Megan Hopkins chats imagining the world in Starminster

And how she wrote about homeschooling and difficult parental relationships.


Starminster is a wonderful children’s book gives readers a chance to imagine a magical world just above London. Megan Hopkins’ tale follows Astrid who longs to see the stars, but is forced to stay inside the farmhouse with her Mama. That is until one night a stranger with wings takes Astrid to a secret city in the sky called London Overhead. For Astrid, like her, is a Librae – and will soon grow wings of her own.

Astrid was homeschooled prior to Starminster and she had a horrible time. In general, do you think homeschooling is inferior to traditional education? What could Astrid’s mum have done better to make homeschooling work for Astrid?

In my other life, I’m a secondary English teacher, so this question is right up my street! I think that
homeschooling can certainly be the right path for some young people, especially those who struggle to
access education in a traditional context: sadly, it just isn’t always possible to address everyone’s needs
within a classroom of thirty or more others. Technology has also opened the door to an incredible range
of resources and teachers, so students can create a bespoke curriculum to match their preferences.
However, I feel that it is essential that homeschooled children have the opportunity to frequently spend
time with other kids in various environments; the alternative can lead to social struggles in later life.

Astrid’s mum was overprotective, but one could even describe her as abusive. We all know it’s not easy to leave an abusive relationship, let alone for a child to do so. Was it difficult to tackle this issue in Starminster?

This was an issue that played on my mind continually as I wrote Starminster. Astrid’s mother had her
reasons for locking her in a rhubarb shed, but those reasons were not enough for the impact she had
on her daughter’s life. Astrid’s mother’s decisions are a reminder, especially to parents, that we cannot
allow our own fears to become a higher priority than our children’s needs, including the need to take
risks and fail. Although Astrid takes the first steps to leave the rhubarb shed, she also is pressured
externally. I’m not sure she would have successfully left without the support of Mrs Wairi and the
promise of a better life.

Astrid got locked away for so many years that the first time she left the shed must have been incredibly overwhelming and not something we could ever imagine. How did you manage to portray that so realistically?

I wrote so many versions of that scene, but I still feel the emotions that Astrid would experience would
be even stronger than those portrayed. I focused primarily on two things: the novel sensation of the
wind on Astrid’s face, and her blurred eyesight, which is a physiological response to never developing
long-range vision. I suspect if I’d tried to consider more than that, the chapter would become quite
overwhelming to read!

London Overhead is so cool! How did you come up with that? And did you illustrate what it would look like to guide your writing? 

When I visit London, I always find my eyes drawn to the sky – it’s such a three-dimensional city, and
London Overhead seemed to construct itself in my mind’s eye on the day my husband took me up the
Shard for a glass of wine. There’s something so compelling about the idea of a hidden world, and placing it in the sky seemed to fit so precisely with who the Librae are. I’m not a very visual person, though, so I never tried to draw it, which is another reason why the stunning cover and map by Devin Elle Kurtz came as such a joy and revelation to me.

And let’s chat Librae. Are you a Libra yourself? Why do the Libras get such a cool experience, and the rest of the other zodiacs don’t?

I’m a Capricorn by date of birth, though not, I think, in personality. As for the other zodiacs, this is
something Astrid has some questions about too – it does seem rather unfair, doesn’t it?

And finally, Starminster features some super interesting facts about aerodynamics and bird wings. If you had some bird wings, which bird do you think it would be? And how did you do the research for these parts?

I did a lot of staring outside the window at my garden birds, until feeding them was ruined by the
invasion of a giant rat! Then I was forced to turn to the internet. My dream wings would be those of an
owl, because of their unique ability to fly silently. I would love to experience the heights of the world in
silence, without the sound of engines or even of wingbeats. I believe something within us is
programmed to long for flight, and it’s a wish of mine that never fades away.

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