“To all of us who ever tried to twitch our noses and make things happen”
That’s from the dedication to Mr. & Mrs. Witch, my new novel out today. And, if you’ve ever seen Bewitched, or even a clip of Bewitched, I bet you know exactly what I mean. I thought instead of telling you — again — just about the book, I’d instead write about why I love witches and why I think they’re having a moment (besides that we all love them, duh)…and a little about the book.
Say the word witch and the quickest associations that leap to mind for me are: women, power, and… burning. Maybe also…fun? Which is weird to throw in with burning. But it’s true, whether the witches in question are Samantha smoking hot or Macbeth’s ominous hags or historical women who claimed to be witches or who got classed that way, they are often women, perceived as powerful, and so people — usually men or other reps of the patriarchy — fear them and thus the burning. But there’s also the place witches bring for playful imaginative longing, for them to conjure what they want, what we want; there’s the possibility they might be in league with not the devil but each other. Friends! Women being friends! The horror. What might they get up to together?
Witches don’t fit in, even if they try to. Mostly, they don’t need to. They are outside the social order, another thing that makes them scary to some. Maybe witches in a given story are wicked and evil, maybe they are kind and generous, maybe they are both or something in between. That’s already a much wider variety than many types of characters that tend to be women (and the few female archetypes) get to encompass. How glorious! Witches are agents of possibility.
Witches and witchcraft have had a swell of popularity over the past few years, not just in books, but in pop culture and, well, real life. We have two thriving shops that sell witchy goods here in town — Creatures of Whim and White Willow Emporium (both of which I visit way too often, and plan to take Instagram live field trips to later this week!) — and it’s not that big a city. It makes perfect sense. Women and our bodies and, yes, our power are under attack. We all know this. And the pandemic reminded us of how thin the mortal veil really is. And with climate change, we’re reminded daily how little control we have over nature, and how maybe being more in tune with it might be a good idea.
So it’s not surprising at all to me that traditions that empower folk wisdom and intuition and so many other things we tend to align with the feminine end of the spectrum are having a renaissance. And it’s also joyfully wonderful to see so many books exploring this and giving us all an escape valve from a society that is literally attacking not just women but also those who don’t perform gender a specific way’s right to exist. Daily. A reminder that we do all have power in being who we are meant to be and that is what those villains — real villains — on the attack fear most. Their inability to understand us makes them want to control us.
I named the secret agent society of witches in Mr. & Mrs. Witch — which includes both men and women and non-binary people, though it’s mainly run by women — C.R.O.N.E. for a reason. Christopher helped me reverse engineer the acronym; we landed on Covert Responses to Occult Nightmares by Enchantresses. But part of the reason why C.R.O.N.E. had to be it? I’ve been saying hashtag crone life for years. Much the same way grrls helped reclaimed the word girl and so many others when I was a teen (chick, lady, babe), I am all for us claiming these words generally meant to imply women are past their prime. Crone. Hag. Because fuck that. We need a new, everlasting prime. To me, the word crone can just as easily symbolize freedom, power, flying (literally in this case) under the radar. What better name for a covert society of witches? What better way to live than saying women can be rad at all ages? (And other people too!)
The hero’s counterpart organization, H.U.N.T.E.R., was similarly reverse-engineered — Humans Undertaking Nocturnal Terror and Evil Reduction) and it’s no accident that its patriarchal leanings are part of what’s wrong with it, ultimately.
There are many ways to write about witches. Many kinds of witches to write about. Many kinds of magic to write about. And while Mr. & Mrs. Witch is on one level intended as pure, sexy, escapist fun — there are familiars that are really ostriches who glamour up as chickens for outsiders, a horse that masquerades as a toad, and yes, magic secret agents on opposite sides who fall in love — it is also about how we can come together to throw off limiting restrictions and use love to make each other better by creating new ways to be. By not being so scared of what outsiders are capable of that you try to stop them from living their lives, but instead see what beautiful new possibilities exist because they are here. Because we are here.
Also? Who doesn’t want to be able to poof a glass of champagne that doesn’t make you too soused into existence? So settle in for sexy spies and witches, hijinks, hemlock, combat brooms, and blowing up the patriarchy (with the help of a few good hunters and a lot of powerful witches).
Snag the book wherever you like to get your books and remember leaving reviews, recommending it to others, and sharing is SO APPRECIATED and basically the witchcraft of word of mouth. If audio is your pleasure, voila:
I hope to see some of you at Joseph-Beth tonight at 7 p.m. for a conversation with the fabulous Tif Marcelo. Hit the bistro for themed drinks beforehand! I’ll be having a C.R.O.N.E. Potion or two.