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Creativity can be managed – here’s how

Creativity can be managed – here’s how

“I’m waiting for creativity to strike.”

“I’m waiting for the Muse.”

“I’m not feeling inspired.”

Creativity is often thought of as something that ‘happens’ to us – not something that we make happen.

But, in this list of top 10 tips for writers, bestselling author Graeme Simsion says that creativity can be managed.

I wanted to know more about this idea so, in this snippet from our recent interview, available exclusively in the Write With Allison Tait online community, I asked him to explain exactly what he meant by that.

 

 

 

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.

Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, insights and more amazing writing advice.

Or check out So You Want To Be A Writer (the book), where my co-author Valerie Khoo and I have distilled the best tips from hundreds of author and industry expert interviews. Find out more and buy it here.

4 new writing books by Australian authors

4 new writing books by Australian authors

Is there anything better than a new writing book to inspire, motivate, inform and entertain?

I’ve written before about my favourite books about writing – heck, I’ve even written a book about being a writer myself – but I’m always happy to discover a new one, and particularly when they’re written by Australian authors.

Because who better to help shape the ideas, words and careers of aspiring Australian writers than those who have trodden a successful path before them?

Fortunately for me, we seem to be experiencing a halcyon moment for writing books of this kind, with four arriving in the mail for me in recent weeks. Here’s a little round-up for you (click the titles to find out more and buy the book at Booktopia).

 

New writing books by Australian authors

 

The Novel Project by Graeme Simsion

four new writing books by Australian authorsSubtitled ‘A step-by-step guide to your novel, memoir or biography’, this book is a lovely, accessible overview of the process of writing a novel from preparation right up to working with an editor.

Graeme Simsion is the author of the internationally bestselling Rosie trilogy, and he draws on his own experiences through each stage, while also offering universally useful tips and advice.

From basic writing principles, such as explaining three-act structure, to the thornier questions every writer must tackle, such as choosing a point of view, this is an accessible and readable guide.

I also like the fact that Graeme points out that the processes described in the book are what’s worked for him (and worked well), but that every writer needs to work through and figure out their own process along the way.

Having made some notes, I’m going to give this one to Book Boy (18), who loves a book about writing, and who, I think, will benefit a lot from this one.

 

What To Do When You Don’t Have A Book Coming Out (& Even More Sage Advice) by Angela Slatter

new writing books by australian authorsAngela Slatter is one of my co-presenters at the Australian Writers’ Centre and, frankly, I love her work. She is funny and sharp and infinitely sensible as a teacher, brilliant as a writer and well worth a follow on Twitter.

I read Angela’s gothic fantasy novel All The Murmuring Bones last year ahead of our interview for So You Want To Be A Writer podcast and was blown away by the spare luxury of her language. I was completely unsurprised when it was recently shortlisted for the 2021 Aurealis Awards.

But I digress. We’re here to talk about writing books, right?

Angela recently released the latest in a series called Writer Chaps, through Brain Jar Press. The series consists of short, specific collections of essays, no thicker than the average book chapter. But packed full of information.

What To Do When You Don’t Have A Book Coming Out is a collection of essays about sustaining your writing career after your book has launched.

I loved it because it is full of the same things that I have been banging on about on this blog for years – the importance of networking for writers, using blog posts and social media to put yourself in front of people, how to use your ‘waiting’ time wisely.

There’s also a very useful section on applying for grants, which is, I admit, an area I haven’t explored much but… why not?

Angela’s first Writer Chap called You Are Not Your Writing & Other Sage Advice is also well worth checking out.

 

Look – it’s your book! by Anna Featherstone

four new writing books by australian authorsThe sub-title on this one says it all: ‘Write, publish and promote your non-fiction book: a self-publishing guide for Australian writers’

Anna Featherstone describes the book as a comprehensive guide for Australian writers, and at 360+ pages, I think the claim is supported.

Covering everything from how to work out what you’re going to write to researching, writing, editing, formatting, publishing and promoting your book, it also goes beyond the creation of the product into … well, everything else that a self-publishing writer needs to know.

And that’s a lot.

I think one of the biggest mistakes writers often make is in thinking that the major work in self-publishing (or, in fact, publishing at all) a book is in the writing.

