Authors Interviews

Exclusive Interview: THE HAWKWEED PROPHECY Author Irena Brignull Talks Magic, Relationships, and Adaptations

Two Lives. Two Worlds. One Throne.

Witches collide with contemporary society and discover a whole new power in Irena Brignull‘s The Hawkweed Prophecy and The Hawkweed Legacy, a duology about two girls– one a destined queen of witches and the other an ordinary teen– who are switched at birth. Both lead strange lives as outcasts until the fateful day they meet and slowly, the truth unravels with disastrous consequences for both girls.

These character-driven novels for fans of Practical Magic feature nature-based magic, romance, fate, and a dash of danger for an adventure that entrances readers, so much so that the books have been optioned for the screen. Author Irena Brignull is no stranger to film and television– She’s a screenwriter who’s worked on The Boxtrolls, Shakespeare In Love, and more.

We had the opportunity to ask Irena Brignull a few questions about developing the Hawkweed world, its transition to the screen, and what’s next!

1. When did the concept for The Hawkweed Prophecy books first come to you? How did it develop?

It came to me on a holiday. To be honest, it was more of a recuperation as my youngest child had been very ill in hospital and, a couple of months after, a friend invited us to stay in her home in Italy. It was spring and things at last felt positive and hopeful, and one day, I woke up with this idea. It was about two babies switched at birth who meet as two, very different but equally lonely teens. I really didn’t have any more than that but I told my kids about it, we doodled a few sketches and a story began to emerge. When I got home, I decided not to write it as a movie (my usual job) but to try my first novel – something I’d always wanted to do.

2. The use of witches and magic in fiction is pretty vast. How did you decide which elements of magical folklore you would include in your tale?

I tried to use what felt right for the characters. I knew the witches lived deep into forest and I wanted them to feel very connected to nature. They live off the earth, are totally unmaterialistic and recycle everything. Their magic is very attuned to plants and animals. I didn’t think too much about existing folklore. I did some research but mostly just went with my instincts. I didn’t want all the witches to be the same. I wanted them to have individual powers, some more powerful than others. So Raven and Poppy can do remarkable things that most other witches can’t.

3. The Hawkweed Legacy is a character-driven tale with a lot of emphasis on the back story. Were these backstories something you planned out long before you put Leo, Charlock, and the others on the page or did they come to you in the process of writing book one?

I planned out the backstory to the actual prophecy and its effects on Raven and Charlock, but the backstory between Betony and Charlock evolved as I wrote. I’m not much of a planner (not with novels, much more so with screenplays), so I tend to start off with a general sense of direction and then allow myself to take detours when it feels right.

4. How has your work as a screenwriter informed your work as a novelist?

I’d love to think that my screenwriting made my novels more cinematic. I feel like it’s given me an eye for visual detail. In screenwriting, you have to reveal character through dialogue and action – you don’t have the luxury of hearing their inner thoughts. Though I loved writing description of setting and inner dialogue, I guess this discipline must have informed my novel writing to a certain degree. It also gave me an awareness of structure and set pieces.

5. Your novels have been optioned by Story By entertainment and you’re an executive producer. What can you tell us about the development process so far and how it’s differed from other film projects you’ve worked on?

It’s very exciting to think that the Hawkweed stories might find a new life on screen. It’s early days. We’re still figuring out whether the material is best suited to TV or film, and we’re reading samples from other screenwriters. I’m really looking forward to seeing what other talented people can bring to the project. It’s a very different experience being an exec producer to a screenwriter – it’s great to come at it from a different angle.

6. Poppy breaks the mold when she discovers she’s special but decides she’s not meant to be a savior to the coven. Were you considering “chosen one” tropes all along or did the story just work out that way?

It honestly just worked out that way. I went where the characters took me. At the start, I thought Poppy would fulfil the prophecy and end up leading the witches, but as I got to know her, I realised that she needed to carve out her own destiny. She comes from two worlds and it didn’t feel right to limit her to one.

7. Do you plan to write more Hawkweed novels in the future or is Legacy the end of the road?

I’d love to write another Hawkweed story one day, but there are so many new ideas I want to dive into. I have a picture book coming out and I’m mid-way through a middle-grade idea that I’m loving writing. I’m also working on a movie script right now, and I have a TV show to write after that. It might take a while but I hope I get to revisit Poppy, Ember and Leo at some point in the future. We’ll see.

The Hawkweed Legacy hit shelves on August 15, 2017, the same day that The Hawkweed Prophecy celebrated its paperback release. You can check the books out via Amazon.


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.

By Kait

Kait is a New Englander, a YA book and adaptation lover, and a Slythindor, as well as a red velvet and red wine enthusiast. She likes to like things. Catch her on Twitter: @kaitmary