Self Published Sunday: Interview with Sarah Billington
November 11, 2012
For this weeks Self Published Sunday feature we are delighted to host a stop on the blog tour for The Kiss Off by Sarah Billington When sixteen year old Poppy Douglas writes a song about her ex-boyfriend Cam and ex-friend Nikki, she has no idea that her heartbreak is about to go global.
A local band picks up her song from Youtube and soon she’s along for the ride with her own fanbase as they blow up on the local club scene and hit the international charts. Though it turns out leaving Cam behind isn’t as easy as she had hoped.
Tangled in a web of unfinished homework, ill-considered sexting and a new lead-singer boyfriend, Poppy has a choice to make between the ex that inspired it all and the rock God whose poster lines the inside of half the lockers at school. But as she struggles to keep her emotional dirty laundry private, she learns that the truth can be hard to find when your life is in the headlines. What do you do when you are not writing?
I’m very into paranormal investigation shows at the moment. Partly because I go through phases in which I think my house is haunted. Which might be because I watch so many paranormal investigation shows. It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it. I go out for dinners with friends a lot, and head down to the country/beach and spend a couple of days at my parents’ house visiting my dog, their dog, and my parents. But really my dog is my main priority. What inspired you to become a writer? When and why did you begin to write?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I remember lying in front of the heater as a kid and I’d fallen asleep, face down on my stories, pages and pages of loose leaf paper I used to write on. The house was always littered with paper and notebooks.
Current work. What was your inspiration for The Kiss Off?
Modern technology and an interest in the psychology of popularity and fame. I find it interesting how ordinary people these days can become famous just for being themselves. I’m not talking about them auditioning for reality shows, but just normal people on youtube for instance, going viral or gaining fan bases when they were just being their quirky selves. I’m specifically thinking of youtubers Charlie is so cool like and Jenna Marbles right now. This is the basis for what happens to Poppy in The Kiss Off. She’s doing what she loves and it explodes. What research did you do for this book?
I watched a lot of Youtube! I watched a lot of behind the scenes videos by bands so I could get an idea of what it’s really like on the road, going to interviews etc, and how they feel about fame and fans. I used to read a lot of magazines and even did an analytical essay on the content of a bunch of celebrity gossip magazines so I gained a lot of insight into what would potentially happen in Poppy’s situation. Are any elements of your book based on real life experiences/people?
I don’t base characters specifically on people I know, but I sometimes steal aspects of people I know, personality traits and blend them with other personality traits to create my characters.
I have been told that my authorial voice sounds very much like me as a person, and Poppy, the protagonist in The Kiss Off is like me in that she might fall over things just because there was something to fall over, I actually feel like one of her best friends, Vanya is the most like me as a teen.
Something that happens to Vanya fairly early on in the book did happen to me, but it certainly wasn’t funny at the time. I got off a bus after school and changed my mind and was getting back on when the door closed on my foot and the driver started driving away. I was hopping along outside the bus, so sure I was going to fall and be run over when the driver stopped, opened the door and I scurried away, quite sure I’d had enough of buses for the day, thank you very much.
This happens to Vanya in the book, but she’s inside the bus and her backpack gets caught in the door so she’s kind of dangling inside the crowded bus. This exact thing did happen all the time with one particular bus driver after school. Boy he hated teenagers. What are you currently working on?
I am currently writing The Kiss Off 2! Poppy and friends (though not necessarily who you’d expect) go to a summer music festival and the non-spoilery way of putting it is that shenanigans are afoot. There are more boys in bands, fan girls, stalkerish types, fainting in front of famous people, accidental nude swimming and one wicked sun burn. What is your writing process?
I don’t follow a routine, and that sometimes doesn’t exactly work in my favour. I try not to have a routine, so that whatever time of day it is, wherever I am, the words should flow easily. But by not having a routine I don’t necessarily write regularly which is pretty annoying, really. When I’m writing, it’s usually either on my netbook in bed or at my desk in my office. Bed’s more comfy, though. ☺ Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process? Coffee? Chocolate? Music?
I’m not a coffee person – I know, a writer who doesn’t drink coffee? And I can’t write with music playing because I get all distracted by the awesome music and the lyrics and the stories in them. Chocolate and soft drinks do help fuel me though. And honey roasted macadamias. What prompted you to self publish?
At university we had to do a major assignment on a form of digital publishing and I’d been hearing of more and more success stories in self publishing so I decided that for my major assignment I would make an ebook. And it started selling. I ended up making six for that assignment. I got a High Distinction. ☺ Can you tell us about the challenges in writing and publishing your first novel?
Self publishing can be pretty exhausting, as though having control over every aspect is really liberating, it’s also time consuming. And brain power consuming. I design my own cover art and format my own ebooks, I am responsible for distribution, marketing and all expenses. Some days it’s easier than others. Do you ever experience writers block? How do you overcome it?
