PR Part 6


(subtitle) How to tailor the interview/PR moment.

I’ve talked for the last few sessions about the interview and its importance to any PR effort. The great thing about an interview is that (if you work it) you can twist a basic interview into all sorts of new and fantastical shapes.

When a new book comes out, I have to come up with at least 5 good interviews (and maybe as many good blogs, but this post is about interviews). If someone Googles or Bings (or whatever search engine they may be using) Faith Hunter, it should be easy for that reader to find interviews that tell them something new at every site. If they learn the same thing in every place, they’ll stop after the second try. I want them to keep digging, like a stalker on the hunt, because I want them to talk about my books, about me, and about my fantasy world. Talk equals sales, even if it’s controversial talk. In fact, controversy is good for sales.

Therefore, I have to write different (unique, if possible) interviews. Sounds easy, right? I mean, how hard could it be? Uhhh. Well. It’s hard. Keeping each interview-moment fresh is a lot of work. It’s dang hard to keep them original and unique and still be true to the real me. And the real AKA. And the new AKA I’m working on, who might be a man. Shesh.

Frankly, I’m just not that interesting. I work. A lot. I play in ways that the average reader may find mildly horrifying. ( You’re going to strap yourself into that? {small kayak} And you’re going to go down that? {Class III river} ) They might read about it, but they aren’t going to have associations or familiarity with my recreation. Oh. And I make jewelry. Not an interesting activity, though the products that result might be. Yet, despite my humdrum (or cold/wet/insane) life, I have to find ways to make readers of an interview or blog want to learn more about me and my characters. That is the job of the PR interview moment.

In breaking down the average interview, I’ve taken four main routes, and have links to online versions to illustrate each.

1. The standard authorial interview (with a few twists) . IGMS  

2. The standard *Character* interview. This link is to a Chinese portrait interview, which is a twisted version of the traditional character interview: BBB  . I covered Chinese portraits in part 4 of this series — Part 4  

3. The interview of either of the above with a slant based on the genre of the site or magazine. The next link is one with a romantic slant, as the readership of the site is predominantly female, and readership is romance oriented.  Fresh Fiction.

4. The transcript of a radio talk show with the AKA and me, or with Jane Yellowrock and Beast. See above link.

Her’s how I see the break-down.

The standard authorial interview is introductory. It seeks to help the reader find common ground with a writer, and give a vista into the writer’s life and work. Common questions are, “How did you get started writing?” “Why write fantasy (mystery, thrillers, romance) and not something more high-brow and literary?” “What (and who) do you like to read?” “How long does it take to write a book?” “Tell us about your creative schedule.” “What kind of higher ed prepared you to become a writer?” “How did you first get published?”

But the standard interview can also be slanted for the site. A site for romance readers will be geared to the writer’s or the character’s romance life with questions like, “What kind of man do you personally like? Tall, dark, and handsome or blonde and blue eyed surfer boy?” (I usually come back with, “I’m short. All men are tall. And as long as they make me laugh, I like ’em.”) “Do you work out your sex scenes with a partner?” (Gack!) “Do you like traditional romantic men (roses and chocolates and romantic dinners) or a less traditional man (one who takes you to the rodeo or ice skating)?” “Do you like the sexy bad boy or the honorable good man?” (Yes, I’ve been asked versions of these. No I will not take you to the sites.)  🙂

A site for writers will be geared for readers who write. The opening questions may be the same, but the ones that are geared for the writing readership are apt to be: “When you create a new world how do you keep track of the world building?” “What do you do about writer’s block?” “What advice do you have for the unpublished writer?”

I am still waiting to be asked to interview for a weapons’ site, and I can foresee questions like, “Do you own your own handloading equipment?” “Do you have a preference for Walthers or S&Ws?” “What’s your favorite weapon?” “Do you hunt?” “Do you fish?” “What’s your favorite beer?” “I hear you like cigars. What do you smoke?” “How often do you go for target practice?” And honestly, I’ll have to work to be even mildly interesting on that one.

