The Story of Witches by Kathryn Meyer Griffith
What is more perfect at Halloween than stories about witches? Horror author Kathryn Meyer Griffith recounts how her 1993 novel Witches came into being…
“In 1991 I’d already been writing for about twenty years, on and off (though there was a long gap where I didn’t write because of a divorce, the finding of a full time job to support myself and my son, and a remarriage… life) when I contracted my fourth novel, my first of four to Zebra paperbacks, a romantic horror called Vampire Blood, about a family of vampires who ran a movie theater in a small town. I’d already had a fifth novel, The Last Vampire, completed and in with them when they asked me for another novel.
For many years I’d played around with an idea about a present day white witch who finds a diary of a long dead witch – either good or bad, I hadn’t decided – in her old house’s attic, or basement, or under a floorboard. The story would have been about the good witch reliving the other dead witch’s life through the diary. I’d always called that possible book Rachel’s Diary in my head.
So in 1991 or 1992 I began the witch book and it quickly metamorphosed into a story of a present day good witch, Amanda Givens, who’s yanked into a perilous seventeenth century past by an evil witch, Rachel Coxe, to take her place…and die a horrible death as an accused witch. I had the idea then to actually send Amanda into the past to live (for a while) the other witch’s life. Of course, being a good witch, Amanda, changes the other witch’s unsavory reputation but still ends up in a prison waiting to die for Rachel’s earlier crimes. The story, simply put, would be how Amanda overcomes her trials and tribulations, finds her lost eternal love again in the past, and finds a way to return to the present alive. In the process, learning some important life lessons about accepting what life has dealt her and the value of sisters, friendships and the love of those around her. Or good versus evil and, in the end, good wins and is rewarded. I also threw in a few touches of humor in the form of three precocious witches’ familiars… a mind-reading and speaking cat called Amadeus, a mouse, Tituba, and a tiny bat, Gibbiewackett… all with feisty personalities and quirks of their own.
I was excited about the book as I was writing it and when it was done, pleased with it, but had no idea that over the years it’d become the jewel of my writing career and the book that my fans would love the best of all my books. I loved the cat face cover Zebra did for it (a rare occurrence as I’d learned the hard way that covers weren’t always what I’d envisioned and in the early days I had no choice but to accept whatever the publisher’s gave me… and some weren’t so hot, let me tell you!).
Witches came out in 1993 and did well. I noticed soon after as I went on to publish other books that I got the most response and admiration for it. Readers loved the three sisters, Amadeus and Amanda, Gibbiewackett and Tituba. In those days I was too busy working full time as a graphic artist, living my life and writing new books to notice. It went into a second printing in 2000 and after that, sadly, went out of print. But my fans never forgot it. I’d find comments on it and discussions on the internet… even customer reviews raving about it years and years later. I tried talking Zebra into reissuing it but after Zebra and I parted ways there was no talking them into it.
Then in 2010 when Damnation Books contracted my 13th and 14th novels, the publisher, Kim Richards, asked about all (there was 7 at the time) my out-of-print Zebra and Leisure backlist novels and if I’d like to have them reissued as new paperbacks and, for the first time ever, in e-books. Sure, that’d be great! I told her. And, as they say, the rest is history. Between June 2010 and June 2012 all 7 of them (and now another 3 of my Wild Rose Press novels and two short stories from 2007) updated, rewritten and with stunning new covers will be out again. All in e-books for the first time.
Of course, that’s meant a heck of a lot of rewriting. A lot of work. Those early novels go back twenty-seven years and were first written in the days of snail mail and on an electric typewriter before the internet, e-mails and Windows Track Changes (for editing). Oh, boy, did they need revising. As of today I can happily say they’re all rewritten now except the very first one, Evil Stalks the Night, 1984; yet even that one will be completed soon.
I’ve often been asked what I think of e-books and I have to say it feels strange, all these years later, to be so into them. I think it’s fantastic to be able to put thousands of books on one little lightweight hand-held contraption and sell them as inexpensively as we do. I started publishing e-books four years ago and have seen such great changes in even that short a time. I love the editing process now. With Track Changes it’s truly a collaborative effort between the editor and the writer and it’s taught me far more about the craft of writing than the old way of just sending off the manuscript, being asked to change certain things, but then never seeing any of those changes or the basic edits until the book was printed and in my hand. Now, no more pages added by an editor (that actually happened in Evil Stalks the Night. The editor, who I never met, added three pages of his own and I didn’t even know about it until I held the book in my hand. And the three pages didn’t make sense… ech!) that I never know about or see until the book comes out. Yeah.
With a chuckle I recall a writer’s convention I attended in 1990 – yes, that far back – and the main topic back then was…OMG the electronic books are coming! They’re going to make us authors obsolete! Print books are going to die a terrible lonely death… etc., etc. Lack and alas, what are we going to do? Ha, ha. It’s ironic that 21 years later I’m in love with e-books. They’re the future. And I think there’ll always be room for print books as well as electronic ones.
So Witches… (Damnation Books) was rereleased in 2011. I’m thrilled. The cover is still of Amadeus, the cat, and Dawne Dominique did an amazing job on it. My editor, Alison O’Byrne, helped me make it a better book than eighteen years ago. Of all my novels, I’m most proud of it. It’s held up pretty well. I hope it finds many more readers and fans.
So that’s the story of Witches…the little book that wouldn’t die.”