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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

TOPIC: An Author's Life...with Amanda Ashby

Being a published author is an ... involved ... process, and I take my hat off to those who've been in the business more than a few years now.

As a pre-pubbed author I was always curious about what happened once you received THE CALL and stepped into the world of publishing.

What did it involve? How did they handled the day to day pressures? Did they developed routines, set goals etc.? What did they like/dislike about the process?

So I asked my special guests these questions and many of them have offered some intriguing insights into their lives. Maybe they'll even give you a heads up on what to expect if you're thinking of entering the world of "getting published".

Please welcome my next guest... 

AMANDA ASHBY was born in Australia and after spending the last sixteen years dividing her time between England and New Zealand, she’s finally moved back and now lives on the Sunshine Coast.

When she’s not moving country, she likes to write books (okay, she also likes to eat chocolate, watch television and sit around doing not much, but let’s just keep that amongst ourselves, shall we?)

Author Facts
Pseudonym or Given Name?
Amanda Ashby. 
Location: Sunshine Coast, Queensland. 
Published Genre/s: young adult, middle grade. 
Website: www.amandaashby.com 
First published: 2007. 
Number of books published: I’ve currently got three books out and four more to come in next 12-18 months.

The Nitty Gritty
List up to 5 significant events in your journey to publication?
The first clever thing that I did was join the Romance Writers of New Zealand.

I won a competition, which would’ve seen my book get published with a small UK publisher, but they went under before that happened.

At the same time I had moved to the UK and joined the RNA and went along to a local chapter meeting in Cheshire. There were four of us at that first meeting: me, Penny Jordan, Susan Stephens and Amanda Grange. To say that I was overwhelmed was an understatement but despite being a fish out of water those wonderful writers took me under their wings and made me feel like my writing dream was possible!

From there many more people ending up coming to our chapter meetings (including the wise Kate Walker and the lovely June Francis who writes Liverpool sagas).

Hanging out with so many Harlequin authors led me to the eharlequin boards and that is where I met my CP's Christina Phillips and Sara Hantz.

Meeting those two was definitely the best thing that ever happened to my writing career. I think we had been friends for about two years when I finally sold and I can’t imagine what I would’ve done without them (especially since they are fabulous at correcting my shoddy grammar!!!!). 

What resources/techniques/events did you find useful to develop your writing skills/craft?
I love Blake Snyder’s book SAVE THE CAT. I’ve read a lot of writing books that try and teach me how to write but with Blake’s book I feel like he’s putting names and structures to the things that I naturally do.

Can you share the special moment when you received THE CALL?
My first book went out on submission in 2005 to quite a big list but within two weeks we had received rejections from nearly all of them.

Then my agent sent me an email to say that NAL had offered on the proviso that I changed it from a young adult book to a woman’s fiction book. Honestly, in that email all I saw was the words ‘offer’ and so I immediately said yes!!!!

Looking back over your writing career, how have you grown as an author?
I think I write like a puppy! I have a lot of enthusiasm and over the top of ideas and not a lot of structure and style. Thankfully, over the years I’ve definitely learnt how to control my voice and impose some order on it.

Of course, it hasn’t all happened in a bubble and I owe it all to my editor Karen Chaplin who has been such a champion of my work. Karen has since left Puffin but I still keep her in my mind when I’m working on a new project because she knew just how to push and develop me as an author!

Ditto with my agent, Jenny Bent who never lets me put anything but my best foot forward. 

How important is it to set career goals? Can you give an example of one you have for yourself?
You know I really should start setting some goals. It sounds very grown up and clever! Unfortunately, I tend to just float along in a very vague way and hope that good things happen (for the record, don’t try this at home).

Can you describe your writing process/timeframe from when you start a new book to handing it in at deadline?
It varies so much depending on the contract. I’ve sold books on the full, on a partial and on a synopsis and so each experience has been different.

The only thing that stays the same is that by the time I hit the middle, my head is fit to explode and I’m convinced that I’m the worst writer. In. The. World!

Also, for me a lot of the work starts after the book has been handed in and when we move onto the revision stage (that when crazy really comes to visit!)

One of the things I found challenging about being a published author is the constant juggling of tasks ie. writing a book, editing another, planning promotion, writing the prosposal for another (and usually this all happens while holding down another job or dealing with family/life etc.).

What do you enjoy the most in the publishing process?
Ideas!!!! I’m such an ideas person and so I love the challenge of coming up with something that has a cute title, strong hook and that can work in the current market.

