skip to Main Content
Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Sarah Banham. Writer Refuses To Be Pinned To A Single Genre

Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Sarah Banham. Writer Refuses to be Pinned to a Single Genre

My guest this episode is Sarah Banham, an author who admits that she is so restless that she refuses to be pinned down to one genre. Her fiction and nonfiction work keep her excited about writing, and she also helps other authors find their own voices. It wasn't until she turned forty that she gained the confidence to do this on her own, and she has not stopped since.

Thoughts or further questions on this post or any self-publishing issue?

If you’re an ALLi member, head over to the SelfPubConnect forum for support from our experienced community of indie authors, advisors, and team. Simply create an account (if you haven’t already) to request to join the forum and get going.

Non-members looking for more information can search our extensive archive of blog posts and podcast episodes packed with tips and advice at ALLi's Self-Publishing Advice Center.

And if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally.

Listen to the Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Sarah Banham

On the Inspirational Indie Authors podcast, @howard_lovy features @sjbwrites, who refuses to be pinned down to a single genre. Click To Tweet

Don't Miss an #AskALLi Broadcast

Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify or via our RSS feed:

Subscribe on iTunes   Stitcher Podcast Logo for link to ALLi podcast   Player.fm for podcasts   Overcast.fm logo   Pocket Casts Logo  

Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Sarah Banham. About the Author

SJ Banham is a fiction and non-fiction author both independently and traditionally published. She runs For The Love of Books, now in its thirteenth year, which offers creative writing services including coaching writers, ghost writing, editing and proofreading. She has been a Writer in Residence, a leader and facilitator of writing and writers’ groups, and a radio presenter with the weekly show Writers’ Block broadcast over 4 stations. She runs a podcast called The Versatile Writer, has a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, and lives in Essex, UK with her husband.

About the Host

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Find Howard at howardlovy.comLinkedIn and X.

If you’re a published indie author who would like to be interviewed by Howard for the Inspirational Indie Authors podcast, you need to be a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Then contact Howard, including your membership number, explaining why you’re an inspirational indie author and what inspires you.

If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization.

Read the Transcripts to the Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Sarah Banham

Howard Lovy: My guest this episode is Sarah Banham, an author who admits that she is so restless she refuses to be pinned down to one genre.

Her fiction and non-fiction work keep her excited about writing, along with helping other authors find their own voices. It wasn't until she turned 40 that she gained the confidence to do this on her own, and she has not stopped since. I'll let Sarah Banham tell her story.

Sarah Banham: Hi, I'm Sarah Banham, and I'm the author of fiction and non-fiction, and I run a business called For the Love of Books, offering creative writing services.

I grew up in a place called Basildon in Essex in South England, and it probably isn't a brilliant place now. It was okay then, but that's where I was born. Then when I was about 13, we moved to a brand-new town that was about 12 miles away from there that had just been built. So, it was literally brand new. There wasn't a school there, that's how brand new it was. But I was just in the middle of taking my options. I was around 13, which is a tricky time because you're, just taking that next step into what subjects you're going to do. So, it was a tricky time. I also didn't want to leave because I was born in the house we moved from. But I lived in Southwood and Ferrars for several years after that until I got engaged and married.

I wasn't particularly good at school or any of the subjects at school. There was a certain few subjects, the creative ones, obviously, the creative subjects like English and drama and art. I quite enjoyed languages too, but I didn't do particularly well at school.

Then this was around 1983 when there was a big depression in England, and I got a job or it wasn't really a job as such, it was a scheme for people just leaving school. I stayed there for a few years, actually, almost about a decade, really in the end, but it was from that job, getting that job, that I taught myself to type because I hadn't learned how to do that at school. So, I taught myself to type and ended up being a writer. So, it was really convenient.

Howard Lovy: But Sarah's typing did not truly become writing until she was inspired by, of all things, a 1980s TV show.

Sarah Banham: By the time I was in my very early twenties, there was a TV show, and I'm sure everybody knows this, but there was a TV show called Moonlighting. Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. I was absolutely obsessed with it. I absolutely loved it, and it was this show that spurred me on to write a story based on the show and all of the actors. It was what we would now call fan fiction, but back then it didn't have a name. I was probably about 20/21 by this point, and it took me a year and a half to write this story, which was probably novella length, I would imagine. I still have it somewhere, but I don't know where.

Howard Lovy: Sarah was so excited about the process of writing, of creating characters, that she turned to it often whenever life became a little too much.

