There is constant discussion in online forums about how to promote our books, how to get our names out there in front of readers, and there are a zillion ways to do that. One such way is the author interview, a particularly friendly, chatty way to connect with our readers.
I know, I know; many of us authors are introverts and not terribly comfortable talking about ourselves. We’d much rather stand behind our books and talk about them instead of ourselves. But it’s a proven fact that people are much more liable to buy books from an author if they feel they know and like that person, rather than just recognizing a name on a cover. And with social media on the rise, people are coming to expect more of that kind of connection with their favorite authors.
Still not comfortable? Here’s a tip: don’t think of it as someone trying to drag intimate secrets from you. Think of it as a writing exercise. Each question is a chance to tell a mini-story, to expound, to weave, to fascinate as well as explain. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something like this:
Q. Did you do a lot of research for your book?
Really? That’s it? Come on, you’ve just missed a great opportunity to talk about that time you almost got thrown in jail for breaking into your own car so you could write the process into your latest novel. Or that time you drove through New Mexico looking for a locale to match your character’s home town and you almost got beamed up by a flying saucer near Roswell. This is about more than answering questions—it’s about showing us your craft.
Every chance we have to write, whether on paper or on the internet, is an opportunity to show our mettle. You know that old saw about writing that we hear over and over: Don’t tell us—show us. This applies to these interviews, too. Use the questions as a springboard to propel us into your imagination. Show us what you’ve got.
For you interviewers out there, you have the opportunity to open up that author in unexpected ways. I know it’s easy to gravitate to the generic questions every interviewer asks—Who’s your favorite author?—but you’ve got the opportunity to make your interview unique. Spark up that interview with interesting questions. Here are a few suggestions:
Ask open-ended questions. Don’t ask yes-or-no questions like the one above. Instead ask, “What’s your process when you’re researching a book?”
Focus on the author. If you’ve taken the time to read some of the author’s work and checked out their webpage or blog, you can ask very specific questions about them and their work. For example: “In your new book, Hell on Wings, your main character base-jumps off a thousand-foot cliff naked with his hair on fire. What kind of research did you do for that scene?”
Not only is the reader going, “Whoa, never saw that in an interview before,” but the answer is giving the reader a behind-the-scenes glimpse that expands his reading experience. It’s like watching “The Making of …” section on the DVD after you’ve watched the movie. Very often knowing the story behind the story gives you a greater appreciation and a more textured experience of the original movie. And in the above case, if the reader has not already read this particular book, this question just might move them to buy it.
So get creative—on both sides of the interview!