Asking an author…

Over at Bibliobibuli (and what a great site this is for book related comments and links!) I was led to a link that discussed the Oprah interview of Cormac McCarthy, where she asked inane questions like the Where did you get the idea for this book from? and Do you have a writing routine? and How do you feel about millions of people reading your books?

She had a chance for an in depth interview, and she asks about his writing routine? I can’t believe it.

Every writer gets asked about the origin of their ideas. They get sick of being asked. There is only one true answer: from life. And anyway a book has not one idea but thousands, and to insinuate that a single idea inspired a writer is a bit insulting. A single idea is just a tiny beginning in a huge thought process that builds up the book in an author’s mind before he ever puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

So what should a journalist ask a writer? Questions that delve deep into the book, its characters, its purpose, how it reflects the writer and his life experience, what he hopes to achieve or change (if anything), why he wrote this particular book when he did, how he views the public’s reaction to it…

So does anyone have a question they want to ask me?


Asking an author… — 11 Comments

  1. I am always interested in how writers create their worlds. I know Doctor Who and Star Trek have ‘bibles’, but imagining a whole new world: that takes a godlike effort I should think. Where do you start???

  2. I think I just did, didn’t I? *g*

    And I have to say, I don’t think Oprah’s questions were unfair. She’s playing the role of the average reader, and it’s something non-writers always want to know.

  3. karen – this was only the third time this reclusive author – one of america’s greatest, has ever been interviewed. oprah is really pushy, doesn’t give the poor guy a chance to finish his sentences, and the questions are so banal!! he is fascinating though. those magic words “like taking dictation”!

    glenda i don’t know if you’ve read this book yet, but i was thinking of you all the way through it. it will break your heart. that last lost flock of birds … that’s the image that burns me. not the baby on a spit even.

    and for all those sniffy about genre fiction – this is speculative fiction aka (sometimes) scifi.

  4. Hello, Glenda.
    Which character in each of your books do you see as an extension or a fantasy version wwlof yourself?

  5. I’d agree completely that Oprah can be a very irritating interviewer … it all does tend to be about her, and not the person she’s interviewing! But I still think she’s not wrong to ask more generically-focused questions — her audience covers a huge spectrum of people, and a large chunk I would think aren’t avid or focused readers. And her show isn’t a literary show. If it was some kind of dedicated book show and she asked generic questions, I’d complain. But I think she’s doing her job. We’re specialists, she and her audience aren’t.

    A new question for Glenda:

    What’s the most powerful thing about the fantasy genre?

  6. I will answer the qq in the main part of the blog over the next few days…

    re Oprah, I guess that’s one way of looking at the Oprah interview, Karen. The irony then becomes that this particular interview generated such anticipation because of McCormac’s stature and reclusivity that it had a huge audience outside her normal one.

  7. Hi Glenda

    I’d like to know what part of the process of creating/writing/editing/publishing/promoting a book you find the most satisfying?

    Also, which book that has been published do you wish you did write, and why?

  8. Yes, I guess most journalists are going to ask the questions that they think their known readership / audience will want to hear answered.

    What interests me is why did McCarthy agree to be interviewed by Oprah, rather than by someone else? (apart from the obvious lures of money and publicity)

  9. You mean there could be another reason, Hrugaar???

    You know what, if Oprah invited me to talk about my books and then said she was going to ask me what colour my cat was, I would still be buying a ticket to Chicago…because the bookstores would be stocking up on everything I had ever written the moment my appearance was announced, even if they had never heard of me. Now that’s publicity.

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