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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » what do you like to know about authors? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: what do you like to know about authors?
JBSkaggs
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When you read interviews with authors what do you want to know? In your opinion what makes a interesting interview with an author?

JB Skaggs
(who hopes to write a more interesting writer interview this time.)


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mikemunsil
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The same things I want to know about a painter and her painting: what was the source of inspiration? did he/she achieve his/her goal in writing it? were there any surprises during the writing? what else do they want to write? etc
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HSO
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Hmmm...

1. How long did it take them to get his/her first story / novel published?

2. Advice for those just starting out (that isn't the usual "keep trying and you'll be published eventually" crap -- which might be true, but you know...).

3. Which is his/her favorite story (that he/she wrote).

4. His/her favorite book of all time (that he/she did not write).

5. If he/she could change one thing about the publishing business, what would it be?

Stuff like that, I guess. And intersting anecdotes about writing or becoming a writer.


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Beth
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I'd like to hear some thoughts about the story - where the idea came from, how it developed, etc.

I'd also like to hear, if they can state it, what they consider their writing territory, their big themes - for example one of my big themes is transformation (often as a means of escape from the ordinary). I like to read about how people consider their work as a whole, what they're trying to explore.

When I filled out my interview for you I struggled with the "what do you think of the market" questions.



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JBSkaggs
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OKAY let me clarify myself.

I have been listening to "All things considered with Terri Gross" and I almost always find myself drawn into the interview.

But the "if you had three things on a island, or what is your favorite book" thing just seems so boring and Dead.

I mean if you could sit down with Dean Koontz what would you like to know?

I see two types:

Writers who want to know how to get published.

and

Readers who want to know how to get to that magical place the stories come from.

But the best interviews I have ever seen really didn't deal with that- it dealt with the person behind the art.

But what questions gives you the person behind the art?

I have been really struggling with this. So far I have not come up with anything but the boring same old tripe.


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mikemunsil
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What was the transforming event of your life?
Who was the most influential person in your life, and why?
Were they involved in that transforming event?
What is the one thing you would change, if you could go back in time and change one day's events in your life. Be honest.
What makes you, 'you'?
Do you feel that you have a voice in your writing?
What is that voice? What does it say?

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HSO
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Ah.

Er..

Um...

Right.

I don't care where an author's inspiration comes from, particularly. But there are lots of little things I'd like to know about just about anyone, really.

Things like:

First job. First time in love. What kind of car do they drive (you can tell a lot about someone's personality by their car. Not always, but usually). Where does someone want to live, if they had a choice. Do they like Monty Python. If so, why? If not, why?

Boxers or briefs? (or equivalent for women). Why? I don't know. Who asks that stuff anyway? I suppose I would after a few drinks.

Favorite cartoon. Favorite comic.

How does someone feel about the public education system.

What's more important? Going to Mars or feeding the hungry?

Did you ever get the snot beat of you in high school?

How do you feel about the Three Stooges?

Best and worst films ever made.

Who shot JFK?

Really, there's no limit to how un-boring you can be. We like to know the little things. It's the little things that show us someone's true personality and beliefs -- not the rehearsed answers we give to impress people. Catch someone off guard. The secret, if it's a live interview, is to then listen to the interviewee and segue from something they say.


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cvgurau
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Wow. Really weird that you said Dean Koontz. He's my current flavor of the month. I've gone through three books in two weeks, and I'm working on my fourth, after a short break to read Shadow of the Giant.

Okay, if I could sit down with Dean Koontz, I would, after the initial bout of schoolgirl giggling, want to know more about him than his craft. A person's experiences molds his personality; I think I would be interested in not only why he's a writer, but why he writes suspense thrillers. What his process is. How he gets from idea to finished product and in how long (given his multitude of published works, it must not take very long).

I once read an article I too readily dismissed (before I realized how great he is), where he said that to make writing fun, to keep it interesting, he plays with his prose, writing in iambic pentameter, at times, or with a poetic meter. I'd ask him where he comes up with such techniques, and if there are others he didn't mention.

