Interactive Interviews VS Traditional Interviews

Several weeks ago, I introduced a new style of author and character interviews—the Interactive Author Interview and the Interactive Character Interview. In this new style, I do away with the traditional list of questions but instead invite the author into a fictional setting for a comfortable, friendly chat. In the character interview, the author takes us into his world for the interview, and we get to meet and observe the character being interviewed in his own environment. This style makes both the author and the character more real, and here are a few things people said about their experience being interview this way:

I’ve never been a fan of interviews, but once I was warmed up in towards the beginning of Kelly’s interview, I had a blast!” Ted Covey

It was a pleasure to have gone through the process with Kelly…If one has the opportunity, I would strongly recommend other authors set up time to be interviewed by her.”Daryl Ball

Kelly Blanchard’s story style interviews are no end of fun and fascination.”Ryan T. Nelson

Interview with Kelly Blanchard is set apart because interacting with her didn’t feel one bit like I was answering a staid questionnaire.” Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Kelly’s author interviews are a fascinating experience for any author.”Valerie Seimas

And there is much more authors have said about the experience, but I realized there was one other group of people whose opinion of these interviews are vital—the readers. While this style of interviews solves many problems with the standard author and character interviews and thus making the process all the more enjoyable, what would the readers think? So I asked for volunteers.

I took an author I hadn’t interviewed yet—Ronnie Virdi, author of ‘Grave Beginnings‘. I interviewed him with both styles of author interviews then used both styles of character interviews with his character. Then I presented both sets of interviews to 23 volunteer of readers, and I asked them which style they preferred and why. Here are the results:

  • 17 people voted the Interactive Interviews for both the author and character interviews.
  • 6 people voted the Traditional InterviewsOf those 6 people:
    • 2 were leaning towards the Interactive Interview for the author interview
    • 4 voted Traditional Interview for the author interview, but they chose Interactive Interview for the character interview.
  • Out of 23 people, 21 people voted Interactive Interviews for the character interviews.
  • Only 2 people voted for the Traditional Interviews for both author interview & character interview.

To view that as percentages, it would look like this:

Kelly_pies

Here is what readers said about their experience reading these interviews:

I like the interactive style better. Nothing draws another writer in more than a story, and it gives you more to think about than a bulleted list of questions.”Kelly Blechertas

The interactive one gives a lot more feel for the author as a person. It feels like a more intimate and friendly exchange, and it gives me a sense of their potential writing voice.”Megan Reed

I enjoyed the interactive interview more. The regular interview was informative but felt like I was reading it in a magazine or watching it on TV; whereas the interactive engaged not only my intellectual side, but spoke to that part of me that gets lost in stories.”G. Scot Phillips

Interactive interview by far, most prominently for the fact that once he gets into the world, it is easier to phrase the answers in his own comfortable way, complete with mood defining subtext. The whole mechanism is comfy.”Jack Frost

The traditional interview felt all clinical, I don’t really like those. I read interviews to “meet” people. I definitely liked the interactive better because it felt more like meeting a person.”Adrienne Devine

Now, not everyone liked the Interactive, and here are some reasonings of those who preferred the traditional:

I prefer the traditional question and answer. In the interactive one, I find myself searching for the questions and answers, ignoring the rest.”Kim Hutchinson Halcomb

The traditional one. It could be that its just what I’m used to, but I had a hard time paying attention kinda in the interactive one.”Sara Lucinda

If I’m being honest, I am partial to the traditional. I’m not really sure why. There’s nothing wrong with the interactive, it’s fun and engaging, but I think I just prefer the more traditional interview.” Sabrina Danielle

I guess it would depend on WHY I was reading the interview. I definitely felt like I learned more about Ronnie’s writing from the traditional interview though I may have gotten a better sense of who he was from the interactive.” Valerie Seimas

Depends upon my mood honestly. To read the interactive one – the one set like a story – I have to be in the mood and prepared for it. Knowing what style/what to expect, there will be times where I am more receptive to it. If I were to just be gleaming for information, I like the style of the traditional one.” Jennifer Ruvalcaba

So, what is the verdict? Among authors and readers, the Interactive Interviews are largely popular, but there is still a place for the Traditional Interviews. The traditional style interviews are readily available to anyone who wants to conduct interviews. Sample questions are just a Google search away. However, the Interactive approach is much more involved and time-consuming to conduct because each experience is tailored to each author, but it is an option for those who just want to have a more fun interviewing experience. 