But the writing is just the beginning and the hard graft of self-publishing (or, in fact, publishing at all) is in finding an audience for that book and then actually getting the book into the hands of people who want to read it.

Anna has been on my radar on social media for many years, and has self-published several books herself, focussing on non-fiction. This book is the book that she couldn’t find to help her along the way.

The one that she hopes will answer the questions an aspiring self-publisher might have before they get to them.

It’s specifically for authors of non-fiction, and the advice within is a nuts-and-bolts overview of the entire process from start to finish. Find out more about it here. 

 

The Writer Laid Bare by Lee Kofman

four new writing books by Australian authorsThe latest addition to my writing shelf is The Writer Laid Bare by Russian-born, Melbourne-based author Lee Kofman, subtitled ‘Mastering Emotional Honesty in a Writer’s Art, Craft and Life’.

Part memoir, part craft book, Kofman deep dives into some of the most difficult-to-pin down aspects of a writer’s life – unearthing your true voice, bringing searing honesty to the page, stilling your mind enough to find space for creativity – as well as the bare, practical truths of the discipline of writing, the need to look after your body as a writer, the ability to fail with grace.

This is a literary approach to writing craft, weaving in the voices and advice of other authors, past and present. I plan to spend some time with it.

It’s that kind of book.

 

 

7 things children's authors must know presentation (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.

In exciting news, I’ll be interviewing three of these authors in coming months in my brand-new online writing community, opening on 2 May 2022.

Find out more here and join my newsletter list to see exactly who’s on the schedule! 

The one thing I wish I’d known when I started: 16 children’s and YA authors reveal all

The one thing I wish I’d known when I started: 16 children’s and YA authors reveal all

“What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you started out as an author?”

It’s a big question, and one I’ve been toying with over the past week.

The problem is, there are just SO many things I wish I’d known. Narrowing it down to one seems impossible.

So I decided to get some help to articulate my thoughts, and rounded up some of Australia’s best and most popular children’s and YA authors to answer that question for me. To create a kind of encyclopaedia of super tips for beginner writers.

And I’m so glad I did, because this post contains some of the most insightful advice that any aspiring or beginner author, of any type or genre, could ever ask for. I wish I’d known every single one of these things when I started out.

Mostly, though, I just wish I’d known how very much I didn’t know.

 

16 Australian children’s and YA authors share the one thing they wish they’d known when they started 

 

 

Jackie French

Jackie French children's author tips“What I wish I’d known when I began? Everything!

I found a publisher under ‘P’ for publishers in the phone book – the first one was Angus and Robertson, who I still publish with. My manuscript was so badly spelled  and on a machine lacking a working ‘e’ that they pulled it out to laugh at. I didn’t even know what genre I was working in.

These days I dutifully tell beginning authors to research their genre; to see what kind of manuscript a publisher is looking for, and  to use their spell checker, then check their spell checker hasn’t changed their ‘camels’ into ‘condoms.’

But you know what? None of that matters in the long run. If your writing is compelling and saleable it will be accepted.  If it so good that the reader HAS to turn the next page, the publisher will probably refer you to another company if they don’t publish your genre. Editors are editors because they love books, and will go to extraordinary lengths to help a writer of brilliant promise.

You are a writer. Write. Write well, and then rewrite, rewrite and rewrite. Don’t write what you think publishers want, as thousands of others will be writing the same. Write the story that has its teeth in your throat and won’t let go till it is words on the page.

PS. If the editor says ‘that bit doesn’t work’ believe them. An editor may not know exactly how to fix the problem, but if it doesn’t work for them, it won’t for the public either. Never think that because you are ‘the writer’ that the book is yours. The words are yours, but the book is created by an editorial team, the marketing team, the design team, the proofreaders and many others. I always feel guilty that only my name is on the title page, and feel forever blessed that my words are taken by the team to work on.”

Jackie French is the author of ‘around 300’ books for children, YA and adults. Her latest releases are Christmas Always Comes (PB, ill. Bruce Whatley) and No Hearts of Gold (adult fiction). Find out more about Jackie here

 
 

 

Jack Heath

Jack Heath children's author tips“There’s a lot I wish I’d known when I started my career as a (very) young writer, but the main thing is this: “no-one cares what you think.”