I'd ask him how often he writes, how often he uses personal experience to shape characters or stories. Whether or not he writes on a schedule. Whether or not he has a ritual before writing (I drink copious amounts of coffee. The resulting hallucinations have inspired my best work). Whether or not he's ever used a person he knows as the sole basis for a character, good or bad. Whether or not he's ever discarded a story, because it wouldn't work out. Whether or not he plans to retire any time soon.

Oh...so many questions, so little time.

Interesting thread, though. I'm intrigued in what others will say.


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Keeley
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quote:
But the "if you had three things on a island, or what is your favorite book" thing just seems so boring and Dead.

I liked Jon Stewart's reply to that question. He said he'd want an instructional manual for getting off a desert island. (full interview here)

quote:
Boxers or briefs? (or equivalent for women)

Brief, bikini or g-string. Not that I would ever answer that question.

Other than that, I like HSO's list of questions best. Use that list next time, JB.

Without the underwear question, of course.


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wbriggs
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All I want to know about authors is: what else did you write? So I can seek it out, or avoid it. Where they live and what they named their cats . . . I just don't care.
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Beth
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ooh, the cats! I really REALLY do NOT want to know about their cats.
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Pyre Dynasty
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When did you first realize that you had feet?(be sure not to ask this of a footless person.)
If a train is going three hundred miles an hour what is the capital of Poland?

less funny but still good is:
What would you have me know?
Whom do you most admire?
If you were doing this interveiw what would you ask me?
Can I borrow a quarter?


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Elan
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My answer to this question would depend on whether you are asking about a book jacket cover, or an interview. Book jacket, I like to know where the author lives, their bank account number & PIN (just kidding), and a clever pithy quote about hobbies, or family, or writing preferences.

In an interview, I like to know their motivation, their thought process as they created their story, their inspiration. I also like to learn a little about their hobbies, interests, background because I like to see how all that ties to the type of writing they do. In short, I want to know a bit about what makes them tick.

On a side tangent, why IS it that authors always pose with their hand up to their face. Now, that is just the most stupid pose. NO one actually does that in real life! As a graphic designer, I used to simply hate those poses because you can't easily crop the photo for some publicity pieces when you need just a head shot. A close-cropped headshot with detatched fingers or a fist looks just weird.


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mikemunsil
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it's 'cause they were about to pick their nose when the shutter opened and they had to do soemthing to pretend they weren't going to do that.
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MaryRobinette
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Funny, my husband teases me because I sit like that naturally. I didn't even realize it till he pointed it out. For a photographer it's about composition, for me, it's about comfort.

But about the questions. The best interviews I've read have been the ones where the interviewer had clearly done research and then seemed to ask questions based on that research about the things that interested them most.

I mean, we all know that Ray Bradbury wrote on a manual typewriter, but since I collect typewriters I've always wanted to know what kind it was.


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Survivor
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I do that in real life. And not because I'm hiding a nose-pick (I only ever bother to hide the booger-eat).

I think that mm and Beth have hit on the most promising line of inquiry if you're interviewing authors. Try asking them about their writing.

It's a simple matter of geometry. How do you get at the person behind the writing? Go through the writing. If you try to get at the person from a different angle, you won't be too likely to get the person behind the writing, will you?

Oh, and in case anyone wants to know, my first "real" job was as an assistent janitor at my school. My first time in love was...a really long time ago. I don't drive a car, nor do I currently ride a motorcycle, but I'd really like a sleek 250 with an old fashioned kickstarter, I'm not particular about the make/model. I'd like to live a lot closer to the center of our galaxy, preferably aboard my own Wraithsword class vessel. I like Monty Python because they're funnier than hell. Neither boxers nor briefs, and no, I don't go commando either. My favorite anime is Madlax, my favorite cartoon is probably Galaxy Angels (unless that still counts as anime). I think that the Bleach manga was a laugh riot, but I like the show too. I'm also a fan of Schlock Mercenary. I feel gratitude to our public education system, because I know that if I'm ever called upon to exterminate humanity, I'll be able to do it without batting an eye because of our fine public schools (okay, there were other factors, but our wonderful education system deserves the top honors). Going to Mars is pointless if it doesn't help us feed the hungry, feeding the hungry is hopeless if we don't go to Mars. My snot comes out on it's own, though once I did get in a fight and cried till I ran out of snot because I wasn't allowed to kill the guy (okay, that might have been more than once). I think that the Three Stooges were geniuses. Best film ever...hard to say, but right now The Passion of the Christ is beating everything else hands down. I haven't watched the worst film ever made (unless I'm a worse judge of movies I haven't yet watched than experience has led me to believe), so I couldn't offer an informed opinion. I think that probably a few North Koreans shot at JFK, maybe one of them hit him once. And of course that one guy got famous for plugging him in the head when he was president (JFK, not the guy that shot him).


