This column was written back in June but not published. As I sat at my son’s computer in Sydney, Australia contemplating what to write for today’s column, I decided to talk about how important it is to prepare for interviews, whether live or online.
Due to the time difference, which can get a bit complicated, instead of publishing in the morning, it is now 8:00 p.m. on the West Coast of the United States, and it is Saturday morning in Australia. But then, this is the land down under. The column below also applies to preparing for a presentation. I gave a very successful talk to the Sydney chapter of Sisters in Crime (Partners in Crime) last Sunday using several of these techniques.
Carefully structured Q&A’s equal interesting interviews.
As an author, you will be doing interviews during the publication process and afterwards. There are many opportunities in locally in Los Angeles, but reach beyond and create an online presence. Some interviews are structured with carefully crafted questions and answers, others as casual conversation. Online interviews are the easiest so let’s start with those. Visit websites dedicated to your genre or to profiling authors. Send a friendly email with information about your book or upcoming book, and ask if they would consider interviewing you.
There are a ton of stock questions, and often interviewers appreciate suggestions for new areas they can explore. However, many questions in the straight Q&A format are so over-used or irrelevant, the result is boring. Think about some sage advice you would like your readers to know that doesn’t fall under the typical, What suggestions do you have to offer aspiring writers. Talk about an experience you know will be great because no one besides you and a few friends or family know about it. Another important part of the interview is the structure. It should have a smooth flow–one that creates arcs just like those in the wonderful stories or books you write.
Frequently online interviewers submit a list of questions and ask you to supply the answers. Consider the questions carefully. The answers will trigger an impression about you, your characters or your techniques in bonding with your audience.
Things to ask yourself
Before reviewing the questions, think about the tone you want to use for your answers. Will you offer humorous answers, educational answers in precise language, a conversational, chatty tone or what? Is there an opportunity to slide in subliminal promotional mentions of your other books, columns or that you’re available to speak to groups, and do it in a way that doesn’t take over the interview? How much detail should you provide? This is all important.
What readers might want to know
Readers are like to learn things they haven’t heard or read in other interviews. After all, how many times can you read the same stock answer to a question posed the same way by multiple interviewers? Not that many without throwingup your hands and shouting, “Enough!”.
Provide the interviewer with something they can use to couch the question a different way, or suggest adding questions or taking some out. If you do this, the interviewer might ignore your suggestions, but on the other hand, they might be delighted at ways to spice things up. It is beneficial to have a “20 Interview Questions” as part of your media kit.
Here’s an example of a spin on the typical question: Where do you get your ideas? Maybe you’ve had a real “dust-up” with an HOA president and that creates an opportunity to talk about something specific. Hey, this is one of my own. I’m waiting for the opportunity to slide it into an interview and use it in a story.
Interviewer: Authors get ideas in many ways. I understand you’ve been toying with something that happened quite a while ago involving an HOA. Care to share?
Author: Talk about ideas, I have to find a way to use this one. It did happen years ago and involved the President of the HOA for the complex we lived in at the time. He made our life hell and I’ve wanted to get even for so long. As a mystery author I dream about killing him—in print, of course.
Interviewer: But you haven’t done it yet, have you?
Author: No, I haven’t come up with just the right story. But it will happen. He will be floating in the pool, slumped in the lobby, cracked over the head, fed poisoned mushrooms—see, there are just so many ways to do it depending upon the story.
Interviewer: And when you finally write it, do you hope he will read it and know it’s him?
Author: Can’t happen. He had the nerve to really die a few years ago before I could do him in.
Something like that has lots more oomph than dry questions and answers. It would be a natural segue to discuss various kinds of mystery novels the author has written and whether there was similar motivation. Another topic could be why mystery writers choose certain ways to do people in.
MORGAN ST. JAMES writes Writers tricks of the trade, filled with tips, tricks and techniques for published and aspiring writers, every Thursday in the Las Vegas edition and every Friday in the Los Angeles edition. Her handy guidebook: Writers’ Tricks of the Trade: 39 Things You Need to Know About Writing Fiction and the new Silver Sisters Mystery, Vanishing Act in Vegas, are now available at online booksellers like Amazon, BooksAMillion and Barnes & Noble in paperback, eBook and Kindle or order at your favorite local bookstore.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about Morgan visit her websites: www.morganstjames-author.com, www.silversistersmysteries.com, and http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com. is due out later this year. Morgan talks about anything that comes to mind on her blog http://morgan-stjames.blogspot.com including the HOA incident referred to above!