Friday, March 23, 2018

James Nicol Author Interview

Photo Content from James Nicol

James Nicol has loved books and stories his whole life. As a child he spent hours absorbed in novels, watching epic 1980s cartoons or adventuring in the wood at the bottom of the garden. He lives on the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens with his partner and a black and white cockapoo called Bonnie. The Apprentice Witch is his children’s debut. You can visit him at @jamesenicol.

Tell us your latest news.
It’s all hectically busy here at the moment. A Witch Alone has just come out in the UK so I am busy preparing for events, launch parties and things like that. We are also in the middle of moving house, so are surrounded by boxes. I am also about to finish my current job before starting a new one in April AND I have the first draft of the third in The Apprentice Witch series to get to my editor this week. It’s manic!

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Different things really, the great books I read as a child inspired that desire to write and tell stories though I didn’t realise I could be an author. Firstly all the authors I was reading were quite dead and rather posh people like CS Lewis and Dodie Smith. I also didn’t think I was clever enough and I’ve never been very good at spelling either so I felt the odds were stacked against me! The other main influence were my two grandmothers. I spent a lot of time with them both growing up, they were natural storytellers and observers of human nature and filled my days with stories about their lives during the second world war, stories of love, tragedy, terror and humour. They were also the ones who encouraged us to create, to imagine and daydream. To not grow up to fast and to play!

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope they think ‘what an exciting, funny and thoughtful story. Where can I read some more of this guys books!?’

If they see something in Arianwyn that gives them a bit more confidence or encouragement as well, then that would also be great as well.

Did you learn anything from writing THE APPRENTICE WITCH and what was it?
I’m sure I learnt lots of things – most of which I’ve gone and forgotten! The main thing I learnt was that I could write a whole book from start to finish, that children are unfailingly honest and anyone involved in the book industry is generally quite lovely! And books are magic!

For those who are unfamiliar with Arianwyn, how would you introduce her?
Well for starters she’s a witch, but not the hairy chinned, cackling kind you see at Halloween or in old fairy stories. Arianwyn is a helpful witch. She’s also not training to be a witch, that’s all done and she’s off out in the world doing the job of a witch (not always very well but she does her best!) She’s brave (most of the time!) a loyal friend and always does the right thing, even if it means getting herself into more hot water to help someone else out.

What part of Gimma did you enjoy writing the most?
Gimma’s meanness was delicious to create. She is effortlessly horrid to poor Arianwyn who is determined to see the best in everyone, even Gimma. It was quite easy, I hope that’s because I know what it’s like to be bullied as opposed to being naturally mean! But it was also quite fun to write the parts where Gimma fails, because that shows us the other – more human side to her, perhaps makes us even feel a little bit sorry for her. I love how conflicted she is.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d really like to introduce Arianwyn to Anne from Anne of Green Gables, I think they’d get on well together and have all sorts of exciting adventures!

Which character have you enjoyed getting to know while writing THE APPRENTICE WITCH?
I do really love some of the supporting characters, like Aunt Grace and Miss Newam. You might have guessed I have a soft spot for the spikier characters too!

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Your imagination is a powerful tool and your dreams are vaild. If you add those to hard work and determination there is nothing that you can’t aim for!

What was the most frightening moment of your life?
I can vividly recall falling down a grassy slope when I was about seven years old on holiday in Cornwall. I was convinced I was going to plunge to my doom down a cliff, but I was still about 15 feet away from the edge. My imagination was already running away with itself. Thankfully my big sister was on hand to rescue me!

What were you doing at midnight last night?
I was fast asleep - I like to get to bed early! :D (I’m not very Rock and Roll!)

Tell me about a favorite event of your childhood.
There are lots of favourite moments more than one massive event, watching old black and white movies with my Nana. Playing in the woods at the bottom of the garden with my older brothers and our friends from the neighbourhood. Playing with Lego with my big sister – although she used to give me the menial tasks of finding certain pieces in our massive box whilst she got to build all the cool stuff!

What are the five most beautiful things in the world, and why?
Laughter – it lifts the spirit without fail!
Friends – see above!
The Sea – I love to be near to water, the sea especially – it’s just stunning and refreshing! I’m sure the energy near water is always very different.
Gardens – I love messing about in my garden, weeding, digging, moving plants watching things grow and watching the space change with the seasons.
Music – I’m not very musical – I can’t play any instruments but I adore music so much. It fascinates me.

What did you do for your last birthday?

