Inspirations and Influences

GHOSTLIGHT: Sonia Gensler on Inspirations & Influences

In which Sonia Gensler talks about her new novel Ghostlight!

“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their Inspirations and Influences. In this feature, we invite writers to talk about their new books, older titles, and their writing overall.

Today we are delighted to welcome Sonia Gensler to the blog, to talk about her inspirations & Gothic influences…


Please give a warm welcome to Sonia Gensler!


It’s intimidating to create a short list of authors who have influenced my writing—I’m sure to leave out some important ones—but for now I will celebrate these five authors of Gothic fiction who galvanized my imagination with their spine-tingling stories. (And I’ll note favorite film adaptions when relevant!)

Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre

So many of my favorite story elements originated with Jane Eyre—governesses, boarding schools, remote country houses, dark secrets that won’t stay buried. This novel introduced me to Gothic, and I’ve re-read it many times over the years. (I’m particularly fond of Cary Fukunaga’s 2011 film adaptation starring Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska.)

Henry James

Turn of the Screw

Turn of the Screw was a game-changer, teaching me that the most Gothic landscape of all is the human mind. I love the misdirection in this story, and the shocking reveal at the end. (In Ghostlight, Avery and Julian watch a 1961 film adaptation of this novel, The Innocents. Highly recommended!)

Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger

Waters’ take on Gothic is grittier and features more profound betrayals and reversals than one might find in Brontë or James. Parts of my previous novel, The Dark Between, were inspired by the tone and situations of Affinity and The Little Stranger.

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

From the very start of The Haunting of Hill House, we know the house itself is a major character—“Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within. . . .” This is one of the best “paranormal investigation” stories I’ve read or seen. (The 1963 film adaptation departs a bit from the novel; nevertheless it is gorgeously shot and creepy. In Ghostlight, Avery and Julian watch this film, too!)

Barbara Michaels

Her books have long been favorites of mine—I grew up on a steady diet of her Gothic romances—and her plots were engaging because she wrote such accessible characters. From her I learned that fictional peril is much more profound when you care deeply about the protagonist(s).


YA and MG Gothic authors who also have influenced me: Franny Billingsley, Libba Bray, Patricia Clapp, Clare B. Dunkle, Mary Downing Hahn, Cliff McNish, and Laura Amy Schlitz, just to name a few.


Sonia Gensler is also the author of the young adult novels The Dark Between and The Revenant. She grew up in a small Tennessee town and spent her early adulthood collecting impractical degrees from various Midwestern universities. A former high school English teacher, she now writes full-time in Oklahoma. To learn more, and to download a free curriculum guide, visit
Twitter: @soniagensler

You Might Also Like


  • Sonia Gensler
    September 21, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Ana, thank you ever so much for featuring GHOSTLIGHT at Booksmugglers. What lovely visuals you’ve added — I’m always excited to see Fassbender as Rochester! *happy sigh*

Leave a Reply