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Beth
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JB publishes a lot of writers, though. That's one of the things that I like about your zine, btw, just a lot of shorts to read (unlike some of the biggies, which devote a lot of space to novellas - if it's not a novella I like, that's a lot of wasted pages from my perspective). Doing that kind of in-depth interview with each author would be a ton of work.

Maybe a form interview for most of them, but then more specialized personal interviews with the cover author, or a key author or two would work?

Or maybe make friends with someone who's a gifted interviewer, and get them to work with you on the zine.


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goatboy
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Who is your best friend?

What is the single thing (that you have ever done) that you consider to be your best accomplishment?

Has your life changed since your book was published?

Ever had a stalker? How about groupies?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, how high will a monkey jump?

(Well, okay. Maybe I wouldn't ask that last one. ).

[This message has been edited by goatboy (edited April 12, 2005).]


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Lullaby Lady
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I would want to know:

What experiences made them want to be a writer?

What was their first story about that made them believe that they had a talent for writing?

Who inspires them to write, (spouse, parent, friend) and what is so inspiring about them?

If they had a writing mentor earlier in their life that encouraged them, who was it, and what did they say to keep them going?


~LL

[This message has been edited by Lullaby Lady (edited April 12, 2005).]


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Jaina
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I'd want to know how many rejections they got before they published something. And what their favorite time of day is. That's always a good question for anyone.

Or maybe I'm weird.


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Stormlight Shadows
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What is the most significiant thing that change you in your life? And why?

and what does this statement mean to you, 'Random words mean nothing to what they know . . .' VMF (I didn't come up with this saying)

[This message has been edited by Stormlight Shadows (edited April 13, 2005).]


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hoptoad
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Why did you agree to this interview?

Describe (honestly) the type of person who reads your books.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited April 13, 2005).]


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Survivor
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quote:
'Random words mean nothing to what they know . . .'

Because the final clause is incomplete, we cannot know exactly what this means, other than that there is an entity, known by "them" to be something or other, which does not take meaning from random words.

If you asserted the statement to be complete, then we could limit the entity to one known by "them" in a more or less general sense. That still can't be resolved without particular knowledge of "them".

And so we are left with recognition of the quote itself, so as to independently supply the necessary context. I don't recognize the particular quote, though structurally it is similar to many I've heard.


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Pyre Dynasty
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Acutally I think the quote he was going for is "The random words I speak mean nothing."
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djvdakota
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I haven't responded to this thread because I just haven't had any burning questions that I'd like the answers to.

All I really want to know is that the writer weaves a good tale well told.

If I interview him and get to know him too well, I might not like him or I might learn things that might mar my enjoyment of his books.

Like when I heard Neal Diamond singing Christian Christmas songs. I knew he was Jewish. It effected my enjoyment of the song because I knew he didn't believe what he was singing, that the message of the song and the man behind them didn't matter to him.

[This message has been edited by djvdakota (edited April 15, 2005).]


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Lullaby Lady
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quote:
Like when I heard Neal Diamond singing Christian Christmas songs. I knew he was Jewish. It effected my enjoyment of the song because I knew he didn't believe what he was singing, that the message of the song and the man behind them didn't matter to him.

LOL! I had the same reaction when I heard Streisand singing "I Wonder as I Wander."

