BE MY GUEST: Author Interview: Sarah Billington

Meet very young and very talented Sarah Billington who is the author of many short stories and has recently published her first novel, “Life Was Cool Until You Got Popular.” She likes to write stories with love, laughs, suspense and zombies. Sometimes all in the same story. Today, she is here with us, to share her passion for writing and reading as well as give some fabulous writing tips to newbie authors. Surprisingly, she finished her book in just six weeks!!! Want to know how? Then, read on!

RG: Why did you think of becoming a writer? Did some person or incident in life inspire you? Or you thought you had the germs to be a writer?

I always wanted to be a writer. I have no idea when it started, all I do know is that I have mountains of old notebooks and loose-leaf paper filled with stories from when I was a kid. I remember lying in front of the heater, falling asleep on my notebook a lot. And ink stains on the side of my hand for pretty much my whole childhood, as I’m a left hander and well…that’s just what happens when you write a lot. I used to write what I was reading, so I wrote a lot of scary stories based on R.L Stine and Christopher Pike, and then I wrote a whole series about a group of teens, based on the Babysitter’s Club I think. John Marsden was definitely the author that made me decide that being an author was what I wanted to be when I grew up.

RG: What kind of books do you write?

I’ve never been one to settle on a style and I write all the different types of books I read. Right now, I write funny books for girls, and dystopias. But so as not to confuse readers, I write funny books for girls under my name, Sarah Billington, and dystopias and thrillers under my two middle names, Edwina Ray. I’ll sometimes write adult short stories (meaning grown up, not erotica) but most of the time I write Young Adult and Middle Grade. I love writing about the awkwardness and embarrassment of teenage life. I was never cool – no one actually feels cool all the time! You do things wrong until you work out how to do them right. I love writing about those learning experiences and growing up.

RG: Why did you choose to write in those genres?

Up until a couple of years ago I was writing adult fiction because I thought, now that I’m a grown up, that’s what I have to do. I should be serious, and literary. I should have something really important, something poignant to say. I wanted to be a writer, but literary and poetic just isn’t me. I was unhappy. But then I attended a weekend workshop on writing Young Adult fiction and it clicked: I mean, it’s not young adults writing young adult fiction (most of the time), the stuff I still love reading. It’s grown-ups, like me! And it’s grown-ups writing all those teen movies and TV shows that are so fun to watch. It’s totally legitimate for me to write funny, mortifyingly embarrassing stories about best friends and relationships going wrong.

RG: What books have you published so far and what are they about?

So far, I have published five short story e-books, getting a taste for the e-book scene. The names of the books and their synopsis are given below: 

Life was easier When Boys Were Stupid

Jess is at a party and girls and boys around her are locked together at the lips and hips. When did everyone grow up so fast? She's not sure she wants to, but her friend Carla points out a boy across the room with eyes only for Jess. Life Was Easier When Boys Were Stupid won the Gippsland Award in 2009's Fellowship of Australian Writers Awards. 

The Ballerina & My Best Friend

Amanda’s best friend is getting married tomorrow. She, and everyone she knows always assumed he would be marrying her. Can she talk him out of it before he makes the biggest mistake of his life?

The Death & Life of Rocky the Crab

On the morning her friend arrives back in town, Lisa is reminded that she was pet sitting his crab. But she’d kind of forgotten to feed it, it’s not in its cage and its owner will be there any minute. This short story is based on a hilarious TRUE STORY I was told. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Life Was Cool Until You Got Popular

Thirteen year old Kaley’s BFF Jules is an alien clone. That has to be it. Because Jules wouldn’t dress like that or act like that…and she definitely wouldn’t be friends with Meg-a-bitch. This book chronicles the initial incomprehension of what happened to destroy their friendship. But that doesn't last long. Kaley's not losing her best friend without a fight!

RG: If you could be one character from your books, who would you choose to be and why?

I would either be Maiyuki or Coby from “Life Was Cool...”

Maiyuki is supremely confident and happy, has her own style and opinions and doesn’t give a damn what other people think of her. Coby is that adorable kid who’s completely chill about everything, and is pretty oblivious to drama. Nothing fazes Coby.

RG: Do you have any upcoming projects? Tell us about them.

