An Interview with Billie Elias: Author, Engineer & Entrepreneur
Sylvia: Welcome, Billie. Please give our readers an introduction of yourself and a little about your book.
Billie: Hi Sylvia, thank you. My name is Billie Elias and I grew up in Philadelphia. My parents divorced when I was young and I grew up with my artistic, business-minded, Auntie Mame-like mother. Dad was a Chemistry professor at a local university. After graduating from the top all-girls high school, I spent my college years at Columbia Engineering, followed by graduate school at Stanford. I began to travel extensively in the 1970s, including a 9-week European backpacking adventure, two cross-country motor trips, and a self-directed family sojourn to the Yucatan Peninsula.
My career as an engineer, first with the world’s largest paper company and then with an international money center bank, spanned eight years. Not aspiring to give the corporation the best years of my life, I quit my career to wander around Africa for a couple months. With the entrepreneurial spirit I inherited from my mother, I was determined to start my own business that would include lots of (tax-deductible) travel. I launched my own costume jewelry import business and now count 40 countries and five continents as places I have visited.
Marriage and the birth of my child put my wanderlust on hold. I shifted gears, and embarked on a new venture, working from home as an educational toy consultant. I grew a toy business alongside my growing child, now a student at MIT.
Through it all, my supportive mother was always there for me. Losing her was a game-changer, and it happened at a time in my life when I was winding down my work years. I didn’t want the fun times she knew to go to the great beyond with her, so I vowed to bring her stories back to life.
Writing a book marks my fourth “career.”
Sylvia: I am sorry for the loss of your mother. I loss my mother as a little girl so I can certainly understand what you went through. What inspired you to write your first book?
Billie: The death of my mother was the most devastatingly emotional event in my life. I was so close with her; we were practically bonded at the hip. She was my rock and the role model who taught me everything I know about being a mother and a business woman. The unusual stuff that she left behind struck me as good material for retelling her stories. I hope those stories might inspire others to live full lives as she did.
Sylvia: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Billie: My book is not a novel, however, if it was, its message would be “live your life to the fullest since it’s the only life you’ll have.”
Sylvia: Your message is simple, yet powerful! It’s one that we all should heed. The worse thing you can do is grow old and look back on opportunities that you allowed to pass you. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Billie: Since I had never written a book before I had to research what exactly that entailed. My biggest concern was how many words I was going to have to write. 60,000 seemed daunting, especially when the most I thought I could eke out would be 10,000. I had never attempted to write very much before because I’m a numbers gal, not a lit chic.
Sylvia: In my years of writing, I’ve learned that if you focus on the message and not the word count. By doing so, you will eventually supersede the amount of words. How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Billie: In clearing out my mother’s house before selling it, I came across all sorts of memorabilia and ephemera: the manual for her 1950s Hoover vacuum cleaner, her little black books with notations about the guys she knew, airplane ticket carbon copies and all sorts of other gimcracks that brought back memories of fun times past. Each one seemed to hold a poignant or comical tale.
Sylvia: Very interesting! How do you combat writer’s block?
Billie: I had so much to say, I never experienced writer’s block. For me it was just a matter of having my husband reassure me that if I stayed with it, kept at it, I would get it all out.
Sylvia: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Billie: Write a little bit (or a lot) everyday.
Sylvia: Yes, a little bit truly adds up! What marketing techniques have you used to sell your books and which ones have been most successful?
Billie: I am still struggling with this. I have emailed many friends or approached them in person, commented on all sorts of Facebook pages (gay men, dog lovers, nostalgia groups, neighborhood groups…any place where my mother’s life intersected), and tweeted, posted to my alumni LinkedIn group and looked for venues where I can do book readings/signings. I printed up business cards with the book cover on it giving a link to my blog so people can find where to buy my book.
Sylvia: I am compiling an e-book from past authors who share marketing tips. I think it will be helpful to you and many new authors looking for ways to market. Why should we buy your book?
Billie: Because it’s a fun read. You’ll go back in time more than 100 years to see where one fabulous woman’s roots originated. You’ll meet her grandparents as they arrive in America, her parents who were also entrepreneurs. You’ll see Pearl’s progression from being a Depression baby to being a suburban housewife to living through a divorce at a time when only movie stars ended their marriages. You’ll see the decisions she made when starting unconventional businesses and investing. Her story of optimism and generosity of spirit will inspire you.
Sylvia: Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
Billie: My dining room table.
Sylvia: What projects are you currently working on?
Billie: The story of my father, the last true Renaissance man.
Sylvia: What is your POWER WORD? Why this word? My power word is EMPOWER)
Billie: “Party” is the word I chose because my mother taught me that enjoying life from beginning to end is important… more important than money. Besides, positive “party” people are great fun to be around.
Sylvia: LOL, love your power word! Well, this has been fun. Thank you much! Please share your social media and book contact information.
Billie: Thank you!
Kindle edition: www.amazon.com/PEARLs-Party-youre-invited-Billie-ebook/dp/B019AF7P1C/