To read some Interactive Interviews, you may find them on my other blog, “Meeting with the Muse“. If you’ve published a book and would like me to interview you using this interactive style of interviews, and if you would like the interviews to be promoted on my site, leave a comment, and I’ll be in touch with you.

Advertisements

Grace Snoke’s Character Interview Review

This week I am currently running a survey based on readers’ preferences regarding which form of author/character interview they preferred–traditional or my more interactive style. Next week I plan to publish the results of that survey here, but in the meanwhile, one of my interviewees, Grace Snoke, blogged about her experience with the Character Interview, and she gave me permission to share it here. Be sure to read about her experience with the Author Interview.

<~>~<~>~<~>

(Originally published on Grace Snoke’s blog here: Character Interview with Kelly Blanchard)

A two part interview process, last week I reviewed the author interview Kelly had with me two weeks ago. This week I follow that up with a review of my character interview with her.

Much like the first interview, it’s much like writing a story together, except instead of her setting the scene for it, I set the scene of it, taking on the role of my previously un-named pseudo-antagonist. He’s sort of an antagonist but as the story goes, we’ll quickly learn he’s not the real antagonist – that wasn’t revealed to me until I did the interview with Kelly.

The character, named Marcus Diehl, is an entertainment lawyer who is also a werewolf. Marcus has been a thorn in my side for a while, not really telling me much about himself and I used this interview to help figure out the details by, literally, taking him on as a role and answering the questions she had as him.

In doing this, the character opened up and let me – and her – know a lot more about him than I had previously known.

Outside of the first chapter and preview of my book and me letting her know that he was the antagonist (sorta-antagonist), she knew relatively nothing about the character and this allowed her to ask questions that made me think and figure out the answers about him (or made him reveal them to me).  I’m often of the opinion that my characters write themselves – they often do – just sometimes they need outside help to make it happen.

I have to say I was very pleased with the interview and it has helped me move forward and add chapters into my book now that I know what is going on a bit better.

For examples of other character interviews, check these out:

My interview won’t be available until sometime in January.

Kelly is offering character interviews outside of these that she’s currently doing for $25 an hour of $50 for two hours. If you have a character that just isn’t talking to you, I suggest looking into her offer. It will be money well spent.

A Unique Kind of Character Interview

Character interviews and character questionnaires—the point of these is for the author of the character to get to know him by asking him rounds of questions. If it’s a questionnaire, it will look something like this:

Name:

Age:

Height:

Hair color:

Eye color:

Parents:

Siblings:

Favorite food:

Favorite color:

And so forth. This is a way to find out a lot about your character…but most likely stuff you may never, ever use because it’s not important to the story. I’m not saying questionnaires are wrong and useless—quite the contrary. They can be very helpful and useful to some writers, but other writers may find them overwhelming.

Now though, there is such a thing as ‘character interviews’. In these, the author asks the character a question, and the character shows his or her personality through the answers. These work exceptionally well in order to get to know your character for yourself, but there’s only one problem. You interview your own character, and the character is in your head, and your own thoughts could influence the character’s response. This isn’t bad because this is just a fact of writing, but what if there’s a better way to interview characters? This is something I’ve explored with multiple authors.

This new format is very similar to the new kind of author interview I introduced a few weeks ago. A fictional scene is set, two of us meet, we write in third person, questions are asked, questions are answered, and you see the character in action rather than merely hearing their responses. For the Character Interviews, I allowed the authors to choose the setting—something from their story world—so their character would feel comfortable on their own turf.

I then came in, and I am not a character—this was difficult for both author and character to comprehend, and they kept trying to tie me to their reality, but I had to stay outside their reality because it allowed me to ask questions that would probably get another character of the story killed. How exactly did I remain outside their reality? I set one rule: no touching. Even if a character did try to touch me, he would pass through me as through I were a ghost. This was incredibly helpful when I came face-to-face to some savage, bloodthirsty villains because I was able to ask them pointed questions they hated to hear, and if they lashed out at me, they couldn’t harm me. This accomplished two things: 1) took control away from the villains, and they loathe that, so it shows a different shade of them, and 2) allowed me to stay focused on the interview and questions rather than getting caught up in an actual story scene. The point of these interviews is to ask questions—not become part of a story. That is why I set that rule in place.

