Q&A: Caitlin Kittredge talks Witchy new comic, “COFFIN HILL”Books/Art/Culture,Features/Interviews,News Samuel Zimmerman
As the supernatural claims our attention in horror cinema, a very noticeably witchy atmosphere is permeating. It’s extended from film (HANSEL & GRETEL, LORDS OF SALEM) to television (AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN) to the pages of Vertigo, the influential publisher who just this month released both a revamp of horror anthology series THE WITCHING HOUR and Caitlin Kittredge’s New England-set COFFIN HILL. The latter, authored by fantasy and young adult writer Kittredge, finds a Massachussetts woman whose high-society family history is steeped in witchcraft and the occult. As a reckless teenager toying with that black magick, Eve Coffin unleashed… something. Now, charged with responsibility and putting her life back together, Eve returns home and starts where it all went off the rails.
FANGORIA spoke with New England native Kittredge about the exciting new series, the intriguing choice she’s made in its premiere issue and well, witches.
[Note: When I spoke with Kittredge, our conversation began, but my recorder didn’t. We pick up then a moment into the talk as the author recalls her Massachusetts upbringing and decidedly non-rebellious teenage years…]
CAITLIN KITTREDGE: I’m definitely having a lot of fun writing her, because I was so boring when I was that age. So, it’s just a lot of fun to write about somebody who knows what she wants and gets into trouble a little bit.
FANGORIA: What’s interesting about the end of the issue is that there isn’t some setup of a larger opponent. Eve is the main conflict within herself.
KITTREDGE: You’re absolutely right. The first arc is very much about Eve in conflict with herself. At the end of the first issue she comes back to her hometown. It’s the site of her biggest mistake, it’s the site of her biggest regret; it’s the site of all the trouble she thought she left behind with her family and their family secrets. She really just tries, but she can’t escape that. She has to face it and basically drag it into the daylight because that’s the only way that you kind of exorcise a secret; bring it to life. She’s not really sure what happened that night in the woods. She has her own memories and other people who were there have their memories. And so, figuring out what really went on is going to be what enables her to try to put those secrets to rest.
FANG: Right now seems to be a moment where people want to tell stories about witches and you can’t help but look at it as a parallel of the last few years and how certain aspects of society have looked upon women. Are you working through any of that in COFFIN HILL?
KITTREDGE: I really just set out to tell a kick ass story about black magick. This is the Lit major in me coming out, so if I nerd out on you I apologize. I definitely think that there is a zeitgeist right now about taking power back and at the core, that’s what witchcraft is about. It’s about rising above your humdrum human existence and grabbing for a power that’s beyond the ordinary, beyond the visible, beyond believable for most normal people. I definitely think there’s an element of that in COFFIN HILL, because Eve is very kind of unrepentant. Sometimes her spells hurt people, she deals with a lot of really dark stuff. When Issue One comes full circle to the conclusion where she’s back home, she does feel very powerless. Her little story arc there is definitely partly about her trying to take her power back and I think that’s what’s really absorbing about witchcraft stories, even more than the gender stuff. It’s a narrative that people can look to and see ordinary people who are given these extraordinary powers and improve their lives or make other people lives worse, whatever your personal power fantasy. I definitely think I am tapping into that a little bit.
FANG: What I love about witch stories is because of the history they recall, even when they are tapping into something dark, there’s still an immediate empathy there.
KITTREDGE: Exactly. Make no mistake; there are witch characters in COFFIN HILL who are just total bastards. They’re not nice people, they’re not using magic for anything but personal gain, but there’s a lot more who are kind of in the grey area. There’s more who maybe do bad things for good reasons, and I think Eve definitely falls into that category. She started off being a teenager—very selfish, very impulsive, not really thinking about what the consequences of anything would be. Now, as an adult, she’s much more introspective and is struggling with the fact that she has all these otherworldly skills and a lot of them are very destructive. How can she use them in a positive way to right what she set off that night all those years ago in the woods?
FANG: So then the first arc of COFFIN HILL will find Eve trying to uncover what happened that night?
KITTREDGE: Oh absolutely, definitely. There’s a mystery that we brought through the first little story arc there of more teenagers have gone missing in the same woods where she did her ritual. She comes back and finds one of the people who were there that night is now the chief of police, and she and him have a very tense reunion, but end up trying to work together to find these missing kids before time runs out. But there’s definitely a strong search for the truth for what really happened running through the whole story.