PR Success – PR Failure Part 4

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In my last few posts of last year, I was writing about PR, and the good/bad/and ugly of book promotions.

Before I get to parties and how they can improve your career, I wanted to do a bit more on Interviews, because they are so very important. Mercy Blade, the 3rd Jane Yellowrock novel came out yesterday. There hasn’t been a lot of pub hoopla, no tours, no publisher’s promo. But there have been a lot of requests for interviews, a number of reviews (some 5 star, some 4 star and the usual rare, “I hate these books. I don’t understand them,” or “I hate these books. There’s no romance in them,” reviews.) These last I ignore. In fact I seldom read reviews at all. But I work really hard at interviews, trying to keep new info in each, tidbits tossed out that keep fans (hopefully) hunting and hoping for more.

Before I start in on today’s topic, I want to touch back on the question Moira posed in the coments to the PR post on interviews, back on the 22nd of December 2010. (Moira, you are choosing a new pen name – have you done that yet?) Below is the question and the simple answer, and then a bit more I wanted to add last time and didn’t feel I had time.

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

Faith — YES. Assume your interviewer has not had time to read your book.

In any on-air, or real-time interview, awful things can happen. The interviewer may not have read your book. The interviewer may have certain assumptions about you, your book, and your readership. One of the worst on-air interviews I ever had was as the AKA, Gwen Hunter, with a woman interviewer, who thought I wrote romance. She had not read the book, researched the book, or even looked at the book to see what it was about. Her first question was, “So what is a romance book?”

Even if I had written a romance book, that question would have been an awful one! My answer was a problem too, because I stuttered around for about 90 seconds trying to answer, when it hit me what she thought. And then I said, “But I don’t write romance. I write thrillers, and this one (holds up book to camera) is a medical thriller.” And the poor interviewer fell apart. She had no idea what to ask me. It was a dreadful interview. Since, I’ve learned to prepare for any non-print interview with some pat, well-prepared answers, comments, and monologues. That preparation has saved the day a few times.

For any interview, 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. Tell them that if time falls short, you have a provided a few questions to get them started. I’ve never had anyone get upset by this. (But the sweet note is important!)

Okay – on to the Chinese portrait interview. My French Publisher has been most gracious in introducing me to the French urban fantasy readers, and one thing they do is ask their America writers to do is a special kind of interview called a Chinese portrait. When I first saw the questions, I was dismayed. I had never seen such a thing. But after spending most one day on it, I realised it is a kind of psychological interview, and I fell in love with it, with its depths, and its intensity and it’s poetry. In fact, I am planning a new Chinese portrait from Jane Yellowrock’s, and her Beast’s POV, which will be a lot of fun! Until then, here are my own, a short one for the publisher’s print PR and a longer one for the website.

Chinese portrait,  Short version, of Faith Hunter

 If you were a quality?

I would aspire to be forgiveness.

If you were a flaw?

I would be misplaced anger, with which I still struggle.

If you were a work of art?

An antique book, well kept, handmade, on rich paper, written by hand in ink made from berries and blood.

If you were a sound?

I would be the sound of rushing water, speeding through a crevice, over boulders and stones and downward, in a whitewater roar of purposeful joy.

If you were a song/music?

Whale song. Full of longing.

If you were a word?

I would be persistent. Of course, when I was growing up, I was told that persistence was the Devil’s finest quality, so perhaps that isn’t such a grand word to claim after all.

If you were a book?

Never just one. I would be a library of books.

If you were a motto/a quotation?

“To be, or not to be. That is the question.”

Each choice I make, each thought I allow and pursue, shapes me into the person I am to be.

If you were a movie?

A Long Kiss Goodnight, 1996, with Geena Davis and Samuel L Jackson.

If you were a time period?

I would be the entire history of man, hidden in the earth and written on stone.

If you were a personage of fiction?

Lestat.

If you were an animal?

A whale, a dolphin, or a porpoise. Or a puma. Or a well-loved and pampered dog. Hmmm.

If you were a mythological being or supernatural creature?

I would be a fire mage. There is so much energy in fire and magic. Of course, I would want a great deal of control over my power!

