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Interview: Shannon Connor Winward on “Witch’s Hour”

Shannon Connor WinwardTell us a bit about “Witch’s Hour.”

The seed for “Witch’s Hour” came from my interest in food history. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but when I was in college I decided if I had chosen any other career it would have been “food anthropologist.”  I love food—the archaeology of food, food origins, food as culture.  And of course cooking and eating food.  I still might go back to school for it after my kids are grown—I’ll be a world-traveling food-expert grannie.  But for now I just write about it.  “Witch’s Hour” combines all of my favorite ingredients: history, death, ghosts, magic, fierce female characters, and (of course) food.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I’ve had the idea to set a story in a medieval kitchen for a while now, but didn’t know what story I wanted to tell until I was invited to write for an upcoming “hauntings”-themed anthology; there had to be an actual, supernatural haunting as well as a character who is psychologically haunted.  That led me to Esmelda, a woman with magical and culinary talents who’s haunted by her childhood abuser, both figuratively and literally.  But the anthology was postponed, so on a lark I sent it to F&SF, which has always been at the top of my bucket-list of publications.  And here we are! Now I have to write a new story for the anthology, which is due out in late 2017.  I think I’ll manage.


What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

I read quite a bit about life in medieval castles, food storage in the middle ages, and traditional old world recipes.  There’s a rabbit-based dish (conies) in the story that I lifted straight from an online archive.  I’d love to try it in real life, but I doubt my kids would eat it.


“Witch’s Hour” manages to make a vivid medieval fantasy out of unusual characters: the kitchen staff.  Did you find anything difficult or intriguing in focusing on a cook rather than a king or a knight?

To me, what happens in a kitchen is high drama.  It was fun to put the politics and royal intrigue on a back-burner and tell a story from the shadows.  I wrote it all very quickly and organically; the hardest part was figuring out how to handle the psychology of the main character, who has been through some terrible things but is also cruel herself at times.  She has a heart, but it’s been sliced and diced, and it shows.


What are you working on now?

I launched a literary journal this spring, Riddled with Arrows.  We’ll be opening to submissions for our summer issue soon.  As for my own work, I just finished a dark-fantasy novella; it still needs finessing, but I’m excited because it’s more action-oriented than what I typically write.  After that I’ve got a number of short stories in the queue, and maybe some longer projects.  I’ve been circulating a novel for a while, and toying with another one.  My writing life has been sluggish due to family issues, but I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel—and it’s full of stories.


“Witch’s Hour” appears in the May/June 2017 issue of F&SF.

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Click on Ms. Winward’s photo to visit her website,


One Response to “Interview: Shannon Connor Winward on “Witch’s Hour””

  1. This Is Just To Say... - Shannon Connor Winward on July 10th, 2017

    […] use the added energy: Riddled with Arrows recently launched its second issue.  I’ve got new stories and poems floating around in the world or forthcoming.  Voting for the 2017 SFPA Rhysling […]

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