The standard character interview is actually easier. A character can be snarky, whereas the writer has to control herself. Jane Yellowrock and Beast can argue, take potshots at each other and the interviewer, can insult their writer, and Beast can even growl or snort at questions she doesn’t like. Thorn St.Croix can talk about her battles and her men and her angels and her sex life (or lack thereof) a lot easier than I can about my own.

I admit to a preference for the character interview because if I interest the reader in my series, it’s a sale. If I interest them in me … not so much.

The radio talk show transcript version of the interview allows you to do all of the above, but add in stage directions. (Beast yawned.) (She grabbed her knives in threat.) (He rolled his eyes.) It reads a bit more like fiction, and shows character interaction a lot better than the usual interview. I am working on one now (only in my head, so far) where an interviewer is talking to Jane Yellowrock, Beast, and me. Together. I’ve discovered that Beast doesn’t like me, which was a peculiar discovery. I’m not quite sure how to take that.

When it comes to blogs, I’ve often taken interviews and twisted them into prose. First, it’s easier than trying to come up with new blogs, and second, it gives you two uses for your work, rather than just one, with only a bit of rewriting.

There are more and different types of interviews, but these are the ones I use, and twist, and shake up, to keep my web presence fresh. Next week, either Press Kits, or bios.


27 comments to PR Part 6

  • Great point about character interviews being more likely to lead to sales. I’ll keep that in mind! Thanks.

  • I clearly need to give the interviews I do more thought. I love the idea of having fans hunt for more and more with each interview given. Great thought, and one I will keep in mind as I start to ramp up publicity for Thieftaker. As always, thanks for a great post.

  • Faith,
    I like the idea of different interviews. I never understood the ‘same old story’ interviews as a reader and have done exactly what you described, left he site/closed the browser.

    AJ is right, the character interview does sound key. I’ve written that down. Or will this be in HTWMW 2? LOL


  • I’ve never done a character interview but after reading your whole PR series, they sure seem like they’d be a lot more fun to do and would generate more sales. Thanks for this.

  • Awesome post, Faith! This is something I never really thought about before. I guess being unpub’d has kept that out of my mind.

    Question, You say that you want to make each interview different so the fan will learn new “nuggets” each time. How do you know what to hold back in an interview? Do you hold specific info back or just reveal different aspects of yours/your character’s life? Could you give more detail to this idea?

    Finally, have you ever interviewed one of your characters with the intent of learning mroe about them? I see you said that you learned something about Beast by doing this. Is this something that you think you will do more often with your characters to use a Character Building exercise?

  • That’s a very good idea, making sure to keep things fresh. I know I can be a repetitive person sometimes (but this probably goes back to your talk about being “on”). Sometimes out of nervousness, too. And then I feel boring.

    (Speaking of which, I really ought to call Academie Duello to cash in my voucher for swordfighting class…)

  • Oh, Faith you are so good at doing these.

    JC and I are just awful at marketing (really bad). We do okay once we agree to an interview, but we haven’t done one in years. We almost never do signings . . . we do maybe one convention every two years–and sitting on panels is torture. Our agent just bangs his head on the desk slowly.

    And we have a number of writers friends who are awesome at marketing. But this is one area where we’re both weak.

  • Monique

    I’m unpublished, so right now I’m more focused on query letters, agents and how to make a sale, rather than on promotion — but even so, I’m finding these posts fascinating. I had no idea how much I didn’t know about PR… and I ran a business for 15 years. Thanks so much for showing us these alternatives; I very much hope to need this info in the future. 🙂

  • So much good advice! I, like a lot of the others, am still working on selling a book, but this gives me ideas on how to market, too. Not to mention the fact that thinking about sitting my characters down for an interview is a great character building exercise. Although one character hates the press and so he probably wouldn’t offer much. Lots of withering looks and disdain! 🙂

  • AJ — the character interview is a *lot* more fun too. It’s creative, rather than frustrating. And it’s also easy to chage up with each book, because a character’s life likely changes between books more than a writer’s life does.

