Market Your Novel with Character Interviews

By Deb Gorman

Today, we are honored to have Deb Gorman, one of our faithful TKZ community, presenting a post on a technique she has discovered for marketing. Pleas join me in welcoming Deb. And thanks, Deb, for agreeing to share your idea.

Steve Hooley

***

Steve Hooley, you could’ve knocked me over with the proverbial avian integumentary appendage when I received your invitation to guest blog on TKZ. I was nervous about accepting because most of the time I feel I have a lot to learn from all of you, with nothing to offer in return.

But, of course, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity. I know every author starts out unpublished and that includes those who roam these hallowed halls, so I decided to take the plunge.

I get up every morning thinking, okay, today I’m going to create a page or a chapter or a section that will blow my readers away. And then I remember I have very few readers—and BTW, all are precious to me—so the blowing away won’t be a hurricane. Maybe a soft breeze.

As I write this post, my first two novels are with an agent. Scary. Very scary. She has read one and sent some work for me to do on it. I actually sent it back to her this morning. No contract, though . . . yet. (Note my confidence.) The other novel will be read in the next few weeks and she’ll get back to me. I have to remember that she asked to read them in their entirety . . . so I count that a minor miracle.

Whew! Got that out of the way. Now, to the subject of today’s post—a marketing method I’ve discovered. The newbie talking about the most difficult part of authoring? Hope I get this right.

As you might guess, I’m no marketing expert. (A nod to you TKZers who are, and I study every post you put out about it.) But, having said that, I have discovered a fabulously fun way of marketing a forthcoming novel. I may have mentioned it a time or two in TKZ comments.

It’s called Character Interviews.

Now, there’s nothing new about interviewing your characters. (Nod to JSB) Some of us have discovered secrets hoarded by our characters when we invite them to a private sit-down during the draft process.

But I took it a step further, deciding it might be a fun way to market the story before . . . well . . . the story. Full disclosure: this idea is not my own. I was trolling SM one day and someone (sorry, can’t recall who) mentioned it in passing. I jumped on it.

The idea is to wait until you have a draft of the entire story. Then go through it and search for your characters’ quirks, weird stuff they say and do, fears and failures. Pick your first character to put on the hot seat and sit him/her down and start the grilling. Just for yourself. I am amazed at how much I discover about what makes my rascally friends tick.

Then, I craft it into interview form. At this point, I pick and choose what to reveal to my blog post readers. I don’t want to give away the farm, just a chicken or two, to up their curiosity.

Here’s an excerpt from my latest character interview with the irascible Jake Gruber, from my WIP, No Tomorrows.

Deb: Jake, are you there? Were you able to retrieve your newspaper from the street?

Jake: Yeah, I’m here. Dang newspaper guy . . . hardly ever gets it to my porch these days. Things just ain’t like they used to be.

Deb: That must be aggravating. Have you complained?

Jake: Don’t do no good–but I’m sure your readers don’t want to hear about my newspaper problems. What do they want to hear? Can’t believe there’d be anything interesting enough about me–

Deb: I understand you’ve been neighbors of the Lees for quite a while. You must know them quite well after, what, twenty years or more?

Jake: Don’t hardly know ’em a ‘tall, Deb. We hardly speak. But that’s just fine with me. ‘Bout the only thing they ever say to me is “good morning”. And about the only thing I say to them, well, actually to that strappin’ young man, Roger, is “take care of your danged dandelions over there!”

Deb: Yeah, I think I heard something like that from Annie when I talked to her. But, let’s get to the rest of my questions, okay? Do you have a family? Annie wasn’t so sure you’d–

Jake: No.

Deb: No? There’s no one?

Jake: No.

Deb: But, I kinda heard through the character grapevine that you had–?

Jake: Move on. And what in blue blazes is a character grapevine? You authors are weird, almost certifiable I’ve heard. But that don’t mean I have to spill everything to people I don’t know . . . heck, people I can’t even see . . .

Deb: Okay, okay, Jake. So, I heard you were in Vietnam during the conflict. Would you be willing to tell us just a bit about that?

Jake: Sure I’ll tell you a bit. It wasn’t a conflict. It was war. Conflict’s just a word the government uses to deny responsibility for its boys and girls on the front lines. And you can quote me on that.

