PR Success – PR Failure Part 3


Today’s post is about one thing—Interviews.

Technically, today’s post should be about con parties and next week should start with interviews, however, I have seldom been accused of being linear in thought (except when writing) so I’m doing it backward. Parties will be later.

When a publisher releases a writer’s all important first book, there will be requests for interviews, most from Internet sites, of course, but also possibly from the publisher, the PR department, the local newspaper, local radio, etc.. And there is the whole author’s website self-interview and bio that need to be considered. With the Internet’s quick access and search engines, a new fan can go from site to site and read interviews fast, therefore, one needs to know how to structure interviews in such a way as to keep each one fresh and new, without getting so distantly off track that each one sounds like a different person.

There are several types of interviews, among them: Author Q&A, MC (main character) Q&A, Chinese Portraits.

I am going to cover Author Q&A extensively and MC Q&A not at all (because I think that kind will be obvious from the Author Q &A). I’ll cover Chinese portrait in next week’s post. Yeah, I know it’s supposed to be about parties, but you’ll have to wait for that one!

In an author Q&A,  the interviewer’s point is to learn about the author, how the writer feels about her work and her characters, with a strong emphasis on who the author is. They can be very personal, mostly about the literary stuff, or a combo. In my opinion, the best have a little of both: Below is an interview that David posted on his website with the release of Skinwalker. He hadn’t read the book, so he was going in blind. However, knowing me personally allowed him to ask specific questions, ones that pertain to my writing style, history, and personality, which is not something a writer gets very often in an interviewer. If he hadn’t known me at all, I might have suggested some questions to him (I’ve found that most interviewers will accept such suggestions and run with them). I will insert my comments in parentheses and underlined to set them apart from the interview itself.

DBC—You have a new book coming out July 8th, the first book in a new project.  Tell us about SKINWALKER.

FH—( David opens with the project, not the writer, series, or anything personal. An open ended, broad question gives a writer to a chance to tell most anything she wants and to direct the reader where she wants to go.) Jane Yellowrock is a Cherokee in an alternate reality, current time, in a world with technology and magic, humans and nonhumans, and all the conflict that brings. (Intro to character, world, and setting. Though I don’t mention urban fantasy, that is what I’m describing.) A strong heroine with unusual talents, Jane is a traveling vamp hunter. She is also the last of her kind—a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who [can] transform into any creature if she has sufficient genetic material.  However, Jane has a difference never mentioned in the old skinwalker lore. She has another soul inside with her, the soul of a Beast who is her friend, and, perhaps, also her enemy. Beast has her own motives, memories, and her own agenda. Together, in human and nonhuman form, they hunt rogue vampires for a living. (All the above pertains to the main character, and what sets her apart from run-of-the-mill UF characters.)

In Skinwalker, the first of the series, Jane is contracted by the first sane vampire she has ever met (Pertains to world building, conflict, and series direction) to take out a rogue vamp who is terrorizing the city, killing vamps and tourists. Authorized by the vampire council of New Orleans (see comment above) to kill one of their own, she discovers that the very ones who hired her may be, not only her employers, but her greatest enemies as well; Jane isn’t completely human, and she elicits a peculiar, and dangerous, reaction in vamps, bringing out their predatory reactions. (Setting, main plot arc, and conflict.)

She is a singularity in her world, (Pertains to characters) one peopled with blood-sucking predators, some who are her employers, some who want her dead, and one who is something very different from the creature she thought she would be hunting. (Pertains to conflict.) Skinwalker is a blend of genres: alternate reality, fantasy, action adventure, thrillers, and romance against the backdrop of New Orleans. (Marketing statement.)

DBC—Are other volumes planned for the series?  Can you offer us some tidbits about what Jane will face next?

