Building a writing habit is the key to getting a novel written. Showing up is half the battle.
But making the time to write is not always easy – and sometimes a little bit of help goes a long way.
With that in mind, I’ve created #Spark6000, a new Creative Challenge this August for the members of Write With Allison Tait (WWAT), my online writing group.
Part word-count building, part creativity bending, the #Spark6000 challenge is designed to create a sustainable writing habit.
The kind of habit that you can maintain not just for one month, but for many, many months. After all, 6000 x 12 = 72,000 words – a very respectable first draft of an adult novel, or a complete YA or children’s novel (and then some, in some areas of that market).
With me right in there beside you to cheer you on.
Join the group before 1 August to hit the ground running!
I wanted to call it Hot August Writes, but managed to control myself…
Industry Insider Secrets
Of course, WWAT is not just about word counts. Each month, we get together on Zoom for two events. One is an Access Al Areas (Ask Me Anything) with me, and one is an Industry Insider event, with a special guest.
August will feature an AAA on 7th August, and the #Spark6000 challenge will take the place of the Industry Insider event (due to my CBCA Book Week commitments).
The line up for our Industry Insider events for the next three months looks like this:
• September: Dani Vee (author, host of Words And Nerds podcast, acquiring editor for Larrikin House)
• October: Rachael Johns (international bestselling author (romance, commercial fiction))
• November: Dervla McTiernan (international bestselling author (crime fiction)
I could not be more excited to put these authors in the hot seat and extract all the insider knowledge and secrets that I can. Plus, you’ll be able to ask your own questions as well!
There’s never been a better time to join our intimate group. Membership details for Write With Allison Tait here.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries, as well as my brand-new middle-grade mystery THE FIRST SUMMER OF CALLIE McGEE.
You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.
One of the surprising side-effects of becoming a published author is that you find yourself being interviewed. In fact, sometimes you find yourself being interviewed a lot.
And yes, it’s a surprise, even for someone who is used to being on the other side of questions as an interviewer.
I remember when my first children’s novel, The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race To The End Of The World, was first published that there seemed to be an inordinate number of Q&As to fill out (yes, these count as interviews), radio spots to do, and other bits and pieces to endure.
I say endure, because I quickly realised that I am someone who likes asking questions a lot more than I like answering them.
But, having interviewed people for 20+ years, I was in a better position than many debut authors who are suddenly confronted with having to answer questions about themselves and their book for the first time in their lives.
And for many, it doesn’t get any easier as their careers progress.
Both sides of the interview table
I’ve been threatening to write this post for years, and in fact covered some information about how to be interviewed in So You Want To Be A Writer, the book.
But a recent Facebook post by an author friend, a friend who has been published multiple times and been interviewed MANY times, finally galvanised me into action.
My friend was nervous about being interviewed by a national newspaper and desperate for tips on how to get through it without ‘saying the wrong thing’.
So here are my tips, garnered from many years as a freelance journalist, many years as a podcast host and, now, many years of being interviewed for blogs, websites, newspapers, radio and television.
How to be interviewed: my top 5 tips for authors
1. Do some research
Who’s interviewing you? For which blog, website, publication, podcast, station or channel? Who reads this blog, website, publication or listens to/watches this podcast, station or channel?
The audience matters. Your interviewer will tailor their questions to that audience’s interests and you should have them in mind when you provide your answers.
2. Think about the why
If you consider WHY you’re being interviewed, you’ll be able to put together at least a basic outline of the KINDS of questions your interviewer is going to ask you.
That way you can be ready with some answers.
Why are you being interviewed?
Is it because you have a new novel out? Chances are your interviewer will want to know what the book is about (make sure your elevator pitch is strong), they’ll want to investigate any themes in the book (know your hook and be able to expand on it) and where people can find out more and buy it (be ready with your website details!).
Or is it because it’s Book Week and you’re a local author? This is a bigger picture interview, so you’ll need to know the Book Week dates, why it’s important in schools and any other angle you can brain storm. One tip: don’t forget to mention the title of your latest book because your interviewer may not!
Why leads to who, what, where and when
When I’m preparing to interview someone for the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, I’ve always got my journalism training in the back of my mind.
In every article I’ve ever written, I’ve looked at covering the Who, What, Where, and When in the first few questions, leaving the Why until I get towards the end.
As the person being interviewed, you start with the why, but remember that your interviewer will always need to cover those other basic details. So have them at your fingertips.
3. Know what you want to say
This is the most important thing to remember. The interviewer is ready to do their job, getting the story they need to fill whatever bit of space has been allocated to it.
You need to be ready to do your job.
Your job is to get your message across, even as you provide entertainment and information to fill that bit of space.
How do you make sure you do your job?
Create a cheat sheet and write everything down.
Write down the five top things that you want the audience to take away from your interview.
Write that short, pithy statement that says exactly what your book is about.
Write down your answers to the most common questions authors are asked (see tip 5 below).
Most interviews these days are done via phone, Zoom, Skype or even email, so you can keep your cheat sheet handy and no-one will ever know.
And you will be amazed at how easy it is to work in all of the things that you want to say, no matter what questions you are asked.
If in doubt, watch a politician on television. They do it every day.
4. Assume your interviewer knows nothing about you
One thing you will very quickly realise is that most interviewers have not read your book. Many may not have even read the media release.
In radio, for instance, where air time needs to be filled and every day is super busy, a producer will read the media release, Google a bit, and then create a list of questions for the presenter to follow (as a side note, many presenters do not follow the questions).
