My Grade-Seven Space Opera

I’ve been annoying the intraweb this past year with posts about Spell Sweeper (but don’t worry, I’ll still talk about it, because promotion is just part of a modern author’s duties). . . but let me take a break from Spell Sweeper matters and talk about a different project that I worked on, a project of EPIC proportions.

My friend Mike recently unearthed a precious artifact from the past…a script we wrote for our own epic Space Opera when were in elementary school. I introduce to you EXTROIS, taking place in the distant future (uh . . . 2000 A.D.). Yes, the future—where “everything is destroyed, and the people are destroyed” (so I’m not sure how a plot is possible with no characters or setting available, but let’s not nitpick). 

It might be the best thing I’ve ever worked on.  Though, as Mike pointed out, to try and release this now may result in various lawsuits from Lucasfilm and the estates of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. As I recall, one impediment to this project was that we didn’t actually own a camera to film on. This is now easily rectified, but it’s going to be hard to get the old crew together.

Our costume designs might need some reworking to fit our, uh, advanced body shapes.

Other books and stories from my childhood have survived, and I regularly show my creative writing students, to prove to them that I wasn’t born with some magical talent, but this is the first time where there is a direct comparison between my creative output and a peer’s. I mean, honestly! Mike must have been a joy to teach—his printing is neat, considered, and cleanly spaced. My sections looked like I was writing with my hands tied behind my back! (So, apologies, Mrs. Clough…I can’t believe I made you struggle through my scrawl on a daily basis!)

For all of you out there who think your writing is good enough, and you’ll never get there, then please use this as Exhibit A.

I remembered Mike and I working on this, but thought the script had been lost in time, so it was quite the gift for it to suddenly turn up. 

By the way, yes, my last name is spelled differently here. It’s the name I grew up with, but when I was a young adult, I legally changed it back to its original Hungarian form (when my Grandfather immigrated, they anglicized his name, which was often the case back in those days).


A free bonus book for you!

Hey, Spell Sweeper fans—you deserve a gift for all the love you’ve given this book. So, I’m releasing today a free e-book of “EXTRAS,” which you can download HERE.

Spell Sweeper Extras

(If you’re looking to get a copy of Spell Sweeper itself, then check out HarperCollins’ purchase page.)

Lots of goodies here! First, I’ve got some deleted scenes for you (some of those intervening moments where Cara talks about aspects of her life or Dragonsong Academy). It was a hard decision to cut these scenes; even though they are quite short, they slowed down the pacing of the main narrative or, in some cases, I felt the information was covered well enough elsewhere. But if you were dying to know what kids at Dragonsong like to dress up as for Halloween, you won’t have to wonder any longer!

Second, I have included two of the “wizard fairy tales” that are referenced in Spell SweeperThe Tale of Eurybia the Eradicator and The Tale of Theradune the Betrayer. These tales present the origin stories of two important talismans that impact the plot of Spell Sweeper, but they’ll also give you a glimpse into Cara’s thinking. I never did intend to include these stories in the main book. I just often conceive these kinds of myths as part of my world-building process.

Third, are some Spell Sweeper inspired recipes and, finally, some of my own sketches of the characters (Maike Plenzke’s versions of these characters on the cover are much better than my own, but at least you can see how I was thinking of them).

Well, how many times have I been asked over the last few months: “Will there be a Spell Sweeper sequel?” I’m thankful so many people want one! But I did pitch this book as a stand-alone, so if I ever return to Cara’s story it won’t be quite yet. However, you can enjoy more of Cara’s voice and world RIGHT NOW!

Of course, if you haven’t read Spell Sweeper yet, these extras will provide you with a glimpse of Cara’s voice and, well, let’s just call it her swagger. Either way . . . enjoy!

My magical classroom

Unlike Cara Moone in my latest middle-grade book, I never went to magic school as a kid—but I was in a classroom that was incredibly magical.

