December 2008


Sarah Bilston has followed up her debut novel Bed Rest, about a high-flying lawyer put on bed rest during her pregnancy, with its sequel Sleepless Nights. An assistant professor of English literature at a Connecticut college, she is married and has three children, including twins.

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  1. Why did you decide to write a sequel to Bed Rest?

    I enjoyed the characters so much! And actually I felt I wanted to work with one - Jeanie - a little bit more. I also like writing the experiences of an English woman coping with America, because I'm one myself. In the first novel I couldn't explore much about everyday life in the States because my heroine was stuck in bed. So this time I really wanted to try to capture what the country is like - the big cities and the small towns - through an Englishwoman's eyes. It was very important to me, though, that this should be a stand-alone novel. I think anyone can read it and get to know the characters quickly - you don't have to have read Bed Rest to understand the world of Sleepless Nights. It's more of a spin-off than a sequel.

  2. Why did you focus more on Q's sister Jeanie in Sleepless Nights?

    Partly I was interested in how sisters (or close friends) change their relationship when one of them has a baby. The new mum often feels that she has all the problems, but of course it can be hard to be single too, figuring out what you want to do with your life. I also wanted some romantic tension in this novel, and romance tends not to be high on the list of priorities for new parents! So giving Jeanie her own story allowed me to explore all the excitement of will-they-won't-they while still looking at the realities of a post-baby marriage through Q and Tom.

  3. Have you had personal experience with a colicky baby?

    Yes! My older daughter was colicky, and it was a living nightmare. I vividly remember having purple flashing lights in my peripheral vision from the sleep deprivation - she was up all day and all night. I remember reading that it was supposed to end around 12 weeks. The day she turned 12 weeks I woke up very hopeful - but, um, no change. Actually, she was almost 6 months before things improved. I'm amazed we all survived.

  4. The relationship between Q and her husband Tom still seems somewhat strained. Why did you portray them this way?

    I think it's realistic! No matter how much you love each other, it's hard to be sympathetic and understanding when you're absolutely exhausted. Q and Tom's relationship is more about getting through the day than connecting with each other.

  5. How did your own experiences of bed rest in pregnancy compare to Q's?

    They were quite different, actually. My husband and family were really, really supportive - not like Q's at all. And I'm afraid I didn't solve any local mysteries while I was in bed!

  6. Why did you make Q a lawyer? Do you believe it's harder for professional women to adapt to motherhood?

    I'm not sure whether it's harder (I think it can be hard for anyone), but I do think that there are particular problems in this new 'all-work-all-the-time' culture. Q works for a firm that expects 75-100 hour work weeks. It's one thing to work like that before you have children. But it's just not consistent with family life.

  7. Tell us about your online collection of real-life stories about the first year of motherhood.

    I'm really interested to hear from real mums about what that first year was like. I think people come to motherhood with so many expectations, and I think those expectations are reinforced through advertising and the media - you know, that it will be a peaceful life of sweet-smelling babies wrapped in warm terry-cloth. The reality can hit you very hard, even if your child isn't colicky! I'm trying to put together a more realistic picture of motherhood, with everything from the terrible lows (cracked nipples!) to the wonderful highs. If any of your readers would like to contribute, please email me at Sarah DOT Bilston AT Yahoo DOT com. I'll send free copies of Sleepless Nights to the first three people to send stories!

  8. Did you have your own list of things to do before hitting 30?

    I didn't, although becoming a fiction writer would have been high on the list.

  9. As an assistant professor of English literature, how do you feel about your books being classed as chick lit?

    I'm happy to reach as many readers as I can! I think women's literature has always been denigrated. If the central character is a woman, and the novel deals with romantic issues, people tend to dismiss it. I hope that my novels appeal to women who enjoy reading about issues relevant to their lives - and I hope they're well written too.

  10. Who are your favourite chick lit authors?

    Funnily enough, just last night I watched the film of Bridget Jones's Diary - and remembered all over again why I love it and the novel. It's a very astute modern remake of Pride and Prejudice.

  11. What's the best and worst thing about being a Brit living in the US?

    The best thing right now is having elected Barack Obama. We went up to New Hampshire the weekend before the election (with all the kids) and campaigned door-to-door for him, although I'm not sure we did much good - I think he won in spite of us! The worst is being far away from home, and missing my mum and my best friends like mad.

  12. What are you working on next?

    Actually I'm working on an academic book about women's experiences of suburbia in the Victorian period. It's a bit of a change of pace.

  13. Is Sleepless Nights the end of Q's story?

    I think it is. I've loved living with her these last few years but I'm ready for a new challenge.

  14. What's your best tip for combining motherhood with writing?

    I think it's hard to write and be a busy mum (I have three children under five) without childcare, to be quite honest. Those naps just aren't long enough - and I don't want to be grumpy with them for not napping just because I want to write! Things in our household are very busy, as you can probably imagine. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

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