Not all characters I interviewed were antagonists. Sometimes I interviewed the protagonist, and depending on the character’s personality, it was either a witty and charming interview or it was a cautious, carefully probing questioning. Some characters were forthright and confident, but others were withdrawn, distrusting, and insecure. To each of these, I had to adapt my approach to ask them questions.

What does this kind of character interview accomplish? In this type of interview, there is the element of the unknown. Neither you nor your character know what I will ask next. You are confident that you know your characters very well, and instead of trying to trip them up yourself with difficult questions, you’re completely backing up your character. Both your character and you are absolutely engaged in answering the question—rather than you trying to come up with questions which your character may or may not answer. Having someone from the outside come in and interview the character in a story form really gives the author and the readers a chance to learn who that character is. Being able to use body language allows for the character to show his true colors without having to say anything. I once interviewed a villain who I enraged so much that he had to go and get a drink, but he was still furious and squeezed the glass until it burst in his hand…and then he answered my question. If we were just showing the question and answer, we wouldn’t have been able to show his full rage.

Since an outside person is asking the question, this allows the author to learn so much about their character because they are forced to dig deep and find answers to questions they may never have thought of to ask. Sometimes the author realizes their character is completely cliché and shallow. In these cases, I’d pause the interview and inform the author of my observations. If they wanted to know how to make a stronger character, I’d make recommendations, and then we’d redo the interview after they’ve had a chance to recreate the character. It is amazing to observe the difference between the two interviews once the author has really delved deep into his character and forced him to take shape rather than letting him be ambiguous. But most characters I’ve interviewed have been well-developed. It’s just a matter of probing deep and uncovering the truth behind their motives and the depth of their beliefs.

Here’s what a few of the authors, whose characters I interviewed, said about the experience:

Nan Sampson Bach

This was possibly the most fun I’ve ever had! I knew my villain had a short temper, even though he prides himself on being so controlled. Kelly managed to enrage him so much he completely lost it. It was hilarious! The questions really made me think too (seriously, it was getting hard to tell who was doing the thinking, me or him), about his motivations, his underlying belief systems and a host of other things. I thought I had a handle on it, but this interview brought up some good stuff I can play with. So not only a FAB time, but useful for me the author and hence for my readers too! Thank you, Kelly!

Matthew Dale

So I have to be honest, this interview was a mulligan. The first time Kelly interviewed this character, he did not perform well. I don’t have a lot of experience writing villains and it showed. That being said, this interview was a huge learning experience! Kelly was awesome. She was patient and encouraging, but was very direct about what could be improved. That directness was tempered with kindness and an attitude of wanting to see a fellow writer improve their craft, which cushioned her critique. The “redo” interview was much better, and I really felt like I got to know my own character. She really made me dig into his motivations, and she didn’t hold back in asking him tough questions. It’s helpful to sit down and actually role play a character, which is something I hadn’t really done prior to this interview. This was one of the best learning experiences I’ve had as a writer. I would encourage other writers who want to do this interview to be willing to listen to the opinion of others, and at least be willing to consider that opinion. You may learn something new about your character you never considered before.

Kristen Moger

I found Kelly Blanchard’s character interviews a fascinating journey into my own character. It is an interesting experience to take a character out of my own head and make them come alive for another person. As a writer, it is a challenge I loved as it brought me a greater awareness as to my character’s motivation and potential. Thanks, Kelly, for the opportunity.

Clint Brill

Kelly approached me to do a character interview and, for some strange reason, I agreed. I’d never done a character interview before so I wasn’t sure how it would work out. I was worried about it and considered making an excuse to get out of it. Even at zero hour, as I was typing up the intro to get the interview started, part of me was still trying to think of how to get out of it. I couldn’t think of anything and I’m glad I didn’t. The interview was a lot of fun, and I was sad when our time was up. Kelly has a way of putting interviewees at ease and make the interview fun. Janus, the character I used for the interview, is very reticent when it comes to talking about himself, but Kelly got him to open up and reveal more than he has in any of the stories he’s appeared in. She even got him to reveal his plans for the future. Those plans were a surprise to me because I didn’t know anything about them. Because Kelly was able to make the interview fun and interesting, I enjoyed the process and learned something about my character that I didn’t know before. Kelly is a skilled and delightful interviewer. She can interview me or my characters any time she wants.