So there are two things to consider here.
First, make sure your website is up to date.
Otherwise, you may find yourself being asked random questions about irrelevant bits of your bio (cue another side note: as an interviewer, I implore you to please ensure you have a lovely, concise, relevant bio prominently placed at the top of your ‘about’ page. Think of me reading it out loud on the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, and save your love of cats for further down the page.)
Second, be prepared to fill in the information yourself. Don’t answer questions with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, expand to include as much information as you can.
“How are you today?”
Great thanks, just finishing editing my the second book in my new series, The Wolf’s Howl, due out in August this year.
“What is your new novel about?”
“The Fire Star is a middle-grade mystery story set in an ‘almost history’ world, about Reeve, a squire, and Maven, a maid, who meet for the very first time on their first day at Rennart Castle. When a valuable jewel known as The Fire Star goes missing, they are the first suspects because they are the last in the door, so they must band together to find it.”
“Where do books fit in to kids’ lives in this day and age?”
“There are so many calls on kids’ times these days, not just social media and phones, which are often cited as reasons kids don’t read as much, but homework, organised activities, the list goes on. Unfortunately, that’s showing up in the reading and writing results in NAPLAN. The key to getting kids reading is to find books that they will love. I write epic adventure stories, like The Mapmaker Chronicles, because they’re the kinds of stories my own boys love to read.”
You get the picture?
Be ready for the interview to go on tangents you don’t expect, but look for ways to bring those questions back to you and your books.
And keep your answers as short as possible.
5. Be prepared to answer the same question over and over in multiple interviews
If you read a lot of author Q&As, or listen or watch authors being interviewed, you’ll start to pick up on the questions that authors are asked over and over again.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
“How long does it take you to write a book?”
“Who inspires you as an author?”
“Who’s your favourite author?”
“What’s your favourite book ever?”
“What are your top three tips for writers?”
My suggestion is that you prepare an answer for these questions.
Even if you don’t have a favourite author (seriously, who has just one?), prepare an answer that covers that.
Think about tips for other writers (and please, please, please, try to go beyond ‘read widely’ – yes, it’s essential, the number one thing that all aspiring authors should do, but it’s also the most common answer to that question).
Consider the one book you’d take to a desert island and the five other authors you’d invite to a dinner party.
You may think you’ll never be asked these questions, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that maybe, just maybe, you will be, and if you’re put on the spot you will suddenly find you can’t remember a single book you’ve ever read or an author whose work you enjoyed.
Bonus tip: try to enjoy yourself
Being interviewed is a privilege. It’s an opportunity for you to share your work with someone else’s audience.
Most interviewers are not ‘out to get you’. They are simply working writers or broadcasters or podcasters, just like you, trying to get a few quotes to bring a story together or to fill three minutes of a three-hour radio shift.
So be yourself. The best possible version of yourself.
Always remember that you’re talking to an audience (I say this because some interviewers are so good they can make you forget it’s not just the two of you having a chat)
Do the best possible job you can.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.
Want to know more about promoting your book, building your author profile, or how to manage author publicity? Join Write With Allison Tait, my online writing community.
Every month you’ll be able to join a live on Zoom Q&A with me to ask all your burning questions! More details here.
It’s been a big year for the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast team!
Not only have we screamed past the ONE MILLION download mark (you’ll find my 15 favourite interviews here), with a LIVE event at VIVID Sydney (book now!) in the works, but we’re happy to announce that we’ve written a book!
So You Want To Be A Writer: How To Get Started (While You Still Have A Day Job) by Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo will be on sale from 8 June (be at our event to be the first to own it!)
Here’s the blurb
The ultimate guide to making your writing dreams come true!
Want to write a novel or earn an income as a freelance writer, but not sure how to go about it? Authors Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo – co-hosts of the popular So You Want To Be A Writer podcast – will give you the steps you need to make your dream a reality.
In this book, you’ll discover everything you need to be a successful writer, including how to connect with people who will help your career grow and productivity tips for fitting everything into your already busy life. You’ll also explore how to keep your creative juices flowing and where to find other writers just like you.
This book lays out a blueprint to help you get started and thrive in the world of words. With advice from over 120 writers, you’ll tap into proven wisdom and find the path that will lead YOU to success!
Here’s what five of Australia’s favourite authors have said about the book
‘Practical, grounded and inspiring. When a thousand voices tell you that you can’t, you need a voice to make you believe you can. This book is that voice.’
Candice Fox, #1 New York Times bestselling author
‘So many pro tips in here from working writers. This is like Tim Ferriss’s Tools of Titans but exclusively for writers. I loved it.’
Tristan Bancks, award-winning children’s author
‘Perfect for the person who wants to write but doesn’t have the confidence or the know-how to start.’
Pamela Hart, award-winning historical fiction author
‘Essential reading for any aspiring writer.’
Graeme Simsion, international bestselling author
‘Val and Al were a godsend to me before I was published, offering a guided tour to the world of publishing that was otherwise closed to me. Their advice is highly, highly recommended.’
Dervla McTiernan, international bestselling author
And here’s a picture of the co-authors on the day (nearly a year ago) we decided to write a book
We are thrilled to bring this book to our podcast audience, our writing community and to new and aspiring writers everywhere. It will be available through a range of online booksellers, here and overseas, so stay tuned for more details.
If you’d like to read more about So You Want To Be A Writer the book, or register your details to receive notice as soon as the book is on sale, you’ll find all the details here.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.