Author Interviews – Using the Tool to Your Best Advantage

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?

A. No.

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!

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

20 thoughts on “Author Interviews – Using the Tool to Your Best Advantage”

  1. I agree, that we should promote utilizing out interviews to promote our books. I have been fortunate to have interviews on the Authors Show for two of my books, Gibbon’s Secrets last year and Back in the Day this year. Both of these interviews lead me to be selected As the 2012 & 2013 Winner in the “50 Great Writers you Should be Reading” presented by The Authors

  2. Great article Melissa. I’ve only been interviewed a couple of times, but was very lucky to be interviewed by ‘good listeners’ who always asked the right questions to get me talking. Of course making me /stop/ talking is another matter. 🙂

    1. It’s absolutely true that interviewers who try to dig down to the good stuff do a better job of sparking interesting answers. As for stopping–when is that a problem? If you stop talking, the interview is over! I would think this is one area where more is better.

  3. I’ve sold more books getting my nails done because I was “holding court” ( as my husband calls it) with my humor. Me just being me in a non-booking selling environment. If people like “you” then they somehow crossover to thinking I might like her books too. Ya know, when it SLIPS into conversation that I write them. The internet with social media allows people to get to know you – the real you. the one that is just like them. Who puts the milk back in the cupboard and the sugar in the fridge because you were up too late writing. So interviews are every where, even at the nail salon.

  4. Excellent, Melissa. And some bloggers are really good at it, (like yourself) and others ask the same questions a lot of their colleagues do, which can get pretty boring. The bigger onus is on the interviewee, though. They do have the opportunity to bring as much to the questions as they wish. And, as you say, it’s a chance to show something of yourself to the reader, which can be the beginning of a relationship that will take them to your book.

      1. As a blogger who doesn’t ask original questions (although many are open ended), I won’t try to defend my choice unless forced. I will say that I’ve done it both ways though. 🙂

        However, I love Yvonne’s point, that the onus is on interviewee. The whole point, after all, is to showcase you and your book(s), not the blogger. The reader who isn’t entertained or moved to check out your books is going to attribute it to boring answers, not boring questions. (Even good questions are boring, they just set you up better for good answers.) But I think any question, even one that seems to call out for a yes/no or short answer can give you plenty of room to expand beyond that and (soft) sell yourself and your book.

        As a simple example, you mention a standard question (maybe the most standard question of them all, and yes, I ask that one *blush*) is who is your favorite author. You can give the author name and leave it at that or you can tell why. Mention that you named your first born after the protagonist in that author’s best known series. Tell us that, while you might fall short, that author’s ability to give a character X attribute (maybe a likeable bad guy) is what you strive for in character Y in your series Z. Any question can be open ended if you chose for it to be.

        1. Al, I would never force you to defend yourself :-). Interviews are what they are and you are absolutely right–the onus is on the interviewee. We can actually take a page from the politicians’ notebook: don’t necessarily answer the question that was asked; answer the question you WISH was asked. With our writerly talents, we can always turn a question to an interesting anecdote. Sometimes I think the one-word answers are just manifestations of pure laziness. But you’re right: even a yes or no question can open up to a story if we use it correctly.

  5. All good points, Melissa. 🙂

    Can I just vent, though? 😀 I don’t visualize my characters the way some folks apparently do. So when I get the questions about my dream cast for the movie version of my book, I am always stymied. My characters are like friends to me — and I don’t have any friends who are movie stars. Hmm, maybe I’ll start saying it that way….

    1. Sorry; no venting. Oh, too late! But I’m with you; I do see my characters very clearly, but they don’t always (or ever) look like movie stars, so when I get that question, I’m pretty well stumped, too. It’d be like assigning actors to play my neighbors. Kinda fun to think about, tho.

  6. I should also mention here that my friend Jacob Singer also was selected as one of the 2013 Winners in the “50 Great Writers you Should be Reading” presented by The Authors He was interviewed for his book The Vase with the Many Coloured marbles and through that had the opportunity to be selected.

  7. Some excellent points, Melissa, and I agree with Yvonne that it’s up to the interviewee to use the questions to full advantage; I know I do.

    Good post Melissa.

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