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Monday, January 31, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: Amanda Ashby

Amanda Ashby was born in Australia, spent eight years in England and currently lives in New Zealand. When she's not moving countries, she also likes to write books for young adults.

Her debut book, YOU HAD ME AT HALO was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award, and her current book ZOMBIE QUEEN OF NEWBURY HIGH was listed by the New York Public Library's Stuff for the Teen Age 2010 as well as being nominated for the YALSA popular paperback 2011.

Please welcome first time visitor, young adult romance author, Amanda Ashby.

When did you start to write and how long did it take you to be published? I tinkered with writing for a few years but didn’t get serious until 1999 when I first moved to the UK. I then wrote about twelve manuscripts before finally selling in 2005.

Of course along the way there were tears and tantrums and multiple genre swapping, but in the end I sold the right book at the right time for me (I’m a majorly slow learner so if I’d sold my very first book I think I would’ve struggled to adjust to it all).

Are you a panster or plotter? Is it your characters or your plot that influence you most? What's your writing process from start to finish when writing a book? I’m a panster, with a capital panster, though infuriatingly enough I often don’t get a character or a plot to guide me. Normally I start with a small slither of an idea and then have to feel my way around in the dark to try and decipher what that slither of an idea really means.

When I first started writing, I found my process very trying—especially all the re-writing that it involved—but these days I’m a lot more accepting of it. Sure I would love to be organized and not have to cut about a third of what I write, but now that I know I do finally find my story in the end, I’m happy to accept it.

Because of this, my books often start out fast as I get all excited about what’s going on. Then I hit a certain point where it all falls apart and that’s when I need to do a lot of work trying to uncover the real story from the false trails. However, once I finally nail that, then the final part of the book is normally pretty quick because everything is in place.

Can you tell us about your new release? FAIRY BAD DAY is out in the US next June with Puffin.

Blurb: My life seriously couldn’t get any worse.

First, my rightful designation of dragon slayer is STOLEN right out from under me by Curtis Green. Sure, he’s really cute, but that doesn’t give him an excuse.

On top of that, I am assigned to slay fairies. I know what you’re thinking—how hard could it be, right? Wrong! These menacing beasts with their tiny hipster clothes and mocking sarcasm love taunting me. And they won’t STOP!

But the thing that tops my list of stuff to ruin my day? That would be the GIANT KILLER FAIRY that I have to hunt down and slay because I am the only one who can see it. There is someone who can help me. Unfortunately…it’s Curtis.

It’s going to be a fairy bad day.

What’s the worst writing mistake you ever made that taught you a valuable lesson? After I sold my first book, I started on another one but I didn’t want to send it to my agent until I knew what the story was about (see above notes on my pansting process).

My CP (yes, Sara Hantz you were right) kept telling me that I should run it past my agent first, but I was too worried about it not being right so I kept on writing. So anyway, by the time I got to 50k I finally knew what was happening and sent a two paragraph blurb to my agent about it. It was a no! She just didn’t feel it was right for the market.

That was such a shock, especially since I was desperately trying to establish my new career. It was a big lesson to me on how to work with my agent. Now I send her a blurb before I even start the book to see if she likes the concept or not.

Thankfully that half-written book wasn’t wasted since I totally stole the world building and used it in my upcoming book, FAIRY BAD DAY (which started life as another book entirely but my agent hated the idea and loved the title so we had a little brainstorm and a new book was born!).

So my valuable lesson was that if you’re lucky enough to nab yourself a smart, savvy agent who you trust, then work with them, don’t work against them!!!!

What’s the most unusual book you’ve read that’s made a lasting impression on you? The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula LeGuin is probably the book that has made the biggest impression on me (there were more books in the series but they didn’t have the same effect on me as the first three books did).

What's next for you? What are you working on? I’ve just finished a mid-grade trilogy that should be out sometime in 2012.

It’s about an eleven year old girl who accidentally gets turned into a djinn the day before she starts sixth grade and then has to learn to deal with her new powers, while keeping it a secret from her mom. Oh, and her djinn guide happens to look like Zac Efron’s older brother and is addicted to Cheetos!

Do you have any advice/handy tips/craft skills you'd like to share with unpublished authors? In a way, being an unpublished author is the best way to really discover who you are as a writer and what kind of stories you want to tell because there are no expectations on you, so my advice is to enjoy this part and not be so desperately attached to the idea of being published.

My other advice is to really hold onto that belief you have that one day you will sell a book, because that will be the one thing that helps get you though the rejections and the self-doubt.

Oh, and eat chocolate, because that always makes everything more fun!

Amanda, thanks for joining me today!

Amanda's other books:

You Had Me At Halo
Zombie Queen of Newbury High

You can read more about Amanda & her books on her website. She's also on Facebook, Twitter, or you can read about her on her blog.


