Today I’m very excited to give you guys an author interview! I got the wonderful opportunity to interview Irena Brignull, famous Screenwriter and author of The Hawkweed Legacy.
Irena will be talking about her book, what it’s like to go from screenwriting to novel-writing, and more! There will also be an excerpt from her book towards the end of this post!
You are a screenwriter with some successful movies under your belt. What made you want to write a book?
Irena: I’d been wanting to write a book since I was a child, long before I realized there was such a job as being a screenwriter. I’ve always been a book worm – I just didn’t have the confidence to write one of my own. It seemed such a daunting prospect despite my screenwriting success. Then a few years ago, a book agent took me out for coffee and told me that she thought I should try it. It’s amazing what just one person’s encouragement can do. I was busy on The Little Prince movie and so it took me a couple of years to get round to it. In the meantime, I turned 40 and then my youngest child fell seriously ill for a time. I think it took all these factors combined to make me pluck up the courage to go for it.
What is the most difficult part of writing a book for you?
It’s the time it takes. It’s such a long commitment and takes real stamina. It really is a marathon and I’m much more of a sprinter! I work on movies for years but the first draft of a screenplay only takes about eight weeks and the drafts that follow are even quicker.
What is the easiest part of writing a book for you?
Having the ideas for the stories and characters. I have so many that I find it hard to choose what to do next.
What gave you the idea to write the Hawkweed novels?
It’s hard to say where the idea for the Hawkweed books came from. I know I had it on a holiday after our family had been through a very stressful time. I think that process of unwinding and relaxing really allows thoughts and ideas surface.
The Hawkweed stories feature two main teenage characters and I think my own teenage years have really stuck in my mind vividly. I remember the intensity of emotion, the confusion of wanting to fit in and yet rebelling against conformity, and all those first time experiences.
The other key time in my life has been motherhood and the plots of both my novels are motivated by motherly love and ambition. On top of that, I care deeply about female equality and sisterhood, and the idea of a coven of witches really taps into that for me. Even as a child, I’d wondered about those women burnt at the stake just for being different. I think all these thoughts and memories were bubbling away in my brain and a few just popped simultaneously to form the idea for the Hawkweed books.
How has your experience in screenwriting helped with writing your book?
I like to think my screenwriting experience has given me good storytelling instincts. I have an understanding of how to pace a plot and how to develop character. My novels include a lot of visual detail and cinematic set pieces. Structure is incredibly important in screenwriting. And you don’t have the luxury of exploring a character’s inner thoughts. They have to reveal themselves through what they do and say, or (sometimes more interestingly) what they don’t do or say. I love writing the descriptive prose in novels but I still try and keep these screenwriting tips in mind.
What was your favorite part of writing The Hawkweed Legacy?
The Hawkweed Legacy has two storylines – one set in the present day and the other seventeen years earlier. I loved writing the past story. It follows a few of the adult characters when they were teenagers themselves. There’s something about the contrast between seeing them at seventeen and then in their mid-thirties that I found very moving. They are so naïve and reckless at seventeen. I just wanted to shake them and hug them.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I wish I knew! I read and watch a lot and I hang out with family and friends a lot. But I think you have to tune yourself into ideas. I find that inspiration doesn’t come on demand but you have to invite it in. That’s why holidays are so great (one of the many reasons!). It’s the only time I get to lie in and, for me, it’s that soft, hazy time between sleep and waking that ideas takes shape.
What do you hope people will take away from reading your books or watching your films?
I hope that people will be moved by them, whether it be to tears or laughter, excitement or surprise. I try in my writing to explore human nature and offer some perspective on it. I’d be thrilled if this gave food for thought. I’ve been inspired by so many books and films myself that I’d love if I could do the same.
Are there any tips you’d give those wishing to one day become successful in the writing industry?
Write as often as you can. Write anything. Emails, poems, diaries, blogs. It’s all story-telling. And read. But don’t try and imitate anyone. Find your own voice. Your own unique perspective.
Are there any future projects you’re currently working on and can give us information on?
I’ve got a picture book coming out next. I can’t wait to see the illustrations. And I have a couple of tv projects in the pipeline. I’m also working on a middle grade novel.
