Author Interview: James Nicol

James Nicol - Author Interview

A huge warm welcome to James Nicol, author of the rather fabulous The Apprentice Witch. 

James Nicol’s debut novel for middle grade readers has just hit the shelves, along with the news that there will be two more in the series. I couldn’t be more delighted!

Tell us about you in 25 words or less.

Oh golly – well I’m taller than everyone expects me to be and have lots of curly hair. I laugh quite a lot as well.

What makes you happy?

A nice walk at the end of the day with my dog, Bonnie. Chatting and laughing with friends. A lovely piece of cake and a cup of tea! I’m generally quite a happy person anyway but small things usually rather than massive life altering stuff I would say. Although I’m sure I’d be over the moon if I won the lottery!

Where is your favourite place to write?

I’ve been conscious of not wanting to get set into a pattern of having to be in some particular place for writing. As I still work full time I really only have evenings and weekends and that’s often snatches of time rather than long periods to get it done so I make the most of nay spare time and space I can. I actually quite like writing on trains and planes, it’s a wonderful place where there is stuff happening around you but you can just zone it out and it becomes white noise. A few years ago we had a lovely holiday house in Rye and it had a terrace at the end of the garden that looked out over the marsh and the sea and I loved writing there!  I’m writing this in my conservatory looking out on the garden which is quite lovely as well!

What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?

My TBR pile is actually a small shelving unit that I salvaged from a library refurbishment and has about 50 books on it! I can’t wait to read Emma Carroll’s The Girl Who Walked on Air which I’ve been saving it for a while. I love her books and her writing seems so effortless! I also have Seed by Lisa Heathfield which I only ever hear amazing things about. I picked up Pax by Sarah Pennypacker and The Monstrous Child by Francessca Simon recently as recommendations and I have The Witches of Cambridge by Meena Van Praag to read as well, though I’ve stayed clear of books with witches in them on purpose for quite a while! I also have a biography of Tove Jansson  to read, such a fascinating person and so creative! I’m quite a slow reader so that’s going to keep me busy for a while I’m sure.

What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked?

I’ve spent a lot of my working life so far working with members of the public so I’ve been asked some really random things over the years! Some that would make you blush!

I was recently asked by a child at an event if I thought my book was better than Harry Potter. I shamelessly said it was! 😉

What’s your worst habit?

I buy too many books – but that’s not really bad at all is it?

Your favourite word(s)?

I love words that feel nice to say aloud, like yellow or catastrophe. You mouth has to move a lot to say those words!

What are your top tips for writers of books for children?

Don’t try to chase a trend – there is no point because by the time your book is published the trend will be done quite probably. Write the story that you feel most passionate about and keep going. Writing is a marathon not a sprint and it’s a long way from first draft to finished copies. You’ll have to read it a lot between the two so you want it to be engaging for you as the writer  and that way its hopefully going to be engaging for the first time reader for sure as well.

Can you give us a glimpse / hint at your current WIP? (I can bribe you with cake & cups of tea!)

I’m always more than happy to be bribed with tea and cake (see above!)

Well I am very excited that Chicken House have asked for another two books featuring Arianwyn Gribble and her friends from The Apprentice Witch! So I’m just getting a draft ready to send off to my wonderful editors, Kesia and Rachel at Chicken House of book 2 (which doesn’t have a title yet) Were heading back to Lull though for book 2 and there is a new foe for Arianwyn to contend with as well as lots of other magical problems too.

Did we forget anything?

May favourite film is E.T. I cry every time I watch it or hear the music from it!

Just for fun

Tea or coffee?


Paper books or e-books?

Paper of course, no comparison!

Cake or chocolate?

Cake, no chocolate, no cake . . . chocolate cake?

Write or type?

Write J Though I am much quicker at typing now and do quite enjoy it, I think for being creative its easier to keep pace with my thoughts writing long hand.

Poetry or prose?


Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin?


Hot or cold?

Cold – you can get wrapped up then!§

You can follow James on Twitter & Facebook.

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