It's no fun to discover that a person, whose talents I admire, ends up with a belief system or lifestyle that repulses me. On the other hand, I love reading interviews with OSC, because what you read is what you get from his core beliefs.

(Good to see you, too, Dakota! )

~LL


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hoptoad
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Might say more about you guys than them.

Does it change the way you feel about gangsta rap music to know they really don't mean all that stuff about shooting cops?

Does it mar your enjoyment?

It seems starnge to 'fear' an interview because you want to keep liking an author. Could you not equally be excited to find out something you really like about them?

Edit: The rap paragraph above was included to illustrate the idea that writer doesn't have to 'believe' their own spouting in order for others to believe it.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited April 17, 2005).]


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Survivor
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Actually, gangsta rap is a good example. Not all or even most of gangsta rappers start out as criminals who then discover a passion for rap. It's usually the other way around, a talented rapper (and whether I believe that "talent" is a term that can properly be used in association with rap has nothing to do with the case) soon finds that to gain "cred" and connections in the gangsta rap scene, he has to become a criminal or at least a nominal member of a criminal association.

For a member of one religious tradition to sing the music of another religious tradition with genuine feeling doesn't seem unlikely to me at all. The only reason that a Jew singing Christmas songs would seem unlikely is because most people think that you cease to be Jewish if you believe in Christ.

I don't even know that I'd mind hearing an atheist singing religious music, in and of itself. I think that it's less likely that an atheist will be able to put real feeling into the song, but it isn't impossible. I remember once this woman was talking about her own atheism, and she mentioned O come, O come Emmanuel, and she sang part of it with great feeling. And a feeling that really fit an atheist. The tune and lyrics already express...well, the words say it better than I could, the song "mourns in lonely exile". To hear those words sung with the true despair of one who has ceased to believe in Emmanuel was sad but still quite beautiful and moving.

Still, I think I'm affirming the position that the artist should believe in the truth of the art. Otherwise that person is a hack, pretty much by definition, creating something without appreciation of it.


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djvdakota
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Lunge and Thrust! Eh, hoptoad?

I parry, thus:

Art is a combination of the heart of the artist and the art he produces. An artist with the heart of God who produces crap, still produces crap. An artist with the heart of Lucifer who produces the divine is a deceiver.

BUT, an artist with the heart of God who produces the divine....now THAT, my friend, is truly something to seek out. And 99% of the time, it shows!

I give unto thee Handel's Messiah as an example. Can anyone listen to it and not know that it is truly inspired? And I just read a short biography of Handel. He was a good man, a worthy vessel.

And when one listens to a performance of this piece (which I have many times) it is quite a different experience to hear a soloist who believes what she sings, and one who does not.

And to Survivor: Well said, Sir.

(I've just come from reading that Shakespeare thread. Can you tell?)

[This message has been edited by djvdakota (edited April 18, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by djvdakota (edited April 18, 2005).]


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hoptoad
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Dakota, May the multiplying villanies of nature swarm upon thee, from the western isles of Kerns and Gallowglasses be supplied. Your argument? Doubtful it stood, like two spent swimmers that do cling together and choke their art.
But brave Hoptoad, (well he deserves that name) with his brandished steel that smokes with bloody execution carved out passage until he faced you -- SLAVE -- and ne'er greeted, nor bid farewell to thee till he'd unseamed thee from the navel to the chaps and fixed your head upon our battlements....

Or in other words here's the real cut and thrust: The Handel thing is cool, but what if he was Jewish? Would he have been a less worthy vessel to have produed that body of work? Would you enjoy it less? Would it be less inspired? And on that note , what about Wagner?

I really wish there was a smilie with devil's horns, oh well:

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited April 18, 2005).]


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hoptoad
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heh heh heh
'twas truly evil sire...

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djvdakota
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Brave, say ye? Nay! Knave, say I!

OH CRUD! Stop it with the Shakespeare-isms already!

OK. OK. I get your point. I suppose I could allow for the idea that the Good Lord at times uses a, shall we say, less than what might be considered typical vessel to bring his purposes to pass. But tell me this...

