12 Tips to prepare for interviews

Lawyers are always told never ask a question you don’t already know the answer too. And so it is when a writer is preparing for an interview. Here are tips to get you ready for just that.

  • Write out a series of questions about yourself and the book you will be promoting. Tailor them to various scenarios. Questions surrounding your writing journey, the what-if moment of your book, and how you got from page one to the end. Write out twenty questions knowing they will only ask a few of them.
  • Write out the answers to those questions. Then practice before a mirror answering those questions until the responses sound natural.
  • Often an interviewer will ask for a media kit. This is that lovely packet of info about you and your books. Include a series of suggested questions. Pick your favorite questions to include. This helps both of you to have a smooth interview.
  •  Having prepared a string of possible questions if the interviewer likes to interview off-the-cuff (I hate those) the answers you give will sound natural because they will more than likely be a variation on the list you prepared.
  • Practice your physical appearance. Sit up straight, don’t fidget, think about the position of your feet if you’re sitting. Do this before a mirror as well. If you can record yourself, you can correct things that might distract from your interview. I find myself wanting to itch my nose or push tiny strains of hair out of my face. It is very distracting on a video interview. While doing a radio interview, sit up straight and focus on the interview. Pretend the interviewer can see your face. I laid down part way through a podcast interview. When the interviewed aired, my voice dropped to almost a muffle at the point where I laid on the couch. UGH!!
  • Avoid filler words. If you ever took a speech class, you know what I mean. Rather than pause the speaker fills those spaces with Uh, you know, you know what I’m saying, ah, um and other slang word that become a distraction to the listener. After hearing a speech by the CEO of the company I used to work for, my co-worker had counted at least twenty times in his brief speech he’d said you know. Even though what he said was important, his pause words erased its value for that listener.
  • Talk slower. I talk fast, naturally. During a live interview, even a recorded one, you may find your voice speeding up, wanting to get every point in as quick as you can. Practice talking slower. Record yourself and listen to your pacing and pronunciation.
  • Don’t just focus on selling your book during the interview. Engage with your listeners. Save the last few minutes to give the audience the information needed for a purchase. If the interviewer asks if you have anything to add at the end of the interview, that is the perfect time to hold up your book, restate the title and give your buy links.
  • You don’t need to be perfect because your audience needs to feel they can connect with you. But you don’t want to sound so bad that it takes away from the message you want to get across. That’s why practicing the answers to your questions makes your conversation smoother.
  • Avoid profanity or words that may offend. Know your audience, you want to sound professional and prepared.
  • Know your audience so you can reach their felt need. As a romance writer, I don’t always focus on the romance elements in my books. I sold New Duet to a male veteran because my hero was a wounded warrior. I focused on the areas of my story that would appeal to my present listeners.
  • If the very idea of doing an interview terrifies you take a class. A public speaking class at your local community college is an option. There are organizations such as Toastmaster who can give you the tools you need to speak with confidence. Carol Kent’s Speak Up conference is a wonderful place to learn as well.

My last comment. Don’t be so critical of the details after hearing and seeing yourself in an interview that you crawl under your bed in humiliation. Each opportunity to share about your book you will get better. The interview I did where I laid down on my couch part way through to me sounded bad. I talked too fast and my voice wasn’t consistent. I was surprised to learn that interview was the most listened to podcast for three weeks running.

Do you have any tips to prepare for interviews? Share in the comments.

My novella Healing Hearts is part of this collection. It’s the prequel to my upcoming release Rescuing Her Heart. If you haven’t read The Cowboys here’s the link

Healing Heart

Lonnie Holt’s external scars remind him of his failures, his internal scars torment him. Genny Collins seeks safety at the ranch once owned by Lonnie’s uncle. When Lonnie and his brother arrive, sparks fly and distrust abounds. While Lonnie and Genny fight the love growing between them, his past haunts him, and her past pays them a visit.

Rescuing Her Heart is available for preorder.

As her husband’s evil deeds and abuse haunt a mail-order bride from the grave, can she learn to trust again and open her heart to true love?

On visitation rounds as a lay preacher, the last thing rancher Jed Holt expects is to be shot at from the barn next to a burned-down homestead. But the soot-covered woman hiding inside needs protecting, and Jed is the man to do it whether she likes it or not.

Delilah James’s nightmares began when she came to Kansas as a mail-order bride. Her husband was nothing like his letters. Now that he is dead, she can’t shake his abuse from her heart. Trusting men tops her never-again list, and taking a job on the Holt ranch as a housekeeper is a means to save money and bring her parents west. But her attraction to the compassionate former chaplain both angers and confuses her.

