Welcome to the Abigale Hall Blog Tour… *cue haunting music*
Abigale Hall was published on 12th April 2016 by Black and White publishing.
Publisher description of ‘Abigale Hall‘
Two orphaned sisters in a house of secrets…
On a foggy evening in 1947, seventeen-year-old Eliza and her troubled little sister Rebecca are banished by their aunt and sent to work at an isolated Welsh mansion. But there are rumours of missing maidservants and a ghost that stalks the deserted halls… Wandering through the mansion’s dusty rooms, Eliza finds blood-spattered books, crumpled photographs and portraits of a mysterious woman – clues to a terrible past that might just become Eliza’s future.
As Eliza unravels a mystery that has endured for decades, Rebecca falls under the spell of cruel housekeeper Mrs Pollard, who will stop at nothing to keep the house’s secrets. But can the sisters uncover the truth and escape back to London before they meet a dreadful fate?
I am pleased to feature both my review and a terrific piece by Lauren A. Forry about Gothic Horror.
Conventions in Gothic Horror
A few years ago, I gave a short lecture to English undergraduates at Kingston University on the basic conventions of horror. I loved giving this lecture because I love genre. I love reading it, watching it, and writing it, and one of the reasons why is because I love the rules that come with writing a particular genre.
As I told those undergraduates, all genres have different conventions, or rules, and when writers decide to tackle a certain genre, they need to be aware of those conventions. The reason is simple: conventions create expectations. Readers understand the expectations of their favourite genre and, if they don’t feel those expectations are being met, they won’t enjoy the book. But there is an exception. When a reader can tell that the author has knowingly manipulated or changed the rules, there is enjoyment in the unexpected.
Gothic horror has its own unique conventions. And while some Gothic horror stories stick to the genre norms, others subvert them in fantastic ways. Since a writer can’t change the rules without knowing what they are, I studied works in both categories while crafting my own Gothic horror tale, Abigale Hall, and these were the three most important conventions I noticed (and had fun with):
1) The Setting.
The setting in most horror stories is a place that is often new to the protagonist, where she typically goes willingly, only to find out later that she never should have left home. One of the key distinctions of Gothic horror is its setting – typically a massive but crumbling, labyrinthine building that helps separate the protagonist from her normal world and makes her question reality. The homes in stories like Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and the recent film Crimson Peak are typical Gothic houses that tear at the emotional well-being of their occupants.
One author that puts a great twist on the convention of setting is Ira Levin in Rosemary’s Baby. The story takes place right in the heart of bustling New York City, but Rosemary’s dream apartment in the Bramford – a sprawling, historic building home to the upper classes – becomes as terrifying as any haunted, isolated manor house (thanks to the devil worshippers who inhabit it).
2) The Protagonist.
I referred to the protagonist above as “her” on purpose because, while in the horror genre the protagonist is just as likely to be male as female, in the Gothic horror subgenre, it is most common that it is a woman – or, more specifically, a naïve, young woman who starts to unravel a mystery revolving around her new Gothic setting while a (possibly) supernatural force threatens her.
The unnamed governess in Henry James’ classic The Turn of the Screw and poor Eleanor Vance from Shirley Jackson’s The House on Haunted Hill (one of my all-time favourites) are classic examples of a traditional Gothic horror protagonist, but one of the greatest subversions to this convention happens in the film The Others. I can still remember the shock I felt when Grace Stewart (played by Nicole Kidman) and her children, who have been tormented by unrelenting ghosts, discover that – 15 year-old spoiler alert – they are the supernatural entity haunting their house’s new, living family. It’s an absolute genius move that turns a key convention of Gothic horror on its head, a move that wouldn’t have had the same impact if the audience hadn’t been aware of the convention to begin with.
3) The Villain.
Villains in horror are often monsters in one form or another. In Rosemary’s Baby, they are the nosy, eccentric elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Castevet. The guests at Hill House, including Eleanor, are attacked by an unseen presence, possibly the ghost of the house’s cruel former master, Hugh Crain. In Gothic horror, the villain is traditionally somehow connected to the monstrous setting that is helping to keep the protagonist physically, and mentally, hostage. Mrs. Danvers of Rebecca is one of the greatest examples of a Gothic monster in human form – a woman torn apart by her obsession over the dead, first Mrs. De Winter.
In a move just as brilliant as that in The Others, the mother at the heart of the 2007 Spanish-language film The Orphanage discovers that the menacing presence that has been driving her to madness is the ghost of a young boy she once knew, who has been trying to guide her to the location of her missing (and now dead) son. If only she hadn’t been so frightened of him, she might have located her son’s body sooner.
But what else was she to do when a mysterious presence appeared to her in a creepy, unfamiliar and isolated house? She was only behaving the way convention told her.
My review of ‘Abigale Hall’
A delightful chilling historical tale!
Lauren A. Forry creates a fascinating glimpse into our past. Set in post war England, we get a real sense of the era, with its rationing and the vulnerability of young people and mental distress. Seventeen year old Eliza and her younger sister Rebecca are sent to work in the eerie Abigale Hall. They are orphans and have no-one to support them. They are soon trying to uncover the secrets of the place and make sense of it all. Abigale Hall has secrets, hidden away amidst the dust and the gloom. Their employer is the mysterious Mr Brownawell. What awaits the sisters at Abigale Hall? Are they in danger?
Lock your doors, don’t answer the phone and prepare yourself for a slice of gothic horror. From the first page, there is a real sense of both the threat of death and post war era austerity. The atmosphere is intoxicating, as Abigale Hall slowly reveals its musty creepy side. I would not want to swap places with Eliza and Rebecca. Everyone knows that something will happen. The question is when!
This is a book, which reeks of death and decay. It is not happy and uplifting. It does not shy away from gloom and the darker side of life. It massively entertained, as well as slightly shocked me. The historical slant completely won me over.
Recommended for fans of creepy haunted houses and girls in mortal danger!
Lauren A. Forry can be found on Twitter https://twitter.com/laurenaforry
Abigale Hall is available now on Amazon FOLLOW THE LINK