As I mentioned, I discover tidbits about my characters during this process. In Jake’s case, I knew he’d been to Vietnam, but I wasn’t aware of how he felt about the word conflict. Tiny detail, yes, but it plays out in the story when he has a conversation with the main character, Annie Lee. And did you notice how I discovered how he feels about authors? Before the interview, I had no idea.

During this interview, Jake goes on to become even more cranky and close-mouthed, especially after I try to get him to talk about . . . well, I won’t give away any more chickens today. The interview ended with him hanging up on me and my readers.

You can read two of my character interviews here and here. The first link is Jake’s interview in full; the second is one from my other forthcoming novel, The Master’s Inn.

Some of my friends and readers have commented, after reading an interview, “I can’t wait for your novel to be released!” Music to my ears, as you can imagine.

I’m discovering there are some quite creative ways out there to market ourselves and our stories. The trick is to find what works for you, and hone it as you would any other craft hack.

Okay, over to you, TKZers.

Do you interview your characters during the drafting process?

Can you think of ways to improve on this idea?

What other places besides my blog could I use this?

Thanks again, Steve, for asking me to guest post, and I hope my tiny offering sparks some creative marketing ideas for y’all.

I will be in and out today due to some unexpected family responsibilities and the funeral of a good friend. I will answer all comments as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience.

***

Deb Gorman, owner of Debo Publishing, lives where she was born and raised, in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband, Alan, and their very smart German Shepherd, Hoka. They have seven children, 24 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Deb enjoys writing stories of reconciliation and redemption in families who are hurting, interwoven with threads of suspense. And that describes most, if not all, human families.

You can connect with Deb here.

BOOKS BY DEB GORMAN

AVAILABLE AT https://www.debggorman.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

 

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About Steve Hooley

Steve Hooley is the author of seven short stories published in four anthologies, a Vella serial fiction, and is currently working on the Mad River Magic series – a fantasy adventure series for advanced middle-grade to adults. More details available at: https://stevehooleywriter.com/mad-river-magic/

40 thoughts on “Market Your Novel with Character Interviews

  1. Deb! Welcome! Thanks for sharing this. It’s an interesting idea that I’ve seen on (rare) occasions with varying results. You’ve got it down. I’m looking forward to more.

    • Thanks, Joe!

      It’s fun and non-scary, too. If I had to interview a real person (sorry, Jake…), I’d run for the hills.

      Happy weekend to you. 🙂

  2. To paraphrase Joe, “Welcome, Deb!”
    I’ve done something similar with a couple of my characters. I “audition” them for the job of hero/heroine in a book. I’ve used these as reader magnets and on my blog.
    I confess I do it after I’ve written the book.
    Review site “Dru’s Book Musings” has a “Day in the Life” section where she accepts posts from authors who show a ‘typical’ day in the life of one of their characters.

    • Hi Terry! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Audition your characters-what a great idea! And the “Day in the Life”…I’ll definitely check that out.

      I knew I’d learn from y’all again. Have a great Saturday.

  3. Good morning, Deb. And thanks for doing this blog. Great post with an interesting use of the character journal.

    I’ve used a character journal, while drafting, particularly for new characters. I like this idea of using it as a tease to get readers interested in the book. I think I will start using this idea with my monthly newsletter.

    I don’t have any great ideas for other places to use this technique, unless a one-liner character quote could be worked into the book blurb. Readers love quirky characters.

    • Thanks Steve, once again, for roping me in to do this.

      I like the one-line character quote idea. Jake would be perfect.

      Or, the one publishing this coming Tuesday, October 26th, is an interview with three-year-old Nora. She defines the word character to me, in more ways than one. A very articulate toddler, but a scamp at heart.

      Thanks again, Steve, and have a fab weekend.

  4. I do interview characters during the drafting process, but I don’t post the interviews on my blog. The characters often change dramatically from draft to finished story, and sometimes they disappear altogether. Perhaps for me it’d be better to post an interview when I’m down to the copy-editing stage.

    • Good point, Priscilla.

      I started with the interview process on my 2 WIPs after draft one was finished. Then, after my editor had done her magic four times on each MS, I put them into interview form for my blog posts. I agree, starting it too soon might lead to problems like you mention.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great weekend!