I wasted a lot of time blogging, making Youtube videos and tweeting. It was important to me that my views on every topic – politics, science, the environment, life – were public knowledge.

I saw myself as a social commentator – but I realise now that I was a novelist.

People didn’t like me, they liked my novels. I should have spent my time working on my books, rather than play-acting as a celebrity.

In a broader sense, I should have focused on writing, rather than being a writer.”

Jack Heath is the author of 37 books for children and adults. His latest release for children is Kid President Totally Rules!. Find out more about Jack here.

 

 

Pip Harry

Pip Harry children's author tips“As an emerging writer, I thought that when I cracked an elusive publishing deal, all the rejections (so many rejections) would be behind me. That shiny debut novel would be my golden ticket to open doors and yesses. To festival invites, prestigious fellowships and award ceremonies. My ‘thanks but no thanks days’ would be a thing of the past. Surely?

But even as I snagged that exciting first book deal and built a career as a YA and middle -grade author, the set-backs, knock backs and failures stuck around.

Hello, rejection, my old friend.

Even as I put the finishing touches on my seventh children’s book, I’m still getting brutal (sometimes baffling) ‘not right for our list’ emails from all corners of the globe. Sometimes they sting a little, but I usually bin them and move on quicker than I would’ve ever believed possible as a younger, more fragile writer.

Instead of crying into a tub of cookies ‘n’ cream and shredding my latest manuscript when I miss out, I accept that all art is subjective. Some people will love my work, others not so much. C’est la vie. Better to be brave, take chances and back yourself and your ideas, than believe the naysayers and critics.

To be a successful author, long term, you have to reinvent yourself often, try new things and be ready for the disappointments when they come – and oh boy, they will. Have a few writing pals on hand to commiserate when you don’t hit the bullseye. But know, in your heart, the stories you’re telling are important, sometimes vital, and they will find an audience.”

Pip Harry is the author of seven children’s and YA novels. Her latest release is Are you there, Buddha? for middle-grade readers. Find out more about Pip here.

 

 

Gary Lonesborough

Gary Lonesborough author tips“The one thing I wish I’d known before I started was how long publishing takes and that I would need to read my book over and over and over again.

It was a year and a few months from signing the contract to the book being published and it was really hard to predict what my life would look like by the time the book came out. I didn’t know where I would be living, what I would be doing, what job I would have.

Having to read the story over and over was interesting, as I would find myself excited to learn new things and come up with new ideas while, at the same time, really just wanting to get to the end.

By the time we had finished editing, I was ready to never read the book again.”

Gary Lonesborough’s debut YA novel The Boy From The Mish was released in February 2021. Find out more about Gary here

 

 

 

Nat Amoore

Nat Amoore children's author tips“I wish I’d known the weird tightrope I would end up walking between taking advice and forging my own path. I did all the ‘things’ – taking courses, attending festivals, talking to people in the industry, reading the books, listening to the podcasts – but when I actually found myself ‘in’ the industry, I realised I had to pull a Frank Sinatra and do it my way.

I’m not saying don’t listen to the advice. But listen and be ready to set it aside if it doesn’t line up with who you want to be as a creator.

I discovered that some advice I’d heard over and over during the proceeding years, didn’t gel with how I wanted to exist in the kids book world. And that’s because many different creators have a completely different focuses.

So know what your focus is, keep that focus, and make your own decisions based around that. And sometimes that takes bravery. So be brave. Nobody owns your career or your art but you.”

Nat Amoore is the author of three middle-grade novels. Her latest release is The Right Way To Rock. Find out more about Nat here.

 

 

 

Jenna Guillaume

Jenna Guillaume children's author tips“The one thing I wish I’d known when I started writing is that it doesn’t get any easier. Sorry if that’s terrible news! But you don’t magically get more time or energy or ideas or confidence once you’re published.

If anything, you have less time, less energy, more self doubt… Maybe that’s just me and my brain?

But what I’ve learned is that I still need to make the time and create a space for myself to write, and to prioritise the writing and enjoying the process over the “business” side of things. It’s easier said than done, but so important and ultimately what is most satisfying.”

Jenna Guillaume is the author of two YA novels and a novella. Her latest release is The Deep End, an Australia Reads special-edition novella. Find out more about Jenna here.

