The Stealing is a modern gothic incarnation of the classic gothic romance, featuring an independent young woman trapped in dreary and oppressive surroundings, a gentleman hero, storms at sea, a supernatural force, and a powerful, but conflicted love story. There are no vampires or werewolves in sight. But with its 1980s setting, this coming-of-age romance probes serious issues that resonate with modern readers including the harmful, isolating effects of male dominance on women, gender-role bias, and the struggle to harness inner strength and find joy in life.”

Sharon Sutila

Sharon Sutila

Debut novelist, Sharon Sutila, has masterfully crafted a modern-day heroine in this new take on Gothic Romance set in the Eighties. The plot is likened to a mounting hurricane. In the calm eye of the storm, it is a sweet romance, but when the wind picks up, the story changes direction and the ending flips multiple times, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat to find out what happens to Sarah.

In short, what is The Stealing about?

The Stealing is about an independent young woman’s journey to free herself from her father’s control and social norms set in the 1980s. Because of her father’s gender-role bias, Sarah, the captain’s daughter, is unable to become a boat captain someday but dreams of going away to college. When she realizes her father will never let her leave the misery and isolation of her dead-end coastal road, a fatal decision places her on the path of a sublime gothic storm. While sleeping her spirit is stolen by an obsessive supernatural being. To escape him she makes an impossible bargain and embarks on a dangerous journey to find her love.

Your background is in business; why did you write speculative fiction instead of a business book?

Powerful stories stay with us, and I wanted to write a book that was both entertaining and would provide an example of how a heroine found success starting from a place of isolation and despair. Some of the keys the hero discovers along the way are things I learned in business as an entrepreneur. I prefer to tell a story than to give facts and figures and decided it was a better way to connect to the reader. If the story connects to the reader, it then may also inspire them. The story is a fictional journey of a heroine, who makes a grave mistake and has many bad things happen, but she learns from her experience and finally triumphs.

What are some of the most important issues and themes that are explored in the book?

The Stealing’s hero is an intelligent young woman isolated on a dead-end road surrounded primarily by men. Without the help or support of other women, she struggles to find a place for her independent spirit among men who love and try to save her but also want to possess and control her. The book pulls the reader into the experience and point of view of a young woman navigating the world of male-dominant culture in the 1980s.

What does the book cover reveal about the story?

The book cover reveals the inner conflict of a young woman trapped in a dangerous love triangle between romantic love, self-love, and the obsessive love of a supernatural being. The sublime gothic storm looms and the cover beautifully hints at the mystery of whether the story is only the overactive imagination or fantasy of an isolated young girl coming-of-age or if she is experiencing something much more real.

The cover is traditional gothic without the classic castle or haunted mansion. The powerful supernatural being shown on the cover takes many forms and is not confined by walls. And unlike traditional gothic romance covers in which the heroine runs from the dwelling, escaping this supernatural being is not going to be easy.

When were you certain you would publish this book?

After I drafted the entire story and edited it for three months, The Stealing was over ninety-six thousand words. The editing for a final manuscript and publishing seemed daunting to take on as a first published novel. But as I continued to think about the story and the characters, I submitted the story for a manuscript review to the publisher. After the positive encouragement to complete the book, I was certain I would publish the book. The book itself, while editing and through the entire process, contributed to its own successful completion and publication. The reason is that the book is about overcoming obstacles and succeeding.

The book is a hero’s journey with the elements of a modern gothic genre—without vampires and werewolves—and a coming-of-age romance. In a way, the book’s message ensured its own publication because every time I proofread the manuscript I was encouraged to finish and publish it.

In what way is The Stealing disguised as a business book?

Business is the ultimate romantic journey. Ever been trapped in a salaried job and dream of one day starting your own business? A romanticized flurry of ideas takes hold and soon becomes all-consuming. Soon you’re buried in notions of one day becoming financially independent. Think of it—no more dull meetings. And no more boss. It’s Love.

The Stealing is a journey into the sublime gothic storm, and entrepreneurs must face frightening, seemingly impossible, conditions to achieve their business goals. The book begins on a dead-end road and a journey filled with obstacles reveals important keys to unlock the path to success. Although The Stealing is a modern gothic romance, it is also a business book—in disguise.

What is your favourite scene in the book and why?

In the Redline chapter, the main characters drive to school. It is the last days of school and their time together before graduation is ending. Although they know they will likely go their separate ways after graduation, this scene captures the unfolding of romantic first love. With limited time together, the scene captures the moment the heroine shows the “gentlemen hero”, her neighbor, she has fallen for him. He is finally able to show his desire for her, and she is surprised by how much he already feels for her. She is aware he is past all sensibility and beyond his redline. Suddenly the perfect moment is interrupted., and the recklessness of love is threatened, but young love ignores the ominous warning that danger is ahead.