    • Thanks for the link, Debbie. I missed your post when it was originally posted. (knee-deep in my previous job). Interesting interview you did with Assaph and Felix. I want to look further into that site and opportunities.

      Hmm. Maybe sometime TKZ should do a masquerade party where everyone shows up as a character from one of their books.

    • Hi Debbie! Thanks for reading and commenting. You’re always so encouraging, and boy, howdy, do I need that most of the time.

      I’ll for sure be looking at that post again. Thanks for the link.

      Have a great weekend, friend.

  5. Great idea, Deb. Another tool for the marketing tool belt.

    In my planning stages I do voice journals for the major characters. This is a free-form document of the character talking to me. I’ll prompt them sometimes with a question or two, but mostly want them to run off at the mouth until the voice is unique and interesting.

    • Mornin’, Jim!

      Yes, you put me on to voice journals some time ago. I’ve used that technique with a few characters as a way of developing the interview. First they ramble on, then I identify information about them which might pique a reader’s interest.

      In my interview of Nora, the three-year-old I mention above, she tells the readers she and her stuffed bear heard Mommy crying. Mr. Bear tells Nora it’s because Mommy is afraid . . .

      Thanks, Jim, for your encouragement. 🙂 Have an awesome weekend.

    • Thanks, Elaine. You might have to keep those fingers crossed for awhile, though, from what I hear.

      I just read a SM post from a young author who has waited ten years for a contract and finally has one for her series. I’m not sure I have that many years left! We’ll see. 🙂

      Thanks again and have a great day!

  6. Deb, I loved your guest post! This is a great tip, and your example drew me right in. It’s not something I ever did with my fantasy novels. I do have an acquaintance, Lindsay Buroker, who has interviewed a number of her characters on her blog. Your post has me thinking about doing it with my library cozy series.

    Thanks for an informative and fun post. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Dale. Character interviews are scandalously fun.

      A drawback: The more you talk to your characters, the more real they become. They start looking for a back door out of your head. What if they escape? 🙂

      Not a real drawback, however. Isn’t the point for them to escape your head and find the door to a reader’s? Ah, yes!

      Thanks, Dale, for your comments. Have a great Saturday.

  7. Congratulations and I hope your book dreams come to fruition.

    That is something to think about—for sure. I’m just worried about some of my characters. They tend to have a dark edge and they have issues. I like exploring that through my writing which the positive and negative aspects of the characters come out that way. I have resisted it because I can make those character flaws adapt the story as I need them to appear. (Meaning they’re all works in development).

    • Thanks, Ben.

      My MC, Annie, has a dark, scary past that feeds into her present fears. I do have to be careful how much I reveal in an interview, for sure. Just enough to make a reader salivate, but not serve the whole steak, so to speak.

      Nora, her three-year-old, is the perfect foil for her. ‘Nuff said there!

      Have a great day, Ben, and thanks for reading, commenting, and encouraging…

  8. Dr. Hooley & Ms. Gorman – This is good stuff! I’m seriously considering doing an email list magnet for my new series using a pdf download of an “exclusive” with the two main characters. This post moves me one more step toward getting it done.

    Best of success with your agent, Deb, and your debut in traditional publishing (or The Forbidden City as JSB calls it) but remember there’s always the indie route which seems to work well for some.

    • Thanks, Garry! Since I already subscribe to your website (which I never miss, BTW), will there be another way I can get your “exclusive”? I’d love to see it. Gives me a new idea, too. I’m planning to upgrade/redesign my website in January. I could offer something similar. Ideas flowing…perhaps Jake and Nora together…what an entertaining duo they’d make! (I’m hearing a conversation right now in my head, out of the corner of my ear-they’re talking it over and plotting…) Ha!

      Having already indie-published three books, yeah, I know that’s an option for my first two novels. I had to try this first, though. 🙂

      Thanks again, Garry, have a great day.

  9. Character interviews are fun, especially with the right characters. I actually had a in-my-dreams interview with one of my characters when I was writing my first novel. He called me by another character’s name, and we had a long chat about his backstory. When I woke up, I decided I was bonkers, but the dream chat was really cool.

