Reader Q&A with Skye McKenna

Author Skye McKenna with reader Molly, aged 8

Our Featured Debut this month is the enchanting middle-grade novel by Skye McKenna - Hedgewitch.

Hedgewitch is a gorgeous fantasy story peppered with beautiful illustrations by Tomislav Tomic. We recommend it for readers 8+ and fans of NevermoorThe Worst Witch and The Dark Is Rising.

Toppsta's early readers have given the book 5 stars, describing it as "full of magic, friends and fun" and "a spell binding read full of evil magical folk and good witches". 

We love this review from Molly, aged 8:

"I really really love this book. It is about a girl whose mum goes missing 7 years before she runs away to find her mum. Cassie gets chased by some goblins and a flying broom and a cat help her. They take her to her Aunt where she finds out she is, and her family are Hedgewitches. She then trains to become one! I love witch stories and I really liked Cassie. I couldn't stop reading the book. It has such gorgeous pictures in it too. Such a wonderful book."

Molly had the chance to ask Skye some questions about reading, writing and magic. Check out their wonderful Q&A below.

You can also read an extract here and download some excellent teachers' resources here.
Reader Q&A with Skye McKenna


1) Cassie is such a brave character and strong. Is she based on a real person?

Cassie has a little of me in her, she loves books and is very independent, but she's definitely much braver than I was at her age. I would have liked to be more like Cassie.

Reader Q&A with Skye McKenna

2) I saw that you grew up in Australia. Did this help you come up with ideas for the book? Did it influence your book at all?

In Australia, you have to treat wild places with respect because there are all sorts of hidden dangers — if you understand this, it's a beautiful and magical country to explore. Most of my ideas for Hedgewitch came from my experiences of moving to the UK, but perhaps a little of the Australian wild crept into the strange and dangerous nature of the Hedge. 

3) Did you have to do lots of research for this book?

I've always loved reading about folklore, faeries and witches, so I suppose you could say I've been researching Hedgewitch since I was a kid. I did read more about woodlands, though, and about people called 'cunning folk' who offered magical services to their local communities. 

4) You recently helped organise the Magic & Mystery exhibition. Do you have a real interest in magic in your spare time? Did this help you come up with ideas for the book?

At university I became interested in the history of magic in the Middle Ages. The Magic & Mystery exhibition gave me a chance to explore that interest further and share my research with the kids and families visiting Barley Hall. A little medieval magic managed to sneak its way into Hedgewitch too. 

5) This is the first book in the series. Do you have the others written in draft? How long does it take to write a book?

I'm currently writing the second book in the series, Woodwitch, but I haven't started drafting the others yet. It took me three years to write Hedgewitch, but that was because I was still trying to figure out how the magical world worked and plan ahead for the other four books. I only have a year to write the second book, so I have to work much more quickly!

6) I like playing wizards and witches with my brother. When you were younger, did you imagine a secret world of witches and goblins?

My friends and I liked to invent games based on the books we loved. I also loved to draw maps and invent fantasy kingdoms, and to imagine trolls and dragons in the park near our home. 

Reader Q&A with Skye McKenna
Map of Hedgely

7) Would you like to learn magic like Cassie? If so, what spell would you most like to do?

I would particularly like to learn 'mending', which is the healing magic the girls learn in the coven. The Sweet Dreams Syrup would be pretty handy when I'm struggling to sleep! 

8) I would like to be an author. Is there any advice you would give me?

Read different types of books and think about what makes the best ones so enjoyable. Also give yourself plenty of time to daydream — sometimes the best ideas come when you let your mind wander.

9) What do you like doing when you are not writing?

My favourite thing to do when I'm not reading or writing is to go on adventures. Sometimes that means exploring a new town or city, but very often it involves walking in the hills and woods of Scotland, where I live. 

10) What is your favourite book? What book are you reading now?

My favourite book of all time is The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. Right now I'm reading The Sky Beneath the Stone by Alex Mullarky which is set in the Lake District. I think readers of Hedgewitch would love it!

Reader Q&A with Skye McKenna
Book pages Placeholder Book


 'Magical in every sense of the word' Eoin Colfer    

 Cassie Morgan has run away. After seven years spent waiting for her mother to return, she flees her dreary boarding school and sets out to find her. But the world outside her school is full of hidden magic and children have been going missing.

With the help of a talking cat and a flying broom, Cassie escapes to the enchanted village of Hedgely. There she will begin her training in the practical skills of witchcraft with the Hedgewitch, who watches over the Hedge, the vast forest that marks the border between England and Faerie.

  'There are only two sorts of fantasy story: the ones that feel fake and the ones that feel real. It's hard to explain the difference but you know the real ones when you read them, and Hedgewitch is one of them' Philip Reeve    


First published


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