Kirsty Logan talks about her latest novel Now She Is Witch: The Skinny

Kirsty Logan, the acclaimed author of the likes of The Gracekeepers, The Twilightand Things we say in the dark, has been working on his most recent novel for years. The result, out this month, is the latest stretch of Logan’s gothic classic, twisted interpretations of fairy tales and fantasy, following two young women – the witch Lux and the rage-driven Else – who, with nothing left to lose after immeasurable pain, they decided to take revenge together.

Appropriately for the kind of dark, folkloric storytelling that long ago placed Logan on the Scottish literary map, inspiration came from a question that had dogged her for a long time: “I was drawn to writing about witches by the idea of ​​the ‘perfect victim,'” explains Logan. “For a long time, witches were thought of as evil creatures who made deals with the devil and ate babies. Then they were rescued and cast as innocent healers and midwives who never did anything wrong.” But I wanted to ask: why does it have to be completely innocent or completely evil? Does it have to be as simple as villain or victim? Witches show us that the world is more complicated (and indeed more beautiful) than a simple binary.

The novel is set in the Middle Ages, a time to which Logan was deeply drawn, fascinated by the “disconnection between the solid reality of [people’s] daily lives and the fantastic stories they have heard. Even if you are not a historian, Now she is a witch it’s a meticulously researched piece of fantasy, emerging from “whole notebooks filled with weird and gory and beautiful and fantastical detail,” explains Logan. The novel’s past setting was also an opportunity to explore the gender power dynamics of witchcraft and obligatory womanhood that Lux experiences, and to point out the ways in which some things haven’t changed. “One of the reasons she Lux is an outsider is that she doesn’t get her period, so she can’t get pregnant,” Logan explains. “On the one hand, this makes her more secure in this world, as her maternal mortality was very high. But she also marks her as suspicious, as being a wife and mother was one of the few avenues available to women.

Now she is a witch it is rich in genre symbolism, particularly through the wolf and rabbit figures, which recur throughout. The wolf is implicitly masculine and considered a perfect warrior in Celtic mythology, one who drives and hunts and the “death bringer, eternally hungry,” says Logan; the rabbit instead represents the feminine, a symbol of fertility and abundance. Logan mentions the phrase “elle a vu de loup”, or she “she saw the wolf”, French slang for first sexual intercourse, and the Latin “lupa” meaning both whore and she-wolf.

For Logan, “the novel is largely a story about desire, as well as violence, hunger, superstition and light: the wolf is the perfect figure.” The wolf is also connected in fairy tales, especially in Little Red Riding Hood, as a symbol of sexual threat. In Now she is a witch, Logan delves into the duality of the predatory wolf and the prey rabbit, and how some characters reverse their roles. However, he also wishes to emphasize the cyclical nature of hunting and the moral dilemma it poses. “The easiest way to gain power,” says Logan, “is to victimize someone more powerless than yourself.”

In Now she is a witch, several characters chose their own names, a narrative choice that for Logan was an act of redefinition. “One of the things I wanted to explore in the book is the power to name and choose and define ourselves,” Logan explains. “If we don’t define who we are, then others will for us.” For Else, whose given name the reader never learns, this redefinition comes from a “series of changes she goes through; she feels she has become ‘something else’.”

There is a latent strangeness in this kind of redefining that Now she is a witch, leans towards: exploring the inarticulateness of queer identity at a time when it could not be named. Writing a historical fiction book as a contemporary author, Logan explains, can be a difficult balancing act. “[It was] a challenge to figure out how to convey historically accurate queer identity to a modern audience,” she says, “although I thought it was important to try. The novel features a non-binary character, Ash, though they don’t use that term, which works to further destabilize the notion of binary that is at the heart of the book. “Queer people have existed throughout history,” adds Logan, “and to pretend otherwise is at best naïve and at worst dangerous.”

This is ultimately what Logan hopes readers get the hang of Now she is a witch: that the world is more complicated and beautiful than a simple binary. “Throughout history people have been scapegoated and made to be the Other, and we see that more than ever,” Logan says. “But it’s never as simple as Us and Them, and if anyone is trying to tell us it’s that simple, we should be asking why.”


Now She Is Witch will be released January 12 on Vintage

www.kirstylogan.com

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