Photo: Courtesy of Kristen Miller
YA Author Kirsten Miller Leaves Puberty Behind in a Novel About Menopausal Witches
In a Q&A about "The Change," the U.S. writer talks about the Long Island killer who inspired her story, seeing ghosts and dispelling myths about women in midlife / BY Rosemary Counter / May 6th, 2022
After a boisterous career full of feminist, young adult bestsellers, Brooklyn-based author Kirsten Miller is moving her storytelling talents from puberty to menopause with her new novel The Change. In this world, menopause means power, freedom, sexuality … and supernatural witch powers for three midlife women on the hunt for a local Long Island killer. In this Q&A, Miller discusses her passion for true crime, encounters with ghosts and obsession with botany.
Rosemary Counter: Please tell me this book is inspired by real life.
Kirsten Miller: Well I was – and am – very, very interested in the Long Island serial killer case. A lot of stuff in the book is ripped right from the headlines. A dozen disadvantaged women were killed, police hardly even looked for them, and all only miles from where literal billionaires spend their summers. And I’m not kidding; the real-life ex-police chief is a main suspect for a lot of people. It is a very sad state of affairs.
RC: Without preaching, your book says a whole lot about media, corruption, exploitation, etc.
KM: I have a very ambivalent relationship with true crime these days. A lot of podcasts are great, and are shining light on cases that got none before. On the other hand, it’s like a dead women industrial complex. There’s a lot of money being made off a lot of dead girls. Luckily, it’s very easy to quickly suss out which is which.
RC: How did you decide to mix a murder mystery with menopause?
KM: I just turned 49, so I know I’m supposed to be entering the gateway of hagdom here, but, really, I feel great. I know stuff I didn’t know before, I’ve discovered the wonders of Retinol-A, I can get shit done. We are literally the most powerful generation of women to ever hit menopause; we’re smarter, richer, braver – everything. I really feel like I’m at the height of my powers, just when society stops looking at me and tells me I should disappear.
RC: So it’s perfect moment if you wanted to, say, solve crimes with your witch powers.
KM: Well, I mean, obviously, I don’t have supernatural powers…
RC: …but isn’t that just what a witch would say?
KM: It is, yes. I believe in the power of belief, let’s put it that way. I don’t want to come off as too much of a weirdo, but I could tell you a few stories. The book has a woman with the power of sight who can [see and] hear the dead, and we have something similar in my family. They say the women on my mother’s side of the family can see ghosts. I have seen ghosts, and my daughter has seen them as well. I used to live in an old Classic Six apartment, which had what used to be the “maid’s room” that was supposed to be my office, but I couldn’t go near it because of this terrible sense that something bad had happened there. Why do I feel like you know what I’m talking about?
RC: I sure do and I don’t deny it. I swear I can feel good and bad energy in places, but I think my actual powers somehow relate to electricity. Once I screamed at my brothers to turn off a video game and, at that exact moment, the fuse blew.
KM: Wow, that’s awesome. My family jokes about “Aunt Kiki’s Shining”— Kiki’s my nickname — all the time. But energy is something we have very little understanding of. The scientific establishment will have you think that everything is known, and we learned it all in the last few hundred years. So you may well have shot energy from your physical form into the wall, and I think you need to figure out how to make use of this.
RC: Maybe you can teach me? Tell me about your witchcraft research process.
KM: Witch research process, I love that! The truth is I’ve always been interested in esoterica and witchcraft and botany. I actually live nearby the botanical gardens, which has been a non-stop source of inspiration for me. I’m in there all the time, looking at strange plants and botanical curses and folk magic healing. My next book is going to be about poison, the women’s weapon. It won’t be all the same characters; it’s not a sequel, but it is related.
RC: I’m so excited and hope Harriet will reappear! She smokes pot, sleeps with everyone; she gardens naked in the moonlight. Major menopause goals.
KM: Right? We should all be more like Harriet, and nobody should be secretive or shameful about menopause. I really believe that empowering women is the single most important thing we can do for children, for poverty, for the betterment of the entire planet. Menopause is the best time of our lives, I’m telling you. The mystery is solved, the bad guys are punished, and you get your powers.