(This question takes us into the future—great for marketing a series.) In BloodCross, Jane’s contract with the Vampire Council of New Orleans is extended as she hunts for a master vamp who is turning humans and letting the vamps roam free: insane, violent, seeking blood meals and death. Allowing new vamps to do so is against the Vampira Carta, the rules by which vamps live and die. On the way to finding the guilty vamp, she is helped by Molly, her best friend and a witch, the local cops, and the blood servant of the most powerful vamp in the city. There’s a bit of romance, a lot of action, and some humor! (This gave me a chance to draw the potential reader in, and show them that the character and series have legs.)

DBC—The protagonist of your most recent series (BLOODRING, SERAPHS, HOST), 
Thorn St. Croix, is, like Jane Yellowrock, a strong woman with a secret that could get her in a good deal of trouble.  It seems you’re  drawn to such characters.  Can you tell us what it is about them from a writer’s perspective that you like? 

(The first two statements show the reader that Skinwalker isn’t a first book. However, with a bit of restructuring, it could be used for a first book too. The question at the end takes the emphasis off the books and puts it on the writer.) Jane Yellowrock and Thorn St. Croix are different in physical description, personality, and worlds, yet both have secrets which force them to make their way alone, in danger, and seeking … refuge. However, any time they think they have found sanctuary, they are yanked into danger. They … are warriors, and … singularities in their worlds. As a writer, the fact that both are in hiding and neither has a haven is important. It forces them constantly into conflict, on edge, and from a writer’s viewpoint, that is a great character. There is much to work with.

DBC—Before you began writing fantasy you wrote thrillers and mysteries quite successfully.  What have you found to be the biggest differences  among the various genres?  Is writing a book the same no matter where it’s shelved, or do you have to take a different approach with each 
type of book?

FH—(Now we are well into the writer-the-person questions.) David, I feel so different when I write fantasy. … While I am writing a fantasy scene, I have different emotions from when I turn on Gwen and write a mystery scene. When I write mystery, I outline extensively, I plan ahead, I work to keep it all lined up and neat. I am more analytical and poised and thorough. When I write fantasy, I plow through it more, like a bull with his head down, or maybe a lion in a feeding frenzy, claws out and attacking. I am full of angst and a wildness that I can’t explain, except to say that the work seems to possess me as opposed to my possessing the work. Not to say that my emotions totally take me away, no. But the story and the characters take me away. It is liberating in so many ways!

DBC—When you’re not writing you like to make jewelry and paddle down whitewater rivers.  These activities seem to show up in your books with some frequency.  How much of you and your own experiences do you put into your lead characters?

FH— (Writer-the-person question.) Not as much as you might think. My characters are fighters, warriors, and in danger constantly. I am pretty … well … not any of that. Though I admit I’d like to create a character in Thorn’s world who is a river mage and gathers energy by kayaking down snow-melt rivers! Whoowhoo!

DBC: If your Skinwalker / Jane Yellowrock series had a theme song, what would it be?

FH: The drum solo WipeOut (she said with a cheeky grin) an AmIn flute playing in the background.

DBC—Ok, to close how about a few character word associations?

Suuweeeet! (rubs hands together in expectation) But I have to do more than one word for each. Hey, I’m a novelist, not a poet! Go!

  1. Jane Yellowrock: Conflicted. Lonely. Stubborn. Violent. Determined. Gritty. Loyal. Tall. Dude, she’s six feet tall!
  2. Whitewater: The one place I’m free. (I kayak Class IIs and IIIs and spend my limited free time on rivers and big creeks. Have I said that yet?)
  3. Magical Words: The best webblog for writers and readers of fantasy— Check it out!
  4. Molly Trueblood: Fierce. Indomitable. Steady. Motherly. I love her!
  5. Tea: Snob. I adore teas and cannot live (or write) without them. Jane Yellowrock is a tea snob. Which is very convenient for researching her hobbies.
  6. Chocolate: Addictive. There are lovely, chocolate-flavored teas. Not with additive flavor, but with the scent/taste in the leaves themselves. Yum.
  7. Passion: Writing. Reading. My hubby. Tea. Friends. Whitewater. Kayaking. History. Ancient writings. Prophecy. People watching. Beer. I could go on (she said with that cheeky grin.)
  8. Future: Unlimited. Looking for a bestseller. I have a feeling that Jane Yellowrock might take me there!