Sarah Banham: When you're feeling high or you're feeling really low, you turn to something. For me, it's craft or writing, and I got quite high and low over a lot of things in life. As I say, it was just coming out of that depression. I was newly married; I had a baby. So, there was a lot of hormones going along and I was really low a lot of days or really upbeat, and I would just use writing to express how I was feeling and those turned into short stories.

A lot of those, I was encouraged by my mum to send them off to women's magazines and they all got rejected, of course they did, because they're not going to get taken on. You just got to that stage where you're thinking nothing's going to get taken, why am I even trying this? But you do, you carry on because things change, and you have another idea, and you want to develop that and see where that goes.

So, a lot of them, I just kept doing it, kept submitting to either women's magazines, or a lot of them were romance based, so I was going to romance publishers or literary agents. I was really trying a lot of different ways. They all got rejected. I got some really good feedback through some of them, mind you.

So, it wasn't just no, and that was that. Some of them did give me feedback.

Howard Lovy: Sarah spent years writing novels and reading rejection letters. When she was in her early thirties, she decided that a writing group would help her hone her craft.

Sarah Banham: I wanted to join a writing group, but there was nothing around.

There was nobody actually, because the internet wasn't even a thing then, and the only way to find out whether there was a group or anything like that was in maybe local papers or the library, or any kind of literary based magazine. But there was nothing.

So, I had a chat with my library to say, what am I missing? Where's a group? Is there a group? And they said there wasn't, so why don't you start one?

Anyway, I took the idea away. I mulled over it for about a week and then the village that we lived in, they had a local magazine. It was like an A5 pamphlet really. It was just mostly advertising, but things that go on in the community.

So, I wrote a little note in there saying, if you're interested in creative writing, and this was taking a chance thinking about it, but I wrote, why not meet up with me? I was going to be at a particular pub in a beer garden, on a pub bench, on a particular night, at a particular time. That took a lot of guts, really, thinking about it, because you wouldn't do that nowadays.

I waited there that night, thinking, oh my gosh, nobody's going to show up, I'm sitting here Billy No Mates on my own, with a drink. My husband and daughter weren't far away, but even so, I was still doing this.

Five people showed up. From a teenager, middle aged lady, a couple of other people, and the oldest person was aged 80. So, it was quite a diverse range and yeah, it was amazing.

Howard Lovy: Eventually, she and the other members of her group printed about 500 copies of a pamphlet filled with their writing. That led to other groups and other anthologies in partnership with a local book festival. Finally, on her 40th birthday, 17 years ago, Sarah decided it was time to publish a book of her own.

No more wasting time, sending manuscripts to publishers.

Sarah Banham: Yeah, it got to a stage where I was spending a lot of time and effort, and all of them were coming back, rejections. As I say, some of them did give feedback, which was really helpful, but it got to a stage where I was just writing more and more novels. These were big novels and lots of different genres as well.

At the time I'd read or been told somewhere that once you've written in one genre, you have to stay with that because people won't take you seriously if you write in others, and I couldn't stay that rigid.

My ideas and my creativity meant that if I stayed that rigid, I would make myself very depressed, and it was ridiculous to be that rigid with creativity.

So, I thought, it's not working for me to do that. So, if I've got to stay with just one and I'm sending off and getting lots of rejections, I'm getting nowhere, and I can't stop writing, and quite frankly, why should I stop writing?

So, as I say, self-publishing had been about maybe three or four years old by that point, and I thought if I don't take the leap now, I might never get a chance to do it again.

Howard Lovy: One thing that Sarah was a little worried about was how her co-workers would view her if they found out she was an author. There she was, a mild-mannered secretary for the NHS with a secret other life as a writer.

Sarah Banham: Nobody knew I wrote. So, if I was going to publish a book, everyone would know, and I was worried how that would reflect on the people who knew me as the receptionist or the secretary, and how that would reflect on me as Sarah, the writer. How people would behave to me after that. Some people were a little bit funny, but the majority were really supportive.

I also didn't want to be considered a one-book-wonder. So, I published two in one go and then the following year, a third novel. So, the two in one go. One was what you would refer to as an action, but it was probably romantic suspense, I would say. The second book was young adult, which possibly is middle grade, but it was young adult.

So, they're quite different genres, and I'd walked past a big bookshop, Waterstones, in the town near where we lived, one Saturday, with my family. I'd noticed an a-board outside advertising for a local author's evening. So, I went inside, all excited, thinking, this could be fun.

