Saturday, October 29, 2022

Briana Una McGuckin's "On Good Authority"

Briana Una McGuckin lives in a charmingly strange old house in Connecticut. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Western Connecticut State University and an MLS from Long Island University. Among other places, her work appears in the Bram Stoker Award–nominated horror anthology Not All Monsters, the modern Gothic horror anthology In Somnio, and The Lost Librarian’s Grave anthology. McGuckin has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, a perhaps concerningly large collection of perfume oils, and a fascination with all things Victorian.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, On Good Authority:
On Good Authority is a Victorian Gothic/Romantic Suspense story in which a lady’s maid called Marian Osley must teach a terrible master the difference between servitude and surrender—and confront her dark desire for the footman, Valentine Hobbs, along the way.

I don’t generally cast people in my head as I’m writing, but when the book was done I did happen to see an image on my Google home screen of Timothée Chalamet attending some event in connection with Little Women. He was in a dark vest and white shirt, and I had to do a double-take. I may have said, out loud to no one, “Valentine Hobbs?”

Since, in conversation about who would play the leads in my dreams, I said I would put Anya Taylor-Joy in the role of Marian. When I added that Chalamet would make a good Valentine, the person I was speaking with said I was describing a “sort of Tim Burton Gothic.” And that’s exactly right, I think. I would want it to be darkly beautiful like that, and rich, in the vein of Sweeney Todd.

I could also see it handled as a dark fairytale by Guillermo del Toro. I loved The Shape of Water, and I think there are similarities in the themes, the misunderstood love story and the way that what is truly evil hides behind the guise of normalcy, what we’ve been trained to see as right and virtuous.

There’s Mr. and Mrs. Bornholdt, master and mistress of the manor house, to cast as well—both of them running hot and cold, but never at the same time or for the same reasons. I think Emily Blunt would be a fantastic Mrs. Bornholdt, because she has the range, going from severe and strict but also to a place of secret warmth, sometimes.

As for the master and villain, Mr. Bornholdt, I’d be really excited to see Dacre Montgomery’s take on it because, well: Mr. Bornholdt may be a monster, but he is an attractive one, and he knows it. He leverages his conventional beauty to his advantage, to ensnare people. I think that’s important to the story, to that way in which real danger can hide behind what’s pretty, as I was saying about The Shape of Water. Montgomery really brought a magnetism to Billy in Stranger Things which would be good for the villain here, too.
Visit Briana Una McGuckin's website.

Q&A with Briana Una McGuckin.

--Marshal Zeringue