Brief Q&A with Keith McGowan about Brother and Sister compared to The Witch's Curse


Q. The Witch's Curse is inspired by the little known Brothers Grimm folktale Brother and Sister. How did you end up writing a book inspired by that folktale ?


A. If you know my first book, it tells the story of how Sol and Connie meet the witch from Hansel and Gretel. I felt like they had somehow ended up destined to meet villains from the Brothers Grimm folktales. I knew they were crossing a mountain range headed west to their Aunt Heather's. I wondered who might be there in the mountains far from town. I've read a lot of the Brothers Grimm folktales and I remembered Brother and Sister. In that story, a brother and sister run away from terrible parents—just like Sol and Connie were doing. They end up in the woods where a witch has enchanted the streams. The brother drinks from a stream and turns into a deer. The king, meanwhile, is in the woods with his hunting party and he ends up hunting the brother. At once, I thought these are the people who'd be up in the mountains: the hunter and the witch from Brother and Sister.


Q. In Brother and Sister, the sister ends up meeting the king, explaining who the deer really is, and they get married. The Witch's Curse tells a very different story. Why?


A. Actually, I was never clear how a king married the sister in the Grimm folktale. She didn't seem that old but maybe she was actually supposed to be seventeen or so in the story. Anyway, I decided to stick to the first part of the story, the hunting part. Sol and Connie might face the same villains as in the folktales, but that doesn't mean their fate is the same. We're in the 21st century now.


Q. The hunter in The Witch's Curse is different from the the king in Brother and Sister. Where did your hunter David come from?


A. I realized right away that the hunter couldn't be a king. I thought: It's not that he's really the king of a land, it's that his friends call him The King as a nickname because he's the best hunter of them all. Once I knew that, David just appeared to me the way he is in the book. He's a complicated guy. He's the villain but he was also tricked by the witch of the woods. Everyone who reads the book has a different opinion about him.


Q. You added a new character to the story, Theo the elk. Why did you do that?


A. The witch turns kids into animals. I thought that for some kids this might be a good thing. Theo likes being an elk. Maybe because he's such a natural elk in spirit, he's also able to last a season even with David hunting him. So, fair is fair, he isn't hunted again. He lives happily ever after as an elk.


Q. What about the other new character, the woodthrush?


A. The thrush is already in Sol and Connie's first adventure, although the thrush doesn't get a chance to help much in the first book. I guess I knew the thrush well from then, though, even if the readers didn't. I knew it would want to go off and try to help Sol and Connie. It's very optimistic and sure it can save the day, but discovers that being a hero is a lot harder than it imagines.