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    That Old Black Magic: Caitlin Kittredge Talks Coffin Hill

    Caitlin Kittredge Coffin Hill
    Caitlin Kittredge, writer of Coffin Hill for Vertigo Comics.

    Just in time for Halloween, Vertigo Comics debuts Coffin Hill, a supernatural horror series written by novelist Caitlin Kittredge (author of the Nocturne City and Iron Codex series) with art by Inaki Miranda (Fairest).

    Coffin Hill stars Eve Coffin, a rebellious, teenage lowlife from a high-society family with a curse that goes back to the Salem Witch trials. Following a night of sex, drugs, and witchcraft in the woods, Eve wakes up naked, covered in blood, and unable to remember how she got there. After a stint as a Boston cop that ends in a bullet wound and unintended celebrity, Eve returns to Coffin Hill, only to discover the darkness that she unleashed 10 years ago in the woods was never contained.

    Coffin Hill debuts October 9 — read our exclusive interview with Caitlin Kittredge below to learn more, check out a four-page preview of Coffin Hill #1, and pre-order the series to save 20%!

    TFAW: Can you introduce us to Coffin Hill?

    Caitlin Kittredge: Sure, I’d be happy to! Coffin Hill is a wonderful, supernatural horror comic — written by me. (Laughs.) It’s about a woman named Eve Coffin, who 10 years ago participated in a black magic ritual that irrevocably changed her life and the life of her three best friends. She’s now a former Boston PD officer who’s forced to go back to her hometown, the site of the ritual, and she finds out that the evil she called forth is still there, and she’s probably the only one who can put it back to rest.

    For a decade, she’s tried to escape it, and there are a lot of dark family secrets, black magic, and there’s also a mystery for her to solve, because when she comes back to town, she finds out that kids who are roughly the age she was when she conducted the ritual have been disappearing into the Coffin Hill woods, which are these spooky, dark, primeval woods outside of town that people tend to get lost in for inexplicable reasons, and report strange happenings, and see strange things.

    So all of that is waiting for poor Eve when she comes back from Boston, not in the best of shape, and kind of looking to settle down for a bit. In a nutshell, that’s what you can expect from the first issue.

    Coffin Hill ComicsTFAW: Awesome! What do you find most interesting about the character of Eve Coffin?

    CK: I think Eve is interesting in terms of characters that I’ve written before, in that she’s probably the most morally grey of the protagonists I’ve written. My protagonists tend to be a little more good and lawful than she is, and I’m having a really good time exploring what she is and isn’t willing to do, in terms of doing bad things for the right reasons.

    It’s also an interesting contrast to write her when she was young, a decade ago, because she was pretty happy using black magic and getting what she wanted, not really caring about anyone else. Which of course led to some pretty bad consequences for her.

    She’s definitely tried to turn it around since then, but she’s still quite flexible on what is or isn’t lawful, or good or bad. She does what she thinks is right, but maybe not what everyone else considers right, or legal — or justified, even! It’s been really fun to get to explore someone who’s more of an antihero.

    TFAW: I was wondering how someone could be a “lowlife from a high-society family.”

    CK: Yeah! (Laughs.) Her family is very old, they’re very wealthy — they’ve been in New England forever. They have tons of blue-blooded old money. They have lots of high-society cred, and Eve’s just not interested in that at all. When she was a teenager, it was because she was rebelling. She didn’t want to be a debutante. She didn’t want to go to tea parties and take ballroom dancing lessons, and she kind of went out of her way to be a jerk to her parents, as we all do when we’re 16 or 17.

    Coffin Hill #1 Preview Page 1Coffin Hill #1 Preview Page 2Coffin Hill #1 Preview Page 3Coffin Hill #1 Preview Page 4
    All images courtesy of DC Entertainment.

    Her family has a lot of powerful black magic, and she was able to take it further. And then, when she saw the result of what she had done, she tried to conduct this ritual that went horribly wrong. It kind of skewed everything being part of this high-society family had to offer her. So she said, “Write me out of the will, I don’t want to have any contact with you, I’m going to make it on my own in Boston.”

    Then 10 years later, she’s starting off a very successful career in the Boston PD, and she’s really badly injured on the job in the first issue, and she has to come home, because she has no more money and no more prospects. She has to come limping back, and face her wrongs and her family and say, “Well, I can’t make it on my own, I guess I have to come home now,” and then she finds out things in her hometown are not as great as she thought. She gets sucked back into everything she left when she ran away 10 years ago.

    Coffin Hill ComicsTFAW: Which family members is Eve going to be interacting with? Who’s left of her family?

    CK: She is definitely interacting a lot with her mother, whose name is Eleanor. She’s basically the rich high-society matriarch from hell. Just add some magical powers to the mom from the TV show Revenge, and you’ve got her. She’s kind of hell on wheels and she’s awful, but awful characters are so fun to write that I try to fit her in here and there wherever possible.

    You get to see her in the past in the first issue, interacting with Eve when she was a teenager. It was so much fun to write because I remember when I was 16 — “No Mom, I hate you, get away from me!” and mix it all up with black magic. Their screwed-up family dynamic was just so much fun.

