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Interview Questions

Your book has been launched, you have sent out the press releases, now the media wants to interview you: radio, television, newspaper, blogs, you name it, all of a sudden, you’re getting your turn in the spotlight. Anxious to make a good impression? Worried about what questions you’ll be asked? We all go through this. After you’ve done a few interviews, you’ll get the hang of it and you’ll have a fairly good idea what sort of questions you might be asked.

Generally, the questions focus on your background, when you started to write, what genre you write, who are some of your favorite authors. These are a breeze to answer, but rather dull. Some of the mundane questions I dislike include:

What is the favorite book you remember as a child?

What is your favorite book today?

Tell us about your current book in ten words.

What are you reading right now?

What books do you have on hold at the library?

Do you have any bad book habits?

E-Reader or print? and why?

One book at a time or multiples?

Dog-ear or bookmark? (don't worry—Librarian Judith won't hold it against you—much)

Least favorite book you've read this year?

Favorite book you've read this year?

When do you do most of your reading?

Favorite place to read?

What’s your favorite sweet treat?

Believe it or not, I had all of the above questions in one interview. Dull and pointless, if you ask me. But it’s all about promoting yourself and your writing, so you have to put up with even the most mundane of questions.

Now, there are numerous questions I enjoy answering, like:

Who is your favorite character in one of your books? Can you tell us why?

Or, a similar question:

You’re stranded on a desert island—which characters from your book do you want with you? Why?

If you could live in one of your books, which one and why?

And then there are the questions that really make me think and reflect on my life as a writer:

If sales (money) and critics (reviews) were immaterial to you, what genre and length would you write?

Have you ever encountered people who seem unable/unwilling to comprehend that writing is something you are driven to do?

Give us at least one example of someone who has contacted you and expressed how much your writing meant to them.

In the conversations (about writing) that you’ve had over the years, what is one writing question which you’ve WISHED had been asked of you... but never has been asked?

What does literary success look like?

There might be some stumpers, though. Questions out of the blue that have nothing to do with you or your writing. When I was interviewed live on national radio for the release of my creative nonfiction book about my mother, F-Stop: A Life in Pictures, the host asked me, “Why do you think your mother’s story deserves an entire book?” I didn’t have time to react. That’s what happens on live shows: you have to be quick with a good answer. How did I respond? I said, “I believe everyone deserves an entire book. We all have stories to share and all of our stories matter. I’d like to believe that by writing my mother’s story, I’m encouraging others to look into their own family stories and write them.” I’m a firm believer that we don’t need a lot of material on famous people. It’s the ordinary, or what I like to call extra-ordinary, people like you and me who make this world a vivid story worth sharing.

Live radio or television makes the most difficult interviews as you have to be right on your toes with good, concise answers. Print media is a little easier, as you can take your time answering the questions, but there’s always the risk that something will get lost or altered in the translation from the interview to print. Blog interviews are a treat. Bloggers send authors their questions and you have time to peruse (and sometimes choose) the questions. When we writers have the time to really think about our answers (and write the answers ourselves), we can become quite brilliant in our interview strategies.

It's all part of the promotional game. The best thing to do is to keep files of the questions and answers, as much as you can. Refer to these files often and be prepared for just about anything: especially during those stressful live interviews.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Emily-Jane Hills Orford