Faith Hunter


10 comments to PR Success – PR Failure Part 3

  • Great tips, Faith. You sound so composed and informative! My interviews are always utter spaz-fests.

  • Unicorn

    Interviews. Shiver. The prospect has always scared me. I am an introvert, and that is the understatement of the year. But you make them sound a LOT easier. I’ll just be so happy if one day my story is good enough for someone to interview me about it…
    Okay, now back to the climax of my WIP, which I have been putting off for days because I’ve been working on this project a long time and really don’t want to mess it up, so with all those loose ends to tie up, the climax seems a bit daunting. Off topic, I know. Sorry.
    Thanks for the post, and now I’m REALLY drooling after the Jane Yellowrock novels. Dear Santa…

  • AJ, you have never, for one moment in your life, been a spaz of any kind. And even if you did feel spazzy, you have that lovely English lilt that says, “I am far smarter than you and better educated than you. So there.” It just knocks me off my feet. (Don’t tell my hubby or your wife.) And I know the other ladies who read and listen to you feel the same way.

    Unicorn, you can do this! And you can finish the climax. Go go go!

  • Great post. Can’t think of anything specific to say. My brain’s a bit fried at the moment — I just drove to PA for the holidays. Almost nine hours. But I wanted to say Hi. Hi. 😛 Happy Holidays to all!

  • This was very fun to read, Faith. Good tips … and great specificity.

    Interviews scare me because I always feel caught off guard, and then after I feel like I flubbed it and I missed some important detail. At least, that’s what it’s felt like the few times I’ve been interviewed for various things. (But it’s gonna be up on YouTube forever, so I just have to live with it, I guess.)

    Which begs the question … what kind of interview was this? In person? Over the phone/Skype? Or was it by e-mail or even chat, where you might have had a chance to think about your answer? And what is the typical interview medium you encounter?

    And for us nervous people, would you recommend that we rehearse this stuff first?

  • Hi Stuart! MC and HH to you and yours!

    Moria, Last question first — YES. Assume your interviewer has not had time to read your book. Provide the following: Short bio, pic, name and short description of your book. THEN! Come up with possible questions and send them to the interviewer, with a short sweet note, thanking them for the opportunity to interview. And telling them that if time falls short, you have a provided a few questions to get him started. I’ve never had anyone get upset by this. (But the sweet note is important!)

    This interview was written, emailed questions, which is the most common type of interview today because most things are electronic. And this gives you lots of time to reflect!

    The most typical interview is the author Q&A. In fact, I make a point to compare all my interviews to make sure there is little that is repetative in them.

    Now! News from me on the PR front…

  • Unicorn

    Congratulations Faith!! So glad for you! And thanks for the kind words.
    P. S. If “Squeeeeee” is not a word, it should be.

  • mudepoz

    Whoohoo Faith, that is FANTASTIC!

    Interviews: I wonder how much of this is a personality thing. I get interviewed a lot. Radio, TV, magazines. Dog, science and gardening related. Best one for some research I did on penguin genetics. Granted, not PR per se, but people know me. Actually, Faith saw one TV interview. That day I had three stations after me and I ran from others. Too much time. It was just for an earthquake sensing dog. In WI.

    I enjoy it. I don’t go out of my way to find the opportunity, but even with a Mickey Mouse voice, I guess I give good soundbites. Now granted, a bad interviewer will really mess up what could be a strong piece.

    Maybe I am good at self-aggrandizing. Hell, even my dogs have an agent. They make more money than I do.

  • Thank you Unicorn. And I agree. Squeeeee says so much!

    Mud, thank you. I’ll get to hear your Micky Mouse for the first time voice at ConCarolinas this year! It is going to be great to meet so many MW pals in person!

  • Congrats on the review, Faith. Just fantastic. And it’s fun to see this interview again. Helpful, too. I’ll be sure to come up with new questions for the interview publicizing MERCY BLADE.