I have a completed Young Adult novel called The Kiss Off, about Poppy who writes a scathing song, ‘The Kiss Off’ about her ex-boyfriend Cam and ex-good friend Nikki, the boyfriend stealer. She uploads it to YouTube, where it catches the attention of Ty, the lead singer of a local band. With this song, his band skyrockets to the top of the charts and into the public eye, bringing Poppy's emotional dirty laundry with it.

RG: List some suggestions/writing tips for those who want to venture into writing fiction.

1. Read.

I used to find this tip annoying because it’s like, there are so many books out there, and what books EXACTLY should I be reading? But recently I read a couple of books that really affected me emotionally and I made a point of working out what it was the authors did so I can learn from it and use the same techniques in my own work. Reading – not just literary, not just the classics – even reading genre fiction is EDUCATIONAL. So read LOTS. LEARN LOTS.

2. Write often.

Even if it’s only a little bit, it’s SO much easier to keep writing when you’re doing it regularly, than it is to write a lot when you’re out of practice. Plus if you write regularly, it can be kind of like a drug (to my understanding). You can get so into it. You know that feeling you get with your favourite TV show, or your favourite book, how much you care about them and how awesome it is when cool things happen to them? Well it’s even better when they’re your OWN characters because you know them better than anyone else does!

3. Meet other writers.

Go to festivals, conferences, book launches, events. Can’t get there? Talk to them on blogs, facebook, forums and twitter. MAKE WRITER FRIENDS. Writing is a solitary activity and it can get lonely. And if you don’t have other writers in your world, you don’t necessarily have people who understand what you’re going through. Having writer friends is having cheerleaders, motivational speakers and critique partners. It’s having people believe in you even when you start to doubt yourself. I cherish my writer friends.

RG: Do you think that book blogs play a vital role in getting the books across to readers?

I do, I really do. When I see the same book making the rounds of lots of blogs, it makes me feel like it’s popular. That everyone wants to read it, it’s getting buzz. Everyone’s buying it so it MUST be good. None of this stuff is necessarily true, a lot of those bloggers are getting them free and they may not have read it but it helps increase hype and excitement and puts new books at the front of your mind when you see them in stores.

RG: Printed books vs. E-books. What’s your take on this?

I love printed books, but I also love e-books, the ease of which you can buy them and the sampling before buying. I used to buy a lot of novels that sounded SO AWESOME but then I opened them and didn’t particularly like the writing style. With sampling you can find out before you buy whether this writer is for you or not.

RG: How much time did it take for you to complete “Life Was Cool Until You Got Popular”? What was your routine for writing?

This was my first full novel that I FINISHED. I had started many, many before but never finished them. I was living on campus at my university and decided to stay there in the six week mid-semester break while most other people went home. I gave myself that deadline: Six weeks. It was bliss. Every time I got stuck I’d go for a walk on the university soccer field and plot points would come unstuck. I wrote whenever I wanted to, morning, midnight. I’d always come back from the oval full to the brim with ideas. I did it, by the time everyone came back I was done. Six weeks, baby.

RG: How do you balance your family life and your writing commitments?

Luckily for me, at this point in my life I am child and partner-free, but I do have two part time jobs, I’m part time at University and I am running my own editing business, “Billington Media” so there’s less time than there used to be for writing. I don’t get those six week chunks of time off anymore. How I balance my time is by scheduling my writing in a couple of times a week. I have writing dates with a friend every week. We go to a pub, talk and then get to work for a couple of hours so it keeps me writing every week even when I’m swamped.

RG: Are you inspired by any particular author? Who is your favourite author?

I love Louise Rennison and her Georgia Nicolson books, and Brent Crawford’s Carter books. Those two authors have super strong voices and they know how to bring the funny. Suzanne Collins is amazing because she’s so brave. She’ll do it, she’ll break her readers hearts. The death toll on much-loved characters in Mockingjay was painfully high. And James Dashner’s The Maze Runner was outstanding. Every time I was SURE I knew what was coming, the whole plot would be twisted on its head. It kept me guessing for SURE.

RG: I believe that there are only two categories of books: good books and bad books. In your opinion, what are the qualities of a “good book”?

