Novelist & Screenwriter Irena Brignull | Exclusive Interview

I had the honor of interviewing Irena Brignull! Who is well known for her novel The Hawkweed Prophecy, two young girls that were magically switched at birth. Ms. Brignull’s second book recently came out. Check them out and dive into a world of destiny, magic and love.

The Hawkweed Prophecy 

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?

The Hawkweed Legacy

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.


 Irena Brignull is a successful screenwriter. Since working on the screenplay of The Boxtrolls, Irena has been writing an adaptation of The Little Prince directed by Mark Osborne and starring Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams and Marion Cotillard. Previously, Irena 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 and Bravo Two Zero to name a few. Irena holds a BA in English Literature from Oxford University.

Interview Time:

What gave you initial inspiration for The Hawkweed Prophecy?
It was a holiday that I took with my kids to Italy one spring time. It was actually more of a recuperation than a holiday, as my youngest had spent that January very sick in hospital. I don’t know if it was being able to finally relax and look forward after such a crisis, but the idea for The Hawkweed Prophecy just came to me one morning. I told my daughter about these two girls switched at birth and the teenagers they grow up to become, and everything went from there.
Were there any specific songs that helped you write The Hawkweed?
I listened to Stevie Nick’s Landslide a lot. The truth is I tend to get so into what I’m writing that I block out everything around me and I fail to hear much. My poor kids will vouch for that! So I do sometimes put on music to set a mood, but when I start typing, the song just fades away.
Describe your novel in one sentence?
The magic of witches, nature, friendship and love.
Tell us a little bit about The Hawkweed Prophecy. Did it change you? How did it grow from an idea to a published novel? 
It grew very slowly. At first, I wrote it as and when I could, but then I sent the first 100 pages to an agent and she encouraged me to finish it. That helped enormously. I sped up and delivered the manuscript. She gave me some notes and I did a re-write which then got sent out to publishers. I was very lucky to get interest from a few of them and so was in a position to choose.
Did the experience change me? I think so. It definitely taught me patience and stamina. Writing a novel was something I’d always wanted to do, but I’d never felt confident enough to really embark on. I always had the excuse of another screenwriting job, so it really took my child’s illness to make me stop and take stock. Finishing the manuscript felt like such an achievement. I tried not to hope that it would get published, and I was blown away by the response it got.
When creating the characters, shaping them, are you inspired by real life people or actors or other fictional characters.
Looking back now, I think that the characters and their journeys were inspired by the real life tales of women being persecuted for being witches in the past. I’ve always been fascinated by who they might have been, and horrified by the punishments they endured. Also, I did have Macbeth’s weird sisters firmly in mind – wondering what their story, beyond the play, could be. Other fictional characters must have affected my writing too, just less consciously. Outsiders mostly – Rebecca, Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason, Carrie, Hester Prynne, Heathcliff all come to mind. Plus all those witches and wicked step-mothers from so many childhood fairytales. My own teenage experience, as well as that as a mother, was hugely influential too.
How was writing a novel compared to writing a script? Difficult? Easy? About the same?
They’re both very demanding. Both a combination of pain and pleasure! Writing a novel, for me at any rate, takes a lot more determination and sheer endurance. A lot more words are needed on the page. Plus, novel writing is more solitary, screenwriting more collaborative. I love them both, but the feeling of accomplishment on finishing a novel is second to none.
 Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d like to thank all my readers. There so many books out there to read, and I’m so grateful that they picked up mine and gave me their time, thoughts and feelings. It takes their imaginations to bring these stories to life.

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