After having read the description of my new novel, White Rock, I have been asked by a few readers “What exactly IS Southern Gothic?” So I felt the need to supply a definition to those not familiar with the term.
First of all, southern gothic is a sub-genre of Gothic Fiction in American literature that takes place in the American South. To borrow from Wikipedia: “Some common themes in this genre include deeply flawed, disturbing, or eccentric characters who may or may not dabble in some form of regional superstitious rituals, ambivalent gender roles, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime, or violence.”
This is not a new genre whatsoever. The Gothic treatment of the South began in the 19th century, ante- and post-bellum, in the works of such authors as Henry Clay and even Mark Twain. The term was originally used as a dismissive literary critique when referring to the works of authors like Erskine Caldwell and William Faulkner who were accused of filing their stories with ‘aimless violence’ and ‘fantastic nightmares’. Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Tennessee Williams, and even contemporaries such as Anne Rice had the lion-share of their works steeped in such rich, horrific views of reality.
The style itself employs the use of macabre irony to explore the values and customs of the American South, exposing social and cultural issues with a dark eye and a sense of the supernatural. The topics explored include madness, decay and despair, and the encroachment of the past upon the present, especially with how they illustrate lost ideals of the dispossessed Southern Aristocracy and expose continuing racial conflicts.
Now, with that in mind, let’s return to White Rock. The story is set in Dallas, the self-stylized New York of the South, in the state of Texas, a state that has more self-importance that most civilized nations. The history of the characters will be directly influenced by the geography and temperament of the South, which goes far beyond the cliché of southern hospitality. There is a certain sense of pride and prejudice that permeates the Lone Star State, a sense of nationality that can easily be focused into something much more alienating and sinister than love of life and country, depending on the individual doing the focusing.
So, by definition, White Rock is a novel of grotesque, mysterious, and violent events set in an atmosphere of degeneration and decay within the deep southern location of Dallas, Texas. It is filled with foreboding, nostalgia, and ultimately a prevalent fear of any foreign contagion that might upset the fragile balance of southern antiquity.
Now sit back and enjoy the ride…