I had the privilege of being interviewed by Scott Simon at NPR Headquarters in D.C. last week. Scott Simon was an incredibly handsome and poised gentleman. NPR Headquarters was amazing–there is a huge news board in the lobby and a newsroom in the building’s atrium and so many wonderful recording rooms. Also, it felt like one of the safest places in America, at least psychically speaking. So I felt comfortable and welcome and ready to share my stroke recovery experience, living with a 15 minute short term memory, and the writing of Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember
My interview aired on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday this past weekend. You can listen to it here. Also, there is a written transcription of some of the interview.
I used to be a technical recruiter. This meant that for over 15 years, I left voicemails and email messages with the intention of opening a dialogue, with the hope that I sounded both professional and engaging. And ultimately, with the hope of a reply.
Additionally, once people called, I interviewed people. My goal was to get to know each person’s motivations and assess skill set and gain insight into their character to determine fit for the companies at which I worked.
I often wondered how this career experience would at all dovetail with my dream of becoming a published writer.
But then when I became a fiction editor at Kartika Review, my past and present jobs began to converge. Part of my responsibilities included seeking out writers for interviews and then interviewing them in the most rewarding way I could muster. I felt like finally my past life was making sense in my present life!
Now that I’m officially an author (!!!)–wow, that sounds weird and amazing to write–I’m on the other end of all this business. I’m the one asked for interviews. And I’m experiencing an entire range of queries.
I can’t say yes to everything. My publicity team is curating requests for me. But I thought I’d take some time here to offer up what I’ve learned (on and off the job) to more effectively ask authors for interviews. It’s “how to get to yes” for author interviews…
In the query emails…
- Introduce yourself. If you know the author or were referred to her/him or have a friend in common, now’s the time to make that known.
- Disclose affiliation–are you interviewing him/her for your blog? For a journal? For a magazine? If your publication isn’t nationally recognized (i.e., the New York Times), then share a little about your publication. Provide a url to your publication. Perhaps an example of a past interview. Who’s your readership? Your audience?
- Compliment. Flattery gets you everywhere–make sure it’s authentic. I am going to assume you’ve read their work. If not their recent book, please make sure you’ve read SOMETHING they’ve written. Then say something about how that work was meaningful to you. This will give the author/writer an indicator of how thoughtful the interview experience will be.
- Mention the impact their interview might have on you or your publication. If you have a smaller audience, this is a crucial addition–because psychic income counts. Established authors will engage with you if they feel
your passion or social messaging or whatnot. How would their participation help you or your readership?
- Then–and this might be the hardest part, tell them in what ways participation would help the author out. Will s/he gain readers? Will this be good community service? How might you help sell her/his book or elevate her/his social presence? Or darn it, will it just be an awesome good old time? Having fun is also a part of the decision equation. Authors are people too. 🙂
- Also–maybe a quick note on the format of your interview. Will it be via google docs? IM chat? Phone? Email? Or list possibilities and let the author choose (many of us have a preference–I myself prefer google docs or email).
- If there is a reply…a followup email after your THANK YOU I’M SO EXCITED, be clear about timeline–by when would you like this interview done? And how long will they have to answer questions? How many rounds of questions? How many questions will there be? Make sure you give authors at least a month out of courtesy.
- And follow up. You can end your first query email by suggesting you will followup in a few weeks if there is no reply. And then follow up. Follow up Follow up Follow up. This is for you. And do it kindly but firmly. I once asked a writer for 18 months for an interview–by checking in every 3 months (politely but consistently) until I got a yes. Now that Famous Author and I are friends.
- If the author agrees to the interview–they’ve made time in their schedule for you. Make sure it HAPPENS. A disappointed author makes a cynical author makes an author less likely to say yes to future interviews.
I hope this helps!!!
I ended up pretty happy with what I said in this interview with Hyphen Magazine about my fiction. I think much of it has to do with the fact that Karissa Chen is a good friend of mine, and she got out of me very candid truths.
Also, Margaret Cho started following me after reading this interview. If you read what I say, you’ll know why.
…My own parents transferred their wartime PTSD onto me—for better and for worse. For better, because in an Apocalypse, I will probably get a posse together in ten seconds and survive. For worse, because I keep thinking about the Apocalypse. I mean, when I see a tree and a wild turkey, I think “Wow, that’s nice. Nature.” And then immediately, I see a source for lumber and food. In that sense, my innocence is gone.
And in the case of my parents’ PTSD, I have no visual for what it is that haunts me. It’s my parents’ ghost, and it’s never been given a face.
I certainly think these ghosts are why I write—to give the ghosts and monsters faces in stories.
A few months ago, right after my BuzzFeed stroke essay went live, I had the opportunity to talk about my stroke recovery and ensuing life changes, with Whit Missildine. We sat in my living room, and he asked me questions, and told me to speak freely about all the things that had happened, and what I felt, and how the stroke changed my perception. Also, I was very aware of my voice. And the many times I say “like” while speaking.
This week, the podcast went live on Whit’s AMAZING podcast series called “This is Actually Happening,” consisting of “first-person stories that explore what happens when everything changes.” Each podcast episode is entitled with a “What If…?” scenario.
The podcast episode on which my story is featured is called “What If Reality Suddenly Fell Apart?”
Take a listen.