We hired a house near the beach in Norfolk (my home county here in the UK) for a weekend and went away with friends, we walked on the beach, played games and had lots of lovely food and laughter all weekend.

If you wrote a journal entry today, what would it say?
It snowed A LOT and things did not go to plan. But it was a surprisingly relaxing and lovely day anyway.

Where can readers find you?
You can fine me over on facebook: and twitter @JamesENicol and on my website

Charms & charm ingredients – Arianwyn is a talented charm maker. A skill she has inherited from her Grandmother. So she always has a few charm globes (small glass bottles) and random charm ingredients in her pocket – just in case!

Broom – she may not be terribly skilled with her broom but she is very rarely without it – so handy for getting about Lull.

Handbooks – her copy of The Apprentice Witch’s Handbook is invaluable to her during the events of The Apprentice Witch. And in A Witch Alone grandmother finds another old manual that she thinks Arianwyn might find useful!

Satchel - she needs something to carry all this stuff in. Most witches carry a leather satchel at all times.

Ginger biscuits – Bob, the moon hare and one of Arianwyn’s best friends is partial to a ginger biscuit. So always a good idea to have a few to hand.

Sandwich or a slice of cake – just in case you get stuck out chasing a bogglin around a field or a bit lost in the Great Wood its wise to have some refreshments ready. A sandwich or a slice of cake is just wat you need to keep you going until its dinner time!

Withes identity card – all witches carry an identity card, which states there location, assignment and level. Poor Wyn starts off with a massive U for unevaluated apprentice stamoed all over hers!

Letters – being away from her father and grandmother, Arianwyn’s main way to keep in touch is via letters. I like to think she would keep a few of these with her at all times, like keeping them close to her while they are apart.

Key – not long after arriving in Lull Mayor Belcher gives Arianwyn a huge brass key which is for the front door of the Spellorium (the building where witches work from and usually live as well)

List – Arianwyn is always very busy and has to keep a list of outstanding jobs to hand or she would get into all osrt of trouble with Miss Delafield and Mayor Belcher – not a good idea at all!

A special middle grade debut of magic and courage in a world of witches, written with the charm and enchantment of Circus Mirandus and The Apothecary.

Arianwyn has flunked her witch's assessment: She's doomed. Declared an apprentice and sent to the town of Lull in disgrace, she may never become a real witch-- much to the glee of her arch-rival, Gimma.

But remote Lull is not as boring as it seems. Strange things are sighted in the woods, a dangerous infestation of hex creeps throughout the town, and a mysterious magical visitor arrives with his eye on her.

With every spirit banished, creature helped, and spell cast, Arianwyn starts to get the hang of being a witch--even if she's only an apprentice. But the worst still lies ahead. For a sinister darkness has begun to haunt her spells, and there may be much more at stake than just her pride . . . for Arianwyn and the entire land.


"Will at once open a new and imaginative world and feel like a book you have loved forever." Jennifer Nielsen, New York Times bestselling author of The False Prince

"The Apprentice Witch is entirely more charming, adventurous, and full of heart than a book has any right to be. Make no mistake: there's magic afoot." Trenton Lee Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Keepers and the Mysterious Benedict Society series

"A charming tale of magic, bravery, and friendship, reminiscent of Diana Wynne Jones." --The Guardian

"Impossible to put down." The Bookbag

"Infused with mystery, adventure, and bundles of charm." 
The Bookseller

"Delivers mystery and action in a whirlwind of cinematic, magical adventure." Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

"A great adventure story, filled with wonderful spells and mysterious creatures. Arianwyn is a fantastic character, unsure of herself but determined to succeed. The atmosphere throughout the book is tense and exciting, right until the dramatic climax." Booktrust

You can purchase The Apprentice Witch (The Apprentice Witch #1) at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JAMES NICOL for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Apprentice Witch (The Apprentice Witch #1) by James Nicol.


  1. The most magical thing I ever experienced was my wedding.

  2. My cousin's overnight healing, she had a hole in heart heart and the next day she was born alive and well

  3. The most magical thing was spending my summers with my older sister and always being at the barn. Just being around horses was magical but riding was even better! There's just something about horses, they really are magical creatures.

  4. "Most magical thing you ever experienced?" There is no such thing as magic!

  5. YEAH I guess giving birth to a human LOL

  6. I agree with Sally Gearhart, horses are magical creatures. My aunt and uncle use to own a campground when I was young, and us kids would spend the summer there riding horses.