It started in Grade 3 when I was sent to the hall to sit at a lonely desk and fill out a piece of paper. I thought I was in trouble at first! There was a sheet of paper with rows of circles, and the instructions said to draw. 

I can’t remember what I drew exactly, but it definitely wasn’t confined to within those circles. In the weeks ahead, there were a few other tests, and at least one interview with some old guy that came across as very scientific. In my imagination, he hooked me up to electrodes and tested my brain patterns (but I actually think he just asked me complicated questions).

Grade 4 . . . everything changed. I was put into a “creative learning” class with Mrs. Clough. We had a giant room with a small number of students. Some of the students came and went, but as for me, I was in that same classroom with the same teacher for three years.

During those three years, my creativity was nurtured and enflamed. I was given permission to be me. (I grew up on a farm in a small rural town and let’s just say that painting pictures or writing stories did not have many practical applications). 

Being in Mrs. Clough classroom was a foundational experience in my life. That room was my haven, a place where I could write, draw, build and explore. Many stories and ideas blossomed within those walls. I became a critical thinker, a dreamer, an enactor.

Mrs. Clough’s classroom helped make me who I am today, both as a writer and arts educator.

How can you ever repay those teachers in your life? It’s impossible, but I’m doing my best today by sending Mrs. Clough signed copies of my books.

Incidentally, that classroom still exists. Eventually our school was turned into a town center and our classroom was converted to become part of the public library . . . so, yep . . . my books are sitting on shelves in the place where I learned how to embrace my creativity.

To all those kids . . .

To all those kids . . .

My dedication for SPELL SWEEPER. 

Over the past eighteen years, I’ve met thousands of kids at school visits, library events, writing conferences, and creativity workshops—many of them while visiting overseas. 

One of the things that has come up, time and time again, is how much they love books about magical schools (hello, Harry Potter!)—but what also comes up is how they can’t see themselves as a part of the story, except maybe as a periphery character.

This was something that played heavily in my mind as I wrote Spell Sweeper. I wanted the kids in my life (including my own son) to see that the “Chosen One” in this type of story can look like them—not just in another time and place where all the characters might look like them, but in the world at large. Does that make sense? 

I also liked playing with this idea that you might have the most wonderful thing in the world happen to you, like being chosen to go to wizard school . . . but then you’re NOT the “Chosen One.” How many of us had dreams come true (like being published!), but then don’t become New York Times bestselling authors, and either beat ourselves up or stew in jealousy? But even if you’re not at the top of the ladder, does that mean you should devalue the fact that you made it on the rungs in the first place?

It’s a struggle that I am witness to all the time: in myself, in my friends, in my kids. So, I guess I wanted to say…welcome to the magical world. You’re in it, no matter who you are.

Kiki’s Delivery Service: Exploring the DNA of Spell Sweeper

I revisited many “magical learning” and “broom” books as I was working on Spell Sweeper, and one of my favorites is Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono. (The classic book that inspired the beloved film of the same name.) 

Thirteen-year-old Kiki sets off, in the tradition of witches, to find a town to serve for a year. When she arrives at the seaside town of Koriko, she starts her own business—delivering parcels by broomstick. At first, she assumes it will be easy—hey, she’s Kiki!¬—but she soon discovers that winning over the locals of Koriko is not so easy. Thankfully, she’s got her wise-cracking cat Jiji on her side . . . as well as her magical broom. 

This book has many charming details, but I think my favorite is the silver bells that Kiki’s mother hangs from the treetops—when they ring, they signal that Kiki’s has zoomed into them.

The book in the photo is translated by the version I have is translated by Emily Balistrierie and illustrated by Yuta Onanda.

My own book, Spell Sweeper, is available in hardbound, digital, and audiobook formats from your favorite outlet.

