Interview with Holly Bell, Author of the Amanda Cadabra Series

December 11, 2019
I'm so excited to interview author Holly Bell about her Amanda Cadabra series. Be sure to check out her entertaining Saturday night post and then come on back! 

First, here's a little bit about her book Amanda Cadabra and the Hidey-Hole Truth.

Asthmatic furniture restorer and covert witch Amanda Cadabra is a survivor. After all, her family’s bus went over a Cornish cliff. Now the presentable but irritating Inspector Trelawney is dogging her footsteps as he investigates the unexplained deaths. But that’s the least of her problems. Amanda has just got a furniture restoration job at the old English Manor of Sunken Madley with its murky past.

Armed only with a wand and Tempest, her grumpy reincarnated cat, she’s going in. A body, ghosts, hidden tunnels, chills and unexplained lights; can Amanda solve the mystery in time and save the village from the scandal of murder?

This book is set in England, so the language reflects how we spell and speak here (however strange!). This may be a little different from what you’re used to, especially in the US, but never fear, there’s a glossary at the back of the book if you need help.

Doesn't that sound like a fun, exciting read? Make sure you check it out on or add it to your GoodReads list.

Me: First, what inspired you to write this series Amanda Cadabra?

Holly: One day I had a phone call from my author pal Tim, TJ Brown. Had I heard of this new genre called ‘cosy (cozy in the US) mystery’ and its paranormal off-shoot? he asked. No, It was new to me. He told me it was right up my street, there was no competition because the readers love the genre so much that no one writer can write fast enough for them. I’d written reams of non-fiction including three books, even a bad sci-fi novel as a teenager, but for years I’d insisted, ‘I can’t write fiction’. Yet, within minutes, Tim had convinced me. And that is the day it began.

Me: What an unbelievable start! What type of research did you do for this book? Did anything surprise you?

Holly: I began by researching the ingredients of the genre. Then I had to find a location. It had to be a village, I knew that but … I’ve never lived in one, city-girl, born and bred. So if I was going to ‘write what you know’ it had to be a hamlet on the outskirts of the metropolis. I looked at the map, found a candidate and went to see it. This was the greatest surprise of all my research. I drove around the bend that leads to it and there it was. As though it was saying, ‘Behold! Your village.’ And in a sense, it has become mine, and I have become the villagers’ author. Because you see, the next surprise was how warmly I have been welcomed by them.

Me: That sounds like a dream come true actually. I can see based on the reviews that you took so much time in building this world for your characters - and your readers. How did you do that?
Holly: As I say, it began with the location. I wanted this world to be as rooted in reality, such as it is broadly thought of, as possible. Then I drew on the characters of people that I have known in real life or through fiction. And here is the remarkable thing, which Tim told me this would happen; once you create your characters and place them in a location, they decide what they would and wouldn’t do or say. You could say they operate within their given parameters. As for the magical side of things, my friend, who acts as my creating sounding board, took a course in paranormal studies with a well-known professor of the subject. She has been able to steer me away from what would be less credible and keep me on the course of observed phenomena. Then again, I think anyone who is reading paranormal cozy has a belief, or a wish to believe, in magic of some kind. And I believe that magic of some kind happens every day, don’t you?

Me: Absolutely! I am obsessed with cozy mysteries. What about that genre draws you?

Holly: I talked about being rooted in reality, and yet the very genre itself is born of a fantasy England eternally 1932, sunshine on the cricketers on the green and murder in the library with the candlestick, discovered by the maid. It’s there in Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, the Lord Peter Wimsey stories; it’s in PG Wodehouse, the Ealing Comedies and other British films of the 1930s to the 1950s. I could give you a list. This fantasy has an innate charm, and components of it do exist but perhaps not all in the same place. However, in a cozy mystery, they can be brought into one place. And this leads to the most important thing about the genre for me: it makes people feel better. If only for while they read it. It conjures a world of the best of the best of people for all their foibles, in the best of places, rising to the occasion of crisis, which is the murder, the mystery. I feel better for the writing of each book. If a reader feels more hopeful, happier, entertained than before they read a book that I wrote, then I have achieved the ultimate goal. That is the appeal of this genre.

Me: We just finished National Novel Writing Month! Have you ever tried? If so, how was it for you? If not, how come?

Holly: No. My books come organically, they flow out when they’re ready and at their own speed. That is how I do my best work, which is what my readers deserve. Usually, I write the first draft in about 3 weeks and then editing begins, so if the process happened in a November, yes then I could do it. It’s like a cat: the gestation period for a kitten is about 100 days. My books are my kittens, and they come in their own time!

Me: So, I can’t help but notice you are an Agatha Christie fan! What about this author inspires you?

Holly: To me, she is the godmother of the cosy (yes with an’s’ as we spell it here in the UK) mystery. I believe she has been largely responsible for the creation of the fantasy England I described earlier. I greatly admire her puzzles, her ability to create suspense, tension, total absorption in the plot all without gore. Almost Hitchcockian. As I read each book, I quickly come to believe in the existence of her characters and care about them. She depicts anger without the need for expletives, romance without reference to anything that could not be read by the youngest reader. Christie is an all-access pass to escapism, drama, humour, tension, relief and the balance of yin and yang, crime and justice. I look up from where I write and the first book that catches my eye is ... The Murder at the Vicarage, Christies’ first Miss Marple!

Me: So, what advice would you have given yourself when you were younger?

Holly: Make all decisions based solely on this: which course will make you feel the happiest?

Me: Any lasting messages for readers (and writers) out there?

Holly: Everyone has a novel in them. We are all born story-tellers, and each person has a unique voice and a unique story. You could be a physicist and have never read a novel in your life, and I could ask you, ‘When was the last time you were late?” You’d answer, and then I’d say, ‘Why were you late?’ And you would tell me. And that would be a story. All right, a true story, but it’s still the stuff of which novels and novelists are made. Write it, speak it into your phone, scribble it, draw it. If you want to write, you can and you will. And when you do, come and say hello. I promise not say, ‘I told you so!’

Thank you so much Holly! Make sure you visit Holly's blog where you can find out about this incredible series. Also, check the latest Amanda Cadabra book on or add it to your GoodReads list.


  1. Interesting article. Btw, merry christmas and happy new year. May God bless you and your family. Greetings.

  2. Great interview! Can't wait to read Holly's novels.


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