    David, I got that idea from Kim Harrison. She holds things back, to be revealed a bit at a time. She is also quick to thank an interviewer for coming up with a new or unusual question, which she then will use in other interviews — but always with a twist.

  • NGDave, the opening questions in any interview are usually less interesting than the later questions in an interview. Next book, I’ll be thinking about kicky ways to open each interview, to grab readers, then put the less interesting things in the middle and close with a killer answer. Just like a story arc. Of course, this only works with written interviews, or with PodCasts where I can propose questions in advance.

    Stuart, I’d like to see one done in character voice on your PodCast. Hey — put the link here. Maybe our readers would like to hear some of them!

  • Mark you said >>Question, You say that you want to make each interview different so the fan will learn new “nuggets” each time. How do you know what to hold back in an interview? Do you hold specific info back or just reveal different aspects of yours/your character’s life? Could you give more detail to this idea?

    Kim Harrison is better at that than I am, but she is a marketing whiz. I have found that making lists of tidbits of info about myself or my character in advance, and then checking them off helps. Also, I remember to give *new* info about Jane or me. For instance, as something new I might say, “I got back on a horse last week for the first time in 20 years. I was wearing a brand new pair of boots (happily they had a riding heel). But I don’t think Luccheses are actually meant for contact with horse flesh. Yeah — Jane and I wear the same kind of boots!” Like that. If Jane was giving the interview, I might say something like, “My writer and I wear the same kind of boots, Luccheses, which are handmade in Brazil. That idiot wore hers *horseback riding* last week. Shesh. Idiot.”

    This gives a chance for me add, in another interview, something like, “My creator and I wear the same kind of boots, Luccheses, and she has 5 pairs. She only gave me 3 pairs. Totally not fair. Mine don’t even cost her anything.” That is kind of tidbit you can hold back, building on a previous interview.

    >>Finally, have you ever interviewed one of your characters with the intent of learning more about them? I see you said that you learned something about Beast by doing this. Is this something that you think you will do more often with your characters to use a Character Building exercise?

    I haven’t done that, but it sounds like fun. And I could hold the info gleaned for my next interview!

  • Laura – you take swordfighting??? Not boring at all! That is something you could build on for an interview, keep an interesting story to tell in one, talk abou tdifferent kinds of grips and stances in another, perhaps share a nice story about an interesting scar…

  • Barb, I hate *on camera* live or filmed interviews. I am not good at them, and I detest the way I look and act and all my own little mannerisms that I am forced to see when on film. That is part of being human and self-conscious, but it still bothers me.

    And I have begun to insist on seeing some of the questions up front for on-camera interveiws, at least the opening questions. I started that when one idiot interviewer asked me about writing romance. She had not read my work, not even read the book cover. But I *love* online written interviews. I can shine there!

    As to marketing, I am learning. My agent Lucienne, suggested that I hire a marketing PR group, and I had a meeting with one last week, a new one, who did a *lot* of research into what I write, how my ads worked, how my website worked to draw in new readers, how my facebook pages worked, my Amazon author page worked. The amount of research they did was amazing! They showed me ways they could track my ads, interviews, and giveaways to see the effectiveness of them. They told me which sites I had interviewed on had good traffic and which were actually a waste of my time. They also gave me goals for the process, saying, “We want to see your FB membership grow to 5,000 by the time the next book goes out. And here’s how we think we can do it.” Frankly, I was really surprised. It was *way* better tactics than the usual PR firm, with a *slam, bam, give me money, ma’am,* attitude. And I saw a 250 count increase in my website’s subscriber traffic from one ad they did for me. For the first time, I think PR firms (ones dedicated to writers, who are market and Internet savvy) are a smart idea. And yes, I’m going with the firm. 🙂

  • Monique, PR has changed drastically in the last 2 years. If your PR skills don’t include the ability to track the effectiveness of any PR process, then you haven’t gained anything by the time, money, and effort you have spent. And even with those skills, you have to take the time to find ways to make your character (and yourself) interesting to readers. For instance, my AKA, Gwen, and I argue on Facebook often. Fans adore it! The PR people noted that, and suggested that I do a lot more of it. They also suggested a minimum of times that I need to update the front page of my webpage per week, based on the way Internet search engines work. Which was weird! I had no idea!

