We've all been there - you said something you thought was brilliant, played it back in your head later, then wondered how you said something that @#!$ stupid. If you said it to your friend, your mom, your spouse - you can usually take it back. In an author interview, it's forever.
Here are 7 ways to keep from saying something stupid in your next author interview:
- Don't tell your life story. Most interviews start off with a question about when you started writing or why you chose to write what you write. Give the interviewer just a couple of sentences (2-3) about these topics. Anyone who wants to know more about your life can read your bio.
- Give the interviewer more than yes/no answers about most things, but avoid rambling. The more you talk or type, the more chances you have to put you foot in your mouth. Structure your answers in a straightforward way.
- Be authentic in your answers. This means resist the urge to embellish on your credentials or life events. Any fibs you tell in an interview will come back to haunt you, sooner or later. The fallout can be hard to recover from.
- Always do prep for in-person or broadcast interviews (TV, radio, podcast) by rehearsing your answers. If you aren't offered a list of sample questions ahead of time, ask for a general idea of the topics that will be covered. Prepare your answers to the sample topicss ahead of time and prepare a few talking points of your own. Ask a friend to help you rehearse your answers and talking points, so you know what you're going to say, and you feel more relaxed when the interview takes place.
- If the questions and answers are written, as in an emailed interview, re-read your answers before you send them. It's easy with written interviews to know when you're being too wordy (which can put the audience to sleep) and allow you to catch places were you might want to censor your answer. Better yet, ask someone else to give your answers a read-through, too. Ask them to flag anything risky.
- Remember that the interview's target audience is your readers, not your friends, so take it seriously. It's ok to make a joke in an interview, so long you're confident it will be taken as a joke. Even if you write humor, don't try too hard to be "the funny author", especially in print, it has the potential to fall flat.
- Don't get hostile, ever. On the flipside of tip #6, if the interviewer says something that pisses you off, keep it to yourself. You might think this is a no-brainer, but sometimes things happen in the heat of the moment. My advice is to find a polite way to answer the question or just say you'd like to take a pass. If this doesn't work, and the interviewer is insistent, feel free to quietly excuse yourself. Don't use sarcasm or (worse) yell at the interviewer. Your freak out may be the YouTube video of the week, but no author really wants that kind of notoriety.
Feeling nervous now? It's ok. Take a deep breath.
Your readers and the interviewer are human, just like you. Remember that before the panic attack sets in.
Above all else, remember to be yourself during the interview (just, within reason).