Faith Hunter yada yada yada 

Chinese portrait, Long version, of Faith Hunter

If you were a quality?

I don’t know what quality I might be today, but I would aspire to be forgiveness. There can be no peace without forgiveness, no true love without forgiveness. No spiritual healing without forgiveness. I forgive others, but it is myself who benefits, always.

If you were a flaw?

I would be misplaced anger. While I’ve grown through it (for the most part) I was an angry child and an angry young woman, feeling that I had to fight injustice and stand up in the face of perceived evil, no matter the cost. And while I still will take a stand, I have learned to pause before giving in to my instant reactions, to think and evaluate before firing back with verbal warfare. And often I will find a better way, better words, better bridges between injustice and healing, between my anger and peace. But anger is still my flaw.

If you were a work of art?

I instantly think of far too many things that I would hope to be. First, an antique book, well kept, handmade, on rich paper, written by hand in ink made from berries and blood. And hopefully, the words within would bring joy to someone, somewhere. Second and third I would be carved stone and blown glass, one strong and nearly indestructible, the other fragile and brittle but wonderfully malleable when thrown into a flame. Fourth, there is nothing more lovely than a beautiful necklace, constructed out of disparate materials, each exquisite on its own, each enhanced by the others, to become a single piece, which is what I would wish my life to be. I am not beautiful, but life has shaped me as a gem cutter facets rubies, as a glassblower shapes and shades dull glass into vases. Life has made me so much more than I might have been.

If you were a sound?

Once, when I was very young, it might have been the sound of fire, crackling, consuming, destroying. Now, I would be the sound of rushing water, speeding through a crevice, over boulders and stones and downward, in a whitewater roar of purposeful joy.

If you were a song/music?

Whale song. Full of longing.

If you were a word?

I would be persistent. Of course, when I was growing up, I was told that persistence was the Devil’s finest quality, so perhaps that isn’t such a grand word to claim after all.

If you were a book?

Just one? Not fair at all. I would want to be a library of books. I used to ride my bicycle to the county library and lose myself in the stacks. And I read everything! Let me be a library, please!

If you were a motto/a quotation?

“To be, or not to be. That is the question.”

Each choice I make, each thought I allow and pursue, shapes me into the person I am to be.

If you were a movie?

A Long Kiss Goodnight, 1996, with Geena Davis and Samuel L Jackson. The character played by Genna was tough and capable, and yet, that wasn’t enough. She wanted more. She remade herself and became the person she really wanted to be. Of course, she was still pretty tough, but love gave her the strength she had lacked in her previous life. That movie resonated with me, and is one of the few I’d watch again. Or be.

If you were a time period?

I would be the history of man, hidden in the earth and written on stone. And I’d leave more evidence as to who humans are, and where such strange sentient beings came from. I love archaeology shows, especially ones that point to humans as being so much more than we have ever imagined. So if I were a time period, I’d leave me more clues. I want to know more!

If you were a personage of fiction?

Lestat.

If you were an animal?

This question takes me into my dreams. Many people dream of flight. I dream of being able to breathe underwater, of being able to swim deep and far, breathing in the water that cleanses and supports and provides me food. Yet, I would want to have access to the world of man. So, though I write of big-cats and dream of fish, I would be a whale, a dolphin, or a porpoise.

My husband and I took our 12 foot-long, flat-water kayaks out to the Atlantic, into an island sound last year, in the season when the porpoises were mating. Most of the time they stayed fifty or a hundred feet away. But one magical day, they swam with our boats.

If you were a mythological being or supernatural creature?

After all the water comments, I think my answer to this one sounds odd, but, I would be a fire mage. There is so much energy in fire and magic. Of course, I would want a great deal of control over my power!

If you were a Chinese portrait

This series questions, while seemingly simple and innocent, drew something deep out of me. Perhaps I gave too much. Or perhaps I didn’t delve quite as deeply as I might have into the cuts made by the questions. But I found them oddly inspirational, and peace-inducing. I do thank you for allowing me to share. 