Every year, the coming of spring was greeted by a celebration from the coven. On the last
day of winter, the sisters wished for night to fall quickly, for then the preparations would be over and the merriment could begin. As if mindful of its unpopularity, the sun hardly bothered to show itself through the clouds, and day stitched to darkness almost seamlessly. Immediately, circle upon circle of candles was lit in readiness for the night’s festivities. For this eve was not for sleeping. The coven had taken to their beds that afternoon in order to remain awake the whole night through. Fires were burning and hogs roasting. Cider was being poured. Young witches were practicing spells for their displays.
Charlock and her friend Betony were responsible for lighting the candles.
“We’re lucky there’s no breeze tonight,” murmured Charlock as she admired the tiny
“Your sister has made certain of that, most likely,” joked Betony. “It is not just us she
bosses but the weather too.” Charlock smiled, then looked around guiltily to see if Raven might be watching.
“Don’t fear her so,” whispered Betony. “You are a Hawkweed too.”
Charlock shrugged. “Not the one that matters,” she said simply, without complaint.
It was true. She was the younger, softer sister, a witch with only moderate magic. Raven,
on the other hand, was already the most powerful witch their clan had ever known. As if able to hear these thoughts, her sister turned her head and peered at Charlock from across the camp.
Charlock waved in nervous greeting, but Raven only narrowed her eyes before returning her attention to her young daughter, Sorrel. Betony moved closer to Charlock in a show of solidarity.
The pressure and warmth of her friend’s side against her own were comforting, as were Betony’s words.
“Come on,” she said. “These candles, this celebration, are for us. We have turned
seventeen this winter. Not her. It is us who will be yoking for the first time tomorrow.”
“It is our night,” Charlock admitted, gazing out at the candles they had lit. She felt a
sudden shiver of nerves, and the flames seemed to flicker in response. “Do you ever doubt it though?” she whispered. “That we are ready?”
Betony didn’t hesitate. “I want an adventure. I want to see something new.”
“But what of making a daughter?” Charlock reminded.
Betony took her hand. “We have many years for that,” she said, pulling Charlock toward a small throng of sisters by the storeroom. “Besides, look at Sisters Caraway, Mildred, and Ivy. They are keen enough for all of us.”
Each seventeen-year- old was collecting a garland for her hair — snowdrops, irises and
crocuses. Normally, flowers were not for picking, but this celebration was different. For many of these girls, it was to be their first foray into town; for all, their first encounter with a male. As Charlock bent her head and felt the delicate petals caress her hair, she reminded herself of all that she’d been taught. Yoking was a part of life. It was natural and not to be feared. To bring a daughter into the world was the greatest achievement of any witch’s life – greater than any spell or magical gift. Charlock inhaled the sweet scent of the flowers and felt soothed. She didn’t have to go tomorrow. She knew that. It was only for those who wanted and there were many sisters who chose to remain childless.
This was her choice. Besides, she had promised Betony and would not let her down.
She squeezed Betony’s hand. “I think I smell cake.”
“Sister Clover’s honey cake!” And they both laughed with delight as they ran to fetch
That night, they danced until their feet were sore and feasted till their bellies were full.
Sister Wynne read their horoscopes and told their fortunes. Sister Ada produced her usual falconry display. Sister Starling, Charlock’s mother, told them stories of times long since past, of witches strong and true who suffered for their craft. The youngest of the group put on their own displays – one magicked mice from her sleeves. Another turned water into juice. One bent a spoon by staring at it. A small group recited healing spells in high and lilting voices. Everyone oohed and aahed and clapped as the children took a bow.
Charlock and Betony were the last to sleep and the last to awake. None minded, though.
The first day of spring was for the mothers in the clan and all those trying to become one. By the time Charlock rose from her bed, her mother had already received gifts from the other sisters, praising her achievement of bringing a daughter into the world and raising her in the ways of the craft. The Hawkweed table was laden with jars of nuts and dried fruits, hocks of ham, and pots of pickles. Charlock gave her mother a hug when she saw them and thanked her as she always did on this day.
“Thank you, Mother, for all you have done and do for me.”
Her mother put her hands on Charlock’s cheeks, rough skin against smooth. “It is your
turn now, my sweet. It makes me very proud to know you will join the others for the yoking this evening.” Then she plucked a fragment of a flower from Charlock’s hair and handed it to her. It lay in Charlock’s palm, crushed and damp, and Charlock felt a second’s sorrow at its loss.
