Hello everybody! Today, I’m super excited to be part of the blog tour for Perdita and Honor Cargill’s lovely new middle grade book, Diary of an Accidental Witch, with my review of the book and an author interview. Onto the post!
Review: I loved the Waiting for Callback series so I was very excited when it got announced the authors had a middle grade series coming out, focusing on a girl named Bea, who accidentally ends up in a witch school despite the fact her family has no magical history and she shows no signs of having powers. Bea is an absolute sweetheart and it was such a joy reading her diary entries during her first half term at the Extraordinary, as she meets the pupils (such as her newfound nemesis Blair Smith-Smythe) and the staff and tries to get to grips with the very different curriculum and keeping such a huge secret from her dad and non-magical friend Ash. The diary format adds so much humour and heart, and it was just a lovely, gentle book to lose myself in when I was otherwise feeling a bit rubbish. Katie Saunders’ illustrations are lovely and suit the style of the story so well, and I also loved the magic and the setting, so I’m delighted there are going to be more in the series, especially after hearing a bit more about the sequel in my interview with the authors!
Hi Perdita and Honor! Thank you so much for being here today as part of your blog tour!
1. First of all, to start off, can you please describe the book in 5 words?
Girl meets … Magic, Mayhem & a Frog. (close enough!)
2. I’ve been a fan of you both since 2016, when I read your debut YA Waiting for Callback, and this is of course an MG title. What were the main differences about writing for younger readers? Were there any advantages or challenges?
Thank you! In some ways the move from teen to middle grade was less difficult than we expected: all of our stories are voice and character led and (hopefully) warm and funny. Writing for this age, we allowed ourselves to be sillier and sweeter and it was so much fun working with an illustrator for the first time. It took as a while to get used to using simpler language – but that’s a good habit to get into anyway!
3. The book follows Bea, who is starting at witch school, despite the fact she has no magical heritage that she knows of. What made you want to write a book about a magical school?
All the credit for coming up with the idea of diary series set in a witch school goes to our brilliant editors Ella Whiddett and Mattie Whitehead. Collaborating with the team at Little Tiger has been so much fun!
4. One of the main themes in the book is friendship, and it’s really important to Bea to make friends when she starts school. Who are some of your favourite friends in fiction? What qualities do you think make a great fictional friendship?
Narrowing it down to friends in other witch books – we’d single out the lovely bond between Mildred and Maud in the Worst Witch stories by Jill Murphy (absolute classics) and the spiky, funny friendship between Picklewitch and Jack in the brilliant Claire Barker books of that name. There are all sorts of different great book-friendships – soul mates, opposites, harmony or prickly – but in children’s books as in life there has to be kindness. 5. The book is told in a diary format, from Bea’s point of view. What made you want to write the book in this style? Were there any inspirations behind it with other books that have used this kind of writing? I’d love to hear about some of your faves! Again credit for the idea of writing the series in diary format goes to our publishers and was one of the things that most attracted us to the project. We’ve always liked reading in that format (Honor is dyslexic and the more broken-up the text, the better). Our favourites have to include the Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney and the Tom Gates series by Liz Pichon – they really deserve their massive popularity. And of course Angus, Thongs and full frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison and Bridget Jones! 6. Perhaps on a similar note, what sort of advice would you give to others writing in this style? And what were your favourite things about it? It’s been a really great style to write in. There’s a lovely intimate, secret feeling to it and hopefully you get to know Bea (our main character) really well. Tenses have been our bugbear… As far as advice goes maybe we’d suggest suspending your disbelief a little even as you’re writing to keep it really fun and fast. There are moments in these books where Bea is writing her diary in the midst of UTTER MAYHEM!
7. As you’re co-writers, I was wondering how you split the writing of your books? What are the main benefits and challenges of working this way?
We write together in one voice so we talk it through, then choose scenes to start working on and swap and edit and re-write until it is a) driving us bonkers and b) we’ve smoothed it out and made it consistent and we’re both happy that it’s funny and works. It’s a very equal process – it takes ages but it’s really stimulating and fun and it’s brilliant sharing the whole experience together, the ups and the downs…
8. Also on the theme of writing, what are your writing routines like? Do either of you have any unusual habits or quirks?
We’re both fitting in these writing collaborations around other work and life obligations so neither of us have anything you could really call a routine. Perdita gets her best writing done in the mornings and Honor late (sometimes very late) at night. We probably don’t overlap!
9. Finally, can you tell us anything about Bea’s next adventure? I’m so looking forward to reading it and seeing what happens next!
Bea is sporty and competitive (unlike either of us!) – as is her nemesis, Blair Smith-Smythe. In the next book, Flying High the Winter Solstice Tournament is on the horizon and the rivalry hots up. And keeping the witchiness secret from the non-witches in the town (and especially Bea’s dad and her best non-witch friend) is getting very stressful… Imagine the most catastrophic sports day in the world and magically multiply the disasters!
Would you want a frog or a cat as your witchy pet? PUPPY! (OK, a frog)
Favourite thing about autumn? P: leaves; H: Halloween!
Best Halloween costume you ever had? P: I’m too old to remember… H: love dressing up for Halloween – maybe Wednesday Addams?
Top 3 books of the year so far? (Up to you if you’d like to do joint or seperate lists!) Impossible question – pass!
Your current reads?
P: Vi Spi: Licence to Chill by Maz Evans (predictably brilliant). H: Lives of the Caesors by Suetonius 121 AD (for non-fiction book research obvs – would totally recommend – it’s wild!)
Thanks for the great questions!
Thank you so much for reading! What are some of your favourite witchy books, or books written in diary format? Are you planning to read this? I’d love to hear in the comments!