Could you be a witch for a week?
10th Oct 17

Could you be a witch for a week?

In her spell-binding new book, author Kaye Umansky introduces us to Elsie Pickles - who becomes a 'Witch for a Week' when she house-sits for the witch Magenta. Magic and mayhem follow!

With a grumpy raven, a lost dog and a cake-baking tower for company, Elsie soon gets to grips with the essentials of house-sitting.

The love potions, a weeping maiden and a vain woodcutter come as more of a surprise - as do Elsie's emerging magical skills. Will Elsie be able to keep all her customers happy?

We asked KAYE UMANSKY - who has also written the Pongwiffy books - to tell us more about her new series, WITCH FOR A WEEK:

Q: Why do you enjoy writing about witches and magical creatures? Are these the kinds of stories you enjoyed as a child?

A: As a child, I was always drawn to fantasy. I loved books about witches and enchanted forests and magic spells. I could never find enough of them. I try to write the sort of books that I would have liked to read under the bedclothes by torchlight.

Q: What sparked the idea for the witch, Magenta, needing a house sitter for her tower?

A: I wanted to write a story about an ordinary girl getting the opportunity to dabble with magic. The tower has 'all the gear' needed for Elsie to get creative and experimental. And there are no adults around to stop her!

Q: Elsie is the 'witch for a week'; what are the most important things she learns during her week in the tower?

A: She learns the three important rules of witchcraft:

1. Read the instructions.
2. Follow the recipe
3. Make it work.

The last one is the trickiest. You have to believe in yourself. It's all about self confidence.

Q: What made you decide to give Magenta a raven, called Corbett, for company?

A: I love birds that talk. Whenever I come across a parrot, I have to be dragged away. Also, ravens traditionally belong in towers. Magenta and Corbett don't really get on, but they are stuck with one another.

Q: The other characters include a woodcutter called Hank, Sylphine who is in love with Hank, and the Howler Sisters. Which did you enjoy writing about the most?

A: I'm very fond of Sylphine. She reminds me of myself when I was 13 - plump and clumsy, but longing to be dainty and princess-like. I loved animals too, like she does - but they tended to run away when they saw me hurtling towards them with outstretched arms and a mad, enthusiastic grin.

Q: There is also an 'Everything you Need to Know' book in the tower, which answers your questions. What question would you be most likely to ask it?

A: What can I do to help bring peace to the world and fix the environment?

Q: Magenta's tower moves around. If you could live in it, where would you like it to be?

A: Oooh, that's a hard one. I'm very fond of snow - but I also love the idea of a tropical island. Can I move between the two?

Q: Magenta has some fabulous magical gadgets in her tower - which one would you like to have in your home?

A: I don't need a magical larder because I have a husband who is a good cook. A Spelloscope is appealing. I think most of us would like to spy on our neighbours when they don't know they're being watched...

Q: If you were a witch, what would be your favourite spell?

A: I'd love to use some of Magenta's Belt Up Balm, which stops people talking. There are certain politicians who could do with a smear of that on their lips.

Q: Will Elsie be housesitting again for Magenta?

A: Oh, yes. She's definitely going back. This time, she will be going on a very exciting shopping trip to a magical super-store in the seventh dimension!

Q: Where is the most magical place for you to write?

A: In my tiny office up the stairs. It has stars in the ceiling, and fairy lights, and all my favourite books.

Q: What would be your top tips for children who want to write a story with magic in it?

A: Everybody has a different approach to writing a story. There is no right or wrong way - just what works for you. I always decide who my central character will be and get to know them. I don't worry too much about working out a detailed plot to start with. The plot often unfolds itself as I write.

Maybe a good question to ask yourself is: What magical thing would I most like to happen to me? Find a wand? Develop an unusual superpower? Walk through a cupboard, fall down a hole or climb a tree and find myself in a strange land?

When I was a kid, I wanted all of those things to happen. How about you?

Q: What do you enjoy doing the most when you're not writing?

A: I like eating. I read. Chat to my husband. Cuddle the cats. Watch television. Listen to music. Go to the cinema. Swim in the summer. Walk in the park. Visit friends. The same as most people, I guess.

Q: What will you be dressing up as for Halloween?

A: I do enjoy dressing up. If you look at my website, there's a picture of me dressed as the Queen Of The Night. But this time I might just stick on my witch hat and answer the door to trick or treaters brandishing my broomstick.

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