 

 

 

 

Will Kostakis

Will Kostakis children's author tips“After signing to my first publisher, I was given a stack of books to read and told to come back with a sense of which author I wanted to be like.

I chose one author I admired, they nudged me towards another.

As a grateful 17-year-old, I was like, “Sure!” And the editorial process was who I wanted to be wrestling with who they wanted me to be. The book suffered.

After it failed to set the world ablaze, I worked on my craft and found a publisher who believed in my vision of who I could be, and supported that. The result was a novel that better reflected me. But it was a reintroduction, it came after a five-year hiatus and the publisher nudged me towards changing my name (William Kostakis became Will Kostakis)…

I know all the talk of personal branding is dehumanising (we’re people, not products!) but there’s a reason for it. I know we all like to pretend we like to be challenged, stimulated and surprised as consumers, but deep down, we really don’t. We like the taste of Coke as it is. We like movies that reheat familiar beats.

When you have a favourite author, you know what you expect from them. If you pick up their latest book and it isn’t what you expect, you’re a little annoyed. I had plenty of those experiences as a reader, but as a writer, even though I was perceived as the author I always wanted to be, I felt stifled by what a Will Kostakis novel was.

So I kept the broad strokes and added the fantastical. While I refined my craft and added to my toolkit, and found new readers … those who entered a bookstore for the new Will Kostakis novel they expected were let down. I hadn’t built strong enough foundations to experiment.

All this is a long-winded way of saying: Ask yourself who you want to be. What kinds of books do you write? What themes do you explore? That first book of yours needs to capture that, and the next few need to echo it.

Find your niche, but build a strong foundation before you really experiment, because in today’s industry, we’re building houses of cards. Considering how long it takes to write and release books, rebuilding can take years.”

Will Kostakis is the author of six YA novels. His latest novel is Rebel Gods, book #2 in the Monuments series. Find out more about Will here.

 

 

 

Alexa Moses

Alexa Moses children's author tipsI wish I’d known that publication wouldn’t be the meat that would sustain me. Of course publication is a necessary first step in a career, but it’s not the panacea I’d  imagined. The real nourishment comes from the work itself.

One of the hardest parts of being a writer, for me, is the week after I finish a manuscript. Off the email shoots, and the characters and world that have occupied me for months vanish.

I should be celebrating but that’s when I fall into a slump.

I drift around the house letting cups of coffee go cold. I lie on the rug beside the dog, certain I’ll never write anything good again. I’d thought being a ‘published’ author would fill that hole but it doesn’t. I’m not myself again until I catch a new story.”

Alexa Moses is the author of six books for children, from picture books to middle grade. Her latest middle-grade novel is Michaela Mason’s Big List of Camp Worries. Find out more about Alexa here.

 

 

 

Inda Ahmad Zahri

Inda Ahmad Zahri author tips“If I had known how invaluable rejections were in this gig, I would’ve spent less time down in the dumps every time one came my way.

A kind of alchemy happens when you flip that ‘No’ – embrace it, own it, use it. It leads to better writing, better ideas, better stories, and eventually, a rightful home.”

Inda Ahmad Zahri is the author of five picture books – two published and three on the way.

Her latest release is Night Lights (ill. Lesley McGee). Find out more about Inda here.

 

 

 

 

 
Mark Smith

Mark Smith children's author tips“The thing I wish I had known before I was published was that I would actually be running a small business – with me at the centre of it – once my book came out.

I had naively thought once the book was released, I’d be free to move on and get stuck into my next project. In reality, the most time-consuming (but also enjoyable and rewarding) part of being an author is just beginning in the run up to publication day.

You get to meet your readers, booksellers and interviewers and share the project you’ve been working on for so long. But, as a consequence, your writing takes a back seat.

You have a window of about six weeks when the publicity and marketing teams will be working overtime to to get your book some traction in the market, but after that, it’s largely up to you. And, of course, that next project is still waiting.”

Mark Smith is the author of four YA novels. His latest release is If Not Us. Find out more about Mark here.

 

 

 

Allison Rushby

ALLISON Rushby children's author tips“I wish I’d been more attuned to listening to my writer gut before making changes to my work. There’s a lot of personal opinion in publishing and I think at the beginning of my career I was too ready to change my work to take in every little comment I received from an agent/publisher/editor/other writer about my writing.

