Toni Cabell - Dizzying Action, Imaginative Magic, and a Lot of Heart

Toni Cabell - Dizzying Action, Imaginative Magic, and a Lot of Heart

Toni Cabell is an award-winning author of fast-paced fantasies featuring swords, magic, and romance! Toni writes young adult fantasy novels packed with dizzying action, imaginative magic, and a lot of heart. She makes her home in a small village along the shores of Lake Michigan with her handsome husband and grumpy miniature schnauzer. When Toni told her fifth-grade teacher that she wanted to be a writer, neither of them expected Toni’s journey to include stints as a nurse’s aide, personal banker, instructional designer, real estate broker, systems analyst, and youth director. Toni is thrilled to be an indie author and does at least half her writing in the middle of the night, which may explain her wild plot twists and unforgettable characters. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Lady Apprentice.

Please give us a short introduction to what Lady Apprentice is about.

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. 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 inspired you to write this series? Was there something in particular that made you want to tackle this?

As a reader, I thoroughly enjoy stories that mash up genres, such as Gaslamp fantasies and anything that combines magic and Regency or Victorian England. I decided to give it a try and started writing about a girl who needed to master etiquette, fencing, and magic to succeed in world that was about to go topsy-turvy any minute. Many do-overs, toss-outs, and edits later, I published Lady Apprentice, my first novel.

Tell us more about Linden. What makes her tick?

Linden has just turned sixteen-and-a-half, and although she comes from a powerful, well-connected family in Valerra, nothing seems to be going right for her. She’s a champion fencer, but suddenly, she can’t seem to win any of her fencing matches. Her most recent school report card is disastrous, and she’s started having peculiar visions. Worst of all, her magic spells have been backfiring. She also harbors a secret fear she may turn out like one of her elderly aunts, who lives in a sanatorium for wayward mages. All in all, Linden feels like a complete failure and tries hard—sometimes too hard—to solve her problems by herself.

Honor, destiny, and love are important themes in this book. Why was this important for you to write about?

I want my readers to enjoy my books and to be inspired by the characters. I write about relatable people who have a sense of purpose and are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. Linden is certainly flawed, and she’d much prefer to be an ordinary girl rather than a leader, but she will do what she must because she has a strong sense of duty. She also has been surrounded by great examples of leadership within her family—and so Linden has something to prove to herself, as well.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have.

I’m pretty good with a paintbrush (not the artistic kind, but the hardware store variety). I just finished painting my daughter’s new condo. Sadly, I have burned all my brushes and will no longer be able to cut a straight line along any high ceilings in the future.

Readers say the book contained a twist that they didn't see coming. Do you plan out twists and turns in your plot before you start writing, or do they sometimes just "happen" while you write?

When I start writing, I have an idea and a character in mind, and the plot evolves as I write. I’ve tried planning out my plots in advance, but my characters simply take over anyway, so I’ve learned to follow their lead. It makes writing more of an adventure for me (and I hope, for my readers as well)!

What did you have the most fun with when writing Lady Apprentice?

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.

You did quite extensive world-building in this one - how did you still manage to make the book action-packed?

When I write, I visualize every scene, almost as if I’m writing a script for a movie. My goal is to tell the story in such a way that the world-building never bogs down the narrative, and so I’ll rewrite and revise until I’ve achieved what I’m aiming for—a fast-paced fantasy adventure that continually propels my characters forward.

This is the first book in a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?

Each of my books is a complete story and can be read on its own. On the other hand, if you’re like me, and you enjoy reading through an entire series, Lady Apprentice is a great introduction to the world of Serving Magic. Lady Mage, Book 2, and Lady Liege, Book 3, continue Linden’s story and can be read as a trilogy. Lady Spy, Book 4, is set in the same world and timeline, and follows Mara’s adventures in post-war Valerra.

Interesting cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.

I wanted Linden’s ensorcelled sword to be the focal point of the cover. I felt Linden belonged on the cover as well, but she needed to be cloaked with an air of mystery. I worked with a wonderful book cover designer, Peter at Bespoke Book Covers, and he helped to bring my ideas to life.

Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?

Since I have a day job, I set aside ninety minutes every morning for my writing, and more on the weekends. I also have a lot of insomnia and wind up doing 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. I also have a writing buddy—my miniature schnauzer, Indy—he loves treats, snuggles, praise, and then more treats.


What are you working on right now?

I just released The Lightness of Water, Book 1 in my Water Witch series, and I’m working on the sequel. I’m also midway through writing Lady Reaper, Book 5 in the Serving Magic series, which will bring back Linden and many of my favorite characters from Lady Apprentice in a final showdown against Fallow magic and dark fays.

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?



Lady Apprentice

Toni Cabell
Pride and Prejudice meets Lord of the Rings! Linden is the worst mage apprentice in her school—maybe in the whole country. Yet all the prophecies say she’s the girl with the answers. But if Linden can’t master a shape-shifting spell without starting a fire, how can she take on the darkest sorcerer in generations? “Enough love, fighting, mystery and magic to keep anyone's interest." - (IndieBRAG).
D.W. Whitlock - Riveting Adventure Thrillers
FEATURED AUTHOR - D.W. Whitlock has been a storyteller for most of his life. Starting with short stories scribbled in crayon, animation flip-books, stop-motion and later CG animation for television and video games. While pursuing a career in animation, writing has always been the first step, from short descriptions to detailed backstories. As a life-long reader and book lover, crafting thriller novels felt like the natural evolution of those first forays into writing. When not writing, D.W. enjoys gaming,… Read more