An Indies Introduce Q&A with Rachel Chivers Khoo

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Rachel Chivers Khoo is the author of The Wishkeeper’s Apprentice, a Winter/Spring 2024 Indies Introduce middle grade selection. 

Chivers Khoo was born in 1990 in Belfast. Growing up, her greatest wish was to become a published children’s author. Now that wish has come true, she's planning on making more wishes…possibly involving a puppy or a lifetime’s supply of cinnamon buns. Khoo studied English Literature at Trinity College, Oxford and has a Masters in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast. She lives in Oxford with her husband, two young sons and far too many books.

Teresa Steele of Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, Colorado, served on the panel that selected The Wishkeeper's Apprentice for Indies Introduce.

“Felix misses his family, his parents are so busy, and his sister is growing up," said Steele. "He just wants his sister to spend time with him, like they used to, before things started to change. Felix makes a wish in the town’s fountain, and he is met by a little old man who claims to be the town’s Wishkeeper! The Wishkeeper is struggling to keep up with the wishes in his assigned area, so Felix volunteers to be his apprentice (he finally feels like he is needed). Yet when Felix sees a wolf-like creature that is destroying his town’s wishes (that has been haunting his dreams as well), Felix must confront his feelings (and his family) to ensure the wishes of everyone he knows stay real. A heartwarming story of growing up, feeling needed, and how to stay young at heart."

Here, Khoo and Steele discuss The Wishkeeper's Apprentice.

Teresa Steele: What inspired you to write a middle grade novel about wishes of all kinds — broken, destroyed, forgotten, and fulfilled?

Rachel Chivers Khoo: Making a wish always comes with the risk of disappointment. Even when a wish comes true, there are often ups and downs along the way. I wanted to write a story that captured the uphill struggle of wishes, as opposed to the simple granting of wishes at the wave of a wand. As Rupus Beewinkle (the Wishkeeper of Whittlestone) says: "Wishes don’t appear out of thin air…They take work." Luckily for Whittlestone, Rupus grants all the wishes he can. Although, it does get him into quite a bit of bother along the way…

Ultimately, I hope the book will encourage readers to wish boldly, and not to give up on their wishes.

TS: I loved that you included a recipe in the book. Are you an avid baker?

RCK: I have to admit, I’m definitely more comfortable consuming baked goods than I am at baking them! Let’s just say I’ll not be winning a baking award any time soon. Luckily my editor is a very knowledgeable baker and test bakes the recipes I write.

My favorite bakery is just a few minutes’ walk from my house, so I’m never short of snacks while I’m writing. Cinnamon buns are my absolute favorite!

TS: Felix has a lot on his plate throughout this book and sometimes he gets anxious. Do you feel like anxiety is something more kids need to talk about? (I love that you included this topic in your book.)

RCK: As a child, I struggled to relate to many of the outgoing, adventurous protagonists I read about in books. With Felix, I wanted to show it’s okay to feel anxious. We don’t have to let those feelings hold us back from being a hero. In the story, Felix overcomes his fears and feelings of inadequacy in order to save his friend and hometown. To me, that’s true bravery.

TS: The illustrations add so much to the story! Did you have any sketches you passed on to the illustrator? Were you able to help with that process at all?

RCK: I remember the moment when my publisher first sent me Rachel Sanson’s initial sketch of Rupus Beewinkle. It was such a magical moment! As an author there are few things more exciting than seeing an illustrator bring your characters to life.

I wasn’t heavily involved in the illustration process. I did have a brief panic when I was asked to help draw a map of the fictional town of Whittlestone for the opening pages of the book. My sketch was terrible, but Rachel Sanson worked her magic and the final map illustration is wonderfully charming.

TS: Lastly, do you happen to believe in wishes and the magic of wishes? If so, is there one that tends to stick with you throughout your life?

RCK: Becoming an author is a childhood wish come true. I wrote my first chapter book at age 10 (illustrated by my sister) and I have wished to be a published author ever since. I’ve had many moments of self-doubt and I wrote quite a few unsuccessful manuscripts before eventually getting published. It has been completely magical to see this wish finally come true. I’m certain Rupus Beewinkle must have been involved somewhere along the way!

The Wishkeeper’s Apprentice by Rachel Chivers Khoo (Candlewick Press, 9781536231205, Hardcover Middle Grade Fantasy, $16.99) On Sale: 4/23/2024

Find out more about the author at

ABA member stores are invited to use this interview or any others in our series of Q&As with Indies Introduce debut authors in newsletters and social media and in online and in-store promotions. Please let us know if you do.