Saturday, August 17, 2013

Eleanor Maine - Worldbuilding with A Gargoyle for the Hotel Gothica

This was originally posted on 31 January 2013 on the regular Magic Thursday feature for the Dark Side Downunder blog. We asked Eleanor if she would mind repeating it here.

A Gargoyle for Hotel Gothica was my first ever romance. Until then, I had never written anything in the genre. Other genres, yes, but I couldn’t get my head around what made a romance novel work. It took me six months to learn enough of the genre basics to try writing for publication.

At first I couldn’t decide where to set my story, and then I saw, Dark Eden’s contest, Scottish Nocturnal. Stories for the contest had to feature a Scottish hero who was also a creature of the night. At the time, vampires and werewolves were very popular, as they are today, but neither inspired me as much as the idea of having a gargoyle hero.
I also wanted to write in a setting that I knew well enough to make authentic—and Scotland wasn’t it. I have cousins there, yes, and very distant relatives, but I’ve never walked the highlands or the streets of Glasgow and didn’t feel I could make them come alive for myself, let alone my readers.
I needed to set my story in Australia, in a place I knew the streets well enough to bring them to mind while writing, or accessible enough that I could go and explore them until the words painted them ‘just right’. I needed to set my story in Melbourne, with its hotel-mounted gargoyles, or Hobart, with its equally historic architecture.
During my research, I learned of the debate raging over selling one of Hobart’s oldest cathedrals because the diocese could no longer maintain it. Such a beautiful building, with all its gothic architecture, would form the perfect basis for a very special hotel. It was just the kind of gothic building traditionally protected by stone statues in the Old Country, and something a collector of gargoyles might treasure in this one.

I didn’t use that cathedral in particular, but chose to create a fictional building that had been built at around the same time, and which faced similar troubles. I decided this was the cathedral Claire bought and turned into a hotel, while doing her best to preserving its character and history. In this way the Hotel Gothica was born.

It was a nice basis, but it needed more. Who was my villain? Why was the gargoyle brought to the hotel anyway? And why was Claire, of all people, without a partner?

By answering these questions, I came up with the dissatisfied heir, who will do anything to get retrieve what he considers ‘his’ inheritance, and the treacherous ex-fiance, who broke Claire’s heart. By now I had a goodly portion of the story, but the mythology of Scotland is full of stories of elves—and not the nice cheerful ones that like to help Santa, or the mysterious-but-well-inclined elves of Tolkein. No. Scottish elves are nasty. I just had to have some appear in this tale.

I wrote, researched and wrote some more, fitting the pieces together and watching as A Gargoyle for the Hotel Gothica gradually took shape. More than that, by mapping out the different characters and describing their place in the world has given me a stack of notes and ideas that will form the basis for many more stories set in the Hotel Gothica universe. I foresee a future containing stories with more gargoyles and more elves… and many more nights in the Hotel Gothica.

Description: A Gargoyle for the Hotel Gothica

When Claire buys a gargoyle from a Scottish castle, she unwittingly buys the secret history that comes with it. A gift from the fae to the laird of the castle, four hundred years ago, the statue was a double-edge boon, until MacGregor gained control—and then his house fell. Where he went to is not Claire’s concern, although the handsome Duncan MacGregor who claims her gargoyle for himself, definitely is. And there are other complications. A statue with unsavory legends attached, might bring in the tourists, but when Claire rescues a woman from a winged attacker, she is forced to find out if the stories are true.

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