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Beyond The Bio: Irena Brignull

Irena Brignull Beyond The Bio

Hey! Lupita here! I’m joined today by the amazing Irena Brignull, a wonderful screenwriter and author who helped create the film The Boxtrolls and wrote the incredible Hawkweed series! The newest book in the series, The Hawkweed Legacy, is full of magic and friendships! It came out last year so run over to your local bookstore and grab a copy. I guarantee that you won’t be able to put these books down. Let’s get to today’s interview! And be sure to stick around until the end for an exciting giveaway!


Hi Irena! I really enjoyed reading The Hawkweed Prophecy and was so excited when book two came out last year! Could you tell the readers what The Hawkweed Legacy is about?

Hi Lupita, I'm so happy you enjoyed The Hawkweed Prophecy. The Hawkweed Legacy is its sequel, following two friends, Poppy and Ember, who were switched at birth and are now struggling to come to terms with the fallout from this within their own relationships as well as the outside forces that are working against them. Like Prophecy, it deals with themes of identity and the bonds of sisterhood. But Legacy also explores the mystery around Leo, the boy whom Poppy and Ember both love, and tells the story of a past that cannot be forgotten.

Poppy is such a strong-willed character, even when everything she's known starts to crumble beneath her. Where did you get the idea for such a strong character?

I know a lot of really strong women and am in awe of them so I think they inspired Poppy. But I also love Poppy when she lets her guard down and becomes more vulnerable, letting people get close to her.

I relate a lot to Poppy and Ember, especially in regards to the problems they faced. Which character do you relate to the most?

Oh, that's a hard one. I relate to them both too because they are outsiders who don't fit in and as such have a unique way of looking at the world. Especially as a teen, I remember feeling like that. Life has made Poppy wary and suspicious whereas Ember is more innocent and optimistic. I'm definitely somewhere in between. And Poppy has to deal with the pressure of being so gifted and the responsibility of being the 'chosen' one whilst Ember is struggling with not feeling talented or worthy enough. I guess, in this regard, it's much easier to relate to Ember's insecurities.

You don't just write from different perspectives, but even from different time periods. Which has been your favorite time period to write about?

I absolutely loved writing Charlock and Betony's past story in The Hawkweed Legacy. It felt so poignant and had such resonances with what was happening to the characters in the present day.

I love reading fantasy books. They have a way of lighting up my imagination. I especially enjoyed reading the witch's spells. Was it difficult to come up with them?

I knew that I wanted the spells and the magic to feel organic and come from the natural world, rather than a more 'magic wand' type magic, and that made them easier to write for me. I also didn't want the witches to feel like evil, faceless symbols of female power, but instead I wanted the coven to be about sisterhood and living off the earth and being in tune with it. The books include spells but I also hoped to show that there's a natural kind of magic in the world around us and in the relationships we have with one another.

I know you've written some screenplays, including the screenplay for The Boxtrolls. How is screenwriting different from writing books? Which experience do you prefer?

I'm so glad I get to write both novels and screenplays. I'd hate to give one up but the novels do feel more personal and gave me a bigger sense of achievement. Movie-making is very collaborative whereas writing a novel feels like a more private endeavour. The big difference between writing in these different mediums is that in novels you can delve into a character's inner thoughts. In screenplays, I have to use dialogue, action, a character's choices (subconscious or not) to reveal their motivations.

Hawkweed Legacy

What are some other YA fantasy books that you would recommend?

I need to read more YA fantasy as I haven't read nearly enough but I've particularly enjoyed The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials novels and also Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I've read a lot more magic realism than fantasy and love Isabel Allende, Toni Morrison, Alice Hoffman and Amy Tan. Do check them out.

Will there be a third book joining The Hawkweed series?

I'm working on a movie right now but I have started a third novel. It's not part of the Hawkweed series but a whole new world and characters that I'm really excited about.


That’s it for today’s interview with Irena, but don’t leave just yet. We’re giving away a signed copy of The Hawkweed Legacy, and you definitely don’t want to miss out. Just click on the image below to enter. And be sure to come back again next week, when James will be chatting with bestselling author Becky Albertalli about her book, Leah On The Offbeat.

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