Faith Hunter
FaithHunter.Net
GwenHunter.Com

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21 comments to PR Success – PR Failure Part 4

  • mudepoz

    This is gorgeous. I’m still confused as to the Chinese tag, but your responses are beautiful. So in your long version, no dogs? Sheesh. If I came back it would be as a dog in my house. Belated congrats on MB birthday! Looking forward to seeing Beast and Jane (See Dick run…um, no). However, how would Gwen’s differ?

  • I’ve always thought that Chinese portraits (and this is the first time that I’ve heard them called that, although I’ve seen the device in multiple places) read like poetry. I’m not much of a poet, but I aspire to create lyrical answers like yours!

  • I’ve yet to be subjected to an interview for my writing, but I have done them for theater, and I have been the interviewer before. These are trying experiences for everybody — even those who do them all the time feel a bit nervous. You have to be “on” and that takes concentration. You’re paying attention to your word choices as they’re coming out. If the interview is live, you can’t go back and change things. And, in today’s culture, we all have seen how one wrong word can go viral on the internet. That’s a lot of pressure. Sheesh! Why do we do these things anyway? 😉

  • These are trying experiences for everybody — even those who do them all the time feel a bit nervous. You have to be “on” and that takes concentration. You’re paying attention to your word choices as they’re coming out.

    I was asked to interview on camera for a writers’ series by SC-ETV a while back. Some weeks later, after the editing was done, they sent me a DVD copy of the interview and to my horror, I realized I’d used the word “tricky” over and over. And over. *headdesk*

  • Love this style of interview. It allows for great insight into the personality of the person.

    Favorite answer —-> “If you were a work of art?

    An antique book, well kept, handmade, on rich paper, written by hand in ink made from berries and blood.”

  • Mud, thank you for teh kind words. Mercy Blade is out, to a steady bit of hoopla generated by my readers, fans, and pals here at MW. Numbers are interesting, and I’ll know more on Friday how it did across the nation when Bookscan numbers are released.

    Hmmm. Yeah, I left the dogs out of the long one, didn’t I? Not sure why. And I’m not sure why it’s called a Chinese portrait. The questions were odd from a typical-interview standpoint, but drew something unexpected out of me.

    Gwen’s would have been much more sharky, I think.
    Hey! Not so! I’m nice, Faith! I am, dang it!
    Not as nice as me. Face it — you are very bossy, Gwen.
    (Gwen lifts nose in air) Witch. Evil little witch.

  • *waves* Moira here. Or rather, the Writer Formerly Known as Moira. 😀 I’m sticking with my real name for now – L.S. Taylor. “Official” decision to wait on agent.

    Being “on” scares me. Except that’s something I’m specifically trying to harness right now – the power of being on, and recognizing what times of the day I function better. A good night’s sleep does wonders, too.

    The Chinese Portrait is beautiful. I agree with Mindy – it definitely reads like poetry. Food for thought!

  • Mindy, you are too kind! And oddly, your word poetry (and the initial lack of it) was part of the problem.
    I was *very* frustrated at first, as my answers were disjointed and had no flow. They sounded as confused as I felt at the questions. So I slept on it, telling myself, just as I fell asleep, to think and feel deeply and to be honest. To find some *poetry* (your word) in the answers. The next day, I revised and rewrote and tossed a lot of original answers. Overall, I ended up being satisfied.

    Stuart, Misty, yeah, one little word can trip you up horribly. I missused *and* overused a word in an interview once (I think it was venue, and I knew better, but nerves made my brain go on the fritz) and when I saw the interview I was horrified. This was before YouTube. So maybe it will not make it to posterity. I can hope.

    Mark, thank you. I admit that answer was my favorite. I was finished with the answer with I wrote, “ink made from berries,” and my muse hollered up in a drunken haze, “and blood, you idiot!” He is an awful beast, but he has really good instincts.

  • Thank you Moira/Laura. (I’ll try to remember, but it takes my brain a while to get names right. Mama dropped me on my head when I was a baby. I think it damaged the *remembers names* part of my frontal lobes. :) )

    I’ve learned that when I have be *on* I need a good bit of caffeine and a LOT of protein. And yes, a good night’s sleep does wonders. The last time I had to speak in NYC was at a writers symposium and I was on with Charlaine Harris. I planned well, slept well, and I was great! But I admit that I am not great often! Most times I settle for okay and hope for *not snarky*.

