Spotlighting Celeste and the Witch Garden by Jude Gwynaire

As many of you know, one of the ways I got into blogging was because I’d been lucky enough to review middle grade books for Hodder and to write teacher resources to accompany them. Consequently, I’m always keen to promote fiction for all age groups here on Linda’s Book Bag. With that in mind, I invited Jude Gwynaire onto the blog.

Jude’s latest book for children is Celeste and the Witch Garden published by Burton Mayers on 17th February and available for purchase here.

Celeste and the Witch Garden

The Witch Garden is more than just your average, typical back garden – it’s more like a large and diverse, self-contained magical ecosystem, with fields, forests, rivers, villages and towns – even a castle – spread over its lush and green lands. Harper, the clumsy talking owl lives there, as do Alditha the white witch, the Green Man, and Skoros – the less than pleasant, megalomanic steampunk wizard.

When a giant flying teacup appears over the Green Man’s nook, Harper is convinced Skoros is up to no good, and reports the matter to Alditha. They discover, however, that the occupant of the teacup (which is really a spaceship in disguise) is actually a humanoid alien called Celeste, who looks about thirteen years old. Celeste hints that the Witch Garden is only a small part of a Class M planet called RY53-6, and seems intent on locating a series of mysterious silver orbs. She has a bio-mechanical alien sidekick called Alpha (who looks like a typical ‘Grey’ alien). They’re Astarians, and together, they’re on a mission to find The Sleepers – an Astarian space crew they believe visited the planet thousands of years ago.

Near the centre of the Witch Garden, in a town called Enki-Wood, is a monument to the nearest thing the WitchGardenfolk have to a god (Vin Taoo, the Great Gardener). The monument is Stone Hedge, and it’s actually the petrified drive system of The Sleepers’ dimension-hopping spaceship. When Celeste accidentally wakes The Sleepers from thousands of years of cryogenic sleep, the battle is on, not only to defeat Skoros and free the Witch Garden from his malign and polluting influence, but also to thwart the leader of The Sleepers, who wants to make the planet uninhabited again, as it was when he originally found it.

It takes the united efforts of all kinds of WitchGardenfolk, as well as Celeste, Alpha, and some of The Sleepers, to overcome both threats before the main Astarian Fleet arrives, and a deal can be brokered to co-exist with the Witch Garden’s newest residents.

An Interview with Jude Gwynaire

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Jude.

Thanks for having me.

I know both music and writing are important parts of your life. When did you first start writing?

I finished my first novel at the age of fifteen. Mr Clef’s Psychedelic World of Music, was heavily influenced by the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine’, and even had accompanying music. Although it wasn’t published, I still have a rejection letter from Fontana Paperbacks, which gave me enough encouragement to continue with my writing.

That sounds quite an achievement for a fifteen year old. You’ve obviously moved on considerably since then so tell me a bit about your latest book. 

My latest novel, a children’s/young adult sci-fi/fantasy entitled Celeste and the Witch Garden, is a distant relative of a fantasy website project I created twenty years ago called ‘Aliens In My Garden’. My son, Aaron, who was about ten years old at the time, created a range of colourful clay models (aliens, witches, wizards, trolls – and a whole host of other fantasy characters) that I photographed in my back garden, and around which I created stories. Many characters had their own page on the website. It was a great father and son project, and we still have all the models in the loft. I tried to get one or two film companies interested in the concept, and did receive one positive reply from the USA. Aaron is still very creative, and has a computer game coming out soon called ‘Neyyah’.

You sound like a very talented and imaginative family Jude! How did Celeste and the Witch Garden move from a game with your son to a published book?

Back in the present, it’s been great working with my present publisher, Richard Mayers, who has helped me bring Celeste and the Witch Garden to market. From February 2023, the novel has been available in paperback and on Kindle. Thank you to Toby French for an amazing cover.

And what are you working on next?

I’m already working on a sequel to Celeste and the Witch Garden, and also an adult sci-fi thriller entitled ‘The Orb Forest (Where Androids Have Souls’).

That sounds rather disturbing to me! Will music play a part too?

I aim to compose a soundtrack for the novel in the near future. Four of the tracks are already completed, and have been released as singles, as well as appearing on my 25 track album, Music From Slate Bird.

I’m always in awe of those with a musical talent Jude as I am sure I’m tone deaf. I wish you every success with both your music and your writing and with Celeste and the Witch Garden in particular. Thanks so much for being on the blog.

About Jude Gwynaire

Jude was born in the UK and lives in Suffolk, where he combines a love of writing with that of music and composing. Drawing inspiration from history, folklore, and the natural world, Jude has written science-fiction and fantasy stories for children and adults.

As a self-taught musician, working from his own studio at the peripheries of the industry, Jude draws on his many interests and influences to create new and diverse soundscapes that span the genres of Electronica, Ambient, New Age and Rock.

Jude has been able to pursue his passion for music free from constraint, and indulge in an atmosphere of unbridled creativity. By embracing the Internet as a means of promotion, his maverick approach has enabled him to reach an audience through channels other than mainstream.

For more information, visit Jude’s website or follow him on Twitter @judegwynaire. You’ll also find Jude on Instagram and Facebook.

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