotypes but still give your readers what they need to really feel the atmosphere you are trying to create? In this day and age we are exposed to every imaginable take on the supernatural. Films and computer games bring our worst fears to life at the touch of a button. Is it even possible to create that kind of atmosphere any more or are readers immune to anything that isn’t in 3D?
I think the same thing that makes a story erotic can make it scary. Imagination. It’s the author’s job to put the pieces in place, to lay the foundations for the reader to then build their own picture – to really see, hear and feel what the characters do.
By happy accident, many of the ‘required elements’ of a ghost story snuck their way into The Portrait, so all those 18th century gothic novels I’ve read must have been lurking in my sub-conscious. Hints of a spectral presence, unexplained noises and shadows, an old house where the memories of past horrors linger – they are all there, aided by the natural atmosphere provided by the wonderfully gloomy British weather.
It only takes the smallest hints and suggestions to capture an intelligent reader’s imagination and I think that works so much better than launching into a full-blown terror-ride from the first line. Shakespeare put it well in the Scottish play:
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
My characters, Garrick and Tristan, know that something evil objects to them being together. Finding out why and working out what to do about it is intertwined with the story of their developing relationship. I wanted my characters to tingle in all the right places; the fear and anticipation of what might happen adds something unpredictable to their romance and turns the heat up just a little bit higher!
So if you like your erotica with a hint of the supernatural, I think you’ll enjoy The Portrait – here’s the blurb to tell you a bit more:
And a short excerpt to tempt you:
Garrick was bent over a large drawing board, skimming over creamy paper with a soft-leaded pencil. His strokes were confident and he was utterly focused on what he was doing. Suddenly he looked up, his breath steaming in the unnaturally cold air. He cringed and swiped at his neck, rubbing away the sensation of clammy fingers exploring his skin.
“Leave me alone.” His voice was tight with a tension that was mirrored in the set of his jaw. After just a few seconds, the temperature reverted to its normal level and Garrick relaxed with a sigh.
He sat back and took a critical look at the drawing in front of him. A perfect likeness of Tristan stared back and Garrick licked his lips. The image captured the expression that appeared on Tristan’s face every time Garrick looked at him—a cross between fear and desire. A calculating smile curled Garrick’s lips as he pinned the picture to the wall. “You’re mine, Tristan Lindsay. You just don’t know it yet.”
Lucinda lives in a small village in the English countryside, surrounded by rolling hills, cows and sheep. She started writing to fill time between jobs and is now firmly and unashamedly addicted.
She loves the English weather, especially the rain, and adores a thunderstorm. She loves good food, warm company and a crackling fire. She’s fascinated by the psychology of relationships, especially between men, and her stories contain some subtle (and some not so subtle) leanings towards BDSM.
LM is winner of the National Leather Association’s Pauline Reage Award for best novel and the 2016 Golden Flogger Award for best BDSM novel in the LGBT category. She has received Honorable Mentions in the Rainbow Awards and won the Action and Adventure category of Divine Magazine’s Book Awards in 2015.
You can track her down online here: