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.