Jed has his own nightmares from a POW camp and understands Delilah better than she knows. Can two broken people form a forever bond?

Taking Care of the Author in You

This year was difficult for me. Unlike other writers who produced a few books during the pandemic, I went into sleep mode. My productivity wasn’t what I wanted. Even after retiring from my job in August I still struggled to get my productivity to the level it needs to be.

The one writer’s conference I attended this year had a week-long class call Soul Care for the Writer. I so needed that encouragement. Most of the time I would choose a continuing class on writing craft or marketing. But not this year. There were four of us in that class. Four women, who were honest about their need for spiritual refreshing. I came away feeling not only reconnect with Jesus but reconnected with who I am and why I write.

Quiet time

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The instructor encourages us to take time for ourselves. For me as a believer it is so easy to forget to spend that time in God’s presence when I’m trying to get writerly things done. When I sit before the Lord my day is better.

Journaling

She encouraged us to journal the insights we get during our quiet time. And have a prayer journal. Taking the time to write our prayers down slows my racing mind and makes me focus on the words on the page and the things in my heart I am praying about. Going back to The Word of God reminds me that I am His and His peace and confidence rest on me.

What a difference that time with the Lord makes in my focus. God gave me the gift of words. Now I am more connected to the source as I write. Even as I write fiction He is there with me easing my doubts and fears.

Tackling the Giant

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The biggest giant a writer faces is Fear. We start our writing journey as a wide-eyed optimist expecting everyone to love our words. We believe it is a best-seller. Then our critique groups shows us weaknesses. (We feel they hate it.) Editors reject it with out explanation. (We feel unworthy.)

Now we listen to The Voice in our head that tells us everything we write is crap. It’s a waste of time and why not just quit. This is the personification of the fear within us. We get so focused on what others think or say (our interpretation of what they said with a negative spin.)

This is the time to shine the light of truth on the fear. Spending time in prayer, listening to His voice helps build a wall around our hearts. Affirmation from His Word will help change our thinking. Friends who support our chosen vocation and support us in prayer are priceless gifts.

Failure is an option

The only way to fail at writing is to stop. Stop learning the writing craft. Stop exploring new markets and marketing. Stop going to your critique group. Throw your writing away and don’t look back.

Path may change

We may have the great American novel in us or on our computer. But God may direct us to write something else. A fellow fiction writer was at a Book Expo checking out fiction publishers. She noticed an academic publisher’s table and the germ of an idea came to her. She pitched it right then and there to the publisher and got a contract to write a cookbook. The notoriety she is getting for this book is building her platform. Platform is essential no matter what you write. In the future, her novel has the potential for good sales with her established cookbook fan base. All because she listened to the prompting from God and willingly walked a new path.

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Don’t feel guilty

It is important to have time away from your laptop. I am so intrigued by my friend Pegg. She raises sheep for their wool. Then cards it, spins it and knits it into wonderful items. She also cans many things she grows on her farm. All this while writing novels and editing others. Her hobbies keep her grounded. Another writer friend does photography and uses her photos as part of her social media platform. She loves taking a walk with her camera.

I know me and I am not crafty and I often forget to photograph events I attend and the beauty of nature. I love reading and being taken away to new places for a few hours. Do I truly have a hobby? Something that relaxes me and allows my subconscious to tackle story points while my heart listens to His voice.

I color. Yep. You read that write. I enjoy turning on background music and getting out colored pencils and coloring books and spends some time using my hands doing something unrelated to writing. Lately, I’ve discovered Word Find puzzles. I prefer them to crossword puzzles because I don’t have to guess the answer. The hobby doesn’t have to be making gifts for others or something you can sell. But it does need to be something you enjoy. It can be something you share. I love walking with my husband.

Closing thought

This writing life is stressful enough. Add the pandemic and other unexpected disruptions in our lives and we feel bogged down. I hope these few suggestions help you refocus.

What do you do to refocus?

Creating a Writer’s Mission Statement

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For years I fought the notion of a mission statement. I’m a writer, not a company. Why on earth would I need one? And honestly, the idea of writing one was overwhelming. This past October I attended a writer’s conference and in one of my classes, we wrote our mission statements. It wasn’t as difficult as I’d first imagined. I see the value too. My mission statement reminds me of why I write and what I am focused on when I write.