This was November time, so it was just approaching Christmas and it was meant to be selling books in time for Christmas, that kind of thing.

I went inside and said to them, I've self-published these two books. I am a local author. Is there any chance I can be involved in this? And point blank said, no, we don't take self-published books, and I thought, this stigma is still continuing. This is ridiculous.

So, I don't remember exactly what I said, but I think passion got the hold of me and probably the better of me, and I made a very good argument. I couldn't tell you what I said. I was too impassioned, but I made a very good argument about, you've got a local author's evening, I am a local author, it will be evening. What is the problem? And they couldn't say no.

Howard Lovy: When Sarah gained enough confidence in her own writing, she set out to help other people write books of their own.

Sarah Banham: Somebody who used to be the crossing person that helped my daughter across the road to go into junior school, we knew him quite well. In the UK, it's called the lollipop man, and he would help children across the road to get to school.

He approached me in the street one day and said, I've read about all this writing that you're doing in the local magazine, and I used to sell my books at craft fairs as well, school craft fairs, so he would have known about it too. And he said to me, he wants to write his life story and he wants me to write it.

So, instantly I said, I don't know how to do that for somebody else, and he said, can you not research it? Yeah, I guess I could. So, I looked into it and found out it was ghostwriting, and because he was adamant that he wanted me to do it, I thought okay, I'll give it a go. I don't really know what to expect, and he didn't know either, but between the pair of us, we learned.

Just under a year later, I'd written his life story for him and got printed for his family.

Howard Lovy: From there, Sarah's ghostwriting services were in demand. Her business has since evolved into blogging, editing, and teaching courses on how to write.

Sarah Banham: When they are excited about it, but holding themselves back, that's really quite sad and you want them to reach their goals.

Coaching them along is such an exciting aspect of my work. I really enjoy that. It's probably the most enjoyable part of the services that I provide.

Howard Lovy: And she continued her own writing. So far, she's written six novels, six non-fiction books, and contributed to about eight different anthologies.

Sarah says she is restless and cannot stick to only one genre, and that's the way she prefers it.

Sarah Banham: I do feel very stuck and pigeonholed, and if that happens, it's almost as if writer's block can't wait to step in. It's total self-sabotage to make me stay still. I need to think about other ways.

I have to admit, the majority of what I write nowadays is essentially romance, but there are sub-genres from that. It could be some crime, or it could be paranormal, or it could be quite light, bittersweet romance. There's always going to be romance at the middle of it, at the core, because I really enjoy watching characters bloom and form relationships.

I love that. It's amazing.

Howard Lovy: Sarah has been self-publishing a long time and has seen many changes in the industry.

Sarah Banham: It is absolutely altered for the better. It has evolved in a way that is so much better. There's structure. You can, obviously with ALLi as well, there's places you can go. You can ask people all kinds of things really regarding it.

I think, if I hadn't have done it then, I would have really kicked myself because, I've said this before, actually, I've even written it as well, that self-publishing came along like a tsunami, and if you didn't get on that original wave and watch everything happen, you were left afterwards to see what was going to settle and what was going to take hold. Because so many companies began and then about a year later, you never heard of them again. But there are certain ones that had a good idea, a good structure of how they were going to offer services, and those are the ones that have stuck.

ALLi came along just at the right time to answer so many questions, and there were so many people involved with it as well, that I've known from day one who you can rely on, who you can trust, and they're always supportive. It's just brilliant.

Howard Lovy: Sarah's advice to others who want to be a self-published author, there is nothing to stop you, but yourself.

Sarah Banham: I think probably my advice would be the same corny advice most people say, and that's don't give up.

But I think you've got to want it as well, because with me, yes, I wanted it, and yes, my inner core is all about writing. But when I was a child, I wasn't a huge, big reader. My sister was, and my mum was, but I hadn't really cottoned on to it until a little bit later. I was a bit late to read, I was a bit of a late developer on a lot of things, but I've learned now that I've come into my own, and it's okay to be a late developer.

Probably my advice would be, if you want it, what's stopping you?

If you're stopping yourself, there are people that can help you take that step forward, but have faith in yourself, use the confidence that you give other people when you support them on yourself.

I think that's probably the main piece of advice, because that's what I've had to learn the hard way over the years, and that's how I help coach writers as well. I give them a lot of the confidence that I've learned. I've still not got a lot, but I've got more than I had, and I help empower them to have confidence themselves.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Back To Top
×Close search