Monday, 10 January 2011

Interviews - when writers have nothing to say

Ask me about my books and I could talk for hours, but me as a writer, ah, not so much. In a recent interview I realised as an author I have nothing new or insightful to add about me or my profession. Not because I'm a boring or monosyllabic person; in fact, my friends keep telling me I'm quite the chatty type, sometimes even too chatty which has helped in my career as a freelance PR professional. It's just that it's hard to talk about something I don't actually over-analyse which is why I thought giving the answers I did was fine until I read the interview and realised it wasn't the best I ever gave. Had I babbled like that in a press conference or at the launch of a new product, my employer would've seriously considered sacking me.

So, why is it that we have nothing interesting to say about ourselves or our profession? After musing for a few days, I've come to the conclusion that I haven't really thought about my image and what I'm supposed to convey. A writer's a bit like an actor; we need to prepare ourselves in order to appear mysterious yet approachable, insightful yet modest, but in no way mundane.
Don't pretend to be someone you're not because people will see right through it. Just research your personality like a good PR manager would research a brand and focus on the interesting traits that help you stand out from the crowd. If you're funny, then by all means go on and build your image around this part of your character and your audience will come to acknowledge you for your humour. If you're super-clever and articulate, then that's what you should focus on. It may not make what you have to say more interesting, but people will start to see the personality behind it, and in our competitive world seeing a human side behind a brand or product is what can make a difference whether your audience starts to like you and buys your books. Decide on an image and keep it consistent as you build it, and your audience will start to perceive you as someone they 'know'. That's one of the tricks to branding: connect to your audience in a way that truly reflects who you are. Put your character behind your words and whatever you say will suddenly appear to have more depth even if it's all been said before.

To your publishing success!


  1. In the few interviews I've had, I've always been told in advance - even if only 2 minutes in advance - what I'll be asked, so I've had a chance to prepare. The exception is phone interviews, and I think with these the trick is to try to work out what you want to say in advance, and bring the question round to that topic. It doesn't really make sense to me for a witer to talk about herself without referencing a specific book/s, so in your position I'd probably steer the conversation round to the issues that bother me, and why I felt inspired and compelled to write the book I did.

  2. It depends on the interviewer; some are happy to hear all about your books and nothing about your private life. Others, however, want to hear more about the writer and their motivation. It makes sense to talk about oneself too in order to help readers see the person behind the book.
    I agree, many interviewers will be happy to provide a list of all questions beforehand, but I've also met my fair share who didn't.

  3. Great article. I agree. I could talk forever about my characters and my plot but when it comes to myself, I have nothing new to say. Go figure. : )