Five questions for... Michelle Harrison

Five questions for... Michelle Harrison

Children's author Michelle Harrison answers our questions about A Sprinkle of Sorcery, the follow-up to her popular middle grade novel, A Pinch of Magic.

What is A Sprinkle of Sorcery about?

The story begins when a runaway turns up in the night at the home of the Widdershins sisters – a runaway the prison warders are searching for. The girls attempt to help by outwitting the warders, but disaster strikes. Before the night’s out one sister is missing and the others are on a perilous mission to get her back, as well as unravelling the mystery of who the runaway really is.

It is a sequel to A Pinch of Magic – what can fans of the first book expect more of in this one, and what elements are new?

Expect more sisterly banter, a story within a story as Crowstone’s dark past intertwines with the present, and of course, MAGIC. The sisters still have the enchanted nesting dolls that can render them invisible but they’re about to encounter some new magical objects, too. There are also fresh characters and locations including cursed shipwrecks and hidden islands as the Widdershins sail into the unknown.

Though your debut novel The Thirteen Treasures won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, A Pinch of Magic was a breakthrough book for you in some ways. Why do you think it struck such a chord with readers and booksellers?

Initially I worried that the story was too simplistic, but I now believe simplicity was key: three sisters, three magical objects and a family curse. It’s an easy pitch, instantly conveyed through the strapline and . . . that cover! Melissa Castrillón’s illustration was a huge hit, and with the finishes it’s a book that’s very hard not to pick up. 

Aside from magic, I think much of the appeal comes from the power of sibling rivalry and family love. As one of three sisters, writing about this in a ‘warts and all’ way comes easily. It’s a strange dynamic. The worst fights I’ve ever had were with my sisters, but they’re the two people I trust most. Our bond is unshakeable. So many readers have connected with this, saying they see themselves and their siblings in the Widdershins, which was totally unexpected to me, but lovely.

What was the inspiration for this series?

It’s loosely based on Essex folklore. It’s said there will always be six witches in Canewdon village, and whenever one dies a stone falls from the church walls. I adapted this into the Widdershins curse and stones falling from Crowstone Tower. There’s a lighter part to the legend, in which a witch rowed across a river in a bathtub – and a similar scene occurs in A Sprinkle of Sorcery! I love weaving old folk tales and traditions into my books.

What are you working on next?

I’m about to begin the third book in my Midnight Magic series for Stripes. It’s for younger readers of 6+, and is all about a little black cat called Midnight who has magical powers. The first book publishes in October 2020. After that, I’m delighted to say that I’ll be starting a third Widdershins adventure!

A Sprinkle of Sorcery will be published by Simon & Schuster Children's on 6th February.