Sometimes we need a little help with our blogs, and that’s okay! We here at BAMF have had our newbie moments and want to help you guys to avoid making the same mistakes. Our Blogger Advice series takes a look at etiquette, “how to”s and many other pertinent topics!
Have a topic you want us to give you some advice on? Send us an email to email@example.com!
Creating Quality Interview Questions
So you’ve signed up for a blog tour and have to interview an author, but aren’t sure about how to create questions that will really dig deep into the story, characters, and other things that you want to know about the author? Have no fear, BAMF is here!
Today we’re going to talk tips to creating quality interview questions and give you a list of ten that are not only tried and true but also invigorating and will create some discussion. In the comments below, feel free to tell us what your favourite interview questions are so our audience can see a wide variety!
The Set Up
One of the most important part of asking a question is setting it up. There are a few things we mean by this, so we will get to each individually to explain what we mean and give you a few pointers.
Get to The Point
First, get straight to the point and ask the question you want to ask. For example, if you want to know about what motivates a character, don’t set up your question like so:
“So-and-So is a great person. They do X thing at the beginning and Y thing right after. I really liked when they did Z thing too at that Plot Point in the Book. How come they did X, Y and Z things?”
“How did So-and-So doing X thing intensify their need to do Z thing?”
This allows you to still talk about plot points you enjoyed but also gets to the point pretty quickly. If there is too many “extras” in your question, the point to your question may get lost. You want to make sure you lay it out in easy terms why you are asking the question and, in a sense, direct the author to the answer you want.
Type of Question
Typically, you want “open ended” questions. These are the ones that will give you more than just “yes or no” answers — or even one word answers. For example, if you want to ask which character was the most difficult to write, don’t set up the question this way:
Who is your favourite character in Book?
Instead ask for them to expand and explain on their answer:
Who did you enjoy writing the most in Book? How do you hope readers react to them?
This type of expansion on the question will allow the author to talk about the character in a way that will give the person reading the interview question to have the opportunity to connect with the character and pull them into the story before they even read it.
If you have a question that requires a “yes or no” answer, make sure you have a follow up question. These typically have the “If yes, then” or “If no, then” formatting. “If, then” questions will allow the author to discuss certain aspects of the story telling and plot devices. For example:
Was That Scene easy to write? If yes, why did you find it easy? If no, why was it difficult to write?
This will allow you to have a clear, distinct answer to a question while allowing the author to expand on their thoughts on the matter.
Remember Your Audience
This is more so for the adult bloggers (like us!) rather than the teen ones. You have to remember that YA novels are for teenagers. The questions you are asking a YA author should be appropriate for teen audiences. Do not ask about graphic sex, excessive drinking, etc. unless it is something that the novel addresses itself. There is no need to ask about a character’s sexual fantasy or what their favourite mixed drink is. Yes, we know that some teens partake in this but as an adult you should not be discussing it with them. Leave those questions for the NA or Adult authors.
Ask What The Audience Wants To Know
The basis of this piece of advice is that instead of asking questions that a small few people would care about, ask about something that matters on a large scale. For example, if Jamie ever interviewed Rick Yancey, she shouldn’t ask:
Why did you create the two-knock element for Cassie and Evan in THE 5TH WAVE?
Asking this question would get people to scratch their head and be like “why does Jamie care so much about this. This has nothing to do with my interests in this story.” So instead Jamie should ask something like:
What did you draw on from our current society to create the post-apocalypse world that we see in THE 5TH WAVE?
More people will want to know about the second question because it helps establish a bit more background about the story overall rather than a specific detail that some people might have overlooked. (But if Rick Yancey is reading this blog post, it’d be super awesome if you answered the first question because Jamie really wants to know).
So now you know how to create a question, but what should those questions be about? Don’t worry we have some advice on that too! We wouldn’t leave you hanging like that.
Questions about motivation are the best in our opinion. When you can see inside the mind of either the character or the author to see what makes them tick or explain a plot point, it is as if all the puzzle pieces line up to create a masterpiece. When you are asking a motivation based question, you want to ask the author what story they wanted to tell, what themes they wanted to convey, how did they come through, etc. These types of questions help you and the audience understand the direction the book was/is trying to take and how the author hopes to get there.
With these, if you have read the book, try not to ask spoiler-y questions. Our general rule is it is okay to ask specific questions (i.e. that talk about something that specifically happens in the plot), if it is in the summary or happens within the first 10% of the novel.
Finding out more characters can really help you understand the novel. If you ask questions about what motivates characters, you can find out what is going to move the story forward and understand a bit more about the plot devices that the author will use along with how they will be used. There are a ton of questions you can ask about characters without spoiling the book.
Our favourite question to ask about characters is: “How do we see So-and-So grow throughout the novel?” This question allows the reader to see the entirety of the story wrapped up in a succinct answer about a character.
Thinking about the character as a real person will allow you to create better questions for the author.
For our Pro Talks Feature, we ask the authors we interview a lot of questions about themselves — in a professional manner. Asking questions like “plotter or pantser” and “How long did it take you to write the first draft” give insight into the author lifestyle, which is always very interesting to hear about. Try not to get too personal, unless the question you are asking is something that can easily be found on their biography or through a quick scroll of their twitter account. For example, you could ask about pets or balancing life between being a parent and an author if that is relevant to the author you are interviewing.
Other General Tips
Order your questions in a logical way. Don’t ask a question about the end of the book before the beginning. Your questions should tell a story as well, so make sure there is a good order to them. For example, with our Pro Talks Feature, we ask the author about their life, then their novel. This allows us to understand the “Behind The Scenes” before we see the scenes themselves.
Authors are busy people! It is best if you ask between 5-7 questions about them and their work so it doesn’t take up too much of their time so they can continue to write stories. Alternatively, you can give them a longer list and allow them to choose as few or many as they wish to answer.
You should give authors at least two weeks to answer your questions, but the earlier you get them the questions, the better! Make sure you set a deadline for when they need to have them back to you that gives you time to format the post as well. We try to have a week between when we need the answers back and when the post goes live. This way if we need to format, or follow up, we have some time in between.
We hope that these have been helpful tips and tricks to asking authors questions! Below you will find a list of ten questions that will get you started in creating a repository of questions for yourself. If you have any questions or need clarification, let us know in the comments or by dropping us an email or tweet!
Ten Tried and True Author Interview Questions
- Describe your book in # words/# characters.
- Have you learned anything in the process of writing that you wished you’d known when you first started?
- Why do you write [Genre].
- Describe your “I’m an author” moment.
- What do you hope readers take away from [Novel]?
- What has been the best book you’ve read in the past six months?
- What was the inspiration for [character]’s relationship with [other character]?
- Which characters from [Novel] are inspired by people you know in real life? Are they aware?
- Do you find it difficult to balance being an author with the other aspects in your life?
- What differences did you encounter writing [Sophomore Novel] than [Debut Novel]?