If you could have your choice of your favorite popular singer and a Sunbeam who can barely carry a tune in a bucket from your ward's primary to sing "I Am a Child of God" for a conference that would be attended by some heavyweight world dignitaries, which would you choose, and why?

I'd choose the first, hands down. Because I would know that the child's offering would be sincere and humble and in the spirit intended by the music. I'd much rather listen to that than a technically perfect performance that lacked the heart behind the words. That's why, you see, I much prefer Bach and Handel over Mozart. Vessels of God, all, IMO. But Bach and Handel actually believed and LIVED, to the best of their abilities, what they put to paper.

Just a sidenote: One of my favorite composers is Chopin. A vessel, to be sure. But, by all accounts, an "unworthy" one. However, his angst, his troubles, show in much of his music. He was truly a tortured soul. Was not also Wagner?

So you see, I CAN enjoy the work of artists whom I find lacking in character in one way or another. But I find it much easier, and much more uplifting, to enjoy the art of the divine produced by the "worthy."

(SPOILER ALERT: Subliminal message below)

[This message has been edited by djvdakota (edited April 18, 2005).]


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Keeley
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quote:
But Bach and Handel actually believed and LIVED, to the best of their abilities, what they put to paper.

It's funny you should say that about Handel, Dakota. My music appreciation prof said that Handel didn't believe a word of Christianity's teachings, only professed belief to get commissions, and wrote the Messiah strictly for the money. He stressed that a lot of composers were like that -- only writing Christian works for the money -- because he was tired of people thinking that these men had some added greatness because they were "Christian" and that most of the time it wasn't true.

I didn't mean to get this off-topic. It's just that Dakota's post really took me by surprise.

Poetry should be concrete and not abstract. Handel may have actually believed in what he wrote. I should avoid suicides in my stories.

I'm so glad I have you guys around to help me unlearn the things I learned in college.


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djvdakota
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Funny about University professors. They often tend to want to take someone who doesn't profess faith in the current popular religion and summarily lump them with the atheists. Many historians are trying to do that to Thomas Jefferson, for example.

The truth is, history and historical figures are too easily misinterpreted and molded to meet ANY agenda.

The truths about Handel that I believe are these:

*He accepted the commission to write the Messiah out of impoverishment--so, yes, he wrote it for the money--but not (as your professor probably wanted you to believe) because he was a fat, greedy old bastard. You see, the arts community these days wants you to believe (being an artist I faced this very idea in my education) that the only true artist is one who works solely for the sake of the art. That's why 'real' artists are only those who fill their pockets with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. They want you to disdain and denegrate the true artists of past generations because they 'sold out' by accepting commissions instead of starving to death producing 'true art.' Handel was a musician by trade. Of course he wrote music for money. There WAS no NEA to pay him for his interptretation of 'art.' He, like every great artist of the day, wrote trite, idiotic music to bring in the cash;
*He made little to no money on the Messiah, and was commissioned by a friend who took pity on him, with no promise of box office success;
*He had to act as his own marketing representative, selling tickets from his own home;
*In his own words, "Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote the Messiah, I know not." He composed the entire first draft in 24 days (and mind you, this piece takes some 3 1/2 hours to perform in its entirety). He ate little, worked feverishly, a servant found him sobbing with emotion over the just-completed manuscript. "I thought I saw all Heaven before me and the great God himself," Handel later wrote.

He couldn't sell the performance in London, where he was considered a foreigner and very unpopular. He couldn't sell much of anything in London, actually. But he had friends there who he could count on to help him if needed. His first performance of the piece was in Ireland--a charity concert. The piece only caught on in England some years later, when Handel agreed to a series of concerts for yet another charity benefit.

Handel earned very little from this, his most famous and beautiful and sacred work. Certainly it gained him popularity, and helped him sell other works. But such is the nature of the business. He turned the Messiah manuscript over entirely to the Foundling Hospital whose charity concerts finally, after many agonizing years of trying, had made it famous. If not a Christian in name, certainly a Christian in deed.

