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Historical Romance Author

4 Steps to Flubbing an Interview

4 Steps to Flubbing an Interview

This year I attended my first writer’s conference as a published author. A special “Published Author” ribbon hung on my name tag and my book was available in the conference bookstore. Heady stuff.

Even more exciting was when the lovely Dianne Burnett from Christian Book Distributors asked if I could meet her in her room for an interview.

Me? Seriously?

And thus began my misadventure.

(Notice: If you are affiliated with my publisher or agency, for your own peace of mind you might not want to read any further.) 

Being interviewed before me was the wonderful author Anne Mateer, so I found a corner of the hotel room to hide in so no untimely stomach rumbles would be recorded during Anne’s interview – which was, of course, amazing. I’ve read all her books and loved hearing more about the background and research behind them. (Her interview here.)

I was really enjoying myself until Dianne asked her to share her favorite scripture. Then panic set in and I began my education in media.

Four Steps to Flubbing an Interview

1. Don’t anticipate the questions. 

I read the Bible daily. I’ve memorized chunks of it, too. A few years ago I memorized the whole book of Ephesians, and even though I can’t quote it straight through anymore, you’d think I could come up with a favorite verse on the spot.

Well, Eph. 5:22 about submitting to your husband wasn’t really what I wanted to share. Ditto on Eph. 6:1. There are a lot of nice verses I’ve memorized over the years about love and grace, but I wasn’t 100% sure I could name the address right.

The bedside table beckoned me. Surely there was a Gideon Bible in there, but I didn’t want to disturb Anne during her interview. If I could just get a quick refresher glance so I wouldn’t misquote “My Favorite Verse” but there wasn’t time.

So what did I say when I was in front of the microphone? The only verse I could quote under pressure – Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” 

True story.

**Interview Tip – If you’re a writer always be able to name your favorite books and authors. If you’re a Christian writer always have a verse on hand.

2. Talk about the wrong book. 

By the time of this conference, Sixty Acres and a Bride had been out for seven months. I’d done interviews, talked to book clubs and written numerous guest posts on the themes and background of the book. I thought I was ready for the interview. What I was not ready for was to talk about Love in the Balance – the second “Ladies of Caldwell County” book. It wasn’t scheduled to come out for another six months. I wasn’t primed to discuss the heroes, or the theme yet, but like the great promoter she is, Dianne was looking ahead to the next release. I should’ve been prepared.

**Interview Tip – The industry is always looking ahead. While you’re still promoting your current book, they want to know what’s next. 

3. Give one word answers. If you know Ms. Dianne, then you know she is warmth and charm personified. You won’t meet a more encouraging lady, yet she had to pry answers out of me.

“What was the one thing you learned while researching that surprised you?”

“Um….nothing.”

Doh! I went on to talk about the research I’d done on Sixty Acres (see point #2), but nothing came to mind for the second book. In my defense, the books are sequential and in the same location so much of the research served for both books…but I did research specifically for Love in the Balance, too. Train travel, court reporting in the 1880s, blacksmithing, shoemaking, extensive time pouring over fashion plates to get Molly’s wardrobe right…I even went to Caldwell County for crying aloud. But instead of talking freely I fixation on the literal question…”What surprised you?”

**Interview tip – the interviewer wants you to be interesting. This isn’t a deposition or a Congressional hearing. If your answer to that question isn’t interesting, answer a different question!

4. Imitate other authors.

Did I mention that the poised and lovely Anne Mateer was a witness to this mess? And when Ms. Dianne asked me what spiritual truth I wanted people to take from this book I thought I had a good answer. Love in the Balance has a strong message about hypocrisy and forgiveness, but as I started to share, it began to sound very similar to the message of Anne’s book. I’d read Anne’s book and I’d never thought they were close in theme, but the longer I talked the more I found myself affirming the message of At Every Turn.

