Embrace Your Inner Magic
“Witch Lit, as you might astutely guess from the title, has to do with witches. From there though, the genre in my opinion is really flexible. It can pulpy, it can high brow; it can be for young readers or any age; it can have tons of magic or it can very little. ”
By K.A Miltimore
Today’s readers are bombarded by genres and sub-genres and sub-sub-genres. Everything has a category. Everything has a shelf and that shelf influences everything from cover design to marketing to content. Whether you are traditionally published or self-publishing, the message to authors seems to be “stay in your lane”, whatever that lane might be. We can argue the merits of these genres and whether they help or hurt the reader later (hint: I am for tearing down walls). The written world we are living in currently has categories and one I’d like to explore with you today is Witch Lit.
Witch Lit, as you might astutely guess from the title, has to do with witches. From there though, the genre in my opinion is really flexible. It can pulpy, it can high brow; it can be for young readers or any age; it can have tons of magic or it can very little. As with the definition of witch itself, it is hard to put your finger exactly on what Witch Lit means.
For me, as someone who writes in the genre and reads it, the definition is more about what it means for the reader and the characters than any hard and fast rules. My personal definition is a book that has witchcraft (in whatever form that takes), some kind of magic (even a little), and most importantly, empowerment or the struggle to find personal power.
Before we dive into what I mean by all that, let’s take a step back and look at what it means to be a witch. Today’s literary witch would look very different than the one Cotton Mather and his brothers of the Salem Witch trials might recognize. To be a witch can mean one walking a pagan religious path, but it doesn’t have to (in my opinion). It can mean someone who embraces the magic in everyday life, someone who is intune with nature and the seasons, someone who embraces a particular esthetic, someone who finds power in claiming a label that would have meant ruin in decades past. It can mean all of the above or none of the above. To be a witch is a personal definition.
And back to the definition then of Witch Lit – if the definition is so squishy, does it have any meaning? I would argue it does. There is enough continuity in the kinds of books that appear in Witch Lit that I can say they are loosely under the same tent. I love the flexibility of the genre – the all-inclusive nature that beckons readers. “Come find your magic,” the titles seem to say. Life, as we all know, can stomp the magic right out of your spirit if you let it. Witch Lit helps build that back up a bit.
Do I have favorite titles? I’m glad you asked. Yes, there are always new titles to explore, but for someone looking for a few recommendations, I think these books speak to the very best of what Witch Lit means to me.
- Practical Magic – by Alice Hoffman. I would guess this would be in the top ten of most Witch Lit readers. It is a charming book as well as a charming movie (which isn’t always the case when good books get made into film). Dip your toe into the world of the Owens family and find love, personal power and a perfect blend of witchy wonder.
- The Witch of Blackbird Pond – by Elizabeth George Speare. This is a book from my childhood and it set me on my path as both a reader and writer. It had a profound impact on me and it does a marvelous job of showing what it means to be on the outside of a community looking in. It actually breaks my rule of “some magic” but I still feel it is required reading. Rules are meant to be broken by witches.
- The Vine Witch – by Luanne G. Smith. This is a popular book that I think belongs squarely in the Witch Lit category. The tale has magic, a strong main character finding her power, beautiful imagery, and the kind of alternative history universe that lends itself well to the genre.
- The Witches of New York – by Ami McKay. A sprawling story, set in the turn of the 20th century. The magic in this story is subdued, almost more magic as empowerment versus spells and such. The characters are rich and nuanced, the world-building and story are broad and you’ll find this story something to really sink your teeth into.
“Today’s literary witch would look very different than the one Cotton Mather and his brothers of the Salem Witch trials might recognize.”
The list could be endless really – there are so many books that can fit under this title. Stories set in magical schools, stories set in the historic past and current cities. Stories with romance, stories with heartbreak, stories with comradery and sisterhood and stories of solitary characters facing challenges and insurmountable odds.
If you want a genre that embraces the power within and the everyday magic all around us, give Witch Lit a try. And maybe bust through a few of the genre walls that define everything.
About the Author
K. A. Miltimore is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest who has followed the advice of her 5th grade teacher, Miss Hammond, and become a writer. She loves mid-century fashion, 80s music and nachos (not necessarily in that order). With her husband and son, she loves exploring quirky local towns, and dreams of dragging them both to Iceland for a tour someday. Her tombstone will likely read “Always Creating”. In addition to writing, she enjoys making jewel spiders, looking for great Washington red wines, and re-watching the movies that she has forgotten over the years.