Every so often, I make the mistake of taking a step back and trying to think of all the things that make up a truly amazing book. Plot, characters, and idea are just one thing. Then there's pacing, setting, dialogue, believability, authenticity, prose, marketability… it's sort of like a juggling act with every object in your kitchen, including the kitchen sink, except your blindfolded and all the objects are imaginary and you're never even sure whether you caught them…
Good advice in any of those areas is like precious gold. This week, I came across an article at one of my favorite book review sites, Dear Author. The article, written by bestselling contemporary romance author Julie James. In the article, Julie discusses the way in which she conducted research for her latest book.
It's a short read, and a lot of fun. Julie has a good list of interview questions that she asks that go beyond the obvious.
The best part of the article for me is not necessarily the tips, but the encouragement to be brave. I'm not normally a shy person, but the thought of calling a stranger out of the blue and asking for such a big favor terrifies me. But Julie reminds us of a couple of important things at the end of the article:
1. People like talking to authors, and it's very flattering in general to be interviewed.
2. No one will criticize you for getting things too "right."
3. Really, the worst they can do is say no.
I still hate calling strangers on the phone, but it's nice to remember that most other people are happy to help if you ask nicely.
Of course, here's where being a fantasy author has its disadvantages. I can't exactly go visit a magic school to learn what classes are really like, or interview dragons on what's really so fascinating about gold (copper is shiny too! And a prettier color).
If, like me, you're not yet bold enough to cold call the FBI, remember that a lot of the people around you also probably don't mind being interviewed by authors. We each have our own unique repository of experiences and information. For example, if you need to know pretty much anything about ecology, or North American birds, I'm a good one to ask.
And because I haven't had a picture in this post yet, here's one of my favorite birds, a cedar waxwing.
You could also interview me on life working for the federal government, or what it's actually like to be the poor kid at a rich high school.
So on which subjects could you offer expertise?