A scene from 'The Barretts of Wimpole Street' (1934 film, directed by Sidney Franklin, starring Norma shearer, Frederic March and Charles Laughton).
I read very widely, and in various genres, but there's something about the Victorian era that has always excited my imagination.
I think that fascination stems back to when I was a very small child, sitting next to my mum on the sofa on rainy Sunday afternoons and watching all the old black-and-white films, such as Fanny by Gaslight, or Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, Madame Bovary, or Jane Eyre, or (a particular favourite of mine, which probably had as much to do with Elizabeth Barrett Browning's pet dog) The Barretts of Wimpole Street.
Later in life I studied Nineteenth Century literature and have now read the original books - or else the true stories upon which those films were, often somewhat loosely, based. But I still thrill when I watch them again and enter their murky candlelit words, full of simmering menace and thwarted romance. The 'filmic' interpretation of plot continues to have some influence because, very often, when I am writing, I'll try to visualise a scene as if it is playing out on a stage. I might even close my eyes, imagining myself as a character, their dialogue spoken through my lips - an extreme form of method acting, I suppose.
Of course, writers are their own drama's directors. A novel's characters must obey whatever their god- like creator dictates. And when it comes to Victorian plots, any one of a novel's characters might find themselves being pushed through such twisted, convoluted hoops that they - not to mention their readers - are left teetering and gasping on the edge of the sheerest cliff hanger plots.
And that's another useful thing when it comes to constructing Victorian plots. The author can place any character in the most perilous of situations, where personal isolation (with no telephones, radio or television, and with many areas poorly served by any public transport) loans itself to a devious manipulation that would never work in the present day.
So, that's my chosen genre: gothic Victorian plots which are full of dramatic dark secrets and lies.
I'd love to hear what yours is - and why.