Alex and Leo Renfield are a husband and wife contractor team who’ve recently moved to the village of Woodhaven, Connecticut to escape the chaos of life in New York. Pretty close to broke, they meet Theodora Hamilton, a somewhat unsavory and odd individual, who offers them an astronomical amount of money to repaint the first floor of her family home.
But along with the huge paycheck comes a set of unsettling rules that must be followed explicitly if they are to accept the offer; one of which is they must reside on the property having no direct contact with the outside world until the job is complete.
Is Theodora Hamilton just an eccentric woman with a peculiar way of doing things, or is there a more sinister agenda that Alex and Leo are unaware of? What exactly does she have in store for this down-on-their-luck couple who have no choice but to accept the offer and the strange requirements that come along with it?
Interview with Carson Buckingham
Where did you get the inspiration for this novel?
I was driving though Cornwall, Connecticut one sunny weekend afternoon in the summer and was surprised that I didn’t see a single soul outside. As a matter of fact, the town had an abandoned feel to it that was more than a little creepy. The idea for Gothic Revival sprung from that single afternoon.
What inspired you to choose Woodhaven, Connecticut as the backdrop for your story?
Woodhaven is not really an actual town in Connecticut. I set most of my work in Connecticut, because it is where I grew up and I know the state well, so can use it as a realistic setting. There is nothing worse than a story the author sets in a place he or she has never been—it becomes obvious rapidly to those who have spent any time there. Even the smallest inaccuracy will give it away—for example, having a particular flower or shrub blooming out of season for the area in which your story is set—even something that minor will be nailed by a reader sooner than later. When this happens, it calls everything else that the author presents as factual or part of the passing scene into question. Not a good thing.
How did you come up with the character of Theodora Hamilton?
I decided on a sixty-ish dowdy lady because it keeps the reader guessing. Is she just a dotty old eccentric? Or is there more to her than meets the eye? It doesn’t really seem that way, though she does appear to have a slight malevolent streak; but then again, maybe Alex is interpreting it wrong—or maybe not—who can tell? And that’s just the point.
Can you tell us a little about your main characters, Alex and Leo Renfield?
They are a thirty-something husband and wife contractor team who left the chaos of life in New York and moved to the tiny village of Woodhaven. They are trying to get their business started in their new locale, but it’s slow going for them and they’re just about tapped out financially, creating a crucial choice, the pivot point of the book, that they must make. They’ve been married about a year and are devoted to each other. Both are intelligent, though Alex is the more imaginative of the pair—often to her detriment. Leo finds her imagination somewhat frightening at times, and chalks every weird occurrence up to Alex’s mental gymnastics rather than to consider that something else may actually be going on. Both have had a great deal of tragedy in their lives.
What drew you to this specific genre?
My own fevered imagination. I read it, I like it, I understand the genre, so I write it.
What is your writing process like? Do you hand write or type up your stories?
I will often write in the bathtub. My husband, Stij, built me a desk to go across the top of the tub, and I can spend hours until the water gets cold, sitting and writing on a yellow lined legal pad with a black Bic crystal pen. Of course, then I have to type it into the computer, but at least I have a hard copy if the computer crashes, so that’s a good thing. Also, I think better while in water. I have no idea why this is.
Are you currently working on any new pieces?
Yes, as a matter of fact, I’m writing my fourth novel now, with the working title of The Traveler. It depicts the slow descent into evil by someone you would never expect to be capable of such a thing, and that’s all I’ll tell you about it right now.
Do you have any advice you can give to budding authors out there?
I don’t know that I’m anyone to give anybody advice—I’m certainly not famous, but since you ask:
Write every day—at least 250 words. That’s only a single page, and once you get into the habit, you’ll be able to do this in about fifteen minutes, so budding authors out there, don’t tell me you don’t have enough time to write. You can find at least fifteen minutes every day.
Read voraciously—everything, not exclusively horror, or exclusively in any genre. Read fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, picture books, MG, YA, biographies, histories, philosophy, plays, poetry, etc. You get the idea.
Don’t be intimidated by a blank screen. If you agonize over the first sentence, you’ll never get anything written. It isn’t a test and you will not be graded. Get something down. Get started. You will either be doing or hiring someone to do extensive editing later on. For now, just get the words out—they are not written in stone. I have a quote of Uncle Stevie’s on my wall which reads: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Very true. Try to live by this. Writing will come much easier and be much more fun if you do.
Gothic Revival can be found online at major retailers including:
Carson Buckingham knew from childhood that she wanted to be a writer, and began, at age six, by writing books of her own, hand-drawing covers, and selling them to any family member who would pay (usually a gum ball) for what she referred to as “classic literature.” When she ran out of relatives, she came to the conclusion that there was no real money to be made in self-publishing, so she studied writing and read voraciously for the next eighteen years, while simultaneously collecting enough rejection slips to re-paper her living room… twice.
When her landlord chucked her out for, in his words, “making the apartment into one hell of a downer,” she redoubled her efforts and collected four times the rejection slips in half the time, single-handedly causing the first paper shortage in U.S. history.
But she persevered, improved greatly over the years, and here we are.
Carson Buckingham has been a professional proofreader, editor, newspaper reporter, copywriter, technical writer, comedy writer, humorist, and fiction author. Besides writing, she loves to read and work in her vegetable garden. She lives in the United States in the state of Arizona.