  • Wow. Your answers are wonderful.

    But I don’t think I could do this. I’d get irritated, as I would with the interviewer who had been too lazy and unprofessional to see what kind of book I’d written.

    Does my anger have to be considered ‘misplaced’?

  • I was once interviewed on TV by someone who thought I wrote children’s books, because my first novel was called Children of Amarid. She also thought the book was called “Children of the Amarid.” I set her straight before the interview on both scores. Or thought I did. The camera went on, and she said “Welcome back. Today I’m joined by children’s author David B. Coe, author of “The Children of the Amarid.” I wanted to turn invisible.

    I love the Chinese interview, although I’m with A.J. — I could never come up with answers as fluid and lovely as yours. On the other hand, I love live interviews (when the interviewer isn’t a moron). I do pretty well thinking on my feet, and see interviews as a challenge, a game of a sort.

  • Faith, wonderful. At risk of sounding like a black-water echo, your answers were lyrical. Wow. Do you mind if we copy n paste and work out our own Chinese Portrait?

    @ David – How did the rest of the interview go if she said you were a children’s author? Can you work around that?

    Live interviews sound nerve-racking. Maybe it’s just safer to not to do them. I guess it’s not an issue right now.

    -NGD

  • I like the idea of a psychological interview; it’s kind of like a Rorschach test: what do YOU see in this? Very revealing.

    My first TV interview wasn’t quite as bad as the one you described. The person who booked it forgot to write it down in the right place and when I showed up everybody had blank looks on their face. Who are you? Why are you here? But at least it didn’t happen on air. We just rescheduled it and I went back a few weeks later. I still prefer print interviews; they give me time to think about what I want to say and how best to say it.

  • AJ, I think the anger would be well deserved, but when it gets in the way of what I want — TV or radio air time — then it becomes misplaced. In my other job (in a hospital lab) I am a problem solver. That is all I do, all day long. I fix things, double check things, correct things — all before the doctors see the results. (I do the lab tests too, but that has become the most minor part of the job.) When I apply that job description (fixer) to interviews, then I start to expect and prepare for the worst, and prime my mind to be flexible and *happy*. I also keep in mind my goal (see above) and the hope that other show hosts and producers will see that I handled things well and want to have me on. I only let myself get angry after. :)

  • The best interviews are those that progress from question to question–that is, the interviewer is actually paying attention to what you reply and develops a conversation rather just reading from a list of unrelated queries. It’s rare when you get someone that professional, but it’s magic when you do.

    I’ve been on both sides of the interview chair, and of course I have a list of questions to fall back upon–but it always works so much better when the next thing I ask follows from the last thing the interviewee said.

  • David, Grrrrr. Idiots.
    You are very kind. It was interesting to do, and I have enjoyed the feedback.

    NGDave — go for it! Have fun!

    Edmund, OMGosh, how awful! But it sounds like you handled it with class.

  • Wolf, You are so right! I love interviews where the interviewer listens to me!

  • Faith said, And I’m not sure why it’s called a Chinese portrait.

    Todd was doing a search and learned why it’s called that. In French, a portrait chinois (literally “Chinese portrait”) is a kind of riddle in which one person tries to guess a famous person’s name by asking a set of questions and working by analogy. Which makes it even cooler, in my opinion!

  • Oh, my, yes! Thanks. Nice to know. Kudos to the Toddly One. :)

  • Faith,

    It’s OK, I’m bad with names too.

    I’ll keep that in mind: protein. Potassium-rich foods were also recently recommended to me as a power source. And then there’s exercise, which helps with the whole “getting solid sleep” factor.

    Portrait chinois … now *that* rings a bell. When I heard “French” and “Chinese Portrait”, I made the conversion in French this morning, but I thought I was making it up. My gradeschool French never quite went away, I guess.

  • It works for me too. I love it when I get an explanation and things suddenly make sense.

    Ditto on the exercise.