WLYA: Amanda, thank you so much for joining us here at We Love YA. Tell us about your inspiration for your books.
AA: Sometimes I find it hard to pinpoint where my books actually come from though in the case of Zombie Queen of Newbury High, I wrote that because at the time there were so many vampire books out there and I was looking for something different. I decided on zombies purely because they make me laugh and so I sat down with my husband and began to brainstorm. I got the title first and then I just kind of played with it until I had a plot! Fairy Bad Day was actually quite similar—the title came first and then I had to figure out all the nitty-gritty!
For my upcoming junior fiction series, Sophie’s Mixed-Up, they were definitely inspired by my love of old TV shows like The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Bewitched! I’ve actually discovered that I have a secret addiction to invisible friends and I find the idea of having someone invisible standing in the room highly addictive. Hopefully I will get it out of my system soon but it does seem to be a theme that is following me around!
WLYA: What were you like as a teenager? Do your characters reflect this?
AA: I was quite sporty and was convinced that I was going to marry Simon LeBon from Duran Duran. I also loved television and reading and distinctly remember feeling very invisible, to the point where I would say something and no one would laugh and then someone else would repeat what I’d just said and everyone would be rolling around on the ground in hysterics. It was pretty horrible at the time but of course feeling alienated and invisible as a teenager is fodder for the writer in me!!! As for whether my characters reflect this, I think they do to a certain degree, but of course the joys of being a writer is that I can make my characters a lot braver than I could ever be!!!
WLYA: If you could go back in time and give your teenage self one piece of advice, what would it be?
AA: I would probably say, ‘Sweetie, I know you think that those white court shoes are nice but they’re not!!!’ Though, comedy aside, I would probably tell myself that everyone feels as invisible and alienated as I did!
WLYA: What is your writing life like?
AA: Messy! I long to be a neat writer who has charts and Post-it notes carefully placed around my desk but unfortunately I tend to work in chaos. I re-write scenes over and over again and I change my mind on things at every single turn so because of that I often walk around half-dazed, or slightly annoyed! In fact my husband is so sick of me coming up for air and saying ‘I’ve got it, I’ve finally got it’ only to repeat it the following day that he no longer bothers to ask what it is I’ve got it, or why I didn’t already have it!
I’ve also got two children in primary school and turns out that their friends have been telling them that normal mothers don’t feed their kids backed beans and fish fingers every night of the week, so I have to pull myself out of the writer’s fog to hang out with them as well!!!
WLYA: What exciting things are coming up for you?
AA: I’ve got four books due out in the next eighteen months so it’s going to be a pretty exciting time for me! My junior fiction series is called Sophie’s Mixed-Up Magic and is about a girl who gets turned into a djinn the day before she starts sixth grade. All three books are coming out quite close together, which is very exciting! I’ve also go a slightly darker YA called Demonosity, which will hopefully be out at the beginning of 2013. This is about a girl who has to guard an ancient alchemist treasure from two demon knights. One of them is good, one of them is bad but problem is that she has no idea, which is which. Out of all the books that I’ve written, Demonosity is definitely my favourite, so I’m extra excited about its release!!!
WLYA: What is the best advice you would give a budding YA writer?
AA: Find your voice! Right now YA is a really hot market and it seems like every man and his dog is writing them (which is fine by me because I love reading them). However, the only way you’re going to stand out in a crowded market is to really understand what kind of writer you are and what kind of stories you really want to tell. So don’t try and mimic anyone else or write about vampires/zombies/angels/dystopian-disasters just because that’s what you see in the stores. Write about the story that really reflects you as a person or a writer and it will go a long way to helping you fulfil your writing dreams!
WLYA: A lot of authors recommend joining a writers’ group as a way to improve your craft. What’s your opinion on this?
AA: There are many ways to improve your craft and I think it’s really up to an individual what works best for them. I went to a writing group once many moons ago and as soon as someone stood up and started to read a poem, I knew it wasn’t for me. Also, no one in that group was chasing publication in a serious way and even though I was a complete newbie, I always knew that I wanted to write books and that I wanted those books to be published. So I guess if you’re going to join a group, then find out a bit about them. Do their goals/skills align with what you’re looking for? After all, what’s the point of getting feedback on your junior fiction tractorbot book when everyone in your group is writing haiku?
However, don’t despair because there are many great resources out there. Writing courses, online workshops, conferences, how-to books, joining writing associations, finding critique partners, entering competitions, submitting your work to agents/editors are some of the many ways you can become a better writer so don’t be afraid to search things out and find out what suits you best! Oh and for the record I’m totally thinking that tractorbots could be the new Harry Potter!
WLYA: What’s the best thing about being a full-time writer?
AA: Well, it gives me a lot more time to stuff around on the Internet, which is obviously very important!!!! But seriously, for me it’s a dream come true. After I finished school I never had any career goals at all and so I went to University and did journalism and English in the hope I would figure it out, but nope, still nothing! And it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I decided to write a book. After that I was hooked and since then this is the only thing that I’ve ever felt driven to do, so the idea that I’m allowed to is just wonderful. Plus, it makes reading books a tax deduction! Woot!
WLYA: How often do you get to connect with your YA audience?
AA: I don’t do much face-to-face stuff but I do spend more than my fair share of time on places like Twitter and Facebook so I do get to chat to readers that way (and by chat I mean compare notes on why Spice Girls are still the best band ever!!!!)
WLYA: What are you reading at the moment?
AA: I’m reading The Lab by Jack Heath! After hearing him speak recently I felt compelled to go and grab his first book and I’m totally hooked!!! I’ve also just finished Eona by Alison Goodman, which is completely amazing. It’s the follow up to Eon and I think that any fans of The Hunger Games will love these books!
WLYA: What do you like to do in your spare time?
AA: When I’m not writing and running around after my two ridiculously energetic children I like to read and watch television. A lot of television!!!
When she’s not writing, watching lots of TV or chasing after her children, you can find Amanda at www.amandaashby.com. Make sure you drop by and visit sometime.