After picking the rest of the garland from her hair, Charlock placed the dying flowers
between the pages of her book of spells. Then she changed from her nightgown to her clothes.
Her belly hardly curved and it was difficult to picture a baby curled up within it. Instead, she imagined how proud her mother would be if tonight she proved successful. Her reverie was broken by Raven’s strident tones.
“Charlock, stop dawdling!” came the call from outside the caravan. Charlock leaned out
of the window and saw her sister holding a little lamb. “Chop chop,” said Raven without a smile.
Now that you’ve read an excerpt from the book, here’s some more information about Irene and her books!
About the Author:
Irena Brignull is a screenwriter, novelist and mum. Her screenwriting credits include the Oscar nominated movie, The Boxtrolls, starring Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning and Simon Pegg. (She was nominated for Best Screenplay for that one at the Annie Awards in 2014.) Her adaptation of The Little Prince, directed by Mark Osborne and starring Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, James Franco and Marion Cotillard, closed the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. She also adapted Skellig for Sky which starred Tim Roth, John Simm and Kelly MacDonald. Before all this, Brignull was a Script Executive at the BBC and then Head of Development at Dogstar Films where she was the script editor on Shakespeare in Love, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, I Capture the Castle and Bravo Two Zero to name a few. She lives with her family in London but was brought up outside the city in the beautiful Chiltern Hills. For more information, visit her website: www.irenabrignull.com.
The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull (Weinstein Books; August 15th, 2017; Paperback)
Two Lives. Two Worlds. One Throne.
Poppy Hooper and Ember Hawkweed couldn’t lead more different lives. Poppy is a troubled teen: moving from school to school, causing chaos wherever she goes, never making friends or lasting connections. Ember is a young witch, struggling to find a place within her coven and prove her worth. Both are outsiders: feeling like they don’t belong and seeking escape. Poppy and Ember soon become friends, and secretly share knowledge of their two worlds. Little do they know that destiny has brought them together: an ancient prophecy, and a life-changing betrayal. Growing closer, they begin to understand why they’ve never belonged and the reason they are now forever connected to each other.
Switched at birth by the scheming witch Raven Hawkweed, Poppy and Ember must come to terms with their true identities and fight for their own place in the world. Enter Leo, a homeless boy with a painful past who – befriending them both – tests their love and loyalty. Can Poppy and Ember’s friendship survive? And can it withstand the dark forces that are gathering?
“I loved this book! Irena has created such beautifully complete world–our world, and nestled within it, a simmering world of magic.The Hawkweed Prophecy has everything: friendship, desire, delicious earthy magic, secrets and spells and at its centre, the wonderful young Poppy, on a journey of self-discovery. I so hope there is more to come!”
— Karen Foxlee, author ofOphelia and the Marvelous Boy and A Most Magical Girl
“The Hawkweed Prophecy was bewitching from the get-go. Irena Brignull does an amazing job weaving a tale of pure magic in this debut novel. She’ll have you on a roller coaster of emotions from the very first page. Get ready to be spellbound.”
— Paige McKenzie, author of theNew York Times bestselling Haunting of Sunshine Girl series
— Laini Taylor, author ofThe Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy
THE HAWKWEED LEGACY By Irena Brignull, Hardcover, $18.00, August 15, 2017
Poppy Hooper doesn’t want to be the queen of the witches.
But some problems can’t be left behind.
Some love stories can’t be forgotten.
Some friendships won’t be broken.
And some enemies won’t stay dead …
The battle for the throne isn’t over yet.
Poppy has only just discovered her position and her power as queen of the covens. Tormented by the loss of her would-be lover Leo to her best friend, Ember, and a past that’s shadowed by secrets, she’s left her dangerous world of witches and flown to Africa. But Poppy never stops longing for Leo and, when she feels his magic begin to spark, she will do anything to be reunited with him.
Now as the girls come of age and Poppy’s powers grow stronger, her mother, desperate for her daughter’s return and forgiveness, sets into motion a plan that puts Poppy and Ember, the boy they love, and the world as they know it at risk.
I would like to think Irena for giving me the wonderful opportunity to interview her and promote her books!