October 2007


Australian-born author Amanda Ashby's debut novel, You Had Me at Halo, is best described as paranormal chick lit. Amanda, who has lived in England for several years, has recently moved to Napier, New Zealand, with her husband and two children.

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  1. 1. Tell us about your debut book, You Had Me at Halo.

    Holly Evans has just seen her body laid to rest. Now she would like to move on to the afterlife. But apparently she has some mortal baggage to unload first, starting with the matter of how she died. Her heavenly shrink isn't buying that she didn't kill herself and says she must return to earth to straighten things out. The thing is, she needs to borrow the body of computer geek Vince Murphy to do it. Oh, and although Vince was supposed to have vacated the premise, he apparently never got the memo. Now, Holly has 48 hours to resolve her issues while sharing arms, legs, and ... other things ... with a guy she barely noticed while she was alive. But the real surprise is what life has to offer when you have only two days to live it.

  2. 2. How did the idea for the plot come about?

    The idea for this book actually came to me at my father's funeral. I was helping clean the house for when everyone came back later on and I just got this overwhelming sense that my dad was looking down on me - and no, it wasn't with love, it was with annoyance that I hadn't dusted under the bookshelf. Anyway, on such a sad day, the idea of my dad providing his own commentary to the funeral kept making me laugh. A few weeks later, I got the idea for a young girl watching her funeral. And she was NOT happy. At the time she had no idea how she died and one of the reasons she got sent back down to earth was to figure it all out. Well, she wasn't the only one who had to figure it out. I literally wrote this book in three weeks and didn't have a clue what happened until I got to the end. As far as sanity goes, this isn't a very smart way to write, but it certainly kept me interested in what I was doing!

  3. 3. Tell us about your journey to getting a book published.

    Well, for a start I'm a chronic underachiever, so I'm definitely not one of those people who just jotted down an idea and a few weeks later got a deal. I started writing seriously about six years before I sold and over that time I had two children, moved country three times and completed about a dozen manuscripts, not to mention at least a dozen more partial books and half-cooked ideas. On the way I had a few near-misses but as soon as I wrote You Had Me at Halo things started to move quickly. I got quite a lot of agent interest and in the end got two offers of representation. I signed with Jenny Bent from Trident Media in New York (who is an absolutely angel and legend in equal doses) and she sold it two and a half weeks after sending it out. Which was great, because after waiting for six years, it was nice for something to finally happen quickly!!

  4. 4. Have you been surprised at the reaction to your book?

    Absolutely. I wasn't really expecting any reviews at all, let alone nice ones, so that's been a bonus. But the real thrill is that complete strangers have not only bought the book but taken the time to email me and say they enjoyed it. I had no idea how amazing that could make me feel.

  5. 5. Who would you want to body-share with -

    1. A. if you had to return to earth
      David Boreanaz of Angel fame (pretty please)
    2. B. which dead person would you be happy to help resolve their issues.
      Elvis. I love listening to Elvis when I write and I always feel so sad that someone with such an amazing voice died before his time. Plus, I would so get a free trip to Graceland if I helped the King sort a few things out, and not that I'm about the free stuff, but it would be a great perk!
  6. 6. Holly Evans has been described as a feisty heroine. Which actress would do her justice in a movie adaptation?

    Hmmmm, in my mind Holly is a combination of Jennifer Aniston and Alicia Silverstone. However, since she's only 22, I might have to go with someone a bit younger, so I'll say Amanda Bynes, because she does great comedy.

  7. 7. What book got you hooked on chick lit?

    The first chick lit book I ever read was Come Together by Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees and since then I've never looked back.

  8. 8. What is your favourite chick lit book?

    Argh, I'm so bad at this game because I hate making decisions, however one of the best books I've ever read is Jill Mansell's Head Over Heels. I don't know if Jill is always classified as straight chick lit, but she has a very chick lit tone to her writing and to me she is just out laugh-out-loud funny. Also, over the years I've moved on from so many chick lit writers that I used to love, but Jill is still an auto buy for me after all this time!

  9. 9. Who is your favourite chick lit heroine?

    Hmmm, another tough one, but the one who stands out is Becky Bloomwood from Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series. Or, if you count Janet Evanovich as a chick lit writer, then I do have a lot of love for Stephanie Plum.

  10. 10. What are you working on now?

    Don't ask. I have about five projects floating around right now. A second young adult zombie book, a mid-grade book about fairies and another women's fiction book as well, which might or might not include the hero being turned blue (but rest assured he totally deserved it!!)

  11. 11. What are you reading now?

    I'm just finishing Nalini Singh's Caressed By Ice and then I'm going to start a chick lit novel called Frenemies by Megan Crane, which looks fabulous!

  12. 12. What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

    I find it hardest when I'm in between books because I tend to lose focus and confidence very easily. When I'm writing, I usually end up getting so engrossed in the story that the rest of the world fades away (and the dinners start getting burnt on a regular basis). However, when I'm developing new book ideas and have to spend too much time in the real world, it can get tricky!

  13. 13. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

    I wish I'd had more faith in myself to tell the story the way it was in my head. I spent the longest time taking out all the weird and wonderful paranormal elements that kept sneaking in, because I worried that people would think I was odd (no snickering in the back row, please). However, when I finally wrote You Had Me at Halo I knew there was no way I could ever take all the strange elements out of it and so I finally let the story come out the way it was and that's when I finally sold.

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