Ordinary magic

A black plaque with a checklist witch household chores
programwitch, "The Witch's To-Do List," Flickr, 2007.

I’ve always been fascinated by cognitive dissonance, that amazing thing our brains can do where we understand and accept two opposing ideas at the same time. I love to explore what happens when things that aren’t supposed to go together are forced to share space in my head. We’re all made up of delicious contradictions, disparate pieces, and conflicting desires.

One part of my world is stable, homey, and ordinary. I have a pretty “traditional” feminine lifestyle. I’m a wife and mom, I do the cooking and watch the kids most of the time. For a while I even stayed home with my children (until the money ran out; trying to feed and house a family on a single salary is pretty much impossible these days). I’m the person who volunteers to bring baked goods to parties and I’m that mom who sews my kids’ Halloween costumes. I’m considered “crafty,” and I embrace the moniker. I love to create things with my hands, and I’m not ashamed of that.

The other part of my world is mysterious, powerful, and fantastic. It’s a world infused with magic, where danger lurks within every choice. Writing about magic and the fantastic gives me enormous freedom to craft worlds of my own making and to set my own rules. The first two books I wrote were very much “traditional” fantasy: they had heroes and villains, massive wars, and world-encompassing scope. They also, inevitably, had romance, but then I’ve always been a sucker for a love story.

I enjoyed writing those books and I’ll always be a fan of epic fantasy, but I couldn’t help but ask the question: what would happen if I put my two worlds, the crafty cook and the writer of magic, together on the page?

Urban Fantasy was part of the answer. The blended genre introduces the supernatural into the “real” world, and investigates the effects of juxtaposing magic and science. But the vast majority of Urban Fantasy heroines are the “kick-ass” variety. They wear leather, know martial arts, use weapons, and have tattoos on their tailbones.

That isn’t me.

(Full disclosure: I have two tattoos—one on my left collarbone, and one at the nape of my neck. Tattoos aside, though, I do not kick ass. We’d all get a good laugh if I tried to strike a martial arts pose or pick up a katana or handgun.)

So I had this crazy idea. What if I wrote about a heroine who was more like me? Maybe she likes to bake, and garden, and sew. Maybe she’s a little overweight and okay with her curves (because body-shaming is uncool, and it bothers me that all overweight romance heroines are on a diet). And maybe she’s also a powerful witch who routinely hangs out with real goddesses.

My kitchen witch has her flaws, but she isn’t ashamed of who she is or afraid to embrace her talents.

Feminism is supposed to be about choice. While I applaud women who choose to kick ass, who take on male-dominated fields and excel at what were once considered “masculine” attributes, I don’t choose that for myself. I’ve considered my options and I’m happy where I am. Now I want to read (and write!) about someone who is happy with herself, too. Someone who can experience daily the delicious contradiction of being a homey, traditional female who conjures up mysterious and powerful magic. And does a lot of baking along the way.

Allison Holz

Allison Holz writes fantasy in the wilds of Western Maryland. A graduate of the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction MFA program, she puts her degree to good use teaching freshmen how to write at her local college. Allison spends the rest of her time voraciously reading, crafting, baking, and running herd on her husband and two kids.

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