Friday, March 30, 2012

5 Tips for Great Author Interviews

Ahh, the interview. It seems like all writers love giving them and many love being on the receiving end as well. (Hey, get your mind out of the gutter!) I've had the pleasure to give several interviews and I've also interviewed one of my favorite writers, Benjamin X. Wretlind (see here). Having just finished giving a couple more interviews, I've been thinking about what makes for a great author interview. With that in mind, I decided to compile this list of five tips for interviews that both interviewers and interviewees can benefit from.

1. Consider a "Live" Interview - Many interviews consist of a list of questions sent to an author who then writes a response to each one and sends it back. This is fine and works well and all but one of my interviews have been conducted this way. But when I interviewed Benjamin X. Wretlind (and he, in turn, interviewed me) we conducted "live" interviews in which each question is based on the previous answer given. This takes a lot more time, of course, but makes for a much more fluid and engaging read. See our interviews here and here.

2. Make the Question Your Own - Often an interviewer will ask fairly standard, safe questions. Answer them, of course, but then find a way to say something that the interviewer didn't ask. Give your answer personality, let the reader get a deeper insight into your mind. Go into detail about your thought process when writing/creating characters/coming up with story ideas.

3. Propose Questions - If you are being interviewed, ask the interviewer to ask specific questions that will allow you to address topics that you think will make for a good read. If you are the one doing the interview, give your subject the opportunity to add questions of his/her own. If the interviewee is able to do this the answers will be much more engaging because s/he will be talking about something they really like discussing. It will make for a more dynamic interview.

4. Read Your Subject's Work - This is a tip for interviewers. Try to read something by the author you're interviewing. I know this is not always possible but if you can ask specific questions about the author's book it will be more likely to pique the reader's interest in the work. Asking a broad question about the theme or plot can do this if the interviewee responds in the right way but when the reader sees that the interviewer was interested enough to give the book a read it will help promote the work. (Again, see the interview Benjamin X. Wretlind gave me for an example of this).

5. Open it to the Public - This isn't something I've had the opportunity to do yet but I think it would be a good idea. If, at the end of the interview, the blog's host opens the floor to questions with the understanding that the interviewee will answer them in the comments section, this will engage the readers and keep their interest in both the blog and the author's work for a longer period of time. A thoughtful response to a reader's question could make the difference between a quick read that's just as quickly forgotten and a sale.

And with that last point in mind, I'd love for you to add a comment if you have any more tips for creating great author interviews! To read all the interviews I've given, see my Interviews page here.


  1. Hi,
    You have very good points and the subject itself is important. These past 20+ years, journalism has really gone down hill. Mostly due to the reporters being over focusing on which angle THEY have chosen. The result is often a poor combination of bad info covered in meaninglessness.

    Bringing the interview to life is - or should be - the reporters focus, because his/her job is to connect audience and the interviewed.

    So, all good points and I'd like to add one: avoid closed and dichotome questions. You WILL get an answer to your question, but not always the answer you seek.

    1. Great advice, Per! Fortunately in this realm (the author interview) "gotcha" questions are a problem like they are with political interviews.

      Thanks for reading!


    2. Yeah, they are. When I say that reporters tend to follow their own agenda, what I mean is not that they shouldn´t try "gotcha" questions. What I mean is that, at least here in Denmark, there´s been a tendency to ask follow up question that might be in accordance with what the reporter has planned before the interview, but the answers given repute the attack and renders the follow ups unnescassary. But they ask them anyway, because they won´t take the time to get a deeper understanding of the subject...

  2. Great advice!
    Having been on both sides of the table - having interviewed for women's magazines and as a news reporter - it definitely helps (both ways) to give more information than was asked for. It gives the interviewer a chance to take the conversation one step forward. Adding extra details gives an interviewer options on which route he/she wants to explore further and makes for great conversation too.
    Having a good press release and sending this ahead of time is a sure winner too! It gives an interviewer a foundation on which to build his/her questions too.
    Great piece and look forward to reading and learning more from you!
    Anju Gattani
    International Women's Fiction