2023 Finalist for Best Independently Published Book: Gothic Revival

Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Indie Best Book Competition for best self-published or independently published book. You can find the winner, finalists, long-listed, and more than 100 notable books from the competition in the December/January 2023 issue of Shelf Unbound.

The Psychological Thriller Inspired by the Creation of Frankenstein

Chris, Anne, Fiona, and Lauren were inseparable friends while earning MFAs in Creative Writing. Years later they’ve grown apart and are surprised to receive an invitation to a reunion from the fifth member of their group, Eric, a successful screenwriter. Eric flies them to a remote lake villa where he reveals his new obsession: their group is a modern version of the famous one from Villa Diodati in 1816, the iconic literary event during which Frankenstein was created. Chris and Anne are their Percy and Mary Shelley. The free-spirited artist Fiona is like Claire Clairmont. Instead of Dr. Polidori, they have Lauren, PhD in Victorian History. That leaves Eric, the Hollywood player, as Lord Byron. Like Byron, Eric proposes they write ghost stories, an homage to their famous predecessors. Laughter, creativity, and reminiscence are soon replaced with deceit, suspicion, and fear. What is the self-proclaimed clairvoyant Fiona seeing and hearing? Why does Eric lie? What does the creepy old housekeeper know about their host? Tensions grow as relationships are tested until a shocking discovery reveals the true intention for the reunion.

Fans of Gillian Flynn, Alex Michaelides, Lisa Jewel, and Alice Feeney will love the suspense and intrigue of Gothic Revival.

About The Author: Michael Mullin

My author career began with a twisted fairytale retelling about the unknown 8th dwarf which turned into a trilogy of such tales. Over the years I’ve received book awards and industry recognition for which I’m very grateful. I’m currently working on a business plan for an educational company that uses the fairytale trilogy, TaleSpins, as curriculum to teach things like empathy and anti-bullying.

I’ve written marketing materials for the merch divisions of Disney, DreamWorks, 20th Century Fox, and Universal, but I gave all that up because I was tired of selling people junk that was just going to end up in a landfill. Before I was a writer, I was a preschool teacher and college professor, two positions I found disconcertingly similar.

I live in Pasadena, CA with my wonderful wife Dani and our ridiculously cool dog Finn. Our twins, Sophie and Max (pictured here in kindergarten) are finishing up their college careers. I couldn’t be more proud and amazed. Even though I’ve been in California since 1996, all my sports allegiances remain in my native New England.

Interview with Michael Mullin

Tell us a little about your book.

MM: Gothic Revival is a story of connection and deception. After almost twenty years, five friends from a grad school writing program reunite at a remote villa. The weekend getaway is organized by Eric, the one in the group who became a successful Hollywood screenwriter. His current obsession is that their group is a modern version of the one from the Villa Diodati in 1816 that included Mary Shelley and Lord Byron. During that iconic event, Byron proposed a ghost-story writing contest, and Mary came up with the idea that became Frankenstein

Anne and Chris are the couple; Fiona is the artistic free spirit; Lauren’s PhD makes her the doctor, leaving the famous, philandering Eric as their Byron. As an homage, Eric inspires them to return to their writing roots and each produce a ghost story. Soon, however, the four guests start to realize all is not as it seems, and that the true reason for the reunion contains a dark, elusive secret. 

What was your inspiration for the idea?

MM: I’ve always been a fan of the classic, gothic stories like Frankenstein, Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde, House of Usher and such. Sometime last year I came across a reference to Mary Shelley and the Villa Diodati and started poking around, refreshing my memory of that fascinating story. I rewatched the mid-80s movie Gothic with Natasha Richardson and Gabriel Byrne. I remember liking it in college, but it was quite bad. I can’t say it was unwatchable, because I watched it. Twice! I also reread Frankenstein, which held up much better.

My previous novel is a modern-day retelling of Hamlet, so I found myself starting there. What would a retelling of the Diodati event be like? Of course, Gothic Revival is not a retelling. The host character, Eric, inspires his old friends to write ghost stories, which has proven to be a good set-up for my readers. I knew I could write about adults who got MFAs in Creative Writing long ago, because I’m one of them.

What was the experience of writing this book like for you?  

MM: Gothic Revival was a return to fiction writing for me. I hadn’t published (or written) a book in 7 years. I took my time with it, carefully shaping and placing each brick. I’m a brutal self-editor so nothing was sacred. Minor characters and entire plotlines were cut in revisions. The challenge of making it all work is one of the things I like best about writing, so the experience of this, my most challenging novel by far, was fun and rewarding.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing this?

MM: Besides the fact that I could still do it? 

What is the one thing you hope readers take away reading this book?

MM: The trifecta of success for me is readers who are engaged, entertained, and surprised. If they think about the characters and events after they’ve finished reading, that’s a bonus.

What are you working on next?

MM: My next novel is another thriller in which a poor, impulsive decision made by a group of friends turns lives upside down and attracts the attention of a serial killer with whom the media is obsessed.

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Article originally Published in the December/January 2023 Issue “2023 Indie Best Award Winners”

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