UKYACX MG Blog Tour: Author Interview with James Nicol

The Apprentice WitchThe Apprentice Witch

Author: James Nicol

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Originally Published: July 7th 2016

Goodreads:        Book         Author


Synopsis: Arianwyn has fluffed her witch’s evaluation test.

Awarded the dull bronze disc and continuing as an apprentice – to the glee of her arch-rival, mean girl Gimma – she’s sent to protect the remote, dreary town of Lull.

But her new life is far from boring. Turns out Gimma is the pompous mayor’s favourite niece – and worse, she opens a magical rift in the nearby Great Wood. As Arianwyn struggles with her spells, a mysterious darkness begins to haunt her – and it’s soon clear there’s much more than her pride at stake …


An Interview with James Nicol

Hi, James. It’s such a pleasure to pair up with you for the UKYACX blog tour this year. To start off, tell me a little about yourself. 

Yikes – I always freeze when I’m asked this type of question – so tempted to tell you I’m a spy or something daft like that! The truth is I am a HUGE bookworm, I’ve worked with books, in bookshops and libraries, for nearly twenty years (lucky me!) and I love good stories however they are told. I always dreamed of writing a book but never thought it would happen as I am a shockingly bad speller!

Living life as a spy would be so great but being a bookworm is definitely the best! What were your favourite books growing up? How did they inspire to become an author?

The one that had the biggest impact on me was ‘The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe’ by C.S. Lewis. I was a terrible scaredy cat as a child and reading about the bravery of the children in the book made me feel I could be braver as well, it also offered me an escape from the real world, the power of a story to do that is just magical. I’ve always had a very vivid imagination and always made up stories, characters and places, the combination of those two elements was a huge inspiration though I don’t think I realised until I was much older that a normal run of the mill person could be an author.

I know what you mean! Authors have always been such a huge inspiration to me that I always think of them as super human! Which authors have been your biggest source of inspiration?

Alice Hoffman is a huge inspiration to me, she has such a deft touch when it comes to creating her own mythology in her work, the magic in her stories is real but not overdone and her characters are real, flawed but likeable. I also love writers like Eva Ibbotson, Joan Aiken and Ursula le Guin.

Your debut novel ‘The Apprentice Witch’ is a fantasy novel aimed at a Middle Grade audience. Did you always know you would write MG books in the fantasy genre? How did this come about? 

Initially I thought about writing a YA book, but after the first page I knew my heart really wasn’t in writing for that age group. I think it’s because for me the books I read between ages 8 and 12 have stayed with me and had a bigger impact on me than books I’ve read during other times of my life. Things like the Narnia books, The Hundred & One Dalmatians, A Dinosaur Called Minerva, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Earthsea Quartet, Carries War & Goodnight Mr Tom have been tales that have lingered in my imagination for (cough cough) over 30 years now….

Childhood memories can be so special, especially of the books we read and the worlds they transport us to. Tell us a little about the inspiration for The Apprentice Witch. 

Some of it was from the fairytales I was told as a small child, full of magic and witches (mostly of the wicked variety!) Some from local legends from Norfolk which was notorious for witches (again mostly of the wicked being burnt at the stake variety!) But I really liked the idea that a witch could be good so I wanted to use that for a starting point and I was also really inspired by stories my two grandmothers told me about their lives during the second world war and the jobs they did and what life was like for them.

Sounds fantastic! Challenge time : Can you sum up The Apprentice Witch in less than 50 words for our readers?

These are not the type of witches you might be expecting. There are no black hats, cats or cauldrons! The story is full of adventure, strange creatures, bravery and of course MAGIC! But it’s also about people, good and bad. It’s about discovering your potential and getting things wrong sometimes.

A perfect 50 words! Going back to your beginnings now. At what age did you realise that you wanted to be an author? Share some details about your journey to becoming published.

I think deep down I wanted to be a writer as soon as I could read, but I don’t think I realised it was something that real people actually did. Children’s authors didn’t do school visits and events like they do today so it wasn’t really until I worked as a bookseller that I actually met real life people who were also authors!  My journey to becoming published started with a creative writing course, a lot of determination and hard work and the all-important but slippery stroke of LUCK!

What advice would you give to current writers who are hoping to be published one day? 

Stick at it, don’t give up, write the book you want to write, edit it (LOTS!) get some impartial feedback and read as much as you can!

Great advice. What does the future hold for you? Do you have plans to write more in the same series or will you branch out into a new audience?

I’m really lucky to have already been asked to write another two books that will be sequels to The Apprentice Witch!  Beyond that I have lots of other ideas I’m excited to explore at some point. I think these are likely to still be middle grade and most likely fantasy / adventure – although I’ve been playing with some ideas for a sci-fi story as well – which was quite a surprise! I was thrilled to think that one book was going to be published, knowing that another two will be coming is more than I ever dared to hope for but I’d like to keep going and going and going if I can!

This all sounds fantastic, James. Thank you so much for joining me and good luck on your literary journey! 


About James

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 searching for dragons and witches. He has worked in bookshops and libraries and now spends all his spare time writing! He lives on the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens in a house with too many books and too many musical instruments with his partner and a black and white cockapoo called Bonnie.

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The Apprentice Witch: GIVEAWAY

Thanks to James and his publishers at Chicken House, I have been granted three copies of James’ novel The Apprentice Witch to give away to three lucky winners. In order to enter the giveaway, you will need to RT the tweet about this post (@kellysrambles). You should also be over the age of 18 or have permission from a parent/guardian to enter. The giveaway will run until the end of September and winners will be announced on October 1st. Good luck!!


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