When I read a book I love, like Catherine Holt’s book, Midnight Reynolds and the Spectral Transformer, I find myself wondering what kind of person comes up with ideas like this? Is she as interesting as her book? What inspires her? Fortunately for me, I get to spend my work time digging up the answers and meeting fascinating people like Holt! And as if her book wasn’t intriguing enough, I went to her website (http://catherineholtauthor.com/books/) and found myself intrigued with Holt herself. Fun-loving, witty, and talented—I knew this was someone librarians needed to meet, that you would find her as delightful as I have. But don’t take my word for it, read this interview and you’ll become a Catherine Holt fan just like me.
You’re from Australia and now live in New Zealand. Why don’t we start with you sharing something about either country that people here in the United States may not know but you think they should. Tidbits and trivia are fair game!
Great question! Well, for a start, while Australia and New Zealand are close neighbors they are two very different countries—a bit like Canada and the USA. And with that comes fierce rivalry, especially in sport (in particular Rugby Union), though it flares up in other things too. We have something called a Lamington (see below for the recipe), which is pound cake covered in chocolate frosting and coconut, and both countries go to great lengths to claim they invented it. Each argument involves a lot of backstory and historical dates to support the claim, and the chances of either country conceding ownership is slim to never-going-to-happen. I will go further and suggest that if you ever come across a Kiwi and an Aussie in the middle of such a debate, back away and do not get involved. There are no winners!!!!
However, one thing that New Zealand can definitely claim as their own is being the first country in the world to give women the vote. Even cooler is that we’ve recently elected our third female Prime Minister (which is the equivalent of President) so there’s lots of girl power going on here!
Some other things that make the two countries different – Australia is huge and has a desert in the middle as well as far too many poisonous snakes, spiders, crocodiles, and sharks. New Zealand isn’t much bigger than England and has no snakes, only one vaguely poisonous spider, and absolutely no crocodiles. New Zealand also has better ice cream and is the land of Hobbits, therefore making it a much nicer, less dangerous place to live!!!
Not to give any big secrets away, but perhaps you can tell us a little about your “other” secret mystery life or maybe this is your secret mystery life. Will the real Catherine Holt please stand up?!
Hahaha – yes, life wearing two caps can get a bit confusing at times! In fact, sometimes I think that Catherine Holt should meet Amanda Ashby because they have so much in common! They’re both married with teenage kids and work part-time as a children’s librarian. Oh, and they both think Buffy is the greatest show in the world. Also, I should confess that half the time I forget that I do actually have a second name, which is why no one should be surprised if they get a Midnight Reynolds book signed by Amanda!
As Amanda Ashby, you’ve written quite a few romance novels and also some books for teens featuring monsters, zombies, and demons. Why the switch to Catherine Holt for Midnight Reynolds, and the book itself—a paranormal mystery for tweens—also being somewhat of a different direction for you? Perhaps I’m wrong here about Midnight Reynolds being targeted mostly at tweens, and maybe you don’t feel it’s much of a “different direction.” I, however, don’t put monsters and zombies in the same category as paranormal; demons, on the other hand, can go either way. In that way of seeing monsters as different from the paranormal, I’m also seeing Midnight Reynolds as being a bit of a change in genres for you, but maybe you don’t see it that way. And yes, the editor in me is cringing at my rambling question here.
First up, I do love a good ramble. I grew up reading Charles Dickens so rambling is second nature to me!!! As for the name change, I wish I had a great reason for it, or that it inspired me to write in a slightly different way, but the truth is that I only changed names after I started to write romance books and was worried it might not be appropriate for younger readers (not to mention boring because I’m sure they’d rather be reading about sword fights and ghost hunts than romance).
Of course, an organized person would’ve considered this sooner and perhaps written their adult romances under a different name, but that didn’t even occur to me until it was too late!
As for a genre shift, the Midnight Reynolds books* definitely touch on all the things I love! I’m always drawn to a little bit of spooky paranormal with some action and humor. Though, interestingly enough, these new books do appear to be heading down a more mystery path, which excites me because I grew up reading Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and The Three Investigators.
Where do you get the inspiration for your books?
I have a deep love of story, which means I’m always reading books and watching movies and TV shows, which seems to create a never-ending well of inspiration. Though, I do think that it’s not where the ideas come from, it’s what we as writers do with those ideas. For me, it’s a question of playing the “What if this happened” game. Also, I like to twist the mythology and do things that make me giggle, while at the same time seeing how many weird things I can sneak past my editor! So far my greatest achievement was writing about killer fairies who were laid low if they came into contact with Sour Skittles, which I happened to be snacking on at the time.
Who is your favorite author?
I have so many, but the authors who have made the biggest impact on my life are Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Raymond E. Feist, and Ursula Le Guin. It also explains why I write the books I do because I love the comedy and small town relationships of Jane Austen, the epic fantasy of Raymond E. Feist, and the amazing world building and deep consideration of Ursula Le Guin. And I try not to judge them for never having used Sour Skittles in their plots.
Keeping in mind that we’re a magazine for school librarians, is there anything you’d like touch on that we haven’t?
I’d like to give all school librarians a great big thank you! I was lucky enough to grow up with parents who were huge readers, and I can’t remember a time when books weren’t the central theme in my life. To me librarians are Rock Stars, because they work so hard to help kids develop a love of books. It’s like giving them a gift for life, and that’s epic! In fact, as a librarian myself, the only thing that stops the job from being perfect is the absence of a chocolate fountain. Someone really needs to look into that…
Now, about bananas. What is it specifically you have against them?
Poor bananas, they’ve received a very bad rap from me over the years! I can actually eat them when they’re disguised in a muffin but I refuse to have them raw because of the weird (and let’s face it, disgusting) noise they make as they hit your teeth. I do believe that the technical term for it is “squidgy.” Even thinking about it makes me pull a face.
Lamington recipe (as used by both Australians and New Zealanders!)
-Stale pound cake (fun fact 1: we call it sponge cake in Aust/NZ)
-2 cups of desiccated coconut
2 cups of confectioners’ sugar (fun fact 2: we know it as icing sugar)
2 tablespoons of cocoa
2 tablespoons of melted butter
6 tablespoons of boiling water
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla essence
Either bake or buy a pound cake and let it go slightly stale. Cut into two -inch squares.
Make the frosting by dissolving the cocoa and butter into the boiling water and adding the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar.
Pour the coconut into a shallow bowl and then dip the squares in the frosting and roll them in the coconut. Let them dry on a wire rack (fun fact 3: family members will try and steal the lamingtons so it’s advised to take up guard duty around them).
*Editor’s note: Midnight Reynolds and the Spectral Transformer is the first book in a planned series.