Halloween is almost upon us, so it’s the perfect time for a YA novel to explore a popular horror trope: The babysitter. Whether hero or victim, babysitters are a big part of contemporary horror– and in Kate Williams‘ The Babysitters Coven, they finally have some powers to fight back with!
We were lucky enough to catch up with Kate Williams as this spooky season begins to ask her a few questions about her inspirations of The Babysitters Coven, the witchy tales she loves, and creating a magical universe within our own, among other things. Take a look!
What inspired you to write a tale that’s babysitting meets the occult?
I’m way too much of a weenie to be a horror movie fan, but I always found it interesting that ‘the babysitter’ was a common trope. Sometimes she was the victim, but sometimes she was the badass, and I liked that. I was a huge The Baby-Sitters’ Club fan growing up, and so for a long time, I joked about what would happen if someone combined the two realms of babysitting. Then I finally realized that I should be that someone—it was too good of an idea, and if I didn’t write it, someone else was going to.
With a whole world of magic out there, how did you establish the rules for magic and which witchy powers your characters would have?
This was one of the hardest things for me to figure out—when it comes to magic, your characters have to have just enough, but not so much that they can just abra-ca-dabra their way out of any problems. When I was writing, I would usually start from the scenario I wanted my characters to be in, then work backwards to establish the rules that got them there. And the powers they do have are directly inspired by powers that young women in horror movies possess!
Do Esme and Cassandra’s personalities feature any traces of your younger self or any of your friends from your teenage years?
Esme has a lot of me, and her friendship with her best friend, Janis, is based directly on the friendship I have with my best friend Carolyn, who I met when I was 18. Carolyn and I bonded over books, and the first time we really hung out solo was when we were at a 4-20 party. There was a DJ wonkily mixing one Bob Marley song into another, and shoeless white guys with dreads walking around with baskets of pre-rolled joints. In Kansas, mind you. We fled after five minutes and have been best friends ever since. We’ve always had an I-hate-everything-but-you friendship, which Esme and Janis totally have as well.
What’s the most wild babysitting experience you ever had?
I babysat a ton, and was very lucky that it was always for very good kids, so nothing super major to report. As a mom, though, whoa—I have seen some sh*t. The grossest 30-seconds of my life involved the dog, a diaperless 10-month-old, and me throwing up in a Zara shopping bag. I’ll leave your readers to connect the dots themselves here.
Was there any specific music or media that inspired you or kept you hyped up as you wrote?
I wrote a lot of this book in a very loud and crowded workspace, so I listened to a lot of pop to drown out people on conference calls. Everything from Billie Eilish and Troye Sivan to Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber. My writing music and my workout music have a lot of crossover, because I want to keep my energy up.
What are your favorite books or movies about teen witches?
My all-time favorite book is Witch Baby by Francesca Lia Block. It’s not specifically about teen witches, but I read it for the first time when I was about 15, and it really opened my mind to what writing could be. Before that, I primarily read The Baby-Sitters’ Club and Sweet Valley High books, which were about plot and characters, but Witch Baby showed me that sometimes books could be about the words and how they make you feel. That was 25 years ago, and I’m still chasing books and experiences that inspire the same sense of beauty and wonder as Witch Baby.
Seventeen-year-old Esme Pearl has a babysitters club. She knows it’s kinda lame, but what else is she supposed to do? Get a job? Gross. Besides, Esme likes babysitting, and she’s good at it.
And lately Esme needs all the cash she can get, because it seems like destruction follows her wherever she goes. Let’s just say she owes some people a new tree.
Enter Cassandra Heaven. She’s Instagram-model hot, dresses like she found her clothes in a dumpster, and has a rebellious streak as gnarly as the cafeteria food. So why is Cassandra willing to do anything, even take on a potty-training two-year-old, to join Esme’s babysitters club?
The answer lies in a mysterious note Cassandra’s mother left her: “Find the babysitters. Love, Mom.”
Turns out, Esme and Cassandra have more in common than they think, and they’re about to discover what being a babysitter really means: a heroic lineage of superpowers, magic rituals, and saving the innocent from seriously terrifying evil. And all before the parents get home.