Interview with Toni Cabell, Author of Lady Apprentice

01 Jun 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, Lady Apprentice?

Linden is the worst mage apprentice in her school, and possibly in the whole country. She’s the star of the first three books in my Serving Magic series, which includes Lady Mage and Lady Liege, available for preorder. Linden is a strong, feisty girl who struggles to gain control of her magic. She comes of age during a turbulent time for Valerra, her homeland, which is on the brink of war. Not only does Linden need to learn how to become a Serving mage, but she must learn how to be a proper young lady in her society, which will remind readers of Victorian England mashed-up with high fantasy. My readers tell me it’s a fast-paced, exciting story, filled with magic, swords, and a touch of romance.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I’ve been making up stories in my head since I was very young. Sometimes I’d tell the stories to my brothers or my mom, and I discovered that I loved the act of storytelling. Once I discovered books, I was hooked on reading and decided that I absolutely had to be a writer “when I grew up.” It’s taken me a while to achieve my dream, but here I am, all grown up and a writer!

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

I read across multiple genres, pretty much everything from literary fiction to cozy mystery to paranormal/fantasy. However, my favorite books are about strong girls and women. Here are my top five picks:

    • Wild Magic, Tamora Pierce
    • Sabriel, Garth Nix
    • The Hero and the Crown, Robin McKinley
    • Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
    • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

My first guest would be Tamora Pierce. I’d want to ask Tamora what inspired her to write young adult fantasy books about girls, at a time when strong girl heroes were a rarity in epic fantasy. I think her Immortals series is a great example of the genre.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

My favorite thing about writing is also the hardest thing—starting with a blank page and turning it into a story that others would want to read. It’s hard work and at the same time, incredibly rewarding.

What is a typical day like for you?

Since I have a day job, I do my writing in the morning and evenings. So, I begin my day by writing for about ninety minutes, longer on the weekends. I also have a lot of insomnia, and I do about half of my editing in the middle of the night. I know that might sound like a crazy schedule, but it works for me.

What scene from Lady Apprentice was your favorite to write?

I really enjoyed creating the scene between Linden and her new fencing coach, a quirky old monk named Brother Hume. Linden and her friends have just crash-landed on Sanrellyss Island, where Linden is expecting to continue her magic handling studies with a famous fay mage. However, she soon discovers she must succeed in defeating Brother Hume each morning before breakfast—and before she can begin practicing her spells.

“Sword fighting?” said Linden. “But I’m supposed to be studying magic handling with Mage Mother Pawllah.”

“Aye, you’ll have plenty of time for your magic lessons. But we begin each day on Sanrellyss Island with physical activity. In your case, Mage Mother wants you to be practicing with your sword. May I see it?” The older man reached out his hand with a slight bow.

Linden tilted her head, not willing to hand over her sword to someone she’d just met, even if he were a monk. “Some other time, Brother Hume. Tell me, have you met any Valerrans on the island these past few weeks?”

Ignoring her question, Brother Hume frowned. “Why can’t I see your sword?”

Linden reached inside her cloak to withdraw her sword, pulling it from its leather sheath. The sword glowed green, the hieroglyphs along the blade lighting up. “My sword only responds to my touch, and I’ll not hand it over until Mage Mother vouches for you herself.”

The old man chortled. “Mage Mother said you were no fool, and she’s right about that.” Drawing his bushy eyebrows together, he said, “You’re right to never hand your sword over to anyone, regardless of how innocent the request may be, until you know beyond doubt they can be trusted. My brother, believing he was handing his sword over to a smithy for sharpening, died at the end of his own weapon.”

“That’s awful. I’m sorry to hear it.”

Brother Hume nodded and withdrawing his sword, asked, “Are you ready?”

Linden looked at his sword, comprehension dawning. “You mean here, on top of a mountain? Isn’t that a bit dangerous for practice?”

The monk smiled and pointed behind Linden’s right shoulder. “There’s a nice, flat field right over there.”

Squinting at the old man, Linden shook her head. “I know what you’re trying to do. I’m not going to lower my guard by turning around when I know very well there’s nothing but my yurt and the mountain peak over there.”

The monk grinned. “Well done. I can usually catch the newer mages with either the first trick or the second. All right, I’ll lead the way over to the practice area. But first, would you mind getting me a drink of water from the jug inside your yurt?”

Linden still didn’t know who Brother Hume was, or even whether Pawllah had sent him. Besides, he’d never answered her question about seeing any Valerrans on the island. If he lived in the monastery with the other monks, then he would have met Toz and Remy at some point during the past two months. She knit her brows together and shook her head. “Perhaps later, but for now, please lead the way.”

Chuckling, Brother Hume said, “I’m impressed. You passed all three tests. You’ve demonstrated you have your wits about you. Now, let’s see what you can do with that green sword of yours. Follow me.”

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill

Toni Cabell is the author of the new book Lady Apprentice

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