    Eve also has a very strong connection with her grandmother — she was the one that she felt closest to as a kid, and the one who gave her what little moral compass she has. Her grandmother was very different than her mother. She wasn’t selfish and out for herself. She took legacy of black magic the Coffin family has very seriously. It’s like a weapon; you have to be careful who you point it at, and only use it when it’s absolutely necessary.

    Eve’s had a tiny bit of good influence from her, which is what I think saved her from turning out terrible like the rest of her family. I hint at other Coffins in the first couple of issues, all the way back to the Salem witch trials, and I can say maybe, possibly, you may see them later on in the story arc, all the way back to the 1600s. But I don’t want to give out spoilers.

    TFAW: Eve, like Luna Wilder from your Nocturne City series of novels, is a cop. What is it that captures your attention about the combination of the supernatural and the police life?

    CK: I think, on a basic level, it’s because when you’re a cop, you have to be very logical, and very reality based and fact based. And obviously, when you’re dealing with the supernatural, that flies right out the window.

    Eve is unique because she’s always known that such things exist — she herself has the ability to tap into otherworldly powers and abilities that most people don’t consider to be real, but then she’s also trying to get as far away from that life as she can. I thought being a cop was a pretty natural job for someone who was trying to help people, and base herself in reality as much as possible. I really like the juxtaposition, on a personal level.

    For a long time, before I got into writing, I thought I wanted to go into law enforcement. So it’s a field I feel an affinity for. I find cop characters very interesting when they’re morally grey, like Eve is, and it leads to a lot of interesting paths for your character to take, and interesting conflicts for me, as a writer, to explore. It’s one of my personal things that I like to poke at again and again with my stories, and see if I can tease out new, interesting fault lines from it.

    Coffin Hill ComicsTFAW: Coffin Hill is your comics debut, right?

    CK: It is, it’s the very first thing I’ve ever written for comics!

    TFAW: What was it about the premise of Coffin Hill that made it a comic rather than a novel, for you?

    CK: Coffin Hill started off as an idea I had for a novel years and years ago, and I think the reason it never worked is it needed to be laid out in a specific way, and it needed that visual punch to bring all of these twisty, disparate plot elements together.

    It has such a dense, labyrinthine plot, and sometimes that can be hard to shoehorn into one book, without confusing your reader. Since comics are a visual medium, you can switch points of view, and you can switch time periods so easily. You can convey in one panel what it would take three pages to describe in a book, so it lends itself really naturally to a visual story.

    I describe the plot of Coffin Hill as a snake swallowing its own tail. Eve thinks she knows what happened, but then at the end of the first issue she discovers that she really doesn’t know what happened that night, and what she thinks she saw was just one tiny part of the bigger picture. Her story arc goes on as more and more of the layers start to peel away, and she starts to get deeper and deeper into this labyrinth of family secrets.

    TFAW: What’s been the most surprising aspect of creating a comic book series?

    CK: For me, coming from the world of print novels and prose novels, it’s been how fast everything has moved! When you write a novel, you can spend literally years waiting for it to be published.

    I started working with Vertigo at the beginning of this year, and Coffin Hill #1 is coming out at the beginning of October — that’s breakneck speed compared to what I’m used to! The artist, Inaki Miranda, and my editor, Shelly Bond, they get back to me so fast — I think they just never sleep. They must drink all the coffee in the world, because I’ll turn in a script, and 12 hours later, Shelly will say, “Great, here’s all my notes!” And Inaki will say, “Here’s my preliminary art!”

    It’s been great, it’s been gratifying to me as somebody who’s been used to the slow pace of prose publishing. It’s been fun and very different, and just such a different medium, because there are so many elements, like the art, and all of the editorial input and everything, it’s been really just a great experience so far. So — knock on wood — I’m just going to stay enthusiastic and starry eyed about this as long as I can.

    Coffin Hill Comics
    The cover of Coffin Hill #3, courtesy of DC Entertainment.

    TFAW: How has it been working with Inaki? Were you part of the selection process for the artist?

    CK: Shelly Bond actually brought us together. She said, “Here’s an artist working on Fairest, and I think he’s willing to do some concept art for you,” and his concept art was amazing, and he ended up coming onto the book, and I could not be happier. I am not visually inclined, or artistically inclined at all, so I should not have been allowed to make the selection.

    I’m so glad that Shelly took the wheel there, because Inaki worked out better than I ever could have hoped. His style is a wonderful match for the kind of story I’m trying to tell. It’s got this wonderful dreamy quality that’s perfect for Eve’s story, especially. In the first issue you see the ritual, and you see the opulent parties she was part of as a teenager, and this sort of stark, gritty, unhappy life that she has now as an adult in Boston. Inaki does such a wonderful job with the juxtaposition, and all of the creepy, magical stuff that goes on. I’m very fan-girly about him.

    TFAW: What’s coming up next? Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

    CK: I’m really so excited about Coffin Hill right now, it’s been my focus for the last six months, because I wanted to do the best job possible. And I am writing novels. I’m working on a brand-new urban fantasy novel series right now, but the comic has been my life. It’s been an awesome experience.

    Big thanks to Caitlin Kittredge and Vertigo Comics for a fantastic interview! Browse Coffin Hill comics now and pre-order to save 20%.


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