‘The Witches’ Kitchen’
By Rebecca Sloan
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and for Allen Williams of Warren, this adage rings remarkably true.
After several years as a successful illustrator, Williams made the transition to author when his sketches inspired him to pen a novel that has been published by prestigious Little, Brown and Co.
“I never really thought of myself as a writer, but when drawing or painting, I was always thinking of scenes or vignette stories to go along with the art,” Williams explained.
“Eventually I started writing them down and the idea for a book came about.”
The book – a young-adult novel titled “The Witches’ Kitchen” – is a dark fairy tale that tells the story of a toad who wakes in a witch’s kitchen and has no idea how she got there or even who she is.
Toad must navigate her way out of the kitchen, which is a terrifying, ever-shifting landscape of darkness filled with horrible creatures.
The book is lavishly illustrated with fantastic creatures of Williams’ imagination – some grotesque, some comical – and features 40 original works.
However, Williams said his main goal wasn’t to show off his artwork, but rather to tell a good story.
“Prior to writing this book, I had never written anything more than five or 10 pages, but I do think of myself as a storyteller now,” he said.
So far, the novel has received favorable reviews, and Williams said the plot has deeper layers of meaning to satisfy older readers in addition to young adults.
“Although Toad doesn’t remember her past or who she is, she has to make moral and ethical decisions in the moment, and these decisions define her,” Williams said.
“The idea is that what you do at that very moment defines who you are. You are not just your past.”
Williams said another theme in the book is that “very little in the world is ever what it seems.”
“There is a lot going on in the story, and some characters are not who they seem,” he said. “At first Toad can’t tell her friends from her enemies, but she eventually becomes wise enough to make friends to help her find her way out of the kitchen. Although toads are thought of as helpless creatures, she learns how to survive.”
Toad herself is not what she seems, and readers will enjoy a surprise ending involving Toad’s identity.
Williams said identity and survival are also key themes in the book and relate to martial-arts philosophies.
“I have been doing martial arts since a young age, and much of the philosophy of caring for yourself and defending yourself that is seen in the book comes from my martial-arts training,” he explained.
Williams has also been drawing since a very young age – 3 or 4 – and said he is self-taught. He has been employed since 1988 as a fantasy and horror illustrator, and his connections in the publishing world helped him snag an agent and land the deal with Little, Brown and Co.
His artwork has appeared in Spectrum, Expose, “The Book of Angels” by Todd Jordan and many gaming guides.
Originally from Tennessee, Williams settled in Northeast Ohio about 15 years ago.
“My wife has roots in this area. She went to high school in Cortland,” he said.
Williams, 44, has two young children, Duncan and Maeve, who are both thrilled to see their names on the book’s dedication page.
He is currently working on a sequel to “The Witches’ Kitchen” and hopes to develop a series.
“The Witches’ Kitchen” is available in local bookstores or online at Amazon.com for about $16.99.