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The Art of the Author Interview

image by CannedTuna

Author interviews are very much on my mind these days from two perspectives: as the interviewer and as the interviewee.

As the interviewee, I’m talking a lot these days about my novel GIRL IN DISGUISE, coming out in paperback Tuesday, March 6. A paperback launch doesn’t involve as much publicity and marketing as a hardcover launch, at least in my case, but it does involve interviews. Which is great for me! I love interviews.

I also have a major interviewing project underway where I’m talking to authors about their novels, not mine. Each day in March, in honor of Women’s History Month, I’m posting an interview on my blog with an author whose work is inspired by amazing women in history. 31 interviews is, well, a lot of interviews. (The #womenshistoryreads project may even extend into April — I keep thinking of more authors I want to include, and they keep saying yes!)

Plus I’m now doing author interviews for the Chicago Review of Books, like this one with Leslie Pietrzyk [1], whose riveting, evocative novel SILVER GIRL just came out last week.

So that’s my situation. What about yours? If you’re an author, should you care about author interviews, from either side of the table? If you’re an avid reader and blogger, should you conduct them?

Here are a few lessons learned from my recent experiences, both asking questions and giving answers.

They’re almost always a good idea. Sure, there are counterexamples. If you’re an author, giving a very long interview to a website with very little reach may not be worth your time. You can always say no. But as an effort-to-yield undertaking, in general, interviews are great. So many readers turn to the internet as a way to connect with writers whose work they admire or enjoy. Your interview will be there when they do. Reviews are good too, but I’d rather interview a fellow writer than review their work. A review implies evaluation of the work, determining whether or not it’s worth someone’s time. Interviews provide a lot of information without judgment. That’s great for writers and readers alike.

If you do them, E-mail is easiest. Is it great to have the back-and-forth of talking to someone live? Yes. Is it worth the hassle of transcribing, trying to capture spoken words and get them precisely right, to get that energy? In my experience, no. Especially as the interviewer, both for CHIRB and my #WomensHistoryReads project, interviews are so much easier to manage in writing. You can go back over the written answers and edit/move around/tweak for flow, but you can’t create words you didn’t catch. Plus as an interviewee, it is way easier to say yes to an interview that I could do two weeks from now at three in the morning (an unusual but sadly real-life scenario), as opposed to trying to find a specific hour of time I have to dedicate right then, at someone else’s convenience. Plus, we’re writers, right? I’m not bad at conversation, but I’m way better at putting together a good sentence if you give me the chance to revise it.

Choices are good. I sent my #WomensHistoryReads interviewees 10 questions each and asked them to answer three; letting people pick from a list instead of locking them into specific questions is a trick I picked up from as a past interviewee at The Debutante Ball [2]. Plus that way you can ask wilder questions — if someone has an answer to “What breed of dog is your protagonist most like?”, they can give it, but if they don’t, they can move on to “Tell us more about the inspiration for your latest novel.” Win-win. Also for #WomensHistoryReads I invented a format called Q&Q&Q&A — I ask them three questions and they ask me one. So everyone I interviewed got to ask me whatever they wanted in return. And that might be the most fun part of the whole project. (Like when Allison Pataki gave me supernatural abilities [3] to put together an epic dinner party.)

Q: Do you enjoy reading author interviews? Conducting them as an interviewer? Answering them as an interviewee?

About Greer Macallister [4]

Greer Macallister's debut novel THE MAGICIAN'S LIE was an Indie Next pick, Target Book Club selection, and a USA Today bestseller, and has been optioned for film by Jessica Chastain's Freckle Films. Her novel GIRL IN DISGUISE, about pioneering private investigator Kate Warne, received a starred review from PW. Her latest novel WOMAN 99 is now out in hardcover, e-book and paperback. www.greermacallister.com