What do you least in the publishing process?
The waiting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There is so much downtime in publishing, depending where you sit on your publisher’s list and so often you have long periods of time where nothing is happening and you have to keep yourself amused and out of trouble!

What's the most memorable fan-mail you've received?
It was for my debut book YOU HAD ME AT HALO and it was from a lovely reader called Laura who I would say was my first fan! She was so wonderful and I even ended up meeting her at the RWA conference in San Francisco.

We joked that she was my stalker but she wasn’t like that at all. She just really liked my book and I’ve never forgotten her because she was the first person who made me feel like a ‘real’ writer!

Is there anything you think pre-publishers writers need to know about the business/industry before they're published?
I don’t want to sound all pessimistic but sometimes when I think of publishing I think of Kurt Vonnegut’s book, CAT'S CRADLE where it concludes, ‘No dam cat. No dam cradle.’ Because no matter how great your publishing experience is, it’s NEVER how you expect it will be!

So my advice is to lose your expectations, concentrate on your story and remember that it’s not the most important thing in the world.

A Bit of Fun
Favorite color:
apple green. 
Hunkiest hero ever: David Boreanaz.
Most daring thing you've done in your life: bought sour Skittles instead of regular ones. Sometimes I just scare myself with my thrill-seeking nature! 
Greatest love: husband. He’s very lovely when he’s behaving himself! 
Timeout/relaxation for me includes: watching television and reading books.
Special quote/saying you like: "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd." - Flannery O’Connor. I love this, and it pretty much sums up every book that I’ve ever written!!!


  1. Loved that interview, Amanda you sound zany and fun - a breath of fresh air =))

  2. Hi Amanda,
    "write like a puppy" ROFL. You gave me visions of a lab puppy rolloping across a keyboard. Your books sound like a lot of fun...the titles alone are enough to hook me in. Looking forward to the release of your Mixed-Up Magic series.

  3. Hey Kylie and Amanda

    Waving to both!

    Amanda, thanks for sharon your book process with us, I love that you can name your first fan - that is so awesome! Shows just what a people person you are!

    Can't wait to read your middle grade mixed up magic series!

    Bye 4 now

  4. Mel - thank you! And I'm now going to tell my husband and kids this since they are under the very mistaken impression that I'm snappy (okay, perhaps I'm a little bit snappy but is it so hard to remember to put things back where they came from?!!!)

    Peta - yup, that kind of sums up my writing process!!!! It is very juvenile and frisky! But I'm super excited about my Sophie books coming out because I had so much fun writing them!

  5. Hey Tina,

    I was so scared when Halo first came out and Laura's email really helped give me confidence. Plus, I found it a lot easier to take bad reviews when I knew first hand how special my book was to someone else! So it was a great thing to learn early on in my career! Actually, I must get let Laura know that I've mentioned her!

  6. Hi Amanda, I love your fairy bad day book. It is so funny n adorable . Wish you all the best :). Aretha_zhen@yahoo.com

  7. Hey Aretha - thank you!!!!! I'm so pleased you enjoyed Fairy. I had no idea that I would like writing sword fighting scenes until I did that book (though I did already know that I liked eating Skittles!!!!).

  8. Hello, everyone - I'm just checking in for the day after a return to teaching after 2 years (I'm so exhausted!!!) but thanks for welcoming Amanda and Amanda thanks for picking up my slack until now - LOL!

  9. Hi, Kylie! Hi, Amanda!

    Amanda, I totally agree with you on the waiting game that is publishing. I keep myself occupied by reading your books. :) I'm loving Fairy Bad Day -- such a fun book to come home to when I've had a Very Bad Day.


  10. Hey Amanda! *waves to Kylie* I can still remember the thrill when you got the call from NAL!! Am so looking forward to seeing our gorgeous Sophie (not to mention Malik!) hit the shelves!!

  11. Hey Kylie,

    I just realized that I hadn't thanked you yet! Hope you're not too exhausted by your first day back, but I'm sure that your special parcel that arrived would've helped perk you up! And thank you for the photo of DB - now how did you know that was my favourite one?????

    Vanessa - yes, I wish that pre-pub waiting was different from post-pub waiting but it is just as scary/frustrating/exhausting as it ever was!!! Oh, I'm so pleased you're enjoying Fairy. I have enough distance from it now to view it fondly!!!!!

    Christina - I know - wasn't that a crazy time!!!! And yes, I can't wait for Sophie to be released! Not sure the world is ready for Malik though. I know I'm not!