Lia Rees

In my second interview with Kelly, I was able to explore the personality of a supporting character who previously hadn’t seemed real to me. The style of interview was vital to this exploration. Kelly entered the world of my character, Myriam, with curiosity and openness. She easily grasped the unusual setting, psychological climate and areas of conflict. She asked probing questions, gently suggested potential pathways, and showed a general spirit of empathy. Immersing myself fully in my character’s reality, I was able to draw from intuitive methods as well as intellectual ones to understand her better than I had before.

Virginia Carraway Stark

This is what it is like:

You open those doors in your mind that release your characters to be free in their world. When you go to those familiar places, you notice something different…A new door where there was no door before.

That is what it is like to be interviewed as your character like my character, Sasha Wheaton, was interviewed last week by Kelly Blanchard. It’s the same as writing in many ways but with the added dimension of penetrating, rational thought being added to the process. By adding this we don’t just stay in our character’s comfort zone but penetrate deep into their hearts and minds. You’ll find more there than when you first opened that door. A vital tool for all writers seeking to hone their craft, and if you’re a writer, you always are a seeker.

<~>~<~>~<~>

These are just a few examples of what people have experienced with this form of character interviews. I am currently still in the process of finishing all 25 interviews, and that won’t wrap up until next week. I will begin posting the interviews regularly once I’m finished, and you can find the interviews on my other blog: Meeting With The Muse

Writers have discovered this to be a fun and unique way to get exposure for their work as well as introduce their characters, story, and writing style to readers, and I intend to continue offering this service to writers. If you are interested, you may join my group on Facebook: Author Kelly Blanchard, and watch for the announcement when I open the invitation for more people to be interviewed.

You never know what you’ll learn in these interviews, and this is a very unique way to introduce you and your work to potential readers.

A Different Kind of Author Interview

Author Interviews can be done in person or online. If it’s in person, you’d likely sit across from the interviewer and be asked numerous questions, “So, when did you start writing?”, “Tell us about the book you’ve published?”, “Where do you get your ideas?”, “What advice do you have for other writers?”, and so forth. You have no idea what question they’d ask next, and if you’re on camera and are a natural introvert, this is torture for you as you try not to let your nervousness show through while at the same time, you don’t want to come across as overly excited about your books. There’s a balance, but who really knows where it is? However, my main focus of this post isn’t about in-person interviews. I can’t help you there, so you’re on your own! But I want to focus on online interviews.

These interviews are much less intimidating. There’s a screen between you and them, and what usually happens is the interviewer will email you a list of questions and ask that you send back the answers by a certain deadline. In the end, the format looks something like this (DISCLAIMER: this is a fictional interview—not based on any real interview but made up specifically for this post.)

Q: So, when did you begin writing?

A: I began writing when I was really young. I can’t even remember the first story that I wrote!

Q: What genre do you write?

A: Fantasy! And a bit of science fiction—if you can believe that.

Q: Who is your favorite author?

A: I really like C. S. Lewis and Tolkien. Very awesome!

Q: What inspired your book?

A: Well, I was sitting in a coffee shop when I overheard this guy asking this girl questions like if she wanted to go watch this movie or that movie later, and all her responses were, “I have no preference,” because she was really into the book she was reading.

Q: What is your story about?

 

And it goes on from there. You send the answers back, and what happens? Weeks later, the interviewer posts the interview on their site/blog, and it looks exactly like that.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that. It gets the job done, so it works.

But something seems to be missing. Could we do something more? Something more interactive?

These interviews tell us a lot about the author and their story, but I’ve never been satisfied with being told anything. I want to see! Pure dialogue reveals little about who the author really is because it lacks body language, facial expressions, and physical interaction with the author. We can’t really tell if they’re reserved, bored, or beaming with excitement. Those interviews simply give us the answers, but what if readers want to know more and get to know the author better to view them as truly human?

Well, I had an idea, so I ran an experiment—as you should know by now I am fond of doing. I’m still in the middle of it, but the responses I’ve gotten so far are very positive.

What did I do? I created a fictional place and invited authors to meet me there. They had to write themselves in third person as if they were a character of their own creation, but they were writing themselves. I did the same, and I took them through the setting I had created, sat them down, and had a chat with them. Some authors I took to a forest garden among castle ruins. Others opted for the palace library or the study in the palace. Others were more intrigued with the more modern-day Muse Shop I made up while few chose the setting of a coffee shop.