Of course, when you hear the same thing over and over again from different sources (for example, your protagonist is too whiney, the end of your novel too rushed etc.), it’s well worth listening to what people are telling you and make changes accordingly. However, it’s also good to know that sometimes one person’s opinion is just that – one person’s opinion.

I had a novel out on submission a while ago where the feedback was a great example of this. I had one editor say they loved the voice, while another didn’t love the voice. Another editor thought the pacing of my mystery was too slow, another thought it was “solid”. One editor loved the start, another thought I’d started in the wrong place.

It’s very easy to run off and start changing your manuscript, but sometimes you find you end up not changing it for the better.

Allison Rushby has written 30+ books for children, young adults and adults. Her latest release is When This Bell Rings, a middle-grade novel. Find out more about Allison here.

 

 

 

Oliver Phommavanh

Oliver Phommavanh children's author tips‘Value your work. Don’t do free stuff all the time, hoping that it’ll pay off someday.

When you put a price on your work, you’re letting the world know that you’re serious about what you do.’

Oliver Phommavanh is the author of ten books for children. His latest release is Brain Freeze.

Find out more about Oliver here.

 

 

 

 

Jacqueline Harvey

Jacqueline Harvey children's author tips“The one thing I wish I’d known when I started was that you really have to manage your expectations. One book (most likely) won’t make a career (unless your initials are JKR). You will have to work consistently hard over a long period of time to ‘make it’ as a children’s author and even then there are no guarantees.

Heed advice from publishers and editors – but make sure that you write the stories that make your heart sing.”

Jacqueline Harvey is the author of 48 books for children. Her latest release is middle-grade novel Kensy and Max: High Voltage, with a picture book, That Cat, coming in 2022.

Find out more about Jacqueline here.

 

 

 

 

 

Lesley Gibbes

Lesley Gibbes children's author tips“When I first started writing I was 40 with a new born baby and an 18 month old. I knew nothing about the industry so some of my concerns were really grassroots. My main concerns were ‘am I too old?’ and ‘if I can’t illustrate can I be a picture book author?’.

I’m so glad I reached out to the writing community and found out.

So I would tell my newbie self ‘no, you’re not too old, all you need is a great manuscripts and no, you don’t need to be an illustrator to write picture books the publishing house will find one for you’.

Another thing I wish I had known sooner was how absolutely fabulously lovely all the authors, illustrators, agents, editors and publishers are. It’s a wonderfully supportive community of people who genuinely want to see you succeed and celebrate your achievements. Why did I wait so long?”

Lesley Gibbes is the author of 14 books for children, including picture books and junior fiction. Her latest release is Dinosaur Dads (ill. Marjorie Crosby-Fairall), with a new paperback edition of Searching For Cicadas out in January 2022. Find out more about Lesley here.

 

 

 

Kate Foster

Kate Foster children's author tips“A thing I wish I’d known before starting my writing career is that the days I don’t write any words (or the words I do write are truly terrible!) are equally as important as the days I produce thousands of words.

I always knew thinking days were essential, but as I develop as a writer I realise it’s nearly always these days when I emerge from the forest with clearer visions, plot points fixed, fresh ideas to try out, and with less pressure to achieve perfection.

People say write every day, but that doesn’t work for me.”

Kate Foster is the author of five books for children (one out now, four on the way). Her latest release, Paws, was published in April 2021, with a new novel, The Bravest Word, coming in May 2022.

Find out more about Kate here.

 

 

 

 

Tim Harris

Tim Harris children's author tips“The one thing I wish I knew is that it’s okay to be yourself. During the drafting of many of my first short stories, I remember questioning whether the writing was ‘Paul Jennings’ enough.

It took a surprisingly long time to understand the importance of finding a unique writing voice.”

Tim Harris is the author of 12 novels for children. His next release is Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces (out on 1 March 2022).

Find out more about Tim here.

 

 

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A L Tait The Fire StarAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and a new ‘almost history’ detective series called the Maven & Reeve Mysteries (you’ll find book #1 THE FIRE STAR here).

 You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you want more insider secrets on being a children’s author, don’t miss my new one-hour course, created with Sue Whiting. Called ‘7 Things You Must Know To Be A Children’s Author’ it’s your short-cut to career success. Find out more here

8 practical writing tips to try today

8 practical writing tips to try today

As the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast approaches its 400th episode, I’ve been thinking about all the golden writing tips I’ve heard over the years.

