You Had Me At Halo by Amanda Ashby Book Spotlight and Author Interview

Book Synopsis:

Holly Evans has just seen her own body laid to rest. Now she would like to move onto 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 premises, he apparently never got the memo.

Now, Holly has forty-eight 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.

Questions for the author:

Who has influenced you throughout your career as a writer?

My father gave me my love of reading from a very early age and then encouraged me as a writer as well, but of course the biggest influence has come from all the writers whose books I love so dearly.

Do you write every day?

Pretty much. Sometimes it might just be notes or snippets, but there is always a story in my head trying to get out.

What has been your greatest achievement as a writer?

Signing with my agent and then having her sell my book. I still have to pinch myself that it really happened!

How would you describe your writing?

Light, quirky, irreverant.

Are you currently working on anything?

I just finished a book last week (hooray!) and have just started playing with a new idea that I'm very excited about.

What authors do you enjoy reading?

So many! Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer are two long term favorites and more recently authors like Michelle Rowen, Julie Kenner, Holly Black to name just a few.

Is there a particular author/s (yourself excluded) who you feel don't get the recognition they deserve?

Not really. The authors I love to read are still having their books published which means that I have more great stories to look foward to - I'm content with that!

What is your favorite book?

Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula LeGuin (it's no longer a trilogy but I didn't like the next two books so I tend to forget about them a bit!!!!)

What is a book that has been highly acclaimed but you haven't liked?

Hmmmm, I honestly can't think of any, but that's not because I'm easily pleased but rather because I tend to only pick up books that I like the look of, also I tend to read popular fiction rather than literary fiction.

Is there a word you feel is overused?

Hahaha - my pet hate in the movies is when people say "can I ask you a question?" That is such an overused and completely redundant phrase that it drives me crazy!!

About the author (as taken from her website at :
I'm from Brisbane, Australia, and when I was eight I broke Will Robinson's leg. Thankfully, since Will Robinson was a character in Lost In Space, I only broke his leg in my mind, and I did it with the sole purpose of caring for him in a kind and loving manner (I think I might've disposed of that pesky Robot as well). Of course now I can look back and see this was probably the first sign I might want to be a romance writer, but unfortunately, at the time I couldn't see past the whole Hot Guy with limited mobility thing.

Will Robinson wasn't the only clue that I ignored. Growing up, I read just about any book I could get my hands on. English was my best subject at school. I studied Journalism at The University of Queensland and hated it because it was all so...well...factual. Clues, all of them, yet it wasn't until my late twenties that I suddenly woke up one morning and out of the blue, decided to write a book. My husband and mother thought this was a fine joke and very kindly helped me with titles. I think their favorite was, Lust in the Dust. They still laugh about it.

The weird thing was, that after years of having no career ambitions what so ever, I suddenly knew what I wanted to do. My first attempt was a romance which was pretty dreadful, but after we moved to New Zealand, I attempted another equally dreadful one. Then, a week before we moved to England in 1999, I read an article about British Chick Lit and instantly went out and bought, Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees', Come Together. I read the book on the plane and was overwhelmed with understanding. Finally I knew what sort of books I wanted to write.

As soon as we were settled in Liverpool, I started writing a book about a girl who was forced to be a bridesmaid at her younger sister's wedding. It was entirely done in emails and was enticingly called Lovedotcom. The minute I had finished three chapters I started to send it out and the third agent requested the full and then asked for me to ring her. She was lovely and I went down to London to have lunch with her. Nothing ended up coming of that book, or the next, or the next, but then I won a competition with the RWNZ and the prize was to be published by Heartline, a new romance press in the UK. Again, I went to London for lunch, but this time the publisher went out of business, before my book came out. After that I decided to send some work to Harlequin, which is when I met my critique partners (known as the Witches). I had very promising revisions with an editor at Harlequin Flipside (no lunch in London though!), however two weeks after I sent them off, the line was cancelled and once again I was back at square one.

Then in 2005, my dad died - just three days after I'd been to Australia to visit him. I knew he was sick, but I hadn't expected him to pass away quite so soon. Especially since I live in England and the thought of hoping back on a plane for another 24 hours (and some) was a bit daunting. However, the funeral was put off for two weeks so I had a bit of recuperation time before I set out again, and actually the trip was quite good. Possibly because I normally travel with two children under six - and trust me, the difference is great.

The three days I had back in Australia were very therapeutic and most strongly marked by the conversations I had with my dad - well, yes, I know he was dead, but that didn't seem to stop him from talking! It started when I was helping to clean the house for the wake that was going to follow the funeral. My dad had a cleaning obsession that made Monica Geller look like a slacker, so while dusting, I couldn't help but feel that my father was up in heaven giving me directions - and not quiet ones either! In fact it seemed he was getting quite pissed off that I had missed a spot (and, okay so perhaps I hadn't bothered to do under the bookshelf, but puleez! Who is going to check under it at a funeral?) But, apparently - according to my dead dad - that wasn't the point. The point was if I was going to do something I should do it properly. Yeah, right. Whatever.

Anyway, the conversations continued all the way through the funeral and back to the UK where I was about to pick up on the book I'd almost finished writing. However, in one of those Eureka moments (which naturally occurred when I was in the shower), I suddenly had an idea for not a cranky old man shouting at me from heaven, but rather of a young girl. And boy was she pissed off. Apparently she was up in heaven looking at her funeral and couldn't believe how badly people had dressed for it. Like, where was the respect?
From there the book literally poured out of me and three weeks later it was finished. I sent it to a bunch of US agents and the requests started coming in almost immediately and about four weeks after the book was finished I got my first offer of representation. I nearly fell off my chair. I'd been trying to get published for six years. Six. And suddenly in under two months I managed to take a huge step forward. At this point another agent, Jenny Bent from Trident Media, had asked for revisions on the full manuscripts and I had been blown away with how clearly she could see how to make the book better than it had been, so when Jenny offered to represent me, I didn't hesitate to go with her and two and half weeks after she sent it out, we got an offer from NAL to publish my book, You Had Me at Halo.

It was definitely a strange time for me. I lost my dad in May but in October, five months and two days later, I sold my first book. And since I can quite easily write about a dead girl getting kicked out of heaven for talking too much, I have no problems believing that my dad helped pull a few strings up above. So thanks dad, I owe you one, and may everyone find the silver lining to their own dark clouds.

Extra Stuff
When I'm not writing, I'm busy looking after my two kids and husband. Of course, they might disagree on how much looking after I actually do, but like I often tell them, not everyone can burn a fish finger like I can.

Some of my favorite authors are: Julie Kenner, Michelle Rowen, Georgette Heyer, Jilly Cooper, Jane Austen, Janet Evanavich, Jill Mansell, Katie Fforde, Christina Jones, Liz Young, Sarah Morgan, Liz Fielding, Essie Summers, Betty Neels, Raymond E Feist, David Gemmell, Sarah Mason, Ursula le Guin, Anne McCaffery, Christopher Paolini, Eoin Colfer.

As well as reading, I am a complete television addict and some of my favorite shows include (but not limited to): Buffy, Angel, Friends, Firefly, 24, My Name is Earl, How I Met Your Mother, Hex, Supernatural, Dark Angel, Love Island, American Idol, X Factor, Big Brother.

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Sassy Mama Bear said...

this looks like something I would love to read, thanks for a great review and interview.

Gypsy at Heart said...

I'm impressed by the interview and the book is just my cup of tea. I love the paranormal genre. And this author likes Georgette Heyer. I'm sold. Thanks for posting.