Toni Cabell is a three-time B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree, and her latest novel, THE LIGHTNESS OF WATER, won a 2022 Global Book Awards Gold Medal. She writes “skillfully plotted books packed full of magic, mayhem, and a plethora of dark secrets…”(The Wishing Shelf) Her fantasy books feature strong female protagonists, page-turning plots, and relatable characters that spring off the page.
Toni makes her home in a small village along the shores of Lake Michigan with her handsome husband and grumpy miniature schnauzer. When she told her fifth-grade teacher she wanted to be a writer, neither of them expected Toni’s journey to include stints as a nurse’s aid, 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.
IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.
Toni Cabell: “Highlighted by a breathtaking romance, THE LIGHTNESS OF WATER is an exquisitely refined fantasy adventure that will keep you reading well into the night.” (Indies Today)
only thing more dangerous than divining for water is falling in love with the
Solace is beautiful, strong-willed, and called the water witch by her neighbors. She divines for water in the arid hills of her home—a dangerous pastime across the border, where the king controls access to all the water. Rhees is brooding, bitter, and hiding a deadly secret. But he’s determined to find a way to help the thirsty people of his land—even if it means kidnapping the last living water diviner.
But divining for water is against the law, punishable by death. Should Solace risk everything—including her heart—in a daring race to find water, or flee across the hills at her first chance of escape?
Beauty and the Beast meets The Hunger Games in this thrilling romantic fantasy. Pick up THE LIGHTNESS OF WATER and be swept into a world of betrayal, mystery, and heart-stomping action.
B.R.A.G. Medallion Award**
**2022 Gold Medal, Best Fantasy Romance - Global Book Awards**
IAN: Is The Lightness of Water published in print, e-book or both?
Toni Cabell: My novel is available in print and e-book.
IAN: Where can we go to buy The Lightness of Water?
Toni Cabell: All my books are available on Amazon. Here’s the link for THE LIGHTNESS OF WATER: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09GJGRYZ7
IAN: Did you use an outline, or do you just wing the first draft?
Toni Cabell: I use a very high-level outline that contains some of the main beats or events of my story, and then I start writing.
I’m essentially a “pantser” – I write by the seat of my pants – which means I do a fair amount of rewriting and rework to ensure I’ve plugged any plot holes that might have developed when I was writing in the flow of the moment.
I’ve tried to write out detailed outlines for my books, but I never stick with them. My characters simply take over the story!
IAN: Do you have a specific writing style?
Toni Cabell: According to my readers and reviewers, I write well-constructed fantasy stories populated with engaging, diverse characters. My writing style has been described as “clear” and “clean” – I tend to use the fewest words possible to convey my meaning. When I was in college, if the assignment was to write a 10-20 page research paper, you can bet my papers came in at the low end of that scale!
IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
Toni Cabell: I think The Wishing Shelf summed it up best in their Five Star Review: “There were plenty of twists and turns to keep me turning the page, and the characters (the kind, the strange, and the mysterious) were interesting - even memorable…If you enjoy character-led novels with a strong element of suspense, THE LIGHTNESS OF WATER is for you. This is a stimulating and well-constructed fantasy. There’s not much not to like!”
IAN: How much of the book is realistic?
Toni Cabell: While THE LIGHTNESS OF WATER is a fantasy, the issues and conflicts faced by the characters are real enough: adversity, prejudice, greed, and tyranny. Solace and Rhees must overcome their mutual distrust—and their growing attraction—while their enemies are hot on their trail. Ultimately, this is a suspenseful coming-of-age tale populated with relatable characters.
IAN: What book are you reading now?
Toni Cabell: The Golden Enclaves (The Scholomance Series) by Naomi Novik. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this dark YA fantasy series.
IAN: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Toni Cabell: I started making up stories in my head when I was in elementary school and decided at an early age I wanted to be a writer. Storytelling has always held a special fascination for me—I loved listening to the stories of my immigrant grandparents, told around the kitchen table—and both my parents continued that tradition. Stories help us make connections, by seeing life through someone else’s eyes…and if we can do that, we develop empathy.
IAN: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Toni Cabell: Everything! And yet I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. The creative process is equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. The most difficult part for me is facing an entirely blank page and beginning a new story.
IAN: Who designed the cover?
Toni Cabell: Peter at Bespoke Book Covers has designed all my covers. He’s very talented and I think he’s done a remarkable job!
IAN: What was the hardest part of writing The Lightness of Water?
Toni Cabell: The battle scenes in THE LIGHTNESS OF WATER were especially challenging. They involved sword fighting on horseback and on foot, as well as slinging. I researched the ancient use of slingers in warfare because I wanted to portray Solace and her slingers as accurately as possible. I’m especially gratified by this reader’s Amazon review, “The building rebellion and battle are a joy to read and are realistic.”
IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Toni Cabell: Find a mantra that will help you through the rough patches, when your words seem to flee and nothing sits right on the page. I love Anne Lemott’s book, Bird by Bird, Instructions on Writing and Life. Whenever I’m stuck, I recall her father’s advice to her little brother, struggling to write a school paper on birds. Anne’s father told him, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Anne applies that same advice to her writing—and so do I—you’ve got to take it word by word, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter. With persistence (and a great deal of editing, often done in the middle of the night), you will finish your book!
IAN: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Toni Cabell: Quite simply: thank you. I’ll say it again: thank you. While I love to write and take great pleasure in crafting a new story, writing is a very solitary pursuit. It can be isolating and even lonely. However, when my readers begin to react to my stories, when they actually engage by leaving reviews, or following me, or subscribing to my newsletter—wow, what a lift! I am deeply grateful to every one of my readers.
IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?
Toni Cabell: I have two works in progress at the moment!
THE WAY OF WATER, to be published in Fall 2023, picks up Solace and Rhees’s story on the eve of his coronation. An unexpected visitor arrives with an old claim that the new king must fulfill—but if Rhees follows through, he will lose Solace forever.
LADY REAPER, the fifth and final book in my Serving Magic Series, will be published in April 2023. “This series has everything I love…a powerful protagonist, a strong plot, dry humor… and rich details that transported me right into the story.” (Reader’s Favorite Review) Mara’s magic is broken, her fay boyfriend can’t give her the time of day, and the underworld has stopped processing ghosts. With chaos spreading everywhere, Mara needs a cure fast. Should she seek help from the king of the elves? You won’t want to miss this award-winning series!