Wednesday, March 18, 2015

10 Questions to Answer Before You Give an Author Interview

When I was getting ready to go on my first book tour oh-so-many years ago, I spent a lot of time preparing for interviews and appearances. I had banners and posters made up for book fairs, created a tour schedule, purchased tasteful clothes and good pens for signings, sent out press releases and mailings, carefully selected and edited excerpts for readings and spent hours practicing reading aloud. In short, I felt I had done everything I could to get ready for the tour.

Unfortunately, I failed to do the most important thing of all--which was to understand my book.

I had thought that working on a manuscript intensely for five years made me an expert on the work. Hardly. It wasn't until I had a live interview for a writing website that I realized how underprepared I was for discussing it. The interviewer typed the very simple question--"What is your book about?" and I completely froze. I stared at the blinking cursor for five long minutes, prompting the interviewer to ask if I was all right.

It's not that I didn't know what my book was about, exactly. It was a novel that spanned forty years and followed two boys into adulthood. A whole lot happened in between, but nothing I felt I could pin down in two sentences. Or at least two interesting sentences. Much of what is appealing about literary fiction lies in the telling more than that concept. Or at least that's what I told myself. As I discovered too late, you still need to have a pitch.

Over the course of the next month or so, as the reviews started rolling in, I started getting a little perspective on what the story was about. Through other people's eyes I began to see themes and connections that I didn't realize were there. I know it sounds strange to be so removed from the story, but sometimes you can be too close to a project to see it properly.

I decided that in order to feel more comfortable discussing my book I needed to approach the story like a reader. I thought about some of the questions I was asked during my first interview and began writing down the answers. Basically, I wrote a report on my own book. I also came up with a list of commonly asked questions that I had often heard asked at readings and answered those, too. Even a question as simple as, "What is your favorite book?" can be difficult to recall in front of an audience. By taking a little time to think about my answers beforehand, I felt much more confident with each subsequent appearance. By the end of my book tour I had my pitch down and I was a bit more relaxed when answering questions.

Here are ten commonly asked questions I try to think about before I do an interview or reading:

1. What is your book about?

2. How long did it take you to write it?

3. Where did you get the idea for the book?

4. What is your writing process? How often do you write?

5. Who/what are some of your favorite writers/books?

6. How did you get published?

7. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

8. What are your thoughts on self-publishing/print-on-demand?

9. What advice would you give an aspiring author?

10. What are you working on now?  

Share your experiences. How do you prepare for author interviews?

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