Happy birthday to SPELL SWEEPER

Today, my new middle-grade fantasy book SPELL SWEEPER officially comes out with HarperCollins Children’s Books. A particularly big thank you to my agent Rachel Letofsky, my editor Stephanie Stein, and to the wonderful cover art by Maike Plenzke (I feel like I won the lottery)!

Spell Sweeper is my tenth MG novel. Hard to believe, and I’m grateful and humbled by all the support from readers, teachers, librarians, and fellow kidlit creators.It’s been my honor to have worked with so many kids—thousands of them—in classrooms and libraries all around the world, sometimes via technology, sometimes right on site (I’ll never forget the monsoon in Bangkok!). 

I am so grateful for every review, rating, letter, email, fan art, photo of a fan in a costume, and acknowledgement or nudge of encouragement along the way. I could have never done it alone. Do I have another ten books in me? I’ll keep you apprised!

Even though Spell Sweeper is my tenth book, it’s very different from any other I’ve written. This isn’t simply because it’s written in first-person present tense, but because it’s the most personal, drawing on some of my own insecurities I experienced as a kid (well, who am I fooling; I still experience them). These are the same insecurities that I see in so many of the young people in my life. It’s a burning desire to be something better—coupled with the fear that you simply aren’t good enough . . . and what that will mean for your place in the world.

I hope Spell Sweeper takes you on a fun ride, but that it also shows you the beloved story of a chosen hero who must face the darkness from a different perspective. We are all significant!

Spell Sweeper is available at your favorite retailer as a hardback, digital, or audio book. Check out order links HERE.

And, hey, if you want to know some top ways to support authors (without buying their books), then check out a previous post.

The Best Fantasy Book EVER

No . . . that’s NOT the tagline for my next middle-grade book. It’s the tagline for YOURS.

Let me explain! 

I am always on the hunt for new ideas to provoke, inspire, and entertain my teen-aged creative writing students. Many of them tumble down the rabbit hole of a long, epic project and I feel a big part of my job is to simply keep them motivated along the way with short and sweet writing projects.

That is where the The Best Fantasy Book Ever project comes is . . .

The pure unabashed joy of imagining

So many of us writers love imagining the package of a book. We love visualizing it on the shelf of the library or the bookshop, love picturing a reader curled up with our book in their hands. This is the type of enthusiasm I wanted to try and capture in this project. I also wanted my students to really unleash their imagination without having to worrying about actually having to . . . deliver.

The title comes first

I’d be curious to know how many authors start with a title—that is to say, they have a title before they have a first draft of the manuscript, or even a first chapter. Personally, I’m all over the map. I have baptized books very early on in the process with a title, while others it took many drafts of the manuscript before I could settle on a name. (As a side note, I’ve never had a publisher change a book title on me, though I have known many authors who have had this happen.)

As for this project, the title definitely comes first! I ask students to generate the title of a fantasy book using three simple wheels I created and posted on a hidden page on my website. 

There are three wheels, each producing its own word. String those words together, plonk a “the” at the beginning and—voilà! You have the title of the Best Fantasy Book Ever.

Here’s the hook

Next, I ask my students to write the back-cover copy for the book. Of course, this serves as an opportunity for me to explain the purpose of this text (NOT to summarize the book, but to sell it) and give some tips on how to write this sort of copy. 

The results have been a lot of fun so far—and fantastic. I tried to use words that offer built-in story elements, words such as “last” or “apprentice” or “treason.” I also have a lot of words to suggest fantastical settings, such as “cloud” or “palace.” 

I have ended up swapping out a few words here and there since I first built the wheels—I suppose, I could just expand them, too, adding more words, which I might do in the future. So far, though, no two students in any one class have generated the exact same title.

One thing that I find interesting is that very few of my students have felt the need to re-spin the wheels. They could easily do this, and I wouldn’t even know, since all of my classes that I have delivered this project for have been virtually delivered. At the end of the process I always ask how many times they have spun the wheels and I’ve only had a couple of students admit to spinning twice.

Bonus material!

