A Mildly Cranky Note to Would-Be Interviewers

No, in fact, I would not like to be interviewed for your Web site when the “interview” in question consists of an e-mail full of several generic questions of the “what are your favorite books” stripe, none of which have anything to do with me or my work, or indeed show any evidence that you are aware of me or my work outside of a “hey, it appears this person might have written a book at some point” level. If you want to do an interview of me, please have it be an interview about me and my work. Otherwise you’re asking to waste my time, and I’m going to say “no” to that.

Also, I have information on how to set up an interview with me right here, linked on the front page of Whatever. Won’t you please use it? That’s why it’s there.

39 Comments on “A Mildly Cranky Note to Would-Be Interviewers”

  1. Hee, hee. I’ve seen that kind of interview with other authors, and am glad someone is refusing to descend to that level.

  2. Jeanne:

    Yeah. I’m not above one or two standard questions for each interview, but at some point I think it’s useful for the interview to be about the interviewee.

  3. You funny.

    One of the (many) things I unashamedly enjoy and admire about our Scalzirific host here is the ability to make me laugh at something like this post which, really, isn’t particularly funny. Yet it works. It makes the point and makes me laugh and makes me want to engage, all at the same time.

    To make use of a twittery hashtag, Scalzi is still #doingitright.

  4. Well said. Every time I see one of these types of interviews I think to myself that I can’t be bothered to waste my time. It didn’t occur to me until now that it also wastes the author’s time.

  5. Rules, rules, rules. Everybody is so picky about following the rules. Sadly, it even applies to my expectations about my college students, who sometimes think that the stuff in the syllabus is more of a guideline than an actual rule. Where do people get these ideas? (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  6. Sir or Madam, I love this site and I love your [insert name here]. I’ve always wanted to know, where do you get your ideas?

  7. Why bother interviewing JS? The answer to all of the inane questions are already up on the Whatever. Plus just about every random thought JS has had over the last ten years.
    Oh wait this is aimed at the unclean who are unaware of the Whatever.

  8. You know, when i see what “prosperous and well known” is like, it makes me certain I never want to be rich and famous.

  9. DAMN!! your a hardass!! LOL just kidding it’s good I agree with you totally. People are just getting plain old lazy what happened to good old fashioned “leg work”!! Or for that matter common sense has anyone seen that??

  10. Here’s a rule I follow when doing interviews with authors:

    Read his/her books, or at least the most current one.

    Just makes life easier.

  11. Teen Beat called again, huh?

    Next time that happens you should just give them all bullshit answers. What’s your favorite book? Twilight. What’s your favorite food? Asparagus. What are your hobbies? Snarking on the internet. Oh wait. That last one was real. My bad.

  12. Yespls. Not only would you not want to be interviewed with generic questions, I probably don’t want to read that interview. I hate reading the same author interviews with the same questions. Sure, they’ll all start with “Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work,” or whatever, but interviewers should read as many other interviews that author has done and not rehash the same questions. Otherwise, I don’t care how much I love you, it’s TL;DR.

  13. From the how to set up an interview page, “Something else you’re interested in having me do that’s not here? Send me an e-mail and explain yourself.”

    If only I were still in college, for the right price I could have had my own ‘Back to School’ moment.

  14. What is your favorite color?

    What did you have for breakfast this morning?

    If you were a tree what kind of tree would you be?

    Coffee black or with cream?

    Boxers or briefs?

    Edward or Jacob?

    Kirk or Picard?

  15. You just have to approach this with the proper spirit:

    Favorite color: The color of blood spurting out of a victim’s neck.

    Breakfast: The souls of the damned

    Tree: Uh, I dunno. Spruce? Yeah, spruce. With a kitten nailed to it.

    Coffee: Blacker than the deepest depths of hell.

    Boxers or briefs: If you ever discover this it will be the last thing you see before you die.

    Edward or Jacob: Both must be destroyed and their corpses used to wipe up the tears of those who grieve for them.

    Kirk or Picard: Riker

    I know you didn’t ask, but

    Cake or Death: Can’t we do both?

