[Interview] Caitlin Kittredge Talks Black Magic In ‘Coffin Hill’

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Even after becoming a cop, Eve can never forget what happened that night in the woods. Eve and her best friends performed a dark ritual, unknowingly unleashing an evil presence in the town of Coffin Hill. Eve thought she could outrun her past, but now she has been forced to return home in Vertigo Comics’ “Coffin Hill” #1.

Caitlin Kittredge (author of the “Black London” series) talks about making her comics debut with “Coffin Hill,” making the leap from fiction writing, and the consequences Eve will have to face for playing around with black magic.

Bloody-Disgusting: Tell me how the inspiration behind “Coffin Hill” came about?

Caitlin Kittredge: I grew up in New England, where the book is set. I have always been fascinated with the history – the Salem Witch trials – all this really spooky historical stuff that happened. I always really wanted to set a horror story using that history. I started playing with the idea as a novel. I am a novelist. This is my very first foray into comic books. It never quite came together. Then I heard from Shelly Bond, from Vertigo. She was looking for a horror story. I thought this would just work as a comic. I came up with Eve Coffin, the heroine and I just kinda ran with all the stuff I wanted to write about. The witchcraft was a natural addition. The story is mostly tied to the Salem Witch trials. It’s a story I’ve always wanted to write.

BD: Eve Coffin is rebellious to her own police superiors as well as to her high society family. Tell me what interests you about her.

CK: She’s really interesting to me in terms of the characters I’ve written. Eve is not really a hero if you really think of one in comic books. She’s more of a person who does bad things for a good reason. She’s that kind of morally flexible. She’s more of a gray area. As we come into her story in the first couple of issues, she was a cop but she’s been disgraced. She’s been really badly injured. She comes home to Coffin Hill but finds much darker, much worse things going on, in terms of witchcraft and black magic, all the stuff she tried to get away from by moving to Boston to become a cop. She was the powerful witch who wasn’t afraid to use black magic to get what she wanted. I’m really fascinated with stories of characters who deal with the darker side of themselves. Eve’s very much doing it to protect the people she cares about. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in Coffin Hill. She’s the only person who can put a stop to it and she started it in the first place, when she performed that ritual when she was a teenager.

BD: Was it a challenge transitioning from fiction writing to comic book writing?

CK: It was a challenge! It was a great challenge and it was a very fun challenge, but it definitely had moments where I thought, “What am I doing! This is so completely the opposite than what it’s like to write a novel!” Once I got through the personal learning curve in the first script, I actually had a great time. I love writing in script format. It really just required a little bit of a shift in my thinking because I am working with the artist in the art. I’m one half of a whole instead of having it all spelled out on the page, like it is when I’m writing novels. It’s really been a rewarding experience so far. I really relish to get into this medium that I’ve always wanted to work in, but never had an opportunity before now. It’s been an experience, even while I’m working with my editor. I’m still working on my first couple of issues.

BD: What’s your collaboration like with artist Inaki Miranda on this project?

CK: He’s been fantastic to work with! It’s better than anything I could have ever imagined! His art in the look is still aligned to what I imagined for the way the story is going to go. It’s exactly what I was trying to evoke with my script and dialogue. His artwork is such a perfect match for the story that I’m trying to tell. We had this big discussion before I actually started working on the script; the mood we were trying to convey. There’s going to be a lot of dark forests, a haunted mansions and I wanted the characters to look a little bit different. They’re inhabiting a world that’s a little bit dreamy. With that discussion, he went away and came back with the first issue, and it was just spot-on. I really don’t have to give him more than a few lines for anything. He comes up with these beautiful, tight layouts. I feel very lucky he was the first artist I got to work with.

BD: Did you feel your writing style changed knowing your prose was going to be illustrated?

CK: In terms of dialogue that I’m working with and things like that, I actually don’t really. In my opportunity to work in comics, I feel my style of writing works with a visual story. Once I got over the learning curve in the first issue, I felt it really clicked. It’s been an incredible experience! I love the dialogue between Eve and the other characters. There’s a character in the second issue who you will meet is the Chief of Police in Coffin Hill. I had so much fun writing that dialogue for them in that issue. It’s been a great fit!

BD: The story shifts between Eve’s past and present. Tell me about the use of flashbacks as a storytelling technique.

CK: I love a good flashback, I will freely admit. I love a good dream sequence. I love anything that holds both the reader and character out of the linear narrative. I think of the story of “Coffin Hill” specifically as more a labyrinth that circles back on itself, rather just a straight course between past and present. She keeps going back to that night of the ritual. There is a black magic ritual that went wrong, which basically turns her life upside down. She sees different pieces of it. She needs to see it as a whole. I go way back in time to Salem, when she was an officer in the Boston PD. It all kind of circles back on itself to what’s actually going in Coffin Hill. I had a really fun time playing with the structure of that. I really do love writing nonlinear storytelling where you piece everything together, that’s the kind of stuff I enjoy reading. It’s been a lot of fun to be able to layer so many different times, so many different pieces. Once you start piecing together what Eve is seeing, it’s not what actually happens.

BD: Eve has a punkish style haircut and a tattoo of a feather on her arm. Tell me about Eve’s look in her character design.

CK: I gave Inaki very loose descriptions of all the characters. My only real note about Eve is that she should be dark-haired and kind of small, petite. He came out with several designs. “Let’s give some tattoos.” He showed me a cool design. They were all fantastic. “Let’s run with these.” Inaki’s great! He comes up with these wonderful designs. I had a vague idea of how each character looked when we first started. I just referred to him because I knew he’d do an amazing job!

BD: What can you tease about the second issue?

CK: I can tease a little bit. Eve meets the Chief of Police, who was also one of the kids in the woods, the night of the ritual. He’s still there. Their meeting again touches off the story that will run for the next couple of issues. Eve figures something is off in Coffin Hill ten years later. She’s probably responsible for it because of what she did that night in the woods.

BD: What other projects are you working on now?

CK: I’m working on a new fiction series for Harper Collins. That and “Coffin Hill” have been in my life. I’ve been working on it since January. It’s been great and intense. I’m up against the deadline right now!

“Coffin Hill” #1 hits comic shops on Oct. 9th. Writer Caitlin Kittredge will be at New York Comic Oct. 10-13th.

Interview by – Jorge Solis