There are a lot of possible extensions to this project. Some of my students wrote fake testimonials or reviews to grace their back covers. Others have written biographies of the authors they imagined wrote the books. Some have even written the opening scenes. Others have produced cover designs.

The freedom to create

I’ve now delivered this project to several different groups of teen-aged students, and I’ve had some time to reflect upon the results.

Many of my students get really caught up in creating something perfect. They are so attached to an idea that they want to write that they freeze halfway through a first chapter, petrified by their own dissatisfaction. Others peter out of steam later on in a manuscript because they get stuck on the ongoing nuances of the plot (I call this “Plot Paralysis”). 

The Best Fantasy Book Ever project is aimed at helping remove that layer of self-conscious second-guessing. This is a fake book. They don’t have to deliver on it. They have no attachment to it. They just gush out their ideas, then move on.

However . . . there is some magic going on during this process. Because they are not thinking of the big picture, the big possibility, they simply do—and in doing, they are generating fresh ideas, interesting characters, premises, settings, and plot circumstances. Sure they might not write this book . . . but they’ve just bottled a bit of fuel for other projects.

Of course . . . I am waiting for one of my students to tell me they are going to write a book based on the hook they created for the Best Fantasy Book Ever project, because having read some of their back-cover copy . . . well, let’s just say there are some pretty amazing ideas out there!

By the way . . . for my upcoming book, Spell Sweeper, the title came early. I had been contemplating the ideas of magical brooms for a long time, but I wanted to do something with brooms that did NOT involve flying. I finally just asked myself this question: “What if brooms in the magical world were still for sweeping?” From there, the title seemed obvious and natural, though I had a few variations: The Secret Society of Spell Sweepers, Caradine Moone and the Secret Society of Spell Sweepers, and (my favorite): Cara Moone Definitely Does Not Want to Be A Spell Sweeper. Pretty quickly, though, I decided that the simpler Spell Sweeper was the best fit.

You can pre-order Spell Sweeper here. As you can see by the cover image, the tagline is NOT the Best Fantasy Book Ever—it’s Magic is Messy.

What’s the fun of writing a book if you can’t turn it into a halloween costume?

A big part of my writing process (and my teaching process, for that matter) is building stuff. I used to do this all the time when I was a kid, bringing to life characters and objects from both my own imagined worlds and the ones I visited through reading. (I vividly remember building a life-size Jack Pumpkinhead from The Marvellous Land of Oz one Halloween).

It took me several years into my professional writing career to realize that these activities informed each other, and now I embrace it.

My latest book, Spell Sweeper, is coming out with HarperCollins on November 30th, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it was inspired by stuff that I thought it would just be fun for a character to wield: brooms, potions . . . magical supplies, but with a twist.

In truth, I already had most of the important supplies (a cool spell sweeping broom that I bought long ago from Granville Island Broom Co.), potion bottles, goggles—it was just a matter of assembling it and making sure everything was appropriately weathered.

What about you? Anyone else dressing up as a literary character for Halloween?

By the way, the Spell Sweeper kit gets a detailed description in the book (there are many interceding sections in the story, places where Cara goes on a rant and provides some insight into the world of wizards).

So, here’s an excerpt, in Cara’s own words . . .


These are the essential items in a spell sweeper’s kit:


Most people think broom + wizard = flying. But take it from someone who actually attends wizard school—no one straddles a broom and jumps from the top of a Dragonsong tower unless they’ve drunk too much of Madame Kree’s secret-recipe Halloween punch (which apparently happened with Chloe Quill one year).


Good for protecting your eyes from residue splatter or from the venom that an attacking creature might spray in your direction. I only use them when absolutely necessary because even wizards don’t seem to have conjured up a solution for preventing fog-up.

Sweeper scarf

These are woven from the fiber of elf’s breath (a very purple and very pretty plant), which has excellent properties for filtering out toxic fumes. We wear our scarves around our necks and pull them up around our faces when required. 

