Interview: Caitlin Kittredge On Her New Horror Comic, ‘Coffin Hill’

Fans of urban fantasy know Caitlin Kittredge quite well; she’s the author behind the Nocturne City, Black London, and Iron Codex novel series. And she’s coming to comics through Vertigo with her new horror series, Coffin Hill, about things going horribly wrong in the New England woods. Kittredge took a moment to talk about the story, her inspirations, and what we can expect from Coffin Hill. And, for your delectation, there’s a slightly NSFW preview of the book under the jump.

Gamma Squad: This marks your first comic book series, if I’m not mistaken. How did you come to Vertigo?

Caitlin Kittredge: A writer friend got me in touch with Shelly Bond at Vertigo way back in 2009. I pitched a bunch of projects to her over the intervening years but nothing quite worked out. Then last year, she asked me if I was working on any horror projects, anything that might fit at Vertigo. I had the first three chapters of the unfinished novel that would become Coffin Hill on my hard drive, and things snowballed from there. The first issue is basically the horror story I’ve always wanted to write–it’s got black magic, ghosts, a main character haunted by the mistakes she made as a child, who’s now grown and trying to discover what really happened one pivotal night when she was sixteen. It’s also got a classic noir-esque missing person mystery threading through the whole first arc of the book, tying to the story of Eve, the heroine’s, past dabbling in black witchcraft.

Gamma Squad: How did Coffin Hill first get started?

Kittredge: Like I said, Coffin Hill started as a novel, one I could never quite get working the way I wanted it to. The basic building blocks–the New England setting, the powerful, shadowy family with unfathomably horrible secrets, the witchcraft element–were all there, but it wasn’t until I came up with the character of Eve that everything came together as Coffin Hill, the comic. Eve is the lynchpin of the story, the crucial element that old novel draft was missing. I’m a big reader of classic detective fiction and in a lot of ways Eve is a modern, supernatural update to the old Sam Spade style detective, wounded and world-weary but always plodding, inexorably toward the truth, even though Eve knows the truth about Coffin Hill, her home town, is far worse than anything she can imagine.

Gamma Squad: What are some of the contrasts you’ve found, working on comics as compared to fiction?

Kittredge: The main contrast is speed–in the print world, you often get months to years to finish a draft and turn it in, and you can easily wait 12 to 18 months for your book to see print. Comics move so fast–first script draft to final art in a matter of a few weeks so far on Coffin Hill. I admit I wasn’t used to turning in finished work so fast but I’ve definitely gotten over the learning curve and am having a great time. I’ve also had a great time using the script format versus drafting a novel–scripts are so rewarding, and I enjoy pestering my friends with snippets of character dialogue (which I of course read dramatically with varying voices) to see if things are working.

Gamma Squad: What’s it like working with an artist so closely on a book?

Kittredge: Inaki has been great, really the best partner I could have asked for on a story of this type. He read the initial script and really loved it, and came back with art that blew me away for the first issue. His and my visions for the dark, elegant, but at the same time brutal horror feel of the book–I’d describe it as H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King married with a Dario Argento film–meshed perfectly. I really appreciate having an artist to bounce visual concepts and ideas off of, and he does the same. I tend to get very effusive and fangirly where the art is concerned, and Inaki deserves every bit of it.

Gamma Squad: New England is a fairly fertile ground for horror. Why’d you choose that setting?

Kittredge: I grew up about 45 minutes from Salem, Massachusetts and the witch trials, the history and folklore and superstitions of the area were a constant backdrop of my childhood. I grew up at a seasonal campground that my parents managed, which was abandoned from October through April, so I used to explore the empty cabins and wander these deep, primeval forests all by myself–which now that I think about it sounds like the beginning of a Stephen King novel. I’ve traveled all over the US and New England is one of the spookiest settings I’ve found. There’s a certain energy in the cities but especially in the small, rural towns that just has a metaphysical weight to it you don’t feel in other parts of the country. I’ve always wanted to use those places that imprinted on me as a child, and those ghost stories and folktales I grew up with in a story that would do the place justice.

Coffin Hill #1 hits stands October 9th. But if you’re not convinced, here are the first five pages…