Finding space to explore the Gothic
In October, 2022, I was lucky enough to have the chance to attend the first ever Gothic Fiction Writing Week at the Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre in the Scottish Highlands. Thanks to a bursary from Luminate Scotland, I could immerse myself in the darkness of Gothic through the ages, with brilliant tutors Natasha Pulley, whose latest book is 'The Half Life of Valery K' and wonderful Gothic writer and Glasgow University tutor Carolyn Jess Cooke, whose spooky trilogy of enchanting tales concluded with the brilliant 'The Ghost Woods' in 2022.
Both writers I much admire, our week was packed with learning about the history of Gothic fiction, from the Victorian classic gothic which had inspired so many modern day purveyors of dark and mysterious tales, to the alternative traditions of Japanese Gothic, in which Natasha had immersed herself with a stint living and studying in the Far East and where attitudes to the dead are far different from the Western view of the underworld.
A highlight of the week was a visit from guest reader Andrew Michael Hurley whose works of folk horror were perfectly pitched, when he read to us by firelight in the hobbit house at the bottom of the Moniack garden - the stormy weather was definitely gothic that night. Seemingly very down to earth for someone who seems to tap into the darkness of human and animal nature in a way few other writers do, he told us about how his Catholic upbringing had inspired in him a fascination with the supernatural, which led to such incredible books as The Loney, Devil's Day and latterly the utterly compelling Starveacre.
I would always recommend Moniack for any writer who needs either inspiration, or the space to submerge themselves in the work. I go back whenever I can as for me it's the place where my stories are often rooted, in the stunning landscape and history of the Highlands. More info here www.moniackmhor.org.uk