Sunday, January 29, 2017

How to Answer Interview Questions: 3 Tips for Both Pros and Newbies

Sunrise on the Ortiz Mountains the other day created dramatic and crisp pink highlighting on the fresh snow of the peaks. Quite spectacular.

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is an interesting one:Remedies for Stale Interview/Podcast Questions.

It's timely for me because just yesterday I did a signing with my good friend Darynda Jones at Page 1 Books in Albuquerque for our brand new releases. These are fun events for us, because signings are always more fun with a friend, and we have a lot of enthusiastic readers who are excited to see us. (Mostly her, but hey!) It was standing room only (albeit in a small space), with the final count at 48 people. Which is pretty nice for a small bookstore signing.

This is the... fourth? signing we've done together. Something like that. And quite a few people who attend are regulars. Or they see us at other regional events. As usual, Darynda and I didn't plan any particular program. We asked the audience what they wanted and they called out, "Anything!" And, "You  guys are always great - whatever!"

Which doesn't really help, but makes for a nice shiny.

Then the events coordinator calls out in this fake, high-pitched voice from the other side of the stacks, "Talk about your books!"

Oh. Yeah. Right!

The thing is, we tend to forget a key truth doing events and interviews: for most of the people reading or listening, this is their first time hearing anything about us or our stories.

For me, in particular, when I started talking about my new release, THE EDGE OF THE BLADE, I had to recall that most of the people there had come to see Darynda and hadn't read any of my Twelve Kingdoms or Uncharted Realms books. Yes, some of my die-hard readers attended, but they love talking about the books regardless. Just because *I* feel like I have talked about the books a lot, that's not true of the people listening.

So that's Rule #1:

1. There are no stale questions. They're only familiar to YOU.

This is that syndrome where it's easy for kids to remember their one teacher's name, but less easy for her to memorize all thirty of theirs. So, even though it made be frustrating or eye-rolling to get the exact same question for the 4,739th time, the person asking hasn't heard the answer before. Respect that and give them your fresh and sincere reply. I find - very interesting, too - that my answers to some of them have changed over time. I discover new aspects of my self and my process that way.

2. Limit the types of interviews you do.

One thing I've asked for so far as blog tours online, etc., is that I prefer not to answer "canned" interview questions. A lot of sites and bloggers do this, because it's much less work. I don't blame them a bit! They make up a list of questions and send that to be filled in. However, once I've answered a particular site's questions, then I've done them. There's not much sense in doing them again, particularly since they're already discoverable online. Instead I ask for questions related to the book I'm releasing. Yes, this dramatically cuts down on the number of interviews I do, but it also focuses my own efforts.

3. Keep notes as you draft and revise a book

I try to do this, and do better on some books than others, but any time I ask a question online, crowd-sourcing information, or something amusing happens, I note it in a running document for that book. This provides a treasure trove of anecdotes to tell about the book. There always seems to be interest in the process of writing the book, what was difficult, what you might have borrowed from real life, etc., and this document will refresh your memory when you feel you've said everything there is to say. Even you newbies can start doing this and, believe me, later on you'll be glad you did!

So, old pros - what tips do you have? Readers, what do you love best in hearing authors answer?

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