Steel-toed boots

Because when dragons stomp, they apparently don’t mess around.


Made with special residue-repellant material. A pretty good idea, because you definitely don’t want magical gunk under your fingernails.

Utility belt

Next to my broom, this is my most important piece of equipment because it’s where I store my broom snippers and vials of stain removers and neutralizers. It also includes a collapsible containment box—in the event that we encounter small magical entities, we can unfold the box and use it for transporting the entity to a proper wizard for inspection.

(Side note: This doesn’t really make sense to me, because the sweeper code of conduct explicitly states that we should not interact with a magical entity.)

(Side note 2: It’s really hard not to interact with a magical entity when it is trying to eat you, in which case the last thing you’re thinking about is how to fit it into this tiny containment box.)

Barricade tape

You’re probably familiar with the bright yellow “caution” tape for securing the scene of an accident. When we do a purge in Bliss territory, it’s procedure to rope off the entire area to ensure no one stumbles upon any magical activity. Our tape reads: Chemical Spill Containment Site: Do Not Cross—because no Bliss would take Danger: Feral Magic at Work seriously.

Miniature dustpan

Useful in both the wizarding and the Bliss worlds.




At one point in the book, this list was much more detailed, but we cut it for sake of brevity. But, if you want to know some of the more specific details, I present them to you here, also in Cara’s voice . . .


Moone Brew (patent pending)

My personal mixture combining qilin powder and caladrius gland secretions. It kicks the snot out of toxic spell dust.

Stones from the River Quell

This is the equivalent of kitty litter, which Blisses use in a regular chemical spill situation. Quell stones are good for absorbing and mopping up various types of creature excretions—your basic snots, urines, feces, but also things like dragon yolk or basilisk venom.

Ash from a phoenix’s nest

The best kind comes with bits of feather, flecks of gold, and other material. It’s a good abrasive and can really take on the peskiest of stains.

Pollen from hippogriff’s heart

In case you think this is ultra-gross, let me explain! A hippogriff’s heart is a type of flower, named for its shape and color. The pollen it emits makes for another good abrasive. But do NOT mix it with the above because . . . um, boom. Like many of our plant-based cleaners, Dragonsong Academy grows hippogriff’s heart in its enclosed botanical garden (the students call it “The Poison Patch” because there are some plants in there that are so dangerous that they have their own individual cages).

Elf’s breath cotton

Our spell sweeper scarves are woven from elf’s breath because it has excellent properties for filtering out toxins. In its pure form, elf breath is a strong deodorizer, so if our scarves simply won’t cut it, we can uncork a bottle of this stuff. (Apparently, urine from certain dragon species can leave an odor that lasts for decades.) 

Qilin powder

This is ground up from the antlers that qilin shed annually and is a powerful neutralizer that can send feral magic running for the hills (not that we want it running anywhere).

Griffin tears

These are famous for their healing properties, but they can do a number on feral magic as well, soaking up all the mischievous dust and converting into a manageable slime that you can easily sweep up.

Caladrius gland secretions

The caladrius is a magical bird that can draw the illness right out of a sick person. The gland secretions are very potent, which is why it’s one of the key ingredients I use when dueling toxic spell slime.

Arachnid eggs
I don’t know what these are supposed to do, but Master Quibble says that a spell sweeper should always have a vial on the ready. Gusto refuses. Snakes really wig him out, but spiders aren’t too far behind, especially after we saw what happened in Cosimo Balthazar’s antique shop, The Two-Eyed Cyclops.

Feathers of various magical creatures

Some people (annoying non-spell-sweeping wizards like Georgia and Simone) think that feathers are for dusting, but you can’t “dust” spell dust, especially the feral or toxic kind. We use these feathers to trim into bits and to add to some of our other powders or abrasives when trying to soak up certain messes. (In case it isn’t clear yet, you need to know what you’re doing when it comes to mixing.)

