I've received notification that I'm the interview subject on Novel Journey tomorrow, July 7th. It's a cool site, so I'm excited to be there, and you can see what I said at www.noveljourney.blogspot.com.

I've done radio, Internet, video, and print interviews and have been lucky so far to have professional hosts who lead me along and don't throw in anything nasty. Still, book/author interviews are a bit static, and there are so many out there that I wonder if anyone really reads any of them all the way through. I suppose it's like the first paragraph of your novel: the reader decides early on if it interests him and moves on if it doesn't.

But in an interview, you don't control the first paragraph, line, or picture. Someone else asks the questions, someone else makes up the rules. So the first question is usually something like, "How did you get started in writing?" Uh, well, gee, I just had this story in my head and I wanted to tell it. Yawn. You and everybody else in the world.

One interviewer began by asking me which writer had the greatest influence on me. The question surprised me--there have been too many to choose one--and I ended up stuttering something about Shakespeare, which made me sound pompous and pretentious. (I've got enough trouble with that from readers who see "Macbeth" in the title and assume they'd never understand the book. C'mon, people, it's a romance!)

Anyway, the advice here is to think about interviews before you ever have one. Think about what they might ask, and they'll almost always ask who influences you so get that one figured out. But also think about what you'd like to get across in your interview: personality, tidbits of the book, insights for readers, etc. When they ask how you got started in writing, maybe you have a clever little anecdote about standing in the checkout line fantasizing about killing the woman ahead of you who is fumbling through her purse, talking on her cell, and holding everyone up with completely oblivious disregard. If you've pondered all that beforehand, you may be able to steer the interview a bit and make it more exciting than the run-of-the-mill type that nobody finishes reading.

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Comment by Benjamin Sobieck on July 7, 2009 at 12:55pm
Journalists hate that type of thing, I.J. It taints the interview, the "realness" of what the audience hears/reads/sees.

Requesting questions upfront is up there with asking to see the interview before it is disseminated. I can't count how many times I've been asked that. "Can I see this before it goes to print?" The answer is always "no."

That's my experience with newspapers and magazines. TV, radio and Internet may play by different rules. But traditional print sticks with the Old School, at least those who properly studied it.

As for the interviewer asking surface level questions, shame on the interviewer. A good journalist thoroughly researches the subject well in advance of the interview. Asking, "So, uh, you like to write?" is sloppy and unprofessional.
Comment by Dana King on July 7, 2009 at 3:44am
I almost always read interviews all the way through to the end, and I read quite a few of them. For authors I like, I'll actually do Google searches for [author name] interview. I've learned a lot that way, both about writing and interviewing.

I also do what you recommend. I often think of my own answers to questions that strike me as thought-provoking. It's a fun exercise until I can (hopefully) be interviewed myself.
Comment by I. J. Parker on July 7, 2009 at 1:16am
I learned the hard way to ask for the questions ahead of time. :)

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