Hello my lovelies! Look! The fabulous and ever patient Jean Copeland has joined us! She’s here to tell us all about her latest novel, Spellbound. And, because telling is never enough and because of the aforementioned fabulousness, she is giving away an ebook copy to one of our lucky Women and Words readers. Want to enter the drawing? You can do so by dropping a comment in the space below. We’ll draw the winner on Saturday, 2/22/2020.
Writing Spellbound, an urban fantasy romance, with Jackie D was an adventure, especially since, like most mortals, I’m fascinated with witches. For me, though, my fascination has less to do with sorcery and supernatural forces, and more with how these women have been depicted throughout history and pop culture, a portrayal that parallels how mortal women have—as sexy seducers of men while they’re young and warty hags who plot against men once age has stolen their sex appeal. In our novel, Jackie and I attempt to flesh out our witches by showing them as multi-dimensional females with a healthy mix of flaws and heroism.
The Salem Witch Trials plays a pivotal role in our story since the common denominator with nearly all of the women hanged for witchcraft was a lack of transactional value to men. The accused were either poor, elderly, untethered to men for various reasons, or in the case of Bridget Bishop, the first woman executed, tried and convicted in the court of public opinion first for seemingly not giving a fuck about Puritan convention. Bishop was guilty of this to the extent that she supposedly entertained people in her husband’s tavern into the evening while good Christians were home cowering as they pored over Bible scripture and prayed that God wouldn’t arbitrarily rain his wrathful blows upon their sinful asses.
I created our Puritan protagonist in Spellbound, Sarah Hutchinson, in the spirit of those female victims of the witch trials whose characters were besmirched by slander and lies and whose lives were stolen by an unjust tribunal of men pandering to their base. At first a meek and subjugated product of her culture, Sarah soon rises to the occasion of her crisis. Unlike the real victims, Sarah actually is a witch and evades her captors, ironically, through witchcraft and time travel.
Another of Spellbound’s main characters is a rendition of mythical Witch Queen Morgan le Fay, whom Jackie and I crafted together. When it was my turn to voice Morgan, I paid homage to my favorite childhood witch, Endora from Bewitched, a character who celebrated rebuffing 1960s expectations of how a proper woman should behave. Like Endora, Morgan does not suffer fools gladly. She’s a bitch and a badass, she’s loyal and uncompromising in her fight for what’s right, and most appealing of all, she makes no apologies for any of it.
While Endora and our version of Morgan le Fey are, at times, playful characters, they’re representative of a centuries-old ideology, dangerous and misogynistic, that European colonists packed with them along with their Small Pox blankets. We now know that The Salem Witch Trials had little to do with ridding a community of preternatural evil. Rather it was a nasty conflation of irrational religious superstition, greed, and Puritanical panic over the possibility that some women in their midst dared to live outside the control of the patriarchy. Toxic masculinity, it seems, has never known what to do with self-possessed women.
Rounding out our coven are Hazel Abbot and Ayotunde. Interestingly, while Hazel is a modern woman and Ayotunde, an enslaved woman from the Puritan era, they both represent a similar and enduring struggle for women: learning how to find their voices in a world that wants them silent.
One of the things Jackie and I hoped to accomplish with our characters in Spellbound is to celebrate the magnificence of self-possessed women. Writer Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said in 1976, “well-behaved women seldom make history,” a nod to what Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Rosa Parks, and others were able to accomplish despite the obstacles of color and gender. Whenever I see that quote appear in a meme, I can’t help but wonder about the original meaning and intention behind the phrase “well-behaved women.” Are they women who don’t rape or start wars for profit or objectify and reduce others based on gender? Can’t be. Those are things men do. So then a woman who “misbehaves” must be one who doesn’t bow to misogyny or the patriarchy, one who asserts herself in the world to claim her rightful place in spite of the pushback she’s likely to receive. If that’s the standard by which women who aren’t well-behaved are measured, then you’ll find plenty of them in Spellbound.
Jean Copeland is a multi-genre lesfic author from Connecticut. Her novel, The Revelation of Beatrice Darby, won an Alice B. Readers Lavender Certificate and a Goldie award for debut author. Her other novels, The Second Wave and The Ashford Place received Rainbow Awards honorable mentions.
When not writing novels Jean enjoys blogging and chatting with the women on The Weekly Wine Down podcast. Her latest novel, Spellbound, co-written with Jackie D, is available everywhere. Look for her contemporary romance, One Woman’s Treasure, in July, 2020.