Saturday, August 19, 2017

0 Irena Brignull, author of THE HAWKWEED LEGACY, on letting the characters be you guides

THE HAWKWEED LEGACY is book two in the Hawkweed Series, and we're thrilled to have Irena Brignull stop by to tell us more about it.

Irena, what was your inspiration for writing the HAWKWEED series?

It was a holiday I took one spring time. My kids and I went to stay with a friend in Italy after my youngest child had been really sick in hospital. The place doesn’t feature in the novel (though there is an Italian family in The Hawkweed Legacy). It was more the rest, the relaxation, the sense of friendship after such a crisis. I woke up one morning and had the idea of two girls switched at birth and the teenagers they’d become. I just knew I had to write it.

What scene in THE HAWKWEED LEGACY was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

I had to kill off one of my characters and that was really tough. It was someone I’d really loved writing. I could hardly bear to type the words. I think it’s a shocking moment, but the scene I actually love most comes later. It’s set in a zoo and another character is in great peril. The caged animals are calling out to try and warn her. It’s really atmospheric and very tense and emotional. At least I hope it is!

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book—or visa versa?

Well, the books that influenced me are actually two plays - Macbeth and The Crucible. Years ago, they sparked my interest in witches. Then there’s Jane Eyre, My Brilliant Friend, The Joy Luck Club for female friendship. And Eleanor and Park for my introduction to YA. I hope they’d resonate for the readers of the Hawkweed series too.

How long did you work on THE HAWKWEED LEGACY?

About a year. Six months of which was solid writing, rather than editing.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

It taught me to let go and trust my instincts more. I had less of a plan with this book, even though it has a pretty ambitious structure. I let the characters be my guides and they took me on some unexpected detours.

What do you hope readers will take away from THE HAWKWEED LEGACY?

I hope it will provoke some thought about friendship, and I hope readers will be moved by the story. Essentially, it’s a book about forgiveness and about finding your clan. I would love to think it offers some comfort to those who are seeking either for themselves.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
I am so lucky that my road to publication was very straight forward. My first book was published and I got a two book deal so was able to go straight into The Hawkweed Legacy. My struggles really came before that with my screenwriting. That was where I learnt my craft and had to take the knocks of rejection before I got established. Over the years, I’ve pitched for so many movies that I wasn’t hired for and written so many scripts that were never made. But I guess that’s all part of being a writer.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

With Legacy, it was realising early on that I could combine a past story with a present day one and how each storyline could comment on and reflect on the other. Generally, getting a hundred or so pages in is a big moment for me. It feels like I actually have a novel on my hands.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
I wish I had more of a ritual. I write any time, any place. As a mum of three, I just grab any opportunity I can. I take my laptop everywhere, but I work mostly in my little office at home, or in my car while I’m waiting for my kids to do their sports training. I used to try and put on music but as soon as I start writing, I don’t hear much. The world just fades away. A cup of tea to hand is always good though.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Finish what you’ve started! This is the hardest part for me. I have lots of ideas and I love writing the first few scenes, but shaping an entire plot and filling all those pages takes real commitment and stamina. It’s so worth it though. Even before I knew I’d be published, it felt like a real achievement.

What are you working on now?

I’m juggling a few things at the moment. I have a picture book coming out next which I’m excited about. I’m working on a tv project from one of my YA ideas. I’m writing a middle grade novel. And I’m about to start on a movie script. I’m now feeling rather stressed having listed them all!


The Hawkweed Legacy
by Irena Brignull
Weinstein Books
Released 8/15/2017

Poppy is discovering a purpose for her powers in Africa, but she is haunted by a vision of her own death. Taken in by a boy and his great-grandmother, a healer, they vow to keep her safe-even if that ultimately means holding her captive. 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.

Desperate to regain Poppy's trust and bring her home, Charlock embarks on a plan to reunite Leo with his mother. What Charlock doesn't foresee are the string of consequences that she sets into motion that leave Ember all alone and prey to manipulation, the clan open to attack from other witches, Sorrel vulnerable to Raven's ghost, Betony determined to protect her son from his father's fate, and which leave both Leo and Poppy in terrible danger.

Purchase The Hawkweed Legacy at Amazon
Purchase The Hawkweed Legacy at IndieBound
View The Hawkweed Legacy on Goodreads


I’m Irena Brignull, a screenwriter, novelist and mum. I live with my family in London but I was brought up outside the city in the beautiful Chiltern Hills. The other place that has my heart is Greece where many of my relatives are from.

My first novel, The Hawkweed Prophecy, was published in June 2016. The sequel, The Hawkweed Legacy, was published in June 2017.

I write screenplays too. My screenwriting credits include the Oscar nominated movie, The Boxtrolls, starring Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning and Simon Pegg. (I was nominated for Best Screenplay for that one at the Annie Awards in 2014.) My 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. I also adapted Skellig for Sky which starred Tim Roth, John Simm and Kelly MacDonald.

Before all this, I was a Script Executive at the BBC and then Head of Development at Dogstar Films where I was the script editor on Shakespeare in Love, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, I Capture the Castle and Bravo Two Zero to name a few.

And before that, I studied English Literature at Oxford University.

I don’t have much spare time but, in it, I like to read books and watch movies. It’s kind of my job, I know. But one day I plan to take up lots more hobbies - horse-riding, tap-dancing, baking, juggling…?


Have you had a chance to read THE HAWKWEED LEGACY yet? Have you killed off a character you love writing? Is finishing what you started the hardest part for you? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Anisaa, Sam, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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