I tend to have an overabundance of ideas. Too many books I want to write and I have to accept that many of the books inside me just won’t get written as I get more ideas all the time.
Sometimes I do, however, get stuck in how to get from one point to the next in a convincing and exciting way in a novel. I go for walks and try to quiet my brain. These days there are so many things that keep our brains occupied, we move from one activity to the next to the next. We listen to music in the car or on the train, have the TV playing as we eat meals, it’s crowded. I don’t tend to just stop and think very often. Walking helps a lot with that. It helps me nut out plot problems and get me fired up again. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Keep writing. Even if you think what you’re writing is crap, you’re learning what not to do. You’re learning how to do it better. Make mistakes. Make mistakes so that you can learn how to do it better. Persevere. Failure only happens when you stop trying. It’s hard. It’s really hard, but it’s worth it.
Genre Why did you choose to write Young Adult fiction?
Young Adult fiction chose me. When I became an adult, I felt like I was supposed to write for grown ups. I needed to write something literary, that had merit, that was beautiful and poetic. But that’s not who I am as a person. I’m messy and I make mistakes and I embarrass myself all the time. And even though I was this big old woman at the grand old age of 21, I still enjoyed watching teen movies and could still relate to the issues that are in teen books. I may be a grown up but I relate more to teenagers. I went to a weekend YA writing workshop and it finally hit me that I may an adult, but it’s perfectly legitimate for me to be more interested in writing for teenagers. I’ve never looked back. How did you choose the genre you write in? What inspired you to write it?
I have to just accept it. My voice is really contemporary and sarcastic. I really want to write a scary paranormal investigation book but the first ghost I ended up writing was the ghost of a woman’s teenage son. He was scaring the beejezus out of his mum because he thought it was hysterical.
That’s not scary. That’s typical of me. I’m trying to embrace it. ☺ Which books have inspired you?
John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began series was a huge inspiration for me as a teen. And Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series. These books really made me want to be an author. These days Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson books and Brent Crawford’s Carter series really teach me a lot about writing comedy. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy taught me to be brave and put my characters through the ringer and James Dashner’s Maze Runner taught me a lot about plot and turning it on its head ALL. THE. TIME. What was your favourite book as a child/teenager?
Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden. It’s about time I read that series again. What are you currently reading?
I am halfway through three books right now. It would be so great if I could pick one and stick with it, but the siren song of awesome books calls to me. I’m so weak.
I’m reading That Boy by Jillian Dodd, Skylark by Meagan Spooner and Ghost Huntress: The Awakening by Marley Gibson. What was the last book you recommended to a friend?
Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford. Just for Fun…
Paper, Audio or eBook?
I LIKE paper books, but I move house a lot and MAN ebooks are lighter. Audio Books are a real hit and miss for me. I’ve listened to some that I’ve really looked forward to, but I haven’t connected with the narrator’s reading style so didn’t enjoy the book, or didn’t finish it. The voice actor shouldn’t be a barrier between me liking or disliking a book. If The Kiss Off was made in to a film which actor(s), past or present, do you envision in the lead role(s)?
I haven’t actually thought about this a whole lot, so I don’t have everyone down, but I can see Alexz Johnson as Poppy, Nick Roux as Ty and I think Jillian Rose Reed (Tamara from Awkward) would be freaking hilarious as Mads. If The Kiss Off had a soundtrack which artists would feature on it?
McFly, All Time Low, Simple Plan, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, Hot Chelle Rae, probably a bit of Ke$ha as well. Tea or Coffee?
Iced coffee. Slippers or barefoot?
Barefoot Shower or Bath?
Shower Marmite: Love it? Hate it?
Never had Marmite, but love Vegemite. Does that count? Email or postcard?
Email Sarah Billington is an Australian writer and editor who likes to write stories with love, laughs, suspense and zombies. Sometimes all in the same story. Her favouritest thing to write about are those horrendously awkward moments that come with being a teenager. Or a human being. Sarah was extremely accident-prone and klutzy as a kid and teen, so her cup runneth over with experiences of horrendously awkward moments to draw from in her writing. Thankfully, she has grown out of her klutziness. Mostly. She is, however, still an embarrassment.
She loves a variety of random things, which include Swing Dancing, Ice Hockey, Roller Derby and is a bit obsessive about paranormal investigation shows and channel E!.
To learn more about Sarah and her writing visit her website, her blog or follow Sarah on Facebook, Goodreads and/or Twitter
The Kiss Off is available to buy now from Amazon.uk, Smashwords and The Book Depository
Sarah is giving away a copy of The Kiss Off over at Goodreads. Click on the widget to enter.