    I look forward to your next book: Your Interview Questions Will Be Graded.

  16. I once did a round of interviews in Belgium, most of which were more interesting and thoughtful than any I’ve been through before or since. Except there was this one guy. Who glowered at me with baleful eyes and said in the same unchanging, flat, menacing tone:

    “What is your favourite Christmas song.”
    “What is your favourite Christmas movie.”
    “What do you want. For Christmas.”
    “Have you bought a new dress. For CHRISTMAS.”

    I went from trying to somehow wrest the answers into illuminating insights into my life and work to just helplessly going “…a new jewellery box?” and “… NO!”

    And then he asked “What is your favourite Christmas story?” and I said “I can’t think of any Christmas stories!” and he said “A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens!” and I said, “Yes, fine, that!” and he said “I think the photographer would like you to put on a Santa hat now,” and I threw the first and so far the only “I am an ARTIST dammit” fit of my life.

  17. @25 AlanM

    Your Interview Questions Will Be Graded.



  18. Well, and in fact I have sent back e-mailed questions to interviewers with the notation that they were boring and could they please ask different ones.

  19. Boxers or briefs? Crotchless lace panties that would make the Whore of Babylon run to the nearest convent and take a vow of chastity, of course.

  20. Just wanted to say that I appreciate the type of humour being bandied about here both from yourself and the various commentators. I’ve been a silent reader of the page for sometime now. Admittedly hadn’t heard of you prior to that, but it’s my fault for not having time to read due to work. But, having a fair bit of time perusing these page(s) I went and ordered pretty much everything you’ve published that I could find. I received Book of the Dumb 2 and Androids Dream (which I devoured in about 1/2 a day of solid reading) before Christmas and yesterday received Zoe’s Tale, OMW, Ghost Brigades, Agent to the Stars and BoD 1 yesterday. Any particular order you suggest I read them after I finish BoD?

    Thanks for doing what you do so well.

  21. The answer to all those insane “X or Y?” questions is, of course, “yes”. Or “no” if you’re feeling ornery.

    John, if you want to share your thoughts on federal pre-emption, Iqbal v. Twombly or ERISA I can probably get a couple of lawyer magazines to call you up with some really new interview questions. By “new” I don’t guarantee “not boring”.

  22. I did a few of those generic interviews in the last couple months. It’s my first book, and I didn’t really feel like waving them off.

    Next time, I’m just going to answer the question I want to answer, the way politicians do.

  23. @30 MagnaRGP
    1. OMW
    2. Ghost Brigade
    3. Go buy then read The Last Colony or Zoe’s Tale will not make a lot of sense
    4. Zoe’s Tale
    5. Anything else you like.

  24. @28

    You have moved up on the awesome scale just for doing that.


    You’d either become everyone’s favorite interview candidate or everyone’s least favorite for doing that.

    Q: What is your favorite book?
    A: I’m glad you brought that up, because I believe that there is a crisis in this country – a literacy crisis. Not only are about 10% of the people in the US funcationally illiterate, 66% of those who are technically literate never read anything! 66%! That’s *half*. And don’t even get me started on the appalling math skills of the average American.

    (Numbers given may differ from reality in unspecified ways)

  25. When I interview an author, I make sure I’ve read enough, if not all, of their work to ask intelligent questions. I then track down as many interviews they’ve done as I can to get a feel for what they’ve been asked and answered too often.

    Although I do include some standard questions, i try to tailor each interview question to the author’s specific work and interests, frequently asking questions unrelated to their actual writing, but rather instead to organizations they work with and outside interests they’ve expressed interest in. (In the latter case, I have had authors refuse to answer because they were afraid it would detract from the promotion of their current novel).

    I figure if I don’t show an interest in the author and their work during the interview, they have every right to not show an interest in answering the questions. And if I can write up their responses just by looking at interviews they’ve done in the past, I’ve failed miserably as an interviewer.

  26. If a man, much like me, told you he had a great idea for a book and that you were the perfect man to write it, would you be happy splitting the profits 50/50?

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