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After growing up on the sunny island of Sri Lanka, Amanda Jayatissa moved to California, where she earned her undergraduate degree at Mills College. From California, Amanda headed to the UK, where she started the Sterling Language Solutions, a corporate training company. Upon moving back to Sri Lanka, Amanda and her husband’s love of cookies led them to create the Brick Lane Cookie Company. Amanda now happily divides her time between work, writing, and her family.
Who is Amanda Jayatissa when she is at home?
A couch potato who is not allowed to live her best lazy life because her two dogs always want to play.
Tell us about your new book, My Sweet Girl.
My Sweet Girl is a suspense where a woman finds her blackmailing roommate dead in their San Francisco apartment, but when the police arrive they can’t find any trace of the body or any evidence that her roommate even existed to begin with. Paloma—that’s the name of our main character—is convinced that this is somehow tied into her childhood in Sri Lanka and the choices she made to escape the orphanage where she grew up. Paloma is sassy and sarcastic, even as she is unravelling, and was an absolute blast to write. The book also reflects some of my own experiences of being a brown woman navigating typically white spaces.
What three words best describe the flavor of your writing?
Ironic, creepy, twisty.
In the book, your protagonist Paloma finds herself haunted by Mohini. Who is this ghostly figure, and what role does she play in Sri Lankan folklore?
Mohini is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular urban legends—an evil spirit who presents herself as woman dressed in white and carrying a baby only to prey on lonely travelers. There are many versions of her story, from her asking the traveler to hold her child, to her getting into the car, to driving the traveler to such depths of despair that they kill themselves before two days pass. Whatever the version, we’ve all told this story when we were children, and everyone knows somebody who has allegedly escaped Mohini during a long journey.
What are your top three favorite mystery/suspense novels?
Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll. We Have Always Lived In The Castle, by Shirley Jackson. (I know this is technically horror but I thought it was extremely suspenseful, and it’s probably my favorite book of all time!)
What is your favorite type of cookie?
After you’ve made (and eaten!) as many cookies as I have, you stop having a favorite! My favorite recipe is definitely our Red Velvet Cookie though, because it’s the only one that I came up with! The rest were all my husband’s creations.
What is one thing you would love to learn to do that you don’t know how to do now?
Scuba dive! I’m not the strongest swimmer so I’ve been taking lessons to gear up towards getting my PADI license, hopefully, when this whole ordeal with the pandemic is over.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
As someone who definitely veers more towards the anxious end of the spectrum, I had a light-bulb moment after watching Shonda Rhimes’ TED Talk about her year of saying “Yes” to everything. It reminded me of an old quote that my mother had in a frame—“When it’s time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived” (I think it’s by Henry David Thoreau)—and since then I’ve always thought twice before rejecting an idea simply because it’s made me uncomfortable. It’s truly changed my life and opened doors to so many wonderful experiences—like pursuing getting my book traditionally published, which I was initially very afraid to do.
What is next for you as an author?
I’m in the final edit stretch of Book Two, and am excited to try my hand at an idea for a potential Book Three. As long as I can keep reading and writing suspenseful, twisty books, that’s what I’d love to keep doing.
How can readers learn more about you and your writing?
By following me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook! My handle is @AmandaJayatissa on all three of them. But be warned, it’s most (a) pictures of my dogs, (b) me complaining about my dogs, or (c) me gushing about my dogs.
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