Thursday, July 9, 2009

Author Interviews (for lack of a more creative post title)

In an act of clear irrationality, Dave Cullen, author of Columbine, has graciously accepted my invitation to an interview here on the blog.

I'll be honest. I've never interviewed an author formally, and to start with a NYT bestseller author is a bit daunting. It's been a long time since my last journalism class (1991 to be precise), and I've gotten lazy in the years since.

I am almost embarrassed by my book reviews, and I have so far refused to review the books I read on Good Reads. Have you read the reviews there? They read like college papers. They are thorough and intelligent and detailed. I am more along the lines of, "Hey, I read this book and I really liked it. I think you should read it too."

Part of this is because I don't actually recommend books that often, so when I say, "You should read this book, it's really good," I am not just flinging a half-hearted compliment out there. I really mean it. And I don't say it that often.

(The other reason is that this blog is not my vocation, nor is Good Reads, and to put the kind of time required into great, scholarly sounding reviews takes away the time I need to write my fiction. That, and I'm just a conversational writer at heart.)

So I really liked the book Columbine, and to me the impressiveness of the book can't be separated from the impressiveness of the writer: the scope of his research, the depth of his connections, the ease of his writing in what is clearly an emotional, difficult topic. He clearly did not skate by on the idea that the book would sell on it's subject alone.

But now that he's agreed to an interview, I'm waffling about what to ask. Honestly, I could spend an entire day asking questions that would range from the tragedy at Columbine to the eerie similarities between his background and my own husband's (Army, Arthur Anderson, time in Kuwait, Fort Benning... the list goes on and on). I'm guessing he probably doesn't want to spend an entire day entertaining my ramblings.

So, I'm trying to balance between what I really want to know and talk about, and what is interesting on the blog, and what is good for him as well.

As I assemble my list of questions, I ask myself what I would want as a writer. If I were being interviewed, what would I want to get out of it?

And the answer I think is a balance between the book and the writer.

I want to promote his book, because I think people should buy and read it.

But I want people to feel connected to Dave as a person as well, because I have the feeling there are more books in him, and I think if people come to have a connection with the author as a person and not just as the writer of a book of interest, they are more likely to buy those other books down the road. I know this is true of myself. I am more likely to buy Vikas Swarup's new book because I heard him speak and I really liked him (and the books sounds fantastic). I will buy Patricia Wood's next book, not just because I loved Perry and Lottery, but because I read her blog and she comments on mine, and because I feel like I know her a little.

Personal connections are what build loyalty, I think.

So what do you as readers like to see in an author interview? And as an author, is that different?

1 comment:

  1. I think you're absolutely right, Heidi, a mix of questions about the author and the book. I'd love to know what brought him to Columbine. What his pub journey was before Columbine. What he's working on next (if anything). Just me, but a man who writes about such serious subject matter, must have a fascinating story to tell himself, right?