Thursday, March 17, 2011

Interviews

I never really put any thought to what it would be like to be an author. I suppose some people do. Maybe they imagine it like others imagine being a rock star, or ballet dancer, astronaut, or whatever hard-to-achieve career there is. Those aspiring to these positions may inadvertently glorify their goal to make it worth the effort, imagining all sorts of wonderful rewards at the end of that struggle. I on the other hand just wrote a bunch of books because I like making up stories. I never put much thought into the actual day-to-day events of a writer so all of this is rather unexpected.

For some very odd reason I thought if I were ever an author I would just sit at home, write books and send them out, then move on to the next one. Checks would come in the mail, and so would be my life. One of the biggest shocks was discovering I had to promote the books. This is obviously a shock to a great many writers, who all tend to be introverted shut-ins afraid of the sun and other people. Why else would we crawl into the dark recesses of our own minds to create our own virtual worlds and friends?

I hate self-promoting. I find it extremely uncomfortable telling others how great I am. For me that’s lying, and I hate to lie about anything. I can be counted on to tell the truth even when it is not a good idea. My wife learned never to ask the legendary question: “Does this make me look fat.” And then there was the time when we were running our ad agency and a client asked my opinion of the ads the client’s company had spent months creating in house, and I replied that they were possibly the worst things I had ever seen. I saw my wife noticeably cringe. I suppose one of the rules of business is not to openly insult your clients. We got the account anyway, but after that Robin kept me away from the customers.

I expect some of you reading this will take exception to my belittling myself--or at least my books. After all, you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t like them. In my own mind I think my books are great, but then how could I not? I mean, I wrote them, right? I wouldn’t write something I didn’t like. They are tailored to my preferences, so they should be the best books I’ve ever read…I just have a hard time believing others would feel the same. I suspect this has to do with my being critical about other writer’s works. I expect readers are just as critical of mine. So I have a hard time telling others, “yes you’ll love this!” When I feel what I should say is: “I have no idea if you’ll like this or not, but I do…of course I’m the author so that has to be factored into your decision.”

If I approached potential readers like that Robin would shoot me.

So, self-promoting is not my strong suit. And I had no idea there was so much to it. Sure there is the book signings, and book clubs, and online discussions, and all of this has been fine, but as things move along this snowball just keeps growing.

As I mentioned I started getting fan mail, which is great and a sure fire way to make other writer’s jealous. Now there are interviews.

I’ve actually done several now. I can’t even recall the first one. It was way back when Crown was first released. I had no idea what was going to happen. The only experience I had with interviews was what I saw on television, but I doubted Barbara Walters would come to my home with an entourage of cameras and make-up artists. Now while I have had a few “live” interviews where I was questioned over the phone with the conversation recorded for audio, most interviews are done by email where the interviewer sends questions and the author writes back with the answers. It’s not all lights and blue M&Ms, but still, I was amazed that someone would be interested enough in me to want to go to the trouble.

Watching famous people on talk shows I’ve always wondered how they were so able to field questions so easily, as if they needed no time at all to think of an answer. I know why now. After doing a dozen or more interviews, I realize most of the questions are the same. When you are answering a question for the fourteenth time you’ve managed to develop a solid reply that makes you sound as if you’re very eloquent, relaxed and quick-witted. This really helps to cut any nervousness with a live interview. As soon as the first question is asked, it is like watching an old episode of Jeopardy that you saw before, only all the people with you haven’t. “What is Peru,” you say casually, and heads turn with you’re-smarter-than-I-ever-imagined looks.

Interviews are akin to fan mail. People are asking you questions because they, and/or, their audience are interested in you. So even though they can be repetitive, they are still great to do, and the mere request for one is a little ego boost.

The problem with interviews is that you just know that the interviewer is shackled. If they are a reader and a fan, you realized there are hundreds of questions they would like to ask, but can’t--at least not yet--because the series isn’t out. They try and sneak a few in anyway, things like: So can you tell me what happens in the last book of the series? Which of course I have to decline. It will be interesting to do an interview once all the books are out and I can speak freely about the plot, characters, and events contained in them as opposed to how I started writing, or where the idea for the series came from.

A few interview questions stand out in my memory as being out-of-the-box. One asked me how best to get rid of a whole host of monsters and asked me to respond as Royce Melborn. His reply was: “Pay me.” I was so pleased by this, that as I was doing the editing for Nyphron Rising I added the idea to that book, but attributed the line to Merrick.

Another out of the ordinary question was: You’re stuck on an island and can only bring one book with you. What is it and why? I assume this question was designed to gain a better insight to my reading preferences--what book could I imagine reading over and over for the rest of my life. It would have to be a pretty great book to entertain you for perhaps years if not the rest of your life. I thought about this for only a moment however and to me the answer was obvious: How to Survive on a Deserted Island by Tim O'Shei

With the news about Orbit, the interview requests have increased, and it is still hard to believe that this many people want to know so much about me. Like I said, I never imagined the life of a writer, but even if I had I never would have guessed it was a job of notoriety. I believed authors were quiet folk who lived little isolated lives. Unlike a musician, no one is going to ask me over to their house and say, “Hey there! We all just love your work and are so excited to have you here. Do you think you could write a chapter for us?” So having a lot of people suddenly interested in you, is at once exciting, but also baffling, and I sense ultimately disappointing as I’m really not a very interesting person.

With all these interviews I feel this pressure to start a scandal, be flamboyant, or live an edgier life. Perhaps the next time I am being interviewed online I will wear a fedora.

7 comments:

  1. As I look at various authors and their interview/websites/blogs, I often wonder what they would be doing if not writing.

    I am often surprised by how good they are in interviews either printed or video. They actually do have personalities and are not the stereotypical basement trolls that one might expect.

    On the other hand, their over all PR performance tends to be terrible, something you and your wife have obviously overcome!

    Splitter

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  2. Or, you could do all your interviews drunk and belligerent. Just a suggestion...

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  3. Congratulations on the Orbit deal! Jamie Rubin speaks very highly of you. It's kind of you to share your thoughts on fan mail and interviews, and it sounds like you're doing a great job handling it. It's an opportunity to hope for and a challenge when it hits - two friends of mine have recently had debuts, and it makes their lives very busy. All the best, and I can't wait to see your first book!

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  4. Stick with the feather boa. Fedoras are sooooo overdone these days.

    :D

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  5. I have an Indiana Jones hat. And love it.

    So there.

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  6. Don't wear anything you wouldn't have worn three years ago. Try to think of your self-promoting as a way to meet the fans who are accepting of you for the person - and writer - you are. The ones who want to make you over aren't worth your energy anyway. Interviews are fine, but it's readings and signings that I think really matter to the people buying, or about to buy, your books. So, when are you coming to Portland?

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  7. Portland is nice, but I still have nightmares of going to signings where no one showed up, except Robin, myself and the organizer.

    I've thought about having a party or something, after the last book is out, so that readers can come ask me questions, and I can finally speak freely. That would be fun...assuming people came. Maybe I should get a big name author to join me...hey Nathan?

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