We are excited to feature "The Willingham Bay Witches" by Author Sarah Jackson in the fabulous February 2023 issue of Electric Spec
. Sarah was kind enough to send along some comments about the story.
My short story The Willingham Bay Witches grew out of three main ideas converging in a fairly haphazard fashion.
I've been a witch fan for a very long time, so while I wasn't at all surprised to find myself writing a story about a coven of witches, I was slightly dismayed that they turned out to be such assholes.
I've written other stories about good, kind witches who are excellent role models, but these three arrived, if not wicked, then definitely ruthless, selfish, and opportunistic.
While my protagonist, Sandy, has a magical gift, they don't particularly align themselves with witchcraft, but do feel envious at the feeling of belonging they believe they might find in a coven. (Though that isn't always the case, as poor Mona discovered to her cost.)
I didn't know it when I started writing the story, but I was exploring some ideas and feelings around femininity and feminine power, which as a feminist I have always championed, but as someone who now identifies as nonbinary, never strongly related to.
I wanted to write witches who were powerful and frightening, but not in the old misogynist mode that so many witches were cast in. They're not bad because they are powerful women, they are powerful women and they're bad. That's what I was aiming for, anyway.
Small town drama!
That all emerged as I was writing, but my starting point was the idea of a witch running a seaside tearoom and lording it over the locals. Evil, but in a kind of petty, mundane way.
The setting was influenced by the small town I grew up in, where there seemed to endless feuds about which pasty shop was the best, or where you got your haircut.
I thought it would be interesting to take these powerful supernatural beings and put them in this very normal place with limited horizons, where a new cafe opening seems like reasonable grounds for murder.
The third ingredient was a bit of film noir pastiche. Once I had the idea for the tearoom coven, I needed a protagonist to discover their schemes.
Initially I thought about making them a real private detective or supernatural investigator (I definitely didn't want to go down the witch hunter route because misogyny). Perhaps even an especially dogged health and safety inspector from the council.
But then I realised it would be much, much funnier to have a dreamer who had done an e-learning course in private investigation (they're real!) and felt equipped to take on the case.
I also thought it would be a fun subversion if they were a disaster bi (like myself) who was already in love with the femme fatale, who in fact goes looking for her rather than waiting for the dame in question to come waltzing into their office.
Once I had those details Sandy appeared more or less fully-formed. It was very enjoyable writing from their point of view because they think they're in Brighton Rock or The 39 Steps, but actually they're in a Point Horror book.
I do hope they ditch Debbie and get their thumbs back.
Thanks, Sarah Very interesting!
"The Willingham Bay Witches" and all the rest of the stories now!