In promoting Baby Grand, I’ve been asked a few times to do a written interview as Jamie Carter or Don Bailino, two of the book’s main characters, and so far I’ve declined. It feels weird to me—bringing those characters out of their worlds to answer questions in this world. But authors do it all the time. Just yesterday, I read a character interview done by my writer-friend Chris Nickson, and I asked if he wouldn’t mind putting together a guest post regarding his thoughts on using character interviews as a promotional tool. He was kind enough to say yes.
Over the last couple of weeks, my blog has featured an interview with Richard Nottingham, Constable of Leeds in the 1730s. It’s part of a build-up to the At the Dying of the Year, the fifth novel in my series featuring, you guessed, Richard Nottingham.
These kinds of interviews are a good way to introduce people who haven’t read my books to some of my characters, and they also serve as a reminder to those who might have read one or two. It perhaps works best where there’s a whole life built up around the character (there was a real Richard Nottingham and he was in fact Constable of Leeds from 1717 to 1737). It gives me something to draw from, and there’s an entire backstory, a history and family.
Admittedly, it’s strange, having the character address readers directly. It’s even a little jarring; he’s out of his usual context and doesn’t generally speak at such length, most certainly not about himself. That made it a challenge, which is never a bad thing, having to consider the character in a new light. It helps that he’s so familiar by now, an old, trusted friend, but it doesn’t necessarily make it easier.
And it’s fun – that’s the most important. Finding that fine line so that people are intrigued but without going into too much detail (I’m also a music journalist, and over the last 20 years I’ve conducted many interviews, I should probably add) adds to the pleasure. It’s an exercise in writing, after all, and in character, sustaining that person and making him (or her) seem real – just like a book, really.
Obviously, I want it to work, to be an effective promotion for the upcoming book. It’s on my site, been posted on the Facebook page for my books, my own feed and on Twitter. My publisher has a copy and hopefully will have it on their site. But there’s more to it than that. It’s part of a bigger strategy – putting short extracts from the book on the blog, without giving too much of the plot away. Piquing the interest. Next month, my publisher will post the first two chapters of the book online. How successful will it be? Time will tell.
Ultimately, though, I’m doing this character interview because I love writing about the man. He’s become part of me – or maybe I’m part of him, I’m not sure. I’m certainly not done with him, either, as I recently completed the next book in the series.
Chris Nickson is a novelist and music journalist. Born and raised in Leeds, England, he spent 30 years in the U.S. before returning to Britain in 2005. He’s the author of the Richard Nottingham series, the fifth of which, At the Dying of the Year, will be published in the UK on February 28. Emerald City, his first novel with Laura Benton, a music journalist in Seattle, will be released as an ebook and audiobook in March. Find out more at www.chrisnickson.co.uk