Which scene do you think best represents your writing style and why?

In the first scene, the girl kicks the door open and runs down the street. Her independent spirit is captured. My writing style follows the characters as they move and affect each other in the story. It is more important to me to write the story of what happens instead of fully describing every detail of a scene. For instance, once a reader is most familiar with a character, I emphasize more dialog and less description to move the story to satisfy the reader’s need to know what happens next.

What do you hope is a result of publishing The Stealing?

The book is written to both entertain and connect with the reader. The heroine endures a gothic storm and finds love and life’s joy. My hope is that the reader is inspired to stay brave and face life’s storms so that each may find their happily-ever-after.

Why do you think readers may strongly identify and/or connect with the heroine of the story?

Growing up is difficult, and the transition to adulthood is both exciting and scary. We wonder what the future holds as we search for our unique life purpose and happiness. The last days of high school are a time of aspiration. It’s also a time that many of life’s decisions are made with very little experience and only a glimpse of who we really are and who we may become. The Stealing is a coming-of-age story about that very important, small window of time that has the potential to change the course of our lives for the better or worse. Whether a reader sees the sublime gothic storm coming or is standing in the calm eye of the storm, the journey continues until the storm has passed. We will, or have already, experienced the powerful beauty of being tested and overcoming difficulties in our lives. The connection to the heroine of the story is that there is a long road to happiness, but when it happens the reader can witness how and the exact moment it happens.

Which scene was most difficult to write and why?

The most difficult scene to write was the opening scene of the Lighthouse chapter. The heroine is about to leave the only home she has ever known, and she realizes she will miss the place despite its flaws. The heroine tries to cling to the last moments of her childhood and has a change of heart because she is growing up and begins to see things differently than when she was a child.

The old lighthouse in the book was a real, historical lighthouse abandoned long before my childhood. As a kid, I wished it had a tower light beaming, but it didn’t. But when it was suddenly destroyed by fire one night, I felt the loss. Writing a fictional account of its destruction was more difficult than I thought it would be, but it gave me the opportunity to write a historically accurate account of the lighthouse in the narration of the Lighthouse chapter. Its foundation is still standing, stuck in the mud.

And which were your most enjoyable to write?

I enjoyed writing the Eriksen family scene when Sarah was asleep. Lance brings up his concern for how his little brother is acting lovesick and his suspicions about Sarah being the cause of recent bad luck. The banter back and forth—the mix of unique personalities—made it fun to imagine and entertaining to write. The reader is easily able to see how there is room in the family for Sarah to fit in when she is added to the family dynamic the next morning. Although almost no one agrees in the Eriksen family, they love and support each other. It was nice to give the heroine a ray of sunshine and a laugh after such a traumatic previous chapter.

How long did the book take you to write? Did it involve a lot of research?

The book took about three months to write and a couple of months to edit for a complete rough draft. I started writing in July during the Covid lockdowns and submitted the draft for review to the publisher in October of 2020. A time of fear and isolation was the backdrop I needed to be inspired. Because the economy slowed down, I was able to focus and finish the manuscript in a way do not believe I could have done if the economy had been busier.

I love researching topics, and to fill the gaps in my knowledge, I spent a lot of time reading about Delaware maritime history, the Lenape and Nanticoke Indians, and many other topics. The airplane scenes were a mix of research and my own experience. I visited the Delaware coast and retraced some of the places to refresh my memory including taking the Ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey across the Delaware Bay.

What would be your advice for aspiring writers?

Write the story that inspires you to finish. There’s a lot of advice on best practices to ensure a higher likelihood of success as an author. There’s a large community of services, education, and support, and much of it is very valuable. What worked for me was researching and handwriting the draft of every chapter on an e-writer. I found that writing on a tablet without interruptions produced my best writing draft. But everyone is different, and every writer has to figure out what motivates and produces their best writing.

What do you hope that readers will experience or learn by reading The Stealing?

The Stealing is a modern gothic and points out many issues which trouble me, past and present, with how we treat, characterize, and view each other. The heroine begins in a place of misery and despair because of her circumstances—justified or not. The world can be cruel, unjust, and unfair. The heroine is not perfect, and she makes mistakes, but she learns and perseveres. I hope the reader is entertained by The Stealing. If the reader heads into the sublime gothic storm with the heroine, I hope the reader also experiences the feeling of joy, the book’s reward, which is waiting for them at the end of the journey.