Sparks from a wizard’s fire

These stay alive within their bottle and can be activated with a quick shake. They don’t clean up anything but, apparently, if we encounter a dangerous creature, these might cause a distraction that buys us a few precious before being turned into spell sweeper mulch.

Wizard’s sponge

This is basically moss that has been harvested from Dragonsong’s garden. I’m not sure how it’s different from regular moss, except that it does really good job of soaking up and neutralizing certain creature venoms, spits, and saliva.

Unicorn tears

You’re probably automatically thinking of these as being in liquid form, but unicorn tears are known for quickly solidifying into tiny crystals, usually silver and red, depending on whether they are tears of joy or tears of sadness. They are particularly good for counteracting certain explosive materials, such as dragon snot. 

Mage twigs

Yet another plant that is grown in Dragonsong’s botanical garden, these are like a wizard’s version of incense sticks. We can light them to purify a place, but I find this is more to do with providing comfort as opposed to an actual cleanse, and I’m not so keen in sticking around a spill site any longer than I have to.  

Squix egg

Definitely NOT a part of the standard spell sweeper kit. So, shh . . .


As I said above, I love to hear about people dressing as literary characters, so feel free to post in the comments.

My day is a train wreck

My day is a train wreck

During our recent family vacation, we ended up revisiting the train wreck, just south of the Whistler mountain resort.

Rusty carriages are strewn throughout the woods, the result of a catastrophic derailment in 1956. Over the years, the cars have been brightened up with graffiti, adding an eerie aspect to the site. 

When we first discovered this place back in 2019, I was just hatching the idea for my next book, Spell Sweeper. The site made such an impression on me that it the location of a major event in Spell Sweeper’s plot (one of the chapters is even called “My Day is a Train Wreck”). 

It was fun to revisit the site and to discover how it had changed (one thing was that it was a lot busier than the last time we were there) and to see the new artwork and further degradation of the train carriages (which makes sense, given what I did to them in Spell Sweeper!).

Spell Sweeper is being released by HarperCollins Children’s Books on November 30. Want to preorder or add it to Goodreads (things that really help authors, by the way)? Head on over to this page on my website for all the links.

Yep, I wrote a book about wizard school

My latest middle-grade book is called Spell Sweeper, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books. 

You can add Spell Sweeper to Goodreads HERE or preorder it HERE. You can also request a digital or audio advanced reading copy via NetGalley or Edelweiss

Release feels like a long way off (the book is coming out as hardcover, ebook, and audio book in November 2021), but I wanted to provide some insights into my inspirations. Spell Sweeper is very different from anything else I’ve had published. It’s written in first-person present-tense and is set firmly in this world (as opposed to my other books, which take place in completely made-up worlds). 

So here’s a little background . . .

Who in their right mind writes a book about wizard school?

What a dangerous enterprise! To the masses, the Harry Potter books are so popular and authoritative that many give J.K. Rowling credit for single-handedly inventing the concepts of wands, wizards with long white beards, owls as familiars, the Chosen One and many other fantasy tropes. (This is a testimony to the power of her characters, settings, and world building.)

Instead of trying to ignore this behemoth of a series, I tried to play upon it, giving my main character Cara Moone a slightly satirical tone as she confronts certain tropes in her adventures and, depending on her mood, is either impressed by them being fulfilled or miffed that they have been contradicted. 

Of course, I wasn’t thinking only of Harry Potter, but of the long line of fantasy books, movies, and TV shows that populate this genre (though at the same time understanding that for many of my readers, their own references may go no further than Rowling’s books). I was thinking about Jane Yolen’s Wizard’s Hall, The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, The Worst Witch by Jilli Murphy, Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, The Chronicles of Narnia, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire SlayerFirefly . . . the list goes on. I was thinking of how often we find these common (and cherished) tropes of a mentor, a magical talisman used to finish the quest, a prophecy of a chosen one.