Books that make you feel – whatever it is they want you to feel, happy sad, love, grief, fear. If it makes you feel, to me, it’s a good book. Also, books that make you see. I see scenes in my head like a movie, so if I can see what is happening then I am likely to be into the book. So this means description and setting are very important to me, for a book to be a good one.

RG: What suggestions would you give to aspiring authors who are entering the market? What mistakes should they avoid?

Don’t give up – on yourself or your book. The difference between being published and not being published is perseverance, that’s what they say. But nowadays, with indie authors e-publishing themselves, the difference between being published and not being published is not only perseverance, but belief in yourself and your product. That it’s going to find its readership. There are a lot of success stories out there and if you believe in yourself, whether you traditionally publish through a big publisher or self-publish your own e-book, that success can be yours too.

RG: Last but not least, why should people buy your book?

Because it’s funny, it’s messy and awkward but Kayley, the main character is determined no matter how many times she gets knocked down.

RG: Thank you for your interview. It was a pleasure having you on my blog. Wish you all the best for your current as well as upcoming books. 

About the Author:

Sarah Billington is an Australian writer and editor. You can find her in Melbourne, Australia as a Literary Festival volunteer, at the movies watching action blockbusters, talking books and writing at dinner with other writers or perhaps cheering on Melbourne Ice hockey team. She likes to write stories with love, URST, mortifying embarrassment and lots of laughs. She also writes stories with a dose of death and murder but lets her alter ego Edwina Ray take charge of those. To know more about her and her writing, visit her blog: SarahBillington.blogspot.com

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

To buy her books on Amazon, click here.
To find her books on Smashwords, click here.


  1. All of your e-books sound amazing :0) I LOVE the covers too.

    I really need to read "The Maze Runner." A few of my friends got to meet James Dashner last year; they said he was hilarious and so nice.

  2. @Elisa: The Maze Runner is on my to-read-list too!:) I will forward your appreciating comments to Sarah..she must be happy to read them!:)

  3. I love discovering new authors and book! They sounds good!

  4. Loved the interview. I was never cool either, so all my characters in my books are! Ha! I can now live vicariously thru my cool characters! Thanks for sharing your writing history with us!

  5. Good interview, I think my 3 granddaughters would really like these books.


  6. She seems like such a lovely person and has great taste in books! I have read a little of 'The Maze Runner' and it seems pretty awesome. I can't wait to get my hands on Sarah's books! I hope I can win them in one of the giveaways. :)

  7. I'm so sorry I never saw these comments!
    Thanks for the kind words, and I really hope you enjoy them. They were lots of fun to write.
    Elisabeth and Komz - you must read The Maze Runner! That's an order. :)

  8. Great interview. You're a pretty funny chick, Sarah! I agree with what you said about books showing up all over blogs becoming appealing. I've added quite a few to my TBR based on that alone.

  9. These sound good, any plans to go to print?

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

  10. wouw, great interview... It is alway good to find new books to read :-D

  11. wow....
    sounds interesting, I'm want to read it and i love the book cover^^

    from :

  12. An insightful interview. I'm impressed that you were so dedicated & focused to write a book in 6 weeks. I think it's great that grown ups write YA.


  13. Lena Marsteller11/30/11, 12:05 PM

    Cool interwiew!! I can't wait to read your books. Funny books are a joy to read.

  14. Nice interview! Those books look great, specially the one with the crab. I've heard about people having unusual pets, but I've never met anybody who had a crab.

  15. @Helen: Lolz! I love your comment!:) Don't tell me now you want to try having a crab as your pet ;) lolzz

  16. Read, write often, meet other writers. These three points are common, and widely known, yet writers/authors just don't know that they're doing it already :)

    I like this interview :D This is the first interview that I'm reading on your website, and I think that the questions are good, in comparison with other author interviews that I normally see.

  17. Thanks for the great interview. I like that she
    Pens her different types of books under different names. I think it's the worst when you pick up a book by an author you love without reading the synopsis and it is totally not your style!

  18. Thank you for your interview. I think the best advise is to read! I have two nieces I try to 'vet' YA books for; one of them is a reader, one is not. It is amazing the difference between them when you talk to them - the vocabulary, the ideas, the way they think. It's so important.


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