Where the magic happens for Amanda Holohan


This lady! Another person I should have crossed paths with before now. We’ve kind of been in the same orbit for a while, though. I remember hearing Amanda speak about her first published novel, The King’s Fool, when I was hoping to one day reach the other side (meaning, get published, not anything grim), and I was really chuffed to see her Young Adult novel, Unwanted, scoring a review in The Australian, and even happier to know that she’s hard at work on the sequel.


So happy Friday folks, and now here’s Amanda answering a couple of questions on where and how she writes:

How’s this set-up differed over the time you’ve been writing? Like, say, back in the day, did your “office” consist of a soggy drink coaster and broken pencil stub, or some such?

My first writing desk was the one I also did my school homework on. It was a gorgeous second-hand wooden thing my mother had given a lick of white paint. I had this old blue Hermes typewriter.  I sat it on top and tapped away furiously. I was a two-finger typist back then. I was kind of in awe of that typewriter. Just looking at it gave me this magical thrill; almost as though the words came from the machine and not from my head. I think I gave it away after I got back from Ireland, many moons ago. Kind of feel sad about that now. These days I have a laptop and a desk in the kitchen, with an amazing view from the window. I look out at trees and mountains and sky. It’s very serene. It’s my own inviolable nook, close to the hum of our household.

View from my window
The view from my window

Are you someone who has to be in the same bat place at the same bat time, or do you prefer to free range?

I tend to stick to a routine because I have so much to fit in every day. My best writing is done in the morning, when my mind is fresh. That’s when the words tend to flow, so I’m very protective of that time. I’m usually up around 6:30am. I help the family start their day, then I settle down at my desk with a coffee and go for it, writing in blocks of at least five hours.

3. If these walls could talk

They’d speak of chaotic housekeeping, which often doesn’t get done for days. They’d deliver in-depth spoilers – because I proofread all my writing aloud. These walls would probably also harp on about the dinners I burnt because I’d got so wrapped up in the world of my novel I forgot I’d started cooking and didn’t turn off the oven.

Any talismans around? Feel like explaining them to us?

I have an old illustrated Webster’s dictionary from 1947 on my bookshelf. I don’t use it – the grammar is American and the pages are so fine they’d fall apart – but it looks archaic, like some ancient magical tome. It reminds me how incredible words are – and what a rich history they have.  I love the way the English language keeps evolving.  I love that this dictionary existed at the time Mervyn Peake would have been writing Titus Groan (1948) and before Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Rings (1954) was published.

Any books that you keep there that have special significance to you as a reader, writer, or person?

On my desk I keep a copy of Unwanted and The King’s Fool, along with a collection of grammar manuals and books on writing. I also have a lovely old illustrated edition of Grimm’s Fairytales and a copy of Arabian Nights. I love fairytales. They present a wonderful mixture of dark and light – conflict and hope. The feeling of magic and possibility they engender has always been hugely influential to my writing.

Amanda books one

What’s the policy on interruptions? Open door policy? Open door policy with cranky look on face? Door locked tight and hands on ears, shouting: ‘Can’t hear you, lah, lah, lah!’? 

I have a no-door policy because I write in the kitchen. As writing is such a solitary occupation, I quite like to have family traffic intruding. My husband and daughter often tiptoe around the kitchen while I’m working to avoid disturbing me. Even my daughter’s friends know the drill. Sometimes I ask for their opinion on things. I think they’re amazing!

Social media – do you block it while you’re working, or let it come along for the ride?

I use an air-gapped laptop to minimise distractions – so no access to the internet there. My smartphone is with me at all times as my dictionary apps are on it, but I try not to check social media at all while I’m working. It’s too easy to get sucked in. Usually I get in the zone and forget it’s there completely.

Do we need a room of our own?

Yes, yes and yes! I dream of a writing room lined with shelves, packed with all my favourite books. I imagine stained-glass reading lamps and cosy reclining chairs – and a big desk for me by the window. But then I think I’d miss my little kitchen nook, with all its passing, tiptoe traffic. And there’s always the worry that if my wish were granted nobody would see me for days. I imagine somebody checking on me finally and discovering this terrifying unwashed, wild-eyed and crazy thing, hunched over its laptop. Hmm … now you’ve got me thinking. I really want to know what that wild-eyed thing might be writing …


Ever use longhand? Or is it all clickety-clackety?  

You so haven’t seen my handwriting.  Sometimes even I can’t read it! I did start out writing everything longhand in exercise books, but I wouldn’t go back to that unless I had to. I love the way the words look on the screen – everything is so clear. I get to tweak away until the sentences say exactly what I want them to without scribbling all over the page. That said, when I’m on the move I always carry a notebook, just in case.

What you be sticking up on those walls?

I be sticking post-it notes on these walls, covered in scrawled handwriting. There are affirmations, writing mantras, notes to remind me which style to use with which book – because it always changes. I also have a printout of the cover for Unwanted – which is gorgeous – and a framed drawing of Perry Brightfield (from The King’s Fool) by talented Sydney artist and tattooist Christabel Rainbowbeard.

My nook in the kitchen
My nook in the kitchen

Thank you, Amanda! Those books! And, of course, you had me at Wonder Woman …