Amanda Jayatissa is a published author who has made quite the mark in the writing world with her books. She was recently put on a list by Publishers Weekly for her soon-to-be-published book My Sweet Girl.
Speaking to Brunch, Amanda Jayatissa described herself as a dork, sharing with us an anecdote from her childhood. She said: “When I was younger, my parents threw this really awesome birthday party for me, and they couldn’t find me. And they were trying to figure out where I was – searching all over the place – and they found me in the bathroom, reading.”
After hearing this heartwarming comment, her career choice became very clear to us. We caught up with Amanda on her journey as a writer and more.
Here are some excerpts of the interview.
How did you discover your passion for writing?
I’ve always obviously really enjoyed writing. I’ve been a very voracious reader, from the time I was very young. So writing just seemed like the obvious next step for me. I’ve always written little funny stories and poems and I kept a journal for the majority of my life. It’s something I’ve always done and enjoyed.
As I got older, life took over; I pulled away from it for a while but I noticed every time I pulled away from it I ended up drifting back somehow or the other. I wrote a book and published it locally in 2017, and it won the Fairway National Award in English. After that, I realised that writing was what I loved to do, and thought I should pursue this a little bit more seriously.
Around this time is when I wrote My Sweet Girl. I started approaching agents, because in the US, if you want to get published, you first need to sign on with an agent, who represents your work and then pitches your work to publishers.
From all the books you wrote, which is the closest to your heart and why?
That’s difficult to say, because it’s asking like parents to pick their favourite child! I can’t pick, but I can say that whatever I’m working on at the time, that’s what I get super into and passionate about. I don’t think it’s possible to write unless you are really, really into it, and thinking about it non-stop – that’s the way I write – I get lost in the book or the story that I’m trying to write, and I think about it 24/7.
From where do you draw your inspiration for your books?
That’s a tough question for any writer to answer. It’s always events that happen in your life – things that you see or experience and lock up in a vault – you don’t know when or if you’d ever
use these things, but sometimes when you’re writing, or you have an idea, you end up tapping into the vault and pulling up random thoughts.
For me, it’s rarely like that big lightbulb moment, It’s almost like you get a flicker or like a little glimmer of an idea, and then you see how much you know and are aware of and begin building on it. I do extra research and that helps build it out some more, and you end up with inspiration.
You were recently put on a list by Publishers Weekly; what are your thoughts on that achievement?
Publishers Weekly is an industry publication for publishers, booksellers, and agents. This recognition was really nice, and I’m honoured to be in the same list as many writers that I truly admire. I’m very grateful to my publishing team at Berkley, who speak to various publications on my behalf, and that’s how I ended up on Publishers Weekly.
The list focused on atmosphere in novels being released in 2021. My story takes place in the claustrophobic suburbs of the San Francisco Bay Area, and also an orphanage in Sri Lanka, which is why I was included in the list.
What is My Sweet Girl about?
It’s about a woman who finds her roommate murdered in their apartment in San Francisco, and rushes out of the apartment fearing for her safety. When the police arrive, they find that there’s no trace of the body. All traces of the roommate vanish, and it’s like he never even existed. My character is terrified because she believes that it was tied into something that happened when she was a child growing up in an orphanage in Sri Lanka and the choices she made.
I love incorporating big plot twists into my stories; I want my readers to feel like they’ve had the rug pulled out from under their feet.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
There are a few things that I do when I’m dealing with writer’s block. Writer’s block usually happens when either feeling burned out, or my ideas aren’t fully formed enough for me to write them well.
When this happens I spend some time on my “thinking couch”, and everyone laughs at me for this, accusing me of napping; but sitting down and taking a step back, not forcing myself to write, and just thinking about it and trying to immerse myself into my character’s viewpoint usually helps.
How did you spend the lockdowns?
The first month of the lockdown was very difficult for me, because I’m someone that was used to working a lot and being a very busy person; so I really struggled. I got my book deal during the pandemic. I had my last rewrite during the lockdown with my agent and it went into submission. The ball had just started rolling for me, which was really interesting and exciting and amazing for me because it was like a light at the end of the tunnel. A lot of things were falling apart, but there was one good thing happening and I felt blessed and lucky.
What are your plans for 2021?
My Sweet Girl will be out in September. I’m also working on my next book, so keep an eye out for that!
PHOTO CREDIT Saman Abesiriwardena