This interview may be one of the only things Caitlin Kittredge has done that won’t keep you up at night. Before she introduced us to the residents of Coffin Hill, the supernatural horror series she writes for Vertigo, Caitlin first made her name as a novelist, penning the Nocturne City, Black London, Iron Codex and Icarus Project series of novels. While her work to this date has been greatly varied, in all of it Caitlin has reinvented the familiar, giving us entirely new spins on witches, werewolves, faeries, hellhounds…even super heroes.
There’s much to frighten and startle you in Caitlin’s books, much to amaze you and entrance you, and the best thing is that she shows no sign of slowing down. Coffin Hill recently released its second trade collection and is now on its 18th issue. Caitlin will publish the second novel in a new series of books, Hellhound Chronicles, later this year as well as make her first dip into the DC Universe with a story in Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman.
In short, it’s going to be quite a year for Caitlin Kittredge, and it seemed like a perfect time to get to know this imaginative and prolific young writer a bit better.
Coffin Hill Vol. 1 (Cover art by Dave Johnson)
Caitlin, you initially broke out as a novelist. But have you always had interest in writing comics?
Absolutely. From the time I picked up the first issues of Sandman in college, I was blown away by the possibilities of the art form. When I first started selling books to publishers it was basically impossible to break into comics laterally. I was really lucky to meet a fellow author who'd been solicited by Vertigo and get in contact with my eventual editor over there. I went through about three or four pitches before they picked up Coffin Hill. Now, of course, comics editors are going after all kinds of people to write and draw for them, and I think that's great. There's been a huge influx of talent into the field in the past ten years. I'm actually kinda glad that it took me a little while to cross over—there's never been a better time to work in comics.
What was the first comic book you remember reading? Do you have any favorites?
The first thing I ever picked up was probably a random issue of Spider-Man when I was seven or eight. I remember looking through it and having no idea what was going on, but I was into the format. I became a serious lil' comics nerd for Batman and the X-Men when I was around fourteen, and drove everyone in my immediate vicinity crazy with my newfound store of Wolverine factoids, I'm sure. I remember my mom bought me a copy of The Dark Knight Returns as a birthday gift that year...she didn't really "get" why I was so into this stuff but she was a librarian and she actually ended up creating a whole graphic novel section in our town library because I got obsessed.
I still love reading comics, and I try to read widely and pick up new titles every month. I gotta give a shout out to The Kitchen and Gotham Academy, which have been awesome, Catwoman, Ms. Marvel, The Wicked + The Divine, The Fade-Out...and that's just the top of my stack "to be read"...if I tried to list all my recent favorites we'd be here all day. If we're talking old-school I still go back and read Sandman every so often, and I own most of the Hellblazer trades, which I will always have a soft spot for. And since the TV show is coming out soonish, I've been reading Preacher.
Coffin Hill #18 (Art by Inaki Miranda)
Did you always envision Coffin Hill as a comic book series? Do you think it works better that way?
It was definitely always meant to be a comic book. It started as a few chapters of a novel way back when, but I could never make it work. When Vertigo contacted me and said they were looking for books specifically about witchcraft with a horror bent, I didn't even have to think about it. I knew Coffin Hill would be the thing that got me in the door. Working with Inaki Miranda, my artist, has been a great experience and adding a visual component to the story finally made it gel into something greater than the sum of its parts.
Was it difficult transitioning from writing novels to writing comics?
I'm going to sound like such a precious little overachiever, but no, not at all. Scripting work and writing a draft of a novel are two completely different lanes of the freeway. Sometimes flipping from one to the other takes a little work but the actual learning curve for comic scripts was pretty quick for me. I had a lot of good hands-on assistance from the team at Vertigo and I was lucky that Inaki and I communicated well and often. If I hadn't been able to talk to him about all of the visual stuff, I think the whole process would have been harder, but so far I love writing for comics and I don't plan to stop.
Coffin Hill #18 (Art by Inaki Miranda)
I’m really excited to read your Sensation Comics story! Was writing Wonder Woman something you’ve wanted to do?
I actually never envisioned getting the chance to write Wonder Woman! I tend to be on the darker, morally ambiguous side of things in terms of the types of lead characters I end up writing. I didn't place myself in that milieu of high-echelon heroics that Diana inhabits, where your lead is one of the good guys with capital Gs. She's a very complex, very multi-layered, very engaging heroine and honestly I thought I might skew a little too grim with my stuff to be a good match-up! But fortunately Kristy Quinn thought differently and invited me to write this Sensation story and I had a blast. It was a totally outside-the-comfort-zone experience writing a purely heroic character but I ended up having the best time getting in Diana's head. Of course, the story also involves Gotham City, Harley Quinn and a monster circus so I didn't completely abandon my roots.
Are there any other DC Comics characters you’d like a crack at?
I would like a crack at any character DC feels like pointing me at. Seriously. I am partial to the ladies, of course, and I'd be thrilled to get invited back to the Wonder Woman sandbox, but I really feel like there's no downside to being asked to hop into a DC book as a writer.
Coffin Hill #18 (Art by Inaki Miranda)
Finally, what’s something you’ve read or seen lately that you found very cool?
Just as a pure fan, I think you guys are killing it at the TV game—The Flash is the most fun super hero show I've ever seen. I really dug Constantine, too. Outing myself as a giant nerd for something that's not comics, I read a ton of nonfiction and true crime stuff, the weirder the better. Cults, disasters, serial killers, obscure historical figures—I get all my best ideas from reading those type of narratives.
I recently read Dead Wake, a story about the sinking of the Lusitania by Erik Larson, which was spectacular. All of his books are fantastic, and my personal favorite is Thunderstruck, about the birth of transatlantic wireless radio and how Marconi made it happen. If you're into spies, another thing I can geek out over for hours, A Spy Among Friends was published last year but it's an incredible story of Kim Philby, a British double agent for the Soviets who passed information to Moscow for over 20 years without being caught. This is another area where I could go on and on and on so it's probably best I stop with three books!
If you haven’t yet discovered Coffin Hill, both COFFIN HILL VOL. 1: FOREST OF THE NIGHT and COFFIN HILL VOL. 2: DARK ENDEAVORS are now available in stores and as a digital download. In addition, the entire series is available in the DC Digital Comics Store and through your favorite digital retailer. Look for Caitlin’s Wonder Woman story to appear in SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN later this year.