Friday, August 9, 2019

A Witchy Favorite by Joy Preble

Well, here I am, running late yet again. I do not know what it is about the 7th of the month that makes it come and go without me noticing until late in the day on the 8th, but there you go. It happens, people. Book deadlines and bookstore job and the rest of my life probably don't help, either!

But to the point. Favorite character of mine. That's our topic and it's a tough one. Hard to pick since I love them all in different ways, even (or maybe especially) the bad guys but always my main characters who I love to put through misery and drama and see what kind of mettle they have. As one does.

If I have to narrow it down though, I'll always come back to Baba Yaga-- the infamous Russian fairy tale witch who drives the plot engine throughout the Dreaming Anastasia trilogy. Three books of my favorite witch means I spent a load of time with her over a number of years and that I still do, actually, because miracle of miracles, the series is still in print, still selling, and still occasionally getting special publisher promotions almost 10 years after book one arrived in the world. (Let me add here that yes, it is entirely possible to have this occur even if you have not yet been a NYTimes bestseller, for a series that received decent but mixed reviews with no trade stars, and that wasn't initially on the publisher's front list, but broke out anyway.)

So Baba Yaga. I love her so many reasons, not the least because I was able to write back story for an iconic character and come up with my own reasons as to why she is who she is. I love that she has this amazing duality: She can do good or do evil and it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you deserve to be helped or to be chomped into smithereens by her fierce iron teeth.  I love that she has removable hands that scuttle about to do her bidding. I love that she lives in a house on chicken legs with a fence topped by skulls. I love the power of her and her brutal ugliness.

Making her my own meant that I got play with all sides of her including the 'reclaiming the crone' side. Older women still struggle in our culture to be seen as beautiful, as powerful, as smart and worthy and wise. Ageism is rampant in every corner of our professional lives -- and yes in publishing where, like much of the entertainment world, youth is crowed about as though there is a special wisdom there that disappears after 30. Perhaps there is, but there is something to be said for all ages. Picture books even, with their frequent illustrations of grandparents as looking at least 85 and frail, help muddy those waters.

My Baba Yaga is wise and foolish, beautiful and hideous. She gave away beauty for power and she has mixed feelings about this. She is big and brutal and also kind. She loves, although not in the ways you'd always hope. She is empathetic and also vengeful.  And on like that.

It's a great series. All three books. If you read, let me know what you think of my favorite witch.

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