At the height of the most powerful creative work of her life, Shirley Jackson suffered from intense agoraphobia. There were months that she was unable to leave her home. Her isolation, and at times deep mental instability led her to create work that inspire me and legions of other horror lovers, now. If there were no Haunting of Hill House, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, then books like Beautiful, Frightening, and Silent and From Daylight to Madness (my Literary Gothic Horror novels) would not exist.
I would have a voice that I would perhaps still be afraid to use.
In my past, I too have also suffered from this affliction, this all-encompassing fear to leave the house. It was years ago now, and I was involved in a powerfully abusive and controlling relationship. I made my living selling my artwork online. My world was small, it consisted of my old house, my art studio, my dog, my fear, and my imagination.
I created paintings and collages of sad women, former vaudeville stars, most who died young, seeped in tragedy and gin. I saw myself in those women, I created each one as a way of screaming out of my closed windows and bolted doors. I created them as a reminder to the world and to myself that once upon a time I too was an actress on a stage, I was a poet, I was a person.
It took years to overcome, and in the past few months, I have felt at times, that my old friend fear was coming back to me. An old friend like this never really leaves, does it?
At the end of February my fiancé and I returned home from a trip to Spain, my debut novel had just been released and sold record numbers during the presale from my publisher. People would come into the dance studio where I worked with copies of my novel to sign, which I did, in a beautiful metallic red marker.
If you have read my book you will understand why I wrote in red.
I felt at that time that I was on a precipice of something, perhaps something beautiful, perhaps something frightening…and in the end we were all on the precipice of something silent.
It was the first week of March and suddenly my dance students were starting to cancel lessons. When I was out in public and heard a cough, I grew frightened. There was something creeping out of the shadows for me, for all of us. It was not just a virus, but also paranoia.
By March 16, the few students I had that day came in and wept, I wept. In a job that depends on me touching people, physically and emotionally, we went without touch.
The next day the dance studio shut down, and I was once again, in my house, and afraid to leave. Luckily for me, this go around, I am with someone who supports me, and loves me, but once again I find myself with an exceedingly small world. An old house, a dog, my fear, and now…my books.
I am now 47,000 words into my third horror novel, the second part in a sweeping historical horror tale that deals with isolation, fear of what is outside, and what is inside your head. I realize I am still that artist telling a story of a sad woman, screaming from behind a closed door. I am still someone looking into a broken mirror and finding myself and the world broken in two.
As artists, and authors, we are mirrors of the world, we are reaching the fingers of our imagination out and bringing back fragments of stories, pieces of characters, memories that we are creating, and giving to imaginary people.
What happens though when we reach out towards something, and now, we are met with walls. My hands seem to scrape against the things that are keeping me safe. They long to break through, but instead they come back with bruised knuckles.
So…. that goes in the book. It all goes in the book.
Tomorrow I leave my house to go back to a job that will be a shadow of what it was a few months ago, it is a job I know is ending completely by October. It is a shadow that both scares me and intrigues me. Until then, I rest my head against this pillow, I hear a large animal rustling in the deadfall outside my window. The air feels cool for late summer as the wind blows in off the river that still runs high from too much rain for too long.
My imagination is there with my new main characters, Isabelle, and Francis. They are the result of these long months, of the sickness with no cure, the almost birth of a second round of agoraphobia. They fight against it all, as do I.
At the end of this long endless day when their eyes close so do mine.
I will end this with a list of the things that inspired me today, and I encourage all of you to hit me up on facebook and tell me what is inspiring you.
1-People that are lost…specifically people lost at sea, or at war, I am drawn to the women left behind.
2- Cold Climate Islands, specifically in the Northern Atlantic.
3- Tidal pools
4 -Photos that are out of focus, or overexposed.
5- The Victorian Spiritualist movement, and mesmerism used for therapeutic reasons.
6- Waking from a dream, just to see the person sleeping next to you has woken at the same time, and one or both of you whisper, “I just had the worst dream.”
Jennifer Anne Gordon is a gothic horror novelist. Her work includes Beautiful, Frightening and Silent, which is a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review Awards (Horror/Suspense (2020), and From Daylight to Madness (The Hotel book 1), and coming out in November 2020, When the Sleeping Dead Still Talk (The Hotel book 2).
She had a collection of her mixed media artwork published during spring of 2020, entitled Victoriana: mixed media art of Jennifer Gordon
Jennifer is one of the hosts as well as the creator of Vox Vomitus, a video podcast on the Global Authors on the Air Network.
Jennifer is a pale curly haired ginger, obsessed with horror, ghosts, abandoned buildings, and her dog “Lord Tubby”.
She graduated from the New Hampshire Institute of Art, where she studied Acting. She also studied at the University of New Hampshire with a concentration in Art History and English.
She has made her living as an actress, a magician’s assistant, a “gallerina”, a painter, and burlesque performer and for the past 10 years as an award-winning professional ballroom dancer, performer, instructor, and choreographer.
When not scribbling away (ok, typing frantically) she enjoys traveling with her fiancé and dance partner, teaching her dog ridiculous tricks (like ‘give me a kiss’ and ‘what hand is the treat in?’ ok these are not great tricks.) as well as taking photos of abandoned buildings and haunted locations.
She is a leo, so at the end of the day she just thinks about her hair.
For more information and benevolent stalking, please visit her website at http://www.JenniferAnneGordon.com
Amazon Author Page – amazon.com/author/jenniferannegordon
Facebook Author Page – https://www.facebook.com/JenniferAnneGordonAuthor/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/JenniferAnneGo5