Acclaimed writer Witi Ihimaera just recently talked to the BBC World Service (including Harriett Gilbert and a group of readers at the Cheltenham Literary Festival) about his magical, lore-laden novel, The Whale Rider.

The interview includes questions via email and the audience and gives a great deal of insight into what Matua Witi was thinking about when writing the book, which was written in New York over a period of 6 weeks.

Click here to listen to this incredible interview.

The book, tells the haunting story of a spirited Maori girl, her tribe and their mysteriously intertwined destinies.

Kahu, a 12-year-old girl struggles to become the chief of her tribe but her grandfather Koro, whose attention she craves, believes that this is a role reserved for males only. Kahu will not be ignored and in her quest she finds a unique ally: the whale rider himself, from whom she has inherited the ability to communicate with whales.

Once this sacred gift is revealed, will Kahu be able to assume her rightful position and lead her tribe to a bold new future?