I’ve shared many of them here on this blog (most recently here), but it seems that every episode throws up a new nugget of practical writing advice that either reinforces what I know I should be doing, or adds something entirely new to the mix.

I wholly recommend listening to the author interviews on the podcast in full – you simply never know which words will turn the key in the lock for you – (and you’ll find them all here), but in the meantime, here are eight more writing tips you can start using today.

Click the author name and episode number to go directly to that episode.

 

Put it out there

“Tell everyone that you’re a writer. Once you put it out there, you have to put your money where your mouth is and write.”

Christie Nieman, episode 349

 

Allow yourself time to breathe

“Be patient. It’s a long, protracted, difficult process, trying to tease a novel into being, so allow yourself the time to develop something of merit and worth. Don’t worry about word counts, or volume, or any of these things that are largely extraneous, they do not matter. More often than not, if you’re writing to a word count, all you’re doing is presenting yourself with more editing work.

So just be careful about what you put down on the page and allow yourself the time to breathe and think and, and, and plot things out slowly.”

Craig Silvey, episode 352

 

Learn to force it

“I used to write as a hobby, which meant that when I felt like writing, I would write and I would enjoy it. And if I didn’t feel like writing, I wouldn’t do it because you only have to do a hobby when you want to.

[Part of being a professional writer] is learning to force it when you’re not feeling it. I think there is a lot of nonsense around creativity; that you have to be feeling it and you have to have a Muse and all that kind of stuff.

[For me], it’s a job and you have to treat it like any other job. You do it when you have to do it.

And the only way you can get better at that is through practise.”

Lili Wilkinson, episode 359

 

Be prepared to edit

“No book is ever perfect in the first draft. How can it be when you’ve made up an entire world out of nowhere? You’ve created a whole set of lives and stories out of nowhere and you’re never going to get it right first time. So you have to be prepared to edit. And to know that that’s what every writer goes through.”

Monica McInerney, episode 363

 

Mortals can do it

“I think growing up with a published writer [Thomas Keneally] in the family taught me one important thing, which is that mortals can actually do it.

If I hadn’t had an example, in my own family, of an actual flesh and blood human who could actually write, I would have thought that [writers] were all gods and it was all beyond me.

But seeing that the person who gave me piggyback rides was able to write and get published and have a successful career showed me that it could be done.”

Meg Keneally, episode 367

 

Listen to the girls in the basement

“The third book in The Rogues trilogy was a book that I probably plotted more intensively than I have ever plotted anything before. And yet, unexpected things still happened. And some of those unexpected things were the most beautiful things in the book and were the things that I ended up most pleased with and most intrigued by.

So it’s a matter of letting myself be loose enough in my writing, letting myself be unconscious enough in my writing, letting what I’ve heard described as the girls in the basement speak up in unexpected moments.

Even when you’re in the middle of writing something, you’ve got to allow space for them. Because that’s when the valuable stuff comes.That’s when characters become their most individual. And it’s when the world becomes its most intriguing. Let those girls speak up.”

Lian Tanner, episode 369

 

Be open to feedback

“Always be open to feedback, because there are two halves to a story. There’s what you think you’ve written and what somebody reads.

The whole point of being a good writer, it’s not about being verbose, it’s not about being clever. It’s about reducing the gap between what you think you’ve written and what people actually read.”

Will Kostakis, episode 379

 

Finish the work

“Finish the work. I think that’s really important. Especially when you’re writing early drafts. That’s what works for me, finishing the work, even though I might think that that early draft is terrible. I can always revise it later.”

Remy Lai, episode 383

 

So You Want To Be a Writer bookAre 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.

Subscribe to So You Want To Be A Writer podcast for more practical writing advice.

Or check out So You Want To Be A Writer (the book), where my co-author Valerie Khoo and I have distilled the best tips from hundreds of author and industry expert interviews.

Find out more and buy it here.

 

How to be interviewed: 5 tips for authors

How to be interviewed: 5 tips for authors

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?”

Etcetera.

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.

Good luck!

 

Allison Tait How to be interviewedAre 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. 

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