As Vertigo's Coffin Hill moves toward its second story arc, writer Caitlin Kittredge is delving deeper into the mysteries about what Eve Coffin unleashed years ago in her Massachusetts hometown.
In May, new readers can pick up the series' first trade paperback, "Forest of the Night," which collects issues #1-7. The series, which is written by horror novelist Caitlin Kittredge with art by Inaki Miranda, follows the story of how Eve returns to the sleepy hollow where she grew up, only to be confronted by the legacy of her witch family (which dates back to the Salem era) — and her own links to the disappearances of kids who visit the seemingly haunted Coffin Hill woods.
Current readers of the series got several answers in March's issue #6, but a cliffhanger opened the door to new mysteries that Kittredge promises will be resolved in upcoming stories. This week, Coffin Hill #7 will answer more questions about Eve's mother, in a stand-alone story drawn by Stephen Sadowski and Mark Farmer (Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland).
Newsarama talked to Kittredge about the horror story's female protagonist, the connections in her own heritage to the story's setting of New England, and what's coming up next in Coffin Hill.
Newsarama: Caitlin, what's the response been like from readers of Coffin Hill?
Caitlin Kittredge: It's been beyond my wildest imagination — especially their reaction to issue #6, which is the finale of the first story arc.
I've written 14 books for various publishers, and I've gotten great critical notices and I have some core fans. But the response to Coffin Hill has been so amazing to me! All of the sudden I have all this attention for the story, which is probably my favorite story I've ever told. So it's like a dream come true.
I may sound a little too gushy, but that's my honest reaction to the fans' reaction to Coffin Hill. It's been amazing.
Nrama: How would you describe the evolution of Eve as a character since we first met her?
Kittredge: When we first meet Eve, there isn't much to like about her. She's just this hardcore, straight-ahead person. She has a mission and doesn't care much about collateral damage.
But as the story's gone on, I've been surprised how much her vulnerability has grown. She's come home and reconnected with her family and her old friends. And it's been interesting to see how much she cares for her mom and friends and everything. It's been fun for me to expose that, little by little. She's definitely surprised me, over these six issues, as we've taken her deeper and deeper into the Coffin Hill woods.
Really, this whole first arc is personal to me, in a way, because she goes off on her own and doesn't want anything to do with her family or where she's from, and I had a very similar experience in my early 20's. I moved to the other side of the country and didn't have much contact with my family. But then about four years ago, coming home, I finally felt like an adult. You know, facing up to the stuff you left behind. And I think a lot of readers can relate to that. You have to take the step toward being a real grown-up.
So it's been an interesting journey for me, and for Eve, and for some readers, I hope, too.
Nrama: You've also delved into the mythology of witchcraft, particularly in New England, as you've explored this mystery of the Coffins. What's that experience been like? Has it surprised you the way it's surprised Eve so much?
Kittredge: Oh, yeah, Eve has been very surprised — there were some rude awakenings waiting for Eve when she came home, about her family and the lengths that they've gone to hold onto their power. Their power is very much a double-edged sword.
I do have a lot of family connections to New England, and Massachusetts specifically. My family, in one form or another, was here since pre-Revolutionary War. The history of this area gives a great built-in mythology to the whole series of Coffin Hill. You can always kind of twine that history through whatever story you're currently working on. And I've really enjoyed doing that so far.
However, no one in my family was into black magic, as far as I know. They were mostly shipbuilders and sailors and fishermen.
Nrama: A lot of the characters in the story are women. Is that just something that came with the idea of exploring "witches," or is it something you wanted to do with a horror story?
Kittredge: Obviously, there's a lot of witchcraft mythology attached to either femininity or feminism. I did want to write a horror story with a female protagonist, because I love horror, and I think there needs to be more female horror protagonists.
I don't think you necessarily have to be a strong, badass woman to be a horror protagonist. You can be somebody more like Officer Wilcox, who's a great side character. She's actually one of my favorite characters. And she's very normal — she's kind of an average, small town girl. She went to the police academy. And she's, you know, just trying to do her job. And she's inadvertently gotten sucked into this. And you know, she gets scared sometimes, but she tries to deal with it as gracefully as she can. You do the story a service when there's a spectrum — not just one type of character.
Obviously, there's a lot tied up with Eve and her mom, and the mystique of the Coffin women that have come before.
And you'll find out, actually, in the upcoming issue #7, which is about Eve's mom when she was a kid — because the witchcraft isn't always passed down matrilineally. Sometimes it happens to the son, if the son is an only child.
But there's definitely a lot about mothers and the idea of motherhood, either allegorically or literally, and what it means to be a Coffin woman and carry this terrible power, and what that means for you as both a woman and a person.
So yeah, there's a lot that I tried to pack in there.
Nrama: I know you've got Stephen Sadowski and Mark Farmer coming onto the book for one issue, but the art on the first six issues was done by Inaki Miranda, and he's back with issue #8. How much did Inaki's work contribute to the story you've been telling?
Kittredge: Oh my gosh! I could talk your ear off for hours about Inaki and how great he is! I could go panel-by-panel and point out all the wonderful art choices he made. One things he completely made his own on Coffin Hill are the beautiful page layouts and the way the story flows. That's all him. I'll give him a rough idea of what things need to happen and what dialogue needs to be incorporated, and he comes back with these amazing, beautiful pages.
There's a double-page layout at the end of issue #6, where they're all in the woods, that just blew my mind when I saw it. I couldn't believe that he took what was literally just a paragraph of description and turned it into that!
He's got great sensibilities for a story like this. I couldn't have asked for a better match when I came to Vertigo. I always feel like I can trust him with my stories, which is a really important thing when you're working with an artist.
Nrama: It feels like this issue isn't only an ending, but is also a beginning. You mentioned what's coming up in issue #7, but can you tease some of the things people will see going forward?
Kittredge: Sure. As I said, issue #7 is a stand-alone story about Eve's mom as a little girl, about age 8 or 9, back in the '50s. And we get to see a little bit more of Eve, and her grandmother Mercy doing some pretty bad stuff. And we'll delve into the history of Coffin Hill, looking at different characters at different times.
And then with issue #8, we start a brand new story arc, and it flashes back to Eve's time in Boston and her work on the Ice Fisher murders, and in the present. And we delve into Nate's background a little bit more, because that's also fascinating and terrifying, and it's going to have a big impact on the story going forward.
So you're going to get some answers, but there will also be a lot of new questions that open up. I know the issue #6 cliffhanger left things hanging a little, but hopefully I left it hanging in a good way that gets people interested in the next developments.