    One of my published novels was a science fiction romance that I decided would actually be novel science fiction, not the usual nonsense of “I watched some STAR TREK and STAR WARS so I know what science fiction is.” (Spoiler alert: Novel and media science fiction have very little in common.) So, honest worldbuilding, etc.

    Anyway, at the same time I had to make the story romance-reader friendly. One of my cheats on the side of making it romance friendly was the heroine’s alien pet who looked kinda like a cat. In Floppy’s first scene, he hopped up on the heroine’s lap and announced to me that he was sentient and perfectly capable of taking care of Mara, no hero was needed. He is the only character who has ever talked back to me, but he’s a cat so no surprise there.

    Back to the topic, I needed a fun way to make a rab-cat more logical to science fiction readers, I had actually figured out the science of a kinda cat on Mara’s world, so I interviewed Floppy about his species as part of my marketing. His cat arrogance was so much fun to write.

  10. Love the cat, Marilyn. …no hero was needed. 🙂

    Reminds me of a cat we had when I was kid, named Jinx. Personality to match. Jet black. He liked to perch on the console TV we had (it was warm on top). When my parents were entertaining guests, often he’d curl up on the TV and was so still, folks thought he was a knick-knack. Then he’d move. I can still hear the gasps and screams from the guests. Dad thought it was great fun. 🙂

    Thanks for reading, Marilyn. Have a great day!

    • Wow, Cynthia! My blog post coulda been much shorter. 🙂

      Show me! I’ll have to remember that directive when I sit down with my characters.

      Thanks for stopping by, and have a great Saturday.

  11. This is fun! Briefly, I did therapist interviews for Sail Away on My Silver Dream, both the boy and the girl. They flowed so well, I changed the work to first person: David as narrator, and the absent Sharon as diary entries. I’d been stuck at Chapter 5 or 6, but was able to complete the book and eventually publish it through a boutique house.

    Besides giving a grasp of the characters’ personalities, interviews are a fast way to create blog content, etc. I’m not sure about using them in marketing. When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

    • Hi J! Therapist interviews! That’s a great idea.

      I have another WIP (still in its infancy) where I’m using a grandmother’s journal as sort of a setting. The MC is 12, has a very dysfunctional family situation with an abusive parent, and her grandmother’s journal becomes a lifeline for her.

      I could incorporate some journal entries in a blog post . . . thanks for the idea!

      Have a great Saturday and Sunday.

  12. Huh. I *talk* to my characters constantly, usually while jogging. But never thought to write it down for any other purpose. Interesting.

    Best of luck with your submissions!

    • Thanks, Kristy! Sometimes we’d rather talk to the people in our heads than the solids, no? 🤡

      Thanks for reading, and have a great day.

    • Thanks, Suzanne! Hope to see your site when it’s published…congrats!

      And interviewing characters is a hoot. You never know what they’re gonna say next. It’s part of my unorganized pantser outlining process. 🤩

      Have a good weekend.

  13. Good evening, Deb. Great information in your post.

    As you know, I’ve been reading and responding to your characters since you started interviewing them and I think you came up with a very good way to communicate with readers.

    I haven’t done interviews with my characters, but you reminded me that Joy Melville did a set of posts called “My story before the story” a couple of years ago. Each author’s post was an essay written by their main characters about their lives prior to the book they were in. I was fortunate to have had a post on that series.

    Good luck with all future writing!

    • Hi Kay! I really appreciate you reading this post and my blog posts…so encouraging to hear from readers.

      How do I access Joy’s posts? I’d love to give them a look-over. Are they on TKZ in archives?

      Have a great weekend, my friend!

      (Looking forward to your next…) 🤩

  14. Sorry I’m late, Deb! I was out running errands all day yesterday.

    I love character interviews. A friend of mine used to have a “radio” show on his blog, hosted by his character. Other author’s characters would be interviewed on the show. Hilarious. And so much fun! Not sure how many books it sold, but we had a blast. One of my characters almost got into a fight with the host. 😀

    • Hey, Sue, thanks for chiming in!

      A radio show! What a fun idea…maybe I can use that with my own tweaks.

      Authors live the best life, don’t we?

      Happy Sunday to ya!

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