Businesses create mission statements to tell the world what they’re all about in a few short lines. It’s a reminder to the organization of their goals in those few words. It’s the plum line of all they stand for.

As a writer, I need that same plumb line, so I don’t waste time writing anything that doesn’t match my mission statement. This statement reminds me of who I am.

Here is mine:

I believe your past doesn’t have to predict your future. As a writer who embraced a call, I didn’t feel worthy to fulfill I use my words and stories to give readers hope for new perspectives and new tomorrows providing a foundation of God’s love.

Before I could write my Mission Statement, I had to answer four questions. I’ve added my answers so you can see the process.

  1. What do you do with your writing?

I encourage, inform, and teach others with my articles and stories. My novels give hope that a person’s past doesn’t have to control their present or dictate their future.

      2)  Who do you do it for?

All those who want to mature in their writing and their faith.  Women read my novels and I hope the struggles of my characters are relatable.

      3) What makes you unique?

 I walked through this writing door with no formal education or college degree. I’ve taken the time to glean all I can through conferences and classes. Because God has given me the desire to encourage others to move forward, I share my writing journey in hopes they are inspired.

    4) What can your readers expect from you?

  Stories with characters that reflect real-life and relatable problems. Despite those problems, they learn to move forward.  Blog followers expect posts that give them hope for writing success. Posts that are uncomplicated and to the point.

I Believe

Begin your mission statement with the words I believe and based on the four questions above craft it. You’ll probably rewrite it a few times before you’ve tweaked it to a concise statement that inspires you every time you read it. This statement will remind you what your heart’s desire for your words.

Reminder and Focus

When I look at my mission statement, I am reminded of what I do and don’t write. I have no desire to write flat characters whose lives are easy and nothing ever goes wrong. That is not life. That has not been my experience. But neither am I comfortable writing dark prose that leave the reader with a shiver and looking under their beds. If I want them to shiver, I take them from the terror they face to healing balms of hope and overcoming before the story ends.

My mission statement keeps me focused on my purpose. And over the years just like Corporate America, we may feel the need to change our mission statement to reflect changes we sense in the writing industry and our writing niche. A mission statement isn’t meant to guide your whole life (but it might).

Changing

Writing trends change, and you may feel the need to change with them. At that point, a revised mission statement may be in order.

Care to share your mission statement in the comments/ I’d love to see it?

The Best Calendar for Writers in 2021

My kind of planner

I’m old school when it comes to calendars. Probably because I’m a list-maker, I find the more traditional calendar with large squares for each day works for me. I turn each daily task into a handwritten list I can check off then throw away. My calendar helps me remember where I’ve been and what’s coming up within my writing career. I sometimes use different colored pens or a pencil for things. I even write reminders in the blank squares of things due to the next month. It is messy, but I’m happy.

Phone calendar

The calendar on my phone is for doctor’s appointments, etc. I don’t like to work on my phone because of the keyboard size. However, those who love their phone will find that feature valuable. You can sync it with other online calendars.

Online calendars

Google calendars can be shared. Great if you are working on a project with someone. It makes co-authoring a book less confusing. There are more complex online calendars, like Airtable. You can create a year’s worth of social media ideas and then mark them as done once you’ve posted for the day. Airtable has a free version and a paid version that helps get other aspects of your writing life organized. You can also download printable calendars from the internet and create your own daily, or monthly calendar.

Chunky Calendar

A calendar I find useful for novel writing is the Chunky Method Calendar. Allie Pfeifer author of The Chunky Method created it. She teaches you how to determine your writing chunk. The chunk of words you can write before your creativity dies. For example if you can write 500 words a day then you can use the calendar to calculate what day you will complete your novel, this includes adding in time for edits and rewrite. Knowing the endgame makes writing so much easier.

Dot and Bullet journals

Then there are the dot journals. Each page you can add your own dates and use colored markers to organize your events and daily goals. Some come with stickers or you can purchase them separately. You can draw your own backgrounds or just doodle. For those who are artsy or love neat, colorful calendars, these are for you.

Your choice is the right choice

Whether you prefer a simple block calendar, ,an artistic or an online choice than that’s the perfect one for you. And if you have no idea, take the time to explore all of these options. Use a block calendar and color code it. Try google calendar at the same time. It won’t take you long to figure out which option is best for you.

The goal as writers is to get things done on time. A calendar is only one of the tools in your writing career to help you reach that goal.

What is your favorite calendar to use, and why?