An Interview With… James Nicol

I’m delighted to welcome James Nicol to my Blog today to talk all things A Witch Come True in a Blog Takeover from my After School Book Club.


Can you describe A Witch Come True in just 3 words?

Oh, that’s easy – and I’m cheating because the lovely folks at chicken house do this on the back of all their books – just one of the reasons I love them! So for A Witch Come True they said: Spellbinding – Charming – Adventure – I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Miss Cleveland has lots of great books on her bookcase; why should children choose The Apprentice Witch Series?

And that’s a tricky one! I’d say choose the Apprentice Witch series because it offers an alternative vision of witches – which are still largely the baddies in children’s books. Because it’s scary, funny and adventurous – perfect combo! And because …

What was your inspiration for The Apprentice Witch books, and did you always know it would take more than one book to tell Arianwyn’s story?

Partly it was legends and stories about witches I knew or had read throughout my life, but also the knowledge that many real witches – or people accused of witchcraft- were often just trying to help others, perhaps they knew how to make basic medicine from plants and herbs etc. And I wanted to see what the alternative to a hairy-chinned, cackling witch might be. And also not to present a story where someone is learning how to be a witch, I wanted to know what happened after that.

I didn’t know if would take three books to tell Arianwyn’s tale when I started it. But by the time I got to the end of the first draft of the first book I realised there was a lot more there and the potential for two more adventure (at least!) I wanted to know more about the characters and the world.

Arianwyn is amazing at making charms. If you could ask her to make one for you, what would it be and why?

What a fab question – I’ve had to really think hard about that one. But I think I’d ask for one of the bell charms that she has hanging on the door of the Spellorium, just something simple and beautiful. And I’ve just realised I never really explained what that charm was for in the stories – whoops!  I always imagined it was a basic protection spell for the home etc.

OR maybe an awesome writing charm so I don’t make spelling mistakes!

Whenever Arianwyn is plotting and planning with her friends, there seems to be food and drink involved. What food and drink are your favourites when plotting your stories?

Haha! It’s far too tempting to just take the packet of biscuits* to my desk – but I’m actually, normally, really well behaved and don’t snack when I’m working, I spend so much time sat down when I’m writing it really wouldn’t be healthy!

I normally have a cup of tea or coffee to hand – though its usually gone cold! As a real treat I might have some midget gems or a traffic light lollipop – these are really great when I hit a tricky plot problem!

There are some wonderful, and dangerous, creatures throughout the series. Which would you least like to meet in real life?

Snotlings would be a total nightmare I think, though I wouldn’t be scared of them. The skalk in A Witch Alone always seemed really scary to me when I was writing it, perhaps because Wyn never really gets a clear look at it – and that’s often the scariest thing when you cant see something clearly –  so perhaps one of those! I’d love to see a maudant(from a Witch Come True) beautiful and deadly, looks like a HUGE airborne jelly fish.  

The fantasy world you have created is very believable. We loved the Yule traditions, especially the frost fair and feast! Which fantasy book world would you most like to visit?

I’d love to step through the wardrobe into Narnia in the depths of winter, just like Lucy did. Or perhaps visit the world of Earthsea. Even though I’ve not read those books for a few years I can close my eyes and picture the world as I imagined it so clearly – which will probably be very different to how anyone else pictures it – I think that’s the real magic of books, how the readers imagination finishes off the job the writer starts – it’s a joint effort to create the magic!

A Witch Comes True is the end of your magical trilogy. Are you working on a new story yet, and if so can you tell us anything about it?

Well, what I’m working on at the moment is also full of magic and adventure. It (currently!) has magical islands that vanishat will and some rather fantastic creatures. That’s about all I can say for now – sorry!

If you weren’t an author, what job would you like to do instead?

Well I’m so lucky because I do have another job as well as being an author and it just happens to be my other dream job – I work in a library a couple of days a week, and I really love it. If I had to have another different dream job though I’d really love to be a botanist or a botanical artist. I do love plants!

What books would you recommend we read next?

You should probably go and re-read The Apprentice Witch series all over again first! ;D But after that I’d say go and read Vashti Hardy (Brightstorm) and Lorraine Gregory (Mold and the Poison Plot) they both have new books coming out in may as well so keep your eyes peeled for those!

You should certainly read The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin – it’s a masterpiece! And Nightbird by Alice Hoffman, she is one of my very favourite writers for adults and children and teens.

And if you like Vikings, then try Wolf Girl by Dan Smith which comes out the same day as A Witch Come True and its brilliant – I’ve just started reading it – so cool!

Thank you for answering our questions,
After School Book Club

You are very welcome – thank you for asking the questions!

* honest truth my tummy just did the loudest grumble when I typed the word biscuit! 😀

Huge thanks to James and After School Book Club for these fantastic questions and answers! Do make sure you check out my review of A Witch Come True here, and all of the other stops on the Blog Tour.

About The Author

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 cockapoo called Bonnie. James is also really rather good at wrapping presents.



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