Sunday, February 5, 2012

Interviewing 101

Interviewing an agent, author or editor can make great posts, but a lot of people get stuck on what to ask their interviewees. I did get a good grounding in the area because I studied journalism and was a cadet for a while, but there are a few easy tips that will make interviewing easier.

Step 1: Secure the interview
Most figures int he publishing industry are happy to be involved in interviews. An important thing is to develop a good platform for yourself, have a professional looking blog layout and ensure you've conducted yourself professional on your blog.

Step 2: Research
You should google your subject, looking for specific information such as:
  • Bios
  • Their website
  • Their Twitter Feed
  • Other interviews they've done
  • Any unusual or interesting facts about them that aligns with your audience.
  • For authors research their stories, and preferably have read them.
  • For agents and editors, know their client list, preferred genres and wish list.
Step 3: Compose your questions

Your audience should be foremost of mind here, but you also need to remember that the person your interviewing will want to have key points they'd like to get out too. So you'll want your questions to:

Be relevant to the audience, which is likely to be readers for authors and writers for agents and editors.
  • Cute and interested fact questions can be woven in,
  • For authors include things like: key release dates, inspiration for stories, WIP information and also give the the opportunity to plug anything you don't know about.
  • For agents and editors focus on their wish list, views on trends and any key client work.
A really important thing is to ask open ended questions, being questions that require a lengthy answer. The key words/phrases in questions that help you do this is: Why, How, What and Tell us about.

So you want to ask questions like(but personalised):

What was the inspiration behind...
What do you see as....
Why did you decide to...
How did this idea come about...
Tell us about your book

There is a time for one word questions. Rapid Fire questions at the end of an interview are a great way to show a more personal side of the interviewee and can be a lot of fun. Don't for to ask for photos and links.

Step 4: Putting the post together
You should try to ensure there is a natural flow to the interview by grouping similar questions together. You don't want to chop and change between topics. Make smooth transitions where ever possible.

If you think the responses need plumping up, or you find that the answers given have created more questions then don't be afraid to go back and ask them.

It is also important to include an introductory paragraph to set the tone of the interview. Include any important links as well, such as website, blog and twitter (plus any that the interviewee requests).

Example: Beth Revis

I haven't interviewed Beth Revis (just occasionally stalked her Twitter feed and fallen totally in love with her writing) and she's someone who I'd love to interview, so I thought she'd make a perfect subject matter to illustrate how it all ties in together.

Here is the questions I would ask Beth and why:
  1. Congratulations on the success of A Million Suns. Tell us a bit about where the Across the Universe sequel takes us? (give the interviewee a chance to plug their wares)
  2. I know that originally ATU was designed to be stand alone, why did you expand the series? And talk us through the process of expanding a stand-alone to series? (I knew about the stand alone from an interview Beth did here and thought the process would be of interest to other writers?)
  3. What's next for Amy and Elder with Shades of Earth? (another change for her to pitch her upcoming release dates etc).
  4. You are a fan of Star Wars, Firefly and Doctor Who. How much of an influence were those shows on your work? (The information is straight from Beth's bio and an interview, so it's a fairly logical conclusion to draw that the space shows would have influenced her space dystopian).
  5. Space wasn't a big seller in YA when you pitched ATU, but now it's hailed as the next big thing. What's your thoughts on being a YA genre trendsetter?
  6. What's it like writing a story in dual POVs?
  7. Research is such an important part of developing a novel with technical aspects. How did you go about getting the information you needed? (Interviews here and here talk about research a bit and Beth comes off as being passionate about it, so I'm hoping it's something she's still passionate to talk about).
  8. I find writing is an organic process, have stories taken on a life of their own for you as you write, and if so, how? (Well, I already know from this interview that her original synopsis for the trilogy has changed)
  9. You "lust" after books. What titles are you hanging out to read and why? (Beth says on her own website that she lusts after books on Goodreads. It's a fun thing to throw in. Readers who enjoy her writing would be interested to see what Beth wants to read and will probably check those books out too).
  10. What do you miss the most about being a teacher? (This should be an interesting question for readers as the majority of them are teens and probably still at school).
  11. You're a very accessible author to your fans through social media, what made you decide to have such a strong presence?
  12. If you could travel through space, what job would you want on the ship and why? (try to let the interviewee have some fun questions that still relate to their area of expertise/subject matter).
  13. How has watching Game of Thrones impacted on your writing time?
(To be honest, twelve questions are too many. You probably want 10 max. There are so many more things I could have asked - like the Beatles references, how life has changed for her - but the interview shouldn't be a chore for the person).

Rapid Fire Questions:

Peanut Butter or Nutella? (cause I saw crunchy peanut butter and nutella mentioned in interviews)
Unicorns or Griffins? (I thought I saw unicorns mentioned on Twitter once)
Purple or Pink? (just cause they're the two main colours on her ATU cover)
Paper and pen or computer (gives an insight to her writing style)
Serenity, Tardis or Millennium Falcon? (Oh, that's mean making her choose)

Other examples:

My interview with John Cusick.
Sarah Nicolas' interview with Jodie Meadows on YAtopia.
My interview with Jeyn Roberts.
My interview with Amanda Rutter.
My interview with Mandy Hubbard.
My interview with Vickie Motter.
Angela Slatter's interview with me.

And finally, a question for you? Who would you love to interview and why?

PS. Don't forget there's still time to enter my website launch giveaway.
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  1. I love this! Thanks for posting. This will definitely come in handy! :)

  2. Thank you! This is very informative.
    Who I'd like to interview? JK Rowling, hands down. For the simple reason that she made my childhood. I'm not exaggerating. The Harry Potter books were/still are my lifestyle. I have a lot to ask her.