“Mexican Gothic” was published in June 2020 courtesy Write or Die Tribe

Redefining horror with Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Hosted by the Tulsa City-County Library, author of “Mexican Gothic” discusses the horror genre, gothic heroines and writer’s block.

The horror genre is most commonly consumed in October, especially around Halloween. With popularity building up as
leaves begin to change colors and then instantly being placed on the back burner at the start of November, horror is typically not revisited for another year. For Silvia Moreno-Garcia, though, the horror genre has a year-round focus.

Hosted through the Tulsa City-County Library, the One Book, One Tulsa series is a way to inspire reading all throughout the community, essentially like a citywide book club where, upon completing the book of choice, the author visits Tulsa to give a seminar. Over Labor Day weekend, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of “Mexican Gothic,” virtually visited the library.

“Horror can be very interesting; it’s not just for Halloween,” Moreno-Garcia says during her One Book, One Tulsa seminar. She says that many hold the idea that if horror media isn’t scary enough, then it doesn’t count as horror.

“I didn’t cry during ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ therefore it’s not a tragedy,” Moreno-Garcia says, making a joke at the fact that no other genre is interpreted the way horror is.

On the contrary, she then emphasizes that if horror media is consumed, and it’s deemed as good content, there is a push to call it literature as opposed to horror and pull it from its genre. The way readers treat the horror genre is one of a narrow image and expectations.

“You don’t need to have a heart attack for something to be horror,” Moreno-Garcia says.

With her debut novel “Signal to Noise” hitting shelves in 2015, Moreno-Garcia has been around for a few years, making her mark as a horror novelist who deserves our attention. Between novels, she has penned a number of short stories that can be found scattered all over the internet.

It’s obvious how well-read the author is and how seriously she takes her work. When not penning horror stories, she dives into research. For example, in designing the “Mexican Gothic” house, Moreno-Garcia’s office filled with loose pages of reference photographs and research, anything from wallpaper samples to architectural designs. She even went to a glass show to gain inspiration, because so much thought went into even the smallest of details.

Each of Moreno-Garcia’s novels has a horror-centric plot and a strong female character intertwined with the mystery and fright.

The gothic heroine is a complex idea to tackle, but Moreno-Garcia thoroughly researched the history of that trope, a history she was eager to share with One Book, One Tulsa. Until the gothic revival in the 1960s, the early gothic heroine was one of a woman in peril. There was a fine line between horror plots and romance plots, as she compared
the two novels “Dracula” and “Rebecca” for example.

The difference is what Moreno-Garcia calls “the Scooby Doo element.” This was a period of gothic horror focused on the amateur detective, and that’s what she knew she wanted to do with her gothic heroines.

“I love writing bad women,” MorenoGarcia says, “women that don’t have to be nice.”

And that is the exact vibe I got from Moreno-Garcia as she spoke. She is strong willed, determined and well spoken, an innovative author who knows what she wants to accomplish and will do so effectively.

When asked what she is currently reading that she recommends to the audience, I found it quite funny when Moreno-Garcia pondered what she could actually share with people. “I don’t know how many of you would have interest in the history of deer in 1800s Prague.”

Because one of the most emphasized pieces of advice Moreno-Garcia shared was that “you have to be willing to read widely to be a good writer.” When asked how she fights writer’s block, the “Mexican Gothic” author actually said she dislikes that term, saying that it obscures what writer’s block actually is—a lack of support.

“In calling it writer’s block, you’ll never fix the cause,” Moreno-Garcia says. It could be family issues, medical problems, mental health-related or anything else that would affect any other job. There is no reason to specify it as writer’s block when it isn’t called teacher’s block, engineer’s block or chef’s block for any other occupation.

In fact, Moreno-Garcia said that the hardest part of being an author is going from the quick payoff of short story writing to the lengthy timeline a novel requires. You need to work to keep up your momentum, but it seems that since 2015, Moreno-Garcia certainly hasn’t lost hers.

Closing the One Book, One Tulsa event, it was no surprise what advice Moreno-Garcia gave to the audience in farewell. In fact, it is something that sticks with me as I added all of her novels to my “to be read” list on
Goodreads following the event:
“Give horror a chance.”

Post Author: Myranda New