  • Pea Emily, be sure to hang onto the *self-character-interviews* for use as PR later!

  • So what is minimum number of times that the front page of a website needs to be updated? Or is that a trade secret?

    Actually, the point I was originally going to make was that this is a great essay about how to HANDLE things once the interviews are in place/scheduled/etc, but I’d love to hear you talk about how you LAND those interviews in the first place. Unless that’s the subject of next weeks post…

  • Edmund, I’ll ask permission to give away that one tidbit.

    Getting interviews is not as hard as you might think, *if* you have a major NYC pub house. It is harder if you have a small house. Get a list of sites your PR person sent copies for review. Contact them and ask if they might want to do an interview. Include a few Q&A examples, so they know they are getting a good interview candidate. If you don’t have a major NYC pub, and if you don’t have a great PR firm, you have do a lot of research. Google things like review, books, fantasy, interview, things like that. Then offer to send them a book for review, and tell them you are willing to do an interview. Some sites will be small and actually not worth your time, and if you are Internet and market savvy you can skip them for larger sites. (My problem on PR on Mercy Blade was that I didn’t know the answer to which sites were good and which were small. The PR people I am using now, know that. Hmmm. I wonder if they can generate a list of teh good ones for me…)

  • Mike says: Update the front page of your website *at least* 2 times a week, to attract the attention of search robots and drive your site closer to the top of the most used sites.

  • Faith, our show doesn’t do interviews, but we have had a guest on (you may have heard of him — A.J. Hartley). It wasn’t an interview but rather we had him sit in on our main topic discussion (which was tailored to his expertise) and he gave a short reading from Act of Will. You can listen to it here –

  • Faith, I start “Taste of the Renaissance: Intro to Swordplay” in February. But I’m looking forward to it – if nothing else, it’s research. 😀 Eventually, I also want to take the Falconry class.

    As for feeling boring, that tends to be because my life has very few extras in it right now: work, writing, reading, gym time. This will substitute out my Tuesday and Thursday workouts, for a month at least.

  • Stuart, (tapping fingers on chin) I believe I have heard of him. 🙂

    Laura, it sounds wonderful! And useful. I am totally intrigued.

  • Lance Barron

    Faith, the idea of the character interiew is fascinating. While I can see the value of this interview for PR purposes; also here in the unpublished — or pre-published — state, it can be used to be sure your characters are fully 3D. Thanks.

  • bonesweetbone

    I didn’t know there was so much PR involved! Or how many avenues there were for it!

    I know you mentioned dealing more with your readers on forums etc. in another post, but this one reminded me a lot of one of my favorite authors who networks on one of the LiveJournal communities for her books. The community and its members have grown infamous on the internet (in a good way, not a bad one), which has generated a good deal of attention for the series to the degree that they’re frequently brought up in reviews and posts on the series, which I find amusing. It’s amazing what a fan base can do, too!

  • Bone – which LJ community?

  • Yes, Lance, It dies make a great way to get to know your characters!

    BsweetB, there is also the Community Board on Charlaine Harris’ website, where fans can start and join threads about other writers. IN fact, the Puddy Tats there are very active about Jane Yellowrock! And yes — fans sell books, way mroe than publishing houses.

    And I second Laura, which LJ?

  • bonesweetbone

    Here’s a link.

    It’s a community for Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series. It’s named after one of the countries in her books. Some of the entries can be a little silly, but it’s an incredibly active community.