It goes back to that discussion we had on 'writing yourself into a corner' and the one before that that turned into a heated argument over selling yourself as a writer. The vast majority of writers have two options these days--you work at an income producing job so hopefully you can write that heartfelt novel in your spare time, or you live on macaroni and cheese for ten years and write and sell a LOT of stuff that is 'commissioned' rather than heartfelt just to be able to pay for that mac and cheese and hopefully have time to write that heartfelt novel.

I am one of a fortunate few who have a means of support independent of myself. I don't have to write to feed my family. I don't have to work so I can afford to write. I don't have to write the 'commissioned' pieces, so I won't. I'll write what's in my heart. And if that doesn't sell, I'll write the NEXT thing that's in my heart. If I never sell, well, I'll probably die a heartbroken old bag of bones, but at least I will have written. And hopefully my efforts will be pleasing to the God who gave me the gift of the writer's heart.


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hoptoad
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Dakota,
I wasn't aiming to maim or upset.
Its just... well... I like Neil Diamond.


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Stormlight Shadows
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Actually, that was the quote I was meaning Pyre. because it leads into more things and i didn't want anyone to know that all and mighty I came up with the question, that is just not right. Random words mean nothing to what they know . . . I put the three dots in there because it isn't a question or an end statement but it is, if you know what I mean. I could write it like this Random words mean nothing to what they know! But it leads you incorrectly and there is nothing that can lead this question correctly by writing than by talking. Oh yea and they is words!
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djvdakota
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Oh my! Did I go ever off on a rant!

Ah, hoptoad, my friend. I think I can forgive you for loving Neal Diamond.

In reality, I like him too (although I wouldn't take it so far as buying one of his CD's)--as long as he's not singing Christmas songs.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Something someone said above made me decide to post here.

Getting to know a writer may not have any influence on whether or how much you like their writing or not, but it can really make you feel guilty if you get to know a writer well enough to like him or her as a person and you don't really enjoy what he or she writes.

In case that doesn't make sense, I will elaborate: I am acquainted with many writers, and some I know quite well.

One of these writers I am only acquainted with because he is a real jerk in person (to people he doesn't consider worth bothering with--to those he considers worthy of his friendship he's a good pal), but his work is quite enjoyable.

Another writer is someone I've known since before this writer began to sell and "make it big" and though I have tried to like this writer's work because I really like this writer as a person, I just can't get excited about it.

I could cite several more such examples.

There is another writer whom I had the opportunity to meet a few years ago, and this writer is a really nice person to be around. I also really like his work.

So it goes both ways.

(By the way, I like OSC's work, and I like him as a person, in case anyone was wondering.)

As I already said, knowing writers as people (or just knowing about them from interviews)may or may not have any influence on whether you like what they write or not, but if you do get to the point where you know them as people--and even more as friends--and you don't like what they write, do everything you can to keep from letting them know. Something like that can really test a friendship.


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JBSkaggs
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Okay here is another thing about writers:

You guys don't answer questions on the interviews!

I slaved and produced what I thought was great interview questions and I rec'd six word responses. Example:

How did your family life help you become a writer?

Answer:

Yeah I had parents that loved me.

What was your childhood like how did that affect your writing?

no answer.

So on and so forth.

So I can boil down 90% of the answers to this (irregardless of questions)

I like to write. I like to watch TV. I love my kids (or cats.) I don't have any methods to my writing it just pops out. I don't have anything else to say. Now go away.


Are writer's afraid of showing who they are?
You would think a writer would understand that a interview is a chance to sell themselves and their works. The questions are really opportunities or cues for the writer or artist to try and peak the readers interest in their lives, dreams, and other works.

Not blanks on a job application.

JB Skaggs- Is any body understanding what I am saying?


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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JB, some writers hide behind their work, so they don't want to talk about themselves. In fact, there is what might be considered a "school" or "philosophy" of writing that believes that the writing alone is all that matters and it's nobody's business what the writer is like.

This is encouraged by the writing advice that tells people not to provide any personal information in a cover letter, that the writing has to sell itself.

The more writers understand about the dynamic of personality in selling stories to readers (not to editors and publishers per se), the more willing and able writers are to respond interestingly to interviews.

