Episode 7

Growing up Lebanese and writing for a new audience with Sarah Ayoub

Sarah Ayoub is a journalist, bestselling author and academic with a PhD in migrant Australian YA literature. She is a Stella Schools Program ambassador, has mentored the youth curators of The Sydney Writers' Festival YA program, contributed to the anthology Arab, Australian, Other: Stories on Race and Identity and most recently been a judge for the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. Sarah was elected to the board of the Australian Society of Authors in 2021 and is currently working on her first novel for adults as the writer-in-residence of Sweatshop Literacy Movement. She regularly appears at writers festivals and schools, discussing her novels Hate is Such a Strong Word and The Yearbook Committee. We are discussing her debut picture book, The Love that Grew, and new YA novel inspired by her PhD research called The Cult of Romance.

Our interview begins at  00:11:30

Caitlin recommends: The Yearbook by Holly Bourne

An engrossing contemporary YA novel exploring high school and how we remember it.

Michelle recommends: The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

A slow-burning mystery about mysterious disappearances from an off-shore lighthouse in the 1970s.

In this interview, we chat about:

  • How Sarah's experiences visiting Lebanon influenced Natalie's story in The Cult of Romance
  • Why do people get married young?
  • Positioning older YA/New Adult books in the market
  • Sarah's choice to move away from writing YA novels
  • Sarah's first picture book, The Love That Grew
  • How Sarah came to write her first novel, Hate is Such a Strong Word
  • Why feature writing is still Sarah's first love
  • Sarah's study into multiculturalism in Australian YA and how The Cult of Romance developed as part of her PhD

Books and other things mentioned:

Follow Sarah on Instagram @bysarahayoub

The Cult of Romance is available now.

Connect with us on Instagram: @betterwordspod

Please note that we choose podcast guests independently of Caitlin's job at HarperCollins Publishers. Although her job does help put us in touch with authors, we choose our guests based on what we've enjoyed reading and think you'd find interesting.

About the Podcast

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Better Words

About your hosts

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Caitlin Toohey

Hi, I'm Caitlin! I've been on bookstagram since 2016, a podcaster since 2017, and worked in publishing since 2019. So books and reading are my entire life. When I'm not reading, I like listening to Taylor Swift, watching sitcoms, and generally being a theatre kid.
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Michelle Gately

Hi, I'm Michelle! I'm an Aussie living in the UK, working as a bookseller at Waterstones. I'm obsessed with storytelling in all its forms – I spend as much time watching TV or listening to podcasts as I do reading. Other hobbies include bouldering, hiking and generally obsessing about my pug Percy.