Interview with Michael Mullin, Author of Gothic Revival

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What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write Gothic Revival?

I’ve always been a fan of classic, gothic stories like Frankenstein, Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde, House of Usher, and such. Sometime last year I came across a reference to Mary Shelley and the Villa Diodati and started poking around, refreshing my memory of that fascinating story. I re-watched the mid-80s movie Gothic with Natasha Richardson and Gabriel Byrne. I remember liking it in college, but it was quite bad. I can’t say it was unwatchable, because I watched it. Twice! I also re-read Frankenstein, which held up much better.

In researching the novel, I dove into more of the genre and time period, including the collection of German stories translated into French titled Fantasmagoria. This was the book Byron read to his guests that summer, inspiring them to create their own ghost stories. My last novel is a modern-day retelling of Hamlet, so I found myself starting there. What would a retelling of this real-life event be like? Of course, Gothic Revival is not a retelling. The host character, Eric, inspires his old friends to write ghost stories, which proved to be a good set-up for my readers. I knew I could write about adults who got MFAs in Creative Writing long ago, because I’m one of them.

Do you know your plot points and twists beforehand or do they surprise you as you write?

A little of both. Knowing what I think is going to happen is a motivator for me, but that thing doesn’t always happen the way I first envision it, if at all. Gothic Revival went through several drafts that are quite different from one another. It’s interesting to look at the old versions and remember plot lines and even minor characters who didn’t make the final cut. One thing I’ve gotten good at through years of training and practice is the domino effect of plotting a story. If this happens, how does it affect that, and that, and that. An important part of the craft is choosing and designing events that work in both a micro sense, for example, a moment of surprise, and the macro sense, all the events contributing to the success of the overall story.  

If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of Gothic Revival, what would they be?

Probably old, atmospheric Peter Gabriel like “Intruder” or “No Self Control” (Obscure, I know).

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

I do read thrillers, but they are often hit-or-miss for me.

Is this your first book in the thriller genre?

Sort of. Instead of being lofty or pretentious, my Hamlet retelling, which is titled Simon, is a down-to-earth revenge story in which a young man plots to kill his uncle. I know from the reviews that I was successful building suspense, despite the story being so well known. Writing that had more of a puzzle aspect to it, manipulating the plot of the original to make everything fit in a modern setting. I took some liberties which I’ve been told are clever, so that was nice. Because the protagonist in that book is nineteen, I’m told Simon is “New Adult Fiction.” The category stuff doesn’t always make sense to me, but okay.

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

I think perhaps the scene in which Eric, the reunion host, reveals why he brought them back together: his obsession with their group being a modern version of the famous literary one (Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, etc) that met in Geneva in 1816. Eric’s excitement and the others’ reactions were fun to craft.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

My dog Finn is always sitting with me. I swear sometimes his looks resemble those of an editor.

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

I think if my readers are surprised and entertained, that’s the goal. Hopefully my characters are real and engaging enough that they linger once the reading is done.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on two projects to see which will emerge as my next novel. Coincidentally, both already exist as screenplays I wrote years ago when I thought that’s what I’d be doing professionally. The process of turning a screenplay into a novel has been fun and interesting, the opposite of what we usually think of as an adaptation. What I have are skeletons of sorts onto which I can build out and explore. I feel one of the stories would be a nice follow-up to Gothic Revival because it’s inspired by another iconic tale from that era: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My story is a next generation sequel of sorts. The other is a modern-day thriller in which a poor, impulsive decision made by a group of friends attracts the attention of a serial killer the media is obsessed with.


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