It would be very tempting to publish a writer's monosyllabic responses to interview questions, but it could do more damage to the interviewer's future than it might to the writer's.


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HSO
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Well, my childhood was pretty bleak. I'd rather not discuss that with anyone, personally, for fear of depressing them... I couldn't live with that on my conscience. I'd much rather talk about future possibilities than the past -- but that's just me.

And things do just pop out. Granted, I spend a little time developing them in my head, but I don't have any sure-fire method for coming up with new ideas (though that 1000 ideas thing sure is interesting -- I'll probably try that someday). I rely on my subconscious to dump something into my little brain for inspiration most of the time. Any time I try to purposefully come up with something, it is crap... Inspiration is and always will be indefinable.

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited April 19, 2005).]


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mikemunsil
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quote:
The more writers understand about the dynamic of personality in selling stories to readers (not to editors and publishers per se), the more willing and able writers are to respond interestingly to interviews.

So, where do we go to find that out?

And regarding writing just 'popping' out, most of mine does. On the other hand, the only piece that I sat down with intent to write is currently accepted for publication. Go figure.


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Keeley
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I'm with HSO on this one. My childhood was very dark and, though it had a lot of impact on my writing, it's not something I wish to talk about. Not because it would depress anyone (though I'm sure it would), but because the people involved are still alive and I would rather let them live what's left of their lives in peace.

Also, I worry about that lone crazy fan who interprets my stories in ways I'd rather not think about and tells me that their lives will never be the same because of what I wrote. When I look at this person's writing, I discover that the main plot of the story involves human sacrifice with characters that are very much like the real people s/he's described in his/her email to me. I'd rather that person and those like him/her not know anything more about me than a few superficial tidbits.

It's a silly fear, I'm sure, but it's there.

Finally, I hope those answers you posted are your own examples and not actual answers you received, JB. You might hurt someone's feelings if they read them. I'm not trying to sound uppity or snotty, but I'm sure there are many things writers could complain about regarding editors and slow response times, broken promises, etc.

I very politely ask that you temper your rant next time. We're all still learning.

[This message has been edited by Keeley (edited April 19, 2005).]


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TaShaJaRo
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JB - I have to say that I think those are REALLY personal questions and I probably would have skirted around them as well.

I think you might have better luck with more general, vague questions that allow the writer to reveal whatever he wants to. Writers are people and people love talking about themselves. But if you pin someone down with a sword of a question like that then you're just going to chase them into a corner.

I don't know how other writers feel but if I ever get published and if anyone cares enough to interview me, I want to talk about my writing. I don't want to talk about my childhood. I'll go to a therapist for that. What makes me special enough to interview is the fact that I write. That's what I want to talk about. I would think any writer would. I think you'll have better luck interviewing a writer if you let him talk about what he wants to, rather than leading him where you think the readers want him to go.

When it's all said and done, he's a person like anyone else and readers don't have any more right to his personal, private thoughts than any other stranger they pass on the street. My opinion...


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Jaina
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quote:
I want to talk about my writing. I don't want to talk about my childhood. I'll go to a therapist for that.

Exactly. Well said, TaSha!


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Elan
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Let me give you a little advice on interviewing, based on my own experience. If you (the Editor, aka "The Person In Power") ask specific questions like: "How did your childhood affect your writing," you will get back specific answers to your question. If you ask a slightly broader question, ie: "What life experiences have most directly affected your writing," you open the door to a variety of choices. If the author had a bad childhood, they won't feel forced to reveal unwanted personal information.

Me, I had a good childhood, but I don't see that it had a dramatic impact on my writing. I didn't really start writing seriously until I was in my 20's when I began to substitute writing for watercolor painting as a creative outlet.

In the course of my professional work I've had to extract useful information out of clients all the time, and they are ALL uptight about it. No one answers a point-blank question well. I've learned to interview using more open ended questions and emotion-laden cues, ie: What do you feel strongest about? What do you hope people gain from this? What do you like? Who do you admire?

