Pulitzer-winning writer Stacy Schiff’s new book, “The Witches,” doesn’t come out until October, but her publisher, Little, Brown, is already celebrating her fresh take on the Salem witch trials.
Schiff, meanwhile, is celebrating the end of her research.
“If we’re being honest, I researched too much. I’m very relieved to be done with it,” she said with a laugh, at Little, Brown’s dinner in her honor at Henrietta’s Table Wednesday night. “The actual court records from the witch trials were all destroyed, so it was a matter of playing detective.”
Schiff’s last book was 2010’s “Cleopatra: A Life.” She said the transition from ancient Egypt to historic Salem was natural. “Like Cleopatra, the Salem witch trials follows this theme I’ve developed of women fighting for power. The women during the witch trials were terrified — even their own government was against them.”
She hopes her book will do more for the subject than some of television’s takes on Salem’s history. “American Horror Story” went for a witch trial narrative for its third season, “AHS: Coven.” “Orange Is the New Black” showrunner Jenji Kohan filmed a pilot inspired by the witch trials, “The Devil You Know,” on the North Shore earlier this year.
“I agree, pop culture is all over Salem,” Schiff said, “but what I’m trying to do with this book is break down the myths surrounding this time period. We don’t really know the Salem witch trials. Most of it is speculation.”
Schiff’s “Cleopatra,” by the way, is still set to become a film, she says. Rights to the book were picked up by producer Scott Rudin, and the project was set to star Angelina Jolie, but the movie became a subject of controversy during the Sony e-mail hack last year when Rudin’s critical e-mails about Jolie became public. Schiff said that as far as she knows, the movie is still in development.
“Who knows what’s actually going on, I’m very out of the loop. However, I can’t say I’m not thrilled.”