The Midwinter Witch: Interview with Author Molly Knox Ostertag

We’re personally still pretty attached to Fall, but The Midwinter Witch has arrived, and we can’t help but feel all the wintery vibes.

When we first met Aster in The Witch Boy, he was just beginning to explore his passion for witchcraft, even though in his family witchery is reserved solely for the girls. The boys in Aster’s family have always gone on to be shapeshifters, never witches, and that’s the way it’s always been. Throughout the events of The Witch Boy and The Hidden Witch, we’ve seen Aster and his friends go up against dangerous threats, break mysterious curses, and discover who they’re destined to be.

The Midwinter Witch: Interview with Molly Knox Ostertag

Magic has a dark side…

Aster always looks forward to the Midwinter Festival, a reunion of the entire Vanissen family that includes competitions in witchery and shapeshifting. This year, he’s especially excited to compete in the annual Jolrun tournament — as a witch. He’s determined to show everyone that he’s proud of who he is and what he’s learned, but he knows it won’t be easy to defy tradition.

Ariel has darker things on her mind than the Festival — like the mysterious witch who’s been visiting her dreams, claiming to know the truth about Ariel’s past. She appreciates everything the Vanissens have done for her, but Ariel still craves a place where she truly belongs.

The Festival is a whirlwind of excitement and activity, but for Aster and Ariel, nothing goes according to plan. When a powerful and sinister force invades the reunion, threatening to destroy everything the young witches have fought for, can they find the courage to fight it together? Or will dark magic tear them apart?

The Midwinter Witch
AUTHOR: Molly Knox Ostertag
PUBLISHER: Scholastic Graphix
DATE: November 5, 2019

The final installment, The Midwinter Witch, has arrived from author Molly Knox Ostertag. Aster is excited about the Jolrun Tournament at the Midwinter Festival. It’s an exciting competition of witchery and shapeshifting, and Aster sees it as his chance to finally show the world, and his family, how far he’s come as the capable witch he knows he’s meant to be. But things are never as simple as they seem, which means readers are in for the most exciting, high-stakes story yet!

We’re not here to spoil all the details, but we’re super excited to share that we caught up with author Molly Knox Ostertag about The Midwinter Witch! Get to know more about why she’s loved being able to bring this story to life, what she thinks is next for Aster, and her favorite Witch Boy fan moment.

Author Molly Knox Ostertag Opens Up about The Witch Boy Series:

What inspired you to bring Aster and The Witch Boy series to life?

MOLLY KNOX OSTERTAG: I really believe that stories are an incredible force for making people feel seen and represented, and for showing different perspectives and experiences. I noticed that there aren’t many young adult and middle grade books that featured boys who wanted to do something considered traditionally feminine. That was the very start of imagining Aster, but he quickly grew from a theoretical idea into a full-fledged character. I drew him until I knew what he looked like, and then I thought (and sometimes dreamed) about him all the time until I started to figure out his story; who his family was, his friends, what he was trying to do.

Which 3 words would you use to describe Aster and Ariel?

MOLLY: Aster is empathetic, clever, and honest. Ariel is moody, intense, and a total goth.

You always speak so lovingly about your characters. Who has been your favorite to write? The most challenging?

MOLLY: All of the main kids feel like parts of myself, but Ariel is the most fun to write because she’s such a drama queen! She embodies the part of myself that has big feelings and wants to let them all out.

I think Aster’s parents, especially Holly, are the hardest to write. They are loving parents, but they don’t understand Aster very well; threading the line between parental kindness and unintentional cruelty is tricky!

The Midwinter Witch is the final book in the series, and Aster has grown so much as a person and as a witch. What are you most proud of him for? What do you think he still has to learn?

MOLLY: I’m really proud that he’s found his bravery. It can be so hard not to get validation from the world and your family, and it can be hard to stick up for yourself. Aster struggled with this in The Witch Boy and even in The Midwinter Witch, but by the end of the series he can be proud and open about who he is – thanks in big part to his supportive friends.

If I ever returned to Aster, I’d want to see what he does next – what does he want to do with his witchery? He’s spent so long fighting to learn it that he hasn’t given much thought to what he actually wants to study.

What do you hope readers take away from The Midwinter Witch?

MOLLY: That the most important thing is finding people in your life who see your true self – and that their voices are worth listening to.

What do you love most about writing books (and shows!) for kids?

MOLLY: I read almost all of my favorite books when I was a teen and younger – these books shaped the way I saw the world and myself. The thought that anything I write could have that effect on someone is really cool!

ALSO I love meeting young fans at book events and asking them what the cool teen memes are, even though so far no one has told me.

As you’ve done signings and events for the series, has there been a fan encounter that was particularly special to you?

MOLLY: A lady who worked in a children’s hospital told me that the hospital library had a copy of Witch Boy, but a trans teen stole it and wouldn’t give it back. Feeling strongly enough about a book that you are driven to commit a minor crime is a huge compliment, and I hope they got to read the other two books as well!

The Midwinter Witch: Interview with Molly Knox Ostertag
If Aster were living in our world, who do you think his heroes/idols would be?

MOLLY: Aster basically does live in our world, he is just homeschooled and has very limited access to pop culture. I think he’d catch a showing of Practical Magic at Charlie’s house sometime, though, and become obsessed with the witchy aunts!

Which books/movies/shows were most important to you as a kid?

MOLLY: The books I reread upwards of a hundred times – Harry Potter, everything by Tamora Pierce, the Young Wizards series, His Dark Materials.

The movies I obsessed over – all the Lord of the Rings, this weird Merlin miniseries starring Sam Neill, and everything Miyazaki.

What advice do you think Aster would share with the readers of your YAYOMG! and The Midwinter Witch?

MOLLY: Listen to yourself. Those feelings that no one else seems to have, those passions that seem impossible to pursue – those are worth listening to. If you’re true to yourself, you’ll find people who support you and see you how you want to be seen. If you’re kind to yourself, that kindness will turn outwards, and you can be a supportive friend to someone else who needs it, too.

Want to catch Molly at her upcoming author events? She’ll be on a panel with other amazing middle grade graphic novelists at the Portland Book Festival on November 9th. She will also be at Children’s Book World in Los Angeles for a signing on November 16th!

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