Review & Interview: Miss Mabel’s School for Girls by Katie Cross



If you like YA fantasy, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is a must-read. Set aside your comparisons with Harry Potter (inevitable forevermore when an author combines boarding school and witches, not to mention competitions and curses), because Miss Mabel’s is an all-girls boarding school, and Bianca Monroe is far from a “smart girl” stereotype in a witch hat. She struggles with homework, prefers practical study to book learning, adores her family, can’t bear to be caged in… and then there’s that deadly curse she needs to get rid of. To live past the age of seventeen, she has to negotiate with an ultra-glamorous and deadly devious witch who’s playing a much deeper game than anyone knows.

It’s a page-turner that will tempt you to read it all in one sitting, staying up past your bedtime or whatever it takes. The characters are engaging, and the plot clips along with enough unexpected twists to keep you guessing. Don’t expect romance — the only men we see are Bianca’s father and the old coachman — but the plot doesn’t need it. Do expect some darker elements; there’s illness, pain, nasty curses, a couple of deaths, and hints of impending war (so readers below middle school might not be ready for it). This book would make a fabulous movie.

The message? You can be as strong as you need to be.

Favourite quote? “It felt good, mixing fear with a bit of courage, making me feel like I stood up to her, when really I depended on her for my life.”

How I found this book? I know the author through Facebook and am on her launch team — go, Katie!

4.5 stars • rare • truly excellent, blew me away, unforgettable

My Interview with Katie Cross

Kella: Could you tell me a little about the world of the Network, beyond the book?

Katie: Yes! And then we’ll make this an exclusive interview that no one else has. Ha!

Kella: Does everyone there do at least some magic — is it a world entirely of witches?

Katie: It’s a world of just witches… for now. Although, off the record, there’s a distinct possibilities that mortals could make a reappearance in some vague future book.

Kella: I get the sense that it’s a relatively low-tech world of horse-drawn carriages and candles; is there any interest in technology, or does everyone rely on magic for progress?

Katie: It’s all kinds of Medieval! Which is, for me, part of the appeal. Bianca (my main character) doesn’t need her iMac to be bad ass, which is awesome. I envy her courage.

Kella: There are some references to potential war between the Networks… what would that involve? A magical war, like a large-scale multi-person Mactos?

Katie: War, which is inevitable for this world, will involve both magic and brute strength. Each Network has their own kind of culture around the magic, which means they will all fight it differently. I haven’t actually figured that out entirely yet. I’m still in negotiations with the East.

Kella: You mention some coins called sacrans and pentacles; how does the money system work? Is everything done by payment with coins, or is it a world where one might also barter, or incur obligations by doing favours?

Katie: There are coins, but many people take care of things on a bartering level. For example, I would easily buy twelve of Miss Celia’s cinnamon buns for a pentacle. Whereas she’ll sometimes trade them for new material for an apron.

Kella: So, which character was the hardest for you to write?

Katie: Bianca, the main character. I felt like I didn’t really find her until later drafts. Once I found her though, she was an open book. She’s got a snarky side that’s pretty easy to like.

Kella: Why did you choose to write a YA Fantasy series?

Katie: I kind of felt like the book chose me, if that makes any sense. It just seemed to fall out of me. The first draft only took seven weeks to write.

Kella: Who inspires you?

Katie: Pinterest. Seriously. I love to stroll through the boards when I’m stuck. Husband is a big inspiration to me because he’s constantly pushing himself to be better and strive higher. There’s nothing he can’t do and I think that’s incredible.

Kella: What is your personal favourite line from Miss Mabel’s School for Girls?

Katie: Oh, there are so many. Bianca’s a true snark at heart so I’m going to give you two —

“I’m Bianca Monroe and I run in the woods with my skirts up.
I also don’t know how to steep or pour tea.”

“I am more than what they train me to be.”

You can “like” Miss Mabel’s School for Girls on Facebook
or visit the official website.

GET THE BOOK ON AMAZON (paperback or Kindle)


Staking My Claim

Okay. I’m a bit stunned that more authors don’t set up their Amazon author pages and claim their books. You can do this as soon as you have something published and available for purchase on Amazon — yes, even in an anthology where your story is one of many. It’s super easy to do: just go to Amazon’s Author Central and set yourself up.

It was, quite seriously, the second thing I did after Stamps, Vamps & Tramps came out (the first being to squee about it on Facebook, of course). I find it just faintly embarrassing that I seem to be the only author from the anthology who has done so at this point, and mystifying because plenty of them have much more to gain from it than I do (since I’m one of the few who doesn’t have other titles available — and author pages are all about discoverability).

When you claim a book with your Amazon Central author profile, it activates the More About The Author(s) section of the book’s page, which appears just underneath the customer reviews section. If only one author has claimed the book, that author’s picture shows up complete with a bio and a text link inviting readers to visit the author’s Amazon page. If more than one author has claimed the book (in the case of a co-written book or an anthology), you get each author’s picture with just the name underneath and an invitation to “Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.” That’s why it looks a little awkward when only one author from an anthology has claimed the book… the display is formatted as though that person is the sole author of the book. Sigh.

There’s no cost, no downside, and you get a nice page where you can add a photo (square ones look best, I’ve noticed) and a bio and your twitter feed and blog feed. Here’s mine. It has a follow button, of course, and even a discussion forum. Plus, it allows you to manage which books are associated with you… which can be somewhat important if your name or pen name isn’t the most unique combination in the world. Does an Amazon search for your name bring up someone else’s theological textbooks, or used computer manuals from the 1990s, or biographies of long-dead people in some unfamiliar field, or badly self-published erotica with truly uncomfortable cover art? (Yes, I have seen all of these things come up when looking for books by debut authors and editors.)

And then there are the authors who have Amazon Central accounts and author pages but don’t bother to claim all their books. This, I really don’t understand. Is it possible to become so big that you don’t feel the need to acknowledge every one of your stories? Or to get to a place where you write what you don’t love or believe in, not wanting to acknowledge them as yours, just to get paid? Or — most likely in my opinion, though it’s just a guess — to have so many books out and so many projects on the go that you simply don’t remember to go claim your latest baby?

Some publishers will remind their authors to take care of this little detail, since it’s one of the few things that can’t just be done by someone else (an agent, a publicist, someone in the publisher’s office); Author Central is for authors. As far as I know, there isn’t a way to grant someone else access to your profile, short of giving out your Amazon username and password… Um, no. In any case, you can’t count on getting a reminder, since not all publishers babysit their authors like that, and some smaller publishers may not even know it’s a good idea.

It seems only smart to be responsible for my profile across all the social reading sites, regardless of whether I like them or want to use them or think they have value. Why not stake my claim everywhere I can? Why not make sure that information out there about me is accurate and nicely presented? So once I was happy with my Amazon page, I moved on to Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari… In a couple of cases, I had to edit the book details first to make sure all the contributors (including me!) were listed, but that’s easy to do. I don’t have to participate on those sites or use their giveaway tools, and I don’t need to engage with readers and reviewers — it’s often wise to just stay quiet — but if my profile is going to exist there with or without me, why not make sure it represents me the way I want to be seen?