Oh no, I thought. Am I plagiarizing Anne right in front of her? Holy cow! They are going to rip the “Published Author” ribbon right off my name tag.

Thankfully I caught myself in time to steer the life lesson back to my story, but it was a close call.

**Interview tip –  Be yourself. Hopefully what makes your books unique will make your interview unique as well.

There you have it. May you profit from my mistakes. If you want to hear the interview you can listen to it here…but if you’re looking for quality entertainment, I’d recommend buying the book instead. 🙂

What’s the worst blunder you’ve ever caught on tape? 

 

10 Comments

  1. Ah! Thanks for the tips. I don’t have a “favorite” Bible verse, so if I were asked that I’d probably say “I don’t have one.” And then what kind of criminal Christian author would I be?! And I don’t like memorizing one verse, I like memorizing a section for context, so I’m sure they wouldn’t want to listen to that….and the numerous times I would flub up under pressure!

    And of course, this post made me want to listen to the interview. 🙂 It was fun to listen to, knowing exactly where you were nervous and why. Made me smile. Made me not want to give one, ha!

  2. Thanks, Regina for allowing us to learn from your blunders! 🙂 But I will say, you learned some important lessons from them. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh Regina, I just can’t see you flubbing anything. I’m sure Diane saw the woman of grace and beauty your friends and readers see. The favorite verse question always panics me. I think it is so often dependent upon where we are in our life at the moment. I’d probably be reduced to a two word verse, “Jesus wept.”

  4. You are a hoot! Your interview didn’t go nearly as badly as you thought it did, although I did have to stifle a laugh at that verse! 🙂 And bless you for thinking mine went well. Ha! I couldn’t even remember what I’d said when I finished. Going to listen now and see how goofy it was! Thanks for the link. I never could find it.

  5. Great blog and great advice. Too many writers make those mistakes. Every writer (at least somewhat new writers) should copy those four items and paste them over their computer or perhaps phone if they do phone interviews. Thanks.

  6. Oh, Regina! I love this! Thank you for your honesty, transparency, and ability to poke fun at yourself.

    And I relate.

    I always flub up the “favorite books” question. Is saying “All of Jane Austen’s books” too obvious? Should I showcase something Deep and Literary? Should I name all my friends’ books (which I do love) to promote them? What will my friends think if I leave them OUT? They’ll hate me forever. It’s SUCH a loaded question.

    And my biggest flaw – rather than the one-word answers, I give the novel-length answer. I could see poor Dianne’s eyes glazing over….

  7. Thanks, Regina. The thought of interviews makes me freeze up. Now I’m even more nervous. 🙂

  8. Wow…that sounds a lot like I would be in an interview =P I seem to freeze up every time someone asks me about the story I’m writing, and stuff like that…Thanks for the tips!!

  9. Roflol!!! Thanks, cousin. I needed a good laugh today! ;). I don’t know if you remember this but in college I interviewed to be a camp counselor at kanakuk. At the time I was broke up from a guy I liked at the time and when they asked me my favorite verse, (even though I knew they would probably ask and I had prepared several) the only one I could think of was Proverbs 26:11….. As a dog returns to it’s vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. Yep. That is the verse I chose to impress upon them that they should let me be a counselor for a bunch of young girls!!! Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

  10. That’s awesome – that’s exactly the kind of experience I think we all feel like we’d have. 🙂

    Interviews can be rough stuff! I don’t get a chance to do them all too often, but there’s always that butterfly feeling of, “is this gonna be weird?” that starts surfacing once crunch time gets close. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned as I’ve done what have been mostly fan-related interviews is this: people tune into interviews, but they don’t want to hear an interview. What they’re looking for is a conversation. One that could just as easily be taking place around a kitchen table. Chemistry is so, so important, as is an overall sense of informality. You’ve got to have fun with it, even if things don’t go perfectly.

    But I love your story, and I would have totally done the same thing under that kind of pressure. Kudos to you for sharing your lessons learned. 🙂

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