In these places, we met and chatted like friends but with me asking a lot of questions. To write this format, both of us had to be online at the same time, and we co-wrote via instant messenger. I told them I didn’t want dialogue tags because that would defeat the purpose of the interview since tags are more telling, but I preferred if they used body language instead. I asked for 27 volunteers and am currently in the middle of these interviews, but so far all the ones I’ve interviewed admitted they were nervous at the beginning because they didn’t know how this would work out, but they quickly slipped into it and became lost in the imaginary world I created. The next thing they knew, it was the end of the interview, and they were quite disappointed that it came to an end. Every person I’ve interviewed so far has used the word ‘fun’ to describe it, but here are some reviews a few people gave me after I interviewed them:

Kristen Moger

Kelly Blanchard’s interviews are a pleasure to take part in. She has a great imagination and encourages her interviewees to join in the creative adventure, all the while allowing the reader to discover an author in a new way that is far more interesting than the usual question and answer session.

Matthew Dale

I was unsure of what to expect going into this interview. The setup Kelly gave the volunteers beforehand was, unorthodox, to say the least, but interesting. The interview takes place in a fictional environment, and the author being interviewed is expected to write about themselves as if they are one of their own characters. I found this concept to be fascinating! Kelly is very friendly and easily approachable in the interview, and the process really forced me to consider my answers to her questions. Having been a newspaper reporter, I’ve done my share of interviews, even with a couple of published authors. I’ve never been the interviewee, and I’ve never had such an interesting, thought provoking, and overall enjoyable interview. Were I to give it an Amazon Star style rating, I’d probably rate it 5 out of 5. My only complaint is that the time for our conversation went by too quickly, and this is coming from a self professed introvert who has not had very much contact with Kelly prior to this interview. Definitely worth your time to do this, if for nothing more than a pleasant diversion from the norm.

Lia Rees

Kelly’s interviews are a pleasure to take part in. She invites you into a setting which is developed enough to offer scope for imagination, yet not restrictive in its demands. She is encouraging, builds a natural rapport with her interviewee, and easily shifts her focus to meet new ideas. Even allowing for the difference in our genres and styles, Kelly made my first ever author interview straightforward and inspiring.

Clint Brill

Kelly’s interviews are like all standard interviews with a simple Q&A session. The similarity, however, stops there. The idea of working through the interview in Third Person like you’re writing a scene for a character was a little odd at first, but it doesn’t take long to get into the fun of it. Her questions were thought-provoking and the “character interactions” between questions helped ease the tension and make the entire process enjoyable. More interviewers need to take a similar approach. I’d definitely do another interview like that any time.

Jacob Settlemyre

The interview was really interesting. Kelly is really good at setting the scene and making you comfortable when you first begin. It was like a real conversation. The talk was laidback and had a lot of possibilities. Of course she lets you explore and contribute. I learned a lot from the experience. Thanks Kelly!

Virginia Carraway Stark

Being interviewed by Kelly Blanchard about my upcoming novel, “The Hunt for Z’iaster’ was an interesting and imaginative romp that showed Blanchard’s clarity of vision of her world. I had never written about myself in the third person before and adding to the challenge of trying to think of how to describe and characterize my movements, voice and idiom was the challenge of being transported to Blanchard’s fantasy universe as well.

Blanchard encourages play over a standard, by the books interview and lets the interviewee lead with creation and imagination so that the interview takes place in another world, Kelly Blanchard’s world. In my case we started off in a royal garden and then rambled through a woods and into ancient ruins.

The suspension of belief and the removal of the bounds of reality are essential to the creative process. This is what was distinguishing about the interview. It was an effort of creation rather than a simple rundown of facts. There was no list of interview questions, and it was much more a conversation between writers that allows others an inside peek into the world of not one author, but two.

I am currently in the middle of interviews with two weeks of Author Interviews and two weeks of Character Interviews—two interviews a day, six days a week. Once all these interviews are completed, I will begin posting the Author Interview of one author on Wednesday and the Character Interview of the same author on Fridays on my new blog Meeting With The Muse. You can visit that blog now and see the Author/Character Interviews I already have posted there when I interviewed Kat Perrin for an example of the new style of interviews.

Am I saying all author interviews should be done like this? No. It is quite time consuming and a stretch of the imagination, and everyone’s schedules must be rearranged. However, the difference is nice.