Why author interviews?

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I’m working on transferring my collected author interviews from Bluestalking’s former Typepad location over here to WordPress, so if you’re seeing a million tweets announcing each post, that’s why. Sorry for that, in advance. I’ve been trying to close the Typepad site since last June; clearly I’m not moving very quickly on that resolution. I passed embarrassing a long time ago. Now I’ve entered the arena of the pathetic. It sure ain’t going to happen magically. Time to suck it up and get to work.

Speaking of author interviews, a few days ago I found an article in The New Yorker asking why readers care about author interviews, and why writers should have to put up with being treated like any other celebrity. Hannah Rosefield writes:

It makes good commercial sense for publishers, journalists, and bookshops to promote author interviews. But these do not explain public interest in such interviews, or why we want our novelists to be celebrities. We have, after all, so many other celebrities to think about—celebrities whose jobs, if they have jobs, make for better stories than sitting alone moving words about on a screen. So why not spare novelists the burden of becoming public figures? Why not let them slope off to write their books in private, for the few souls left who read them?

(And, hey oh, there’s another stab at the decline of reading!)

Personally, and I know I’m not alone in this, when I read a great book I’m keen to pick the author’s brain, to learn what makes him or her tick: their background, philosophy of writing, influences, etc. As for attention being a burden, authors high-profile enough to be sought out generally employ agents, who act as intermediaries between interviewers and their clients. I regularly go through agents to request interviews. They’re polite, prompt and accommodating. But neither am I adverse to contacting writers themselves. It’s about being polite and respectful of the author’s time, without going all weird and Misery about it.

Few writers turn down the opportunity for an interview. I’ve never experienced anything but enthusiasm in return for a request for their time. Publishers have less income dedicated to paying PR agents and marketers, so it’s a win/win for them getting the free exposure offered by bloggers and indie reviewers.

To be fair, I imagine it gets a bit old answering the same questions over and over. I try to vary things, asking less usual questions along with the standard every reader wants to know about. Also, I don’t keep after them if there’s a delay, assuming it’s not for a publication and there’s no firm deadline. Again, respect and boundaries. If the interview doesn’t come off, it doesn’t come off. Stuff happens. You can’t take it personally, nor hold it against the writer.

Who’s reading reviews? An awful lot of readers, as well as writers interested in the craft. I don’t understand the question posed by Rosefield, nor do I agree writers are treated with the same intrusive attention as other celebrities – whom I assume crave the fame. Artists tend to be more introverted, and I can’t imagine the energy it takes to perform readings and signings, which is why I generally approach them with email questions. They can answer at their leisure, start then come back to finish later, etc. It’s much less intensive than phone or in person interviews, though it’s true there’s less spontaneous back and forth, etc. There are trade-offs, but I think it’s easier for writers to schedule their own time than have to show up on cue for me.

Why interviews? I think it’s self-evident. Generating more interest, luring more readers and just getting their names out there to a new audience. I’m sure there are other things writers would rather do, but every job has its downside; it can’t all be exciting. They can refuse, or have an agent do so for them. Either way, it’s the choice of the author.

Am I right? Do serious readers like reading the thoughts of their favorite writers?

I’ve had to turn down more authors asking for interviews than have turned down me, which is disappointing to me. Lo, that I could only blog full-time! Alas, I cannot. Interviews seem effortless, but there is actual work behind them. Not as much as reviewing. I won’t claim that. But it’s work, all the same.

So, that’s my spiel on interviewing, as it relates to some of the stuff in Hannah Rosefield’s article. Now it’s time to do some more heavy lifting and get those interviews over here, formatted and posted. I can’t put it off any longer. See you later.

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