On author interviews

I’ve interviewed a few different people on my blog now, and I’ve had feedback from several of them about how I ask insightful or “hard” questions or how I’ve done my research.

Source: wiki commons

Source: wiki commons

My desire for research before interviewing someone arises from back in the days before time (here imagine me gesticulating wildly with my walking stick), when I was at university. I did a professional writing degree, which included journalism units—as an aside, it was their helpful advice about how to deal with your interview subject if they start crying that put me off journalism as a career path.

Arising from all of this is the fact that I don’t usually agree to interview people if I can’t cyberstalk research them beforehand, to find out what their interests are, or something about the book beyond what’s in the blurb. My favourite interview subjects are the ones who not only have an interesting, updated blog, but have posted links to the interviews they’ve done elsewhere.

The downside, of course, is that research is time consuming. I’ve easily spent an entire evening stalking researching someone for an interview.

The alternative to research, of course, is form questions. But for form questions to really work, they need to have something special about them.

Chuck Wendig does this well. He has an interview series where a bunch of different authors answer the same few questions each week—it’s really interesting to compare the different answers you can get to the same question. Also, his questions aren’t just “Can you tell us about your book?” They really dig into the author’s motivations and desires. The latest series is “Five Things I Learned Writing My Book”.

Other interviewers with a series of interviews narrow the focus down to a particular aspect of writing. For example, I saw one recently that was all about dialogue.

Another approach is the one taken by Valerie Rian, who recently interviewed me for her blog. She had form questions, but provided a huge list and I got to cherry pick the ones I thought I had an interesting answer to. That’s kind of like the interview subject doing the research for the most appropriate questions on your behalf, which I thought was quite clever.

All of this got me to wondering whether I should embrace one of these two approaches for some of my future blog interviews, especially for authors that don’t have a big web presence. I’m certainly thinking about it.

When you’re reading author interviews, what sort of questions are you most interested in the answers to?

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10 Comments on “On author interviews”

  1. Cait says:

    This is great! I love interviewing authors and reading interviews…but I’m very conscious of my blog readers getting bored. (I try to stick to 5-6 questions max.) I like to zone in on stuff, too. I think those interview ideas from Chuck Wendig sound like a fabulous idea.

  2. Norah says:

    I love to hear what got authors started in the first place, and a little about their daily writing routines.

  3. Karen says:

    The questions/answers I am most interested in depend on why and/or in which role I read the interview. If I read it as a writer/blogger, I have a different focus, than when reading the interview just as a reader.
    It is always interesting to read about the writer’s strategy, how a writer is inspired, and what they do in their spare time.
    For my readers, I introduced the so-called ’10 Statements’ column. They love it. 🙂

  4. I try to ask different questions for each interview, but its not easy when I would like to know about three things about an author: why they write, what made them write their books, their take on self-publishing and eBooks, and their future. I try to change the angle to each question each time, but even I feel like I’m being repetitive.

    I’ve thought about giving a list of questions for the author to cherry-pick, but my journalism background prefers researching and choosing questions that way.

  5. Mary Crockett says:

    I’ve been thinking about this issue as well. Even when I do research, I find some of the questions (What’s your book about? Where did you idea stem from? Etc.) are going to be the same. And when you want to limit it to 5 or so questions, that already uses two!

    I love the idea of a long list that can be cherry-picked down to 5-6 questions by the interviewee.

    Probably my most positive experience as an interviewee was with another writer who sent a single question in an email, and then chatted back and sent a second question that somehow related to the first. Even though it may have followed a typical format ultimately, the questions still felt fresher and more individualized.

    Heck, maybe I should just start doing MAD-LIB interviews with authors and leave it at that! LOL.

    Oh, and Cassandra and Norah, if you like writer’s spaces, here’s a group post I did for the BookYArd with different spaces for some debut writers:

    http://bookyardwriters.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/the-writers-lair-2/


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