Side note: 
I am particularly fascinated by the concept of the Chosen One. If you’re interested in exploring the roots of this archetypal character, then I suggest you check out the excellent two-part series from the IDEAS podcast:

The Chosen, Part 1

The Chosen, Part 2


Now, onto my specific inspirations . . .

My own experience of a magical school

In 2004, I met a like-minded dreamer named Joon-hyoung Park who was seeking a writing program for his daughters to take. He couldn’t find the right type of workshop, so he decided to invent one—and he wanted my help. The next thing you know, Joon and I had started a creative writing program in Vancouver for immigrant kids from Asia (our own school of magic!). 

Our workshops blossomed and bloomed, and now we host many programs for kids from all walks of life. We write stories, draw pictures, brew potions, build dragon eggs—you name it!

My wife and I have enjoyed an additional privilege—the opportunity to visit Asia to teach creative writing at schools, libraries, and education centers (I’ve been to Korea over twenty times!). Reading the stories by these creative kids—and about their dreams, desires, and fears—has definitely played a role in the creation of Dragonsong Academy. (By the way, it’s no exaggeration to say that our teaching experiences led us to Japan, and our son Hiro, in 2018.)

Over the years, I’ve met a lot of Harry Potter fans, but my students, being largely from an Asian background, always had trouble finding themselves in the books. (Yes, there’s Cho Chang, but as far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t get to do any of the fun stuff.) So, one thing I wanted to do was to populate my school with characters that represent and reflect my students (and, for that matter, my son). These aren’t just side characters, but ones who are talented and powerful and often get to lead the charge.

The other common feeling I’ve observed in my students is a yearning to be popular and famous, whether it be in their families, at their schools, or on the Internet. Cara is like so many of us; she feels inadequate and is constantly pestered by those “why not me?” or “when is it my turn?” moments. The thing is that Cara has actually already “made it”, being one of the lucky few who gets to go to wizard school. The catch is that she views herself at the bottom of the pecking order. As a MOP (Magical Occurrence Purger), she’s left to clean up the magical residue left behind by “real” wizards. 

This concept of how we view ourselves—our luck, our privilege, our role—is something that I really wanted to investigate in this book, and it’s my hope that Cara’s journey rings true for readers.

My fascination with brooms

Speaking of being lucky, I’ve had the good fortune to visit the castle in England where they filmed many of the scenes for the Harry Potter movies. My wife and I went to Alnwick Castle way back in 2014 and we took “broom flying” lessons. 

For the record, I did poorly:

After that trip, I began seeing brooms. Everywhere. There was always one leaning against a park bench or in the corner of a temple, as if impatiently waiting for its owner to return. I wasn’t sure why exactly, but I felt there was a hint of magic happening with these brooms. Maybe they belong to a wizard who had just plonked down and darted off to fetch a tea. Or maybe they were abandoned during a scuffle with a dark adversary!

Truth is, I didn’t contemplate these broom encounters too deeply at the time. Instead, I just made sure to note them, take photographs, and make notes in my brainstorming journal, mostly because that’s what I’ve trained myself to do: pay attention to the things that spark me. 

Eventually, another memory was resurrected in my mind: my grandfather used to make his own brooms! He grew the broomcorn, harvested it, and bound them to broomsticks. I never saw my grandfather build a broom (I really wish I had), but I realized I had one of his creations in the dusty corner of my closet. On a subsequent visit to my parents, I scavenged their house to find they had their own collection of my grandfather’s handmade brooms. They all have the same humble construction—and, if you ask me, their own type of magic. Clearly, these brooms have been lingering in my subconscious all these years, waiting for me to tell their story.

But one thing I knew is that I did not want to write a story in which brooms were used for flying. I kept wondering what brooms could do in a magical world if they weren’t for zipping wizards and witches from Point A to Point B. 

Of course, the answer eventually became obvious . . . and Spell Sweeper was born.