In your context, I'd suggest you talk about the positive things, not the negative. This is, as you pointed out, a chance for them to make a positive impact on the reader, so encourage them to talk about their successes. And maybe help them out a little with a suggestion that your questions are merely to stimulate their thinking, and allow them to deviate if they have something else they would like to discuss.


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JBSkaggs
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There is no anger in my rant just a little dissappointment.

I think Kathleen is right there are many who feel they have nothing of value to say. But let me say it like this- think of an interview like a story. You want readers to find you interesting. Surely something in life can have the effect of a hook. Something that helps them remember your name!

Let me give an example:

Question:

How did your childhood effect your writing?

A good answer:

When I was a kid I would listen to people- I mean I would really listen to how people talked and acted. Then that night I would take my dolls and act out those scenes. When I became older I began writing down conversations I heard. Yea I was called a snoop and a snitch but I learned how to HEAR! A writer has to know how to hear. I noticed most people speak rudely, they interupt and blurt, scream, and talk about things that have no connection to the subject at hand. This entered into my writings. This way of presenting people based on life experience. It must have worked cuz here I am talking about my published work!

Do yall see what I am saying? I was not asking for you to go into the dark details of your life. I was asking for some tidbit of a hook that the reader would remember about you. And most of yall have quoted from interviews or memoirs with/of other writers on this board. Just imagine what "ON Writing" would have been like if he had not used the skill of providing hooks. I will tell you what it would have been like- another dry english text.


JB Skaggs


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TaShaJaRo
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You make a good point JB. I think that we have learned a negative conotation to the phrase "childhood." For some reason that word has become a negative word rather than the simple descriptor it should be. So your question is valid but you should consider how society warps that word now.

I agree 100% with Elan that broad-spectrum questions might reveal more interesting tidbits than specific questions. I was thinking about this on my way home tonight after I posted my previous message.

Have you ever watched the show Inside the Actor's Studio on Bravo? The host, James Lipton, is one of the best interviewers out there, in my opinion. I would strongly suggest watching that show, even if you're not interested in the actor he's interviewing. Pay attention to the questions Mr. Lipton asks and then note the response he gets. Often, it is one that he never would have gotten had he tried to lead the interviewee.

I think I may have come across more harshly than I intended because I get annoyed at people feeling like they are allowed into the private lives of anyone even remotely "famous." The media tends to act like we the people "have a right to know" thusandsuch about some actor, writer, victim of a crime, or whatever, that honestly, we have NO right to know whatsoever. And the word "childhood" just struck me as extremely personal and not something my readers need to know anything about, good or bad. So, I misunderstood you and for that I apologize.

I also see interviews a little differently than other people. I don't see them so much as what can I learn about this person, or what juicy detail can I extract from him, but more like, what does this person want to impart to me. I see interviews as a gift from the person being interviewed. They don't have to do it. They don't owe me anything; they don't have to tell me anything they don't want to. So whatever they DO tell me is obviously important enough to them to share and I see that as an honor. So I try to leave it as open-ended as possible so that they will divulge exactly what they want to.

[This message has been edited by TaShaJaRo (edited April 19, 2005).]


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HSO
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JB, my recommendation is to select 4 or 5 questions that were answered to your satisfaction, and post those instead of all of them. Good content for a website does not necessarily equal quantity of information -- good content always equals quality of information.


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JBSkaggs
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HSO I agree.

I think Maybe I should post a writer's resource to the website.

Nobody likes marketing (well not anyone I know) and the interview is just a marketing tool for the writer. I think the discovery that writers don't view interviews or bio's as marketing tools to be very enlightening. Self promotion is a strange animal. In our society we frown on people who toot their own horns- yet if we don't promote ourselves we remain unknown. Any opportunity no matter how small to sell our writings and our name must be seized; that is if we want to become established recognized writers.

So with that said let me summarize my thoughts on the subject.

Several on this board brought up very valid points:

1. do not give out info that can hurt your career or safety.

2. this is not a psychotherapy session. So don't talk about the crap in your life- but do talk about the positive habits and events that really helped you develope as a person and a writer.

3. Nobody wants to know about you, right? So give them a reason! Hook them! Your a writer thats what you do! So do it.


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