  1. I had to stop by and say hi and great interview, Kylie and Amanda!!! As Amanda's other CP I'm lucky enough to have already read FAIRY BAD DAY and it's totally awesome - and how cool is that cover?

  2. Hi Amanda, Hello Kylie,

    The excerpt sounds so intriguing and the cover of FAIRY BAD DAY is super. Thanks for sharing and that aspiring writer tip is awesome.

  3. Cool interview, and I really like the sound of Amanda's books;)
    Fairy Bad Day sounds like a riot!!!!

  4. Hey Christina, thanks for dropping by to support your CP! Amanda's FBD is a cool cover - it'd make me look twice in the bookstore. :-)

    Hi Nas & Cath,glad you enjoyed the interview.I found Amanada's insight into the whole "next book" story very interesting. If you're compelled to write something you love then find out it's a no-go that would be so disheartening!

    I'm glad she could salvage the core of it and use it in FBD. Imagine the time you spent writing it?!?! Yikes!

  5. Kylie - thanks so much for having me here!!!! And yes, it was a tough learning curve - though my agent was quick to tell me that if I really, really love something, then she's totally fine with me fighting for it, so it was really my decision to ditch in the end!

    Christina - big waves to my wonderful CP!!!!

    Nas - I know - isn't my cover lovely! I'm a sucker for a sword!!!!

    Cath - thank you!!!

  6. These books sound great I bet my Gwyny would love them, hey Kylie

  7. Great interview Kylie and I love learning more about you by your fantastic answers Amanda : )

    I've often wondered if I could write YA books - they sound like such a blast! But I don't think I'm witty or cool enough : ) Think I'll stick to adult romance. But boy, do your stories sound good!

  8. Sounds great, Amanda. Love the title, I'll be buying a copy for an honorary grand daughter who loves to read, and whom I keep supplied with YA books.


  9. Thanks for a great interview Kylie and Amanda.

    I love that someone has a process so like mine - groping in the dark! So I'll take your advice Amanda and enjoy my unpublished time, instead of wishing it away :-) Thank you.


  10. Hi Cath,

    By all means enjoy your unpubbed time. It is indeed a luxury. I used to hear authors talk about it at conferences, knew it in the cerebral sense, but living it is a whole new mind-set. LOL! :-)

  11. Frances, I'm always being asked for good books for older primary/early secondary children to read and now that I know some YA authors they get recommended! :-)

  12. Robyn - thank you!!!!

    LaVerne - hahaha - trust me, I'm definitely not cool or witty! But if you think that you have a YA book in you, then you should definitely try it - I love writing about teenagers because they are so complicated (and extreme!!!!!)

    Frances - so nice to see you here (and thank you!!!!)

    Catherine - it's terrible of me, but I always feel relieved when I know that other people write the same way I do! But yes, definitely enjoy your writing time because this is such a great time to discover your voice and who you are as a writer!

    Kylie - ain't that the truth!

  13. Hey Robyn! YES, Gwyny WOULD love Amanda's books! Get her to a bookstore and buy! :-)

  14. Hey LaVerne, good to see you here! I get what you mean by sticking to adult romances, not sure I could write a YA, I'm afraid.

    Love reading them but they're a special genre amongst genres to master I think.

  15. Kylie - let me know if you want some book recs - I work p/t at the library in the children's section, so I'm always talking YA/midgrade books (not to mention reading them - tough job but someone's got to do it!!!)

  16. Hi, Kylie and Amanda (waving madly!). I love your advice to aspiring writers, especially the bit about eating chocolate. Now *that* I can do very well!

    Looking forward to reading Fairy Bad Day!

  17. Thanks, Amanda, I'll take you up on that offer!

    Hi, Vanessa. The more I look at the FBD cover the more I see - only just noticed today the butterfly pinned at the end of the sword, can't believe I missed it! LOL Too distracted by the sword, I guess. Love swords!

  18. Hey Vanessa - as I'm sure you well know - everything works better with chocolate!!!!!

    Kylie - isn't the sword awesome! I actually asked to have a girl holding a sword but I never thought they'd actually do it!

  19. Amanda, have you had much of an input into the covers of your books? How does the cover artist decide what goes on it?

  20. Hi Amanda and Kylie,
    love those book titles! And agree, chocolate and the occasional packet of chilli chips, works wonders! (followed by workout LOL!)

  21. Kylie - so far I've always been asked if I have any cover suggestions and then my ed takes that along with her to meetings. However, once that happens I don't tend to know much until it's done.

    You hear loads of stories about authors having no say in their covers and I think it depends on publishers/books/agents etc. All I know is that so far I've been very lucky with the cover Gods. Long may it continue!!!

    Mel - Oh, yum. Chilli chips. I think I need some immediately and it's all your fault!!!!!!

  22. Mel, I'm with you on chilli chips! Yummmmmmm!

    How fortunate you are to have some input into your covers, Amanda!