How to Prepare for and Nail an Interview

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Feature image from YOUTUBE

Being able to interview people is a skill.  Luckily it is a skill that, with practice, becomes almost second nature.  There is so much information to be found in people if you only knew how to ask.

It is important for writers to be able to interview people well.  Interviews are a wonderful way to get your foot in the publishing / magazine / journal door.  They are also a good way to extract information from experts and research certain topics for your fiction writing.  There is so much information to be found in people if you only knew how to ask.

Below is a list from the INTERVIEWING PANEL at the National Writers Conference, 2015, combined with advice from a number of websites and blogs and a few tips and tricks from Susannah Fraser, our Manuscrapped in-house interviewer.

Before the Interview

  • Give your subjects options and be respectful of their time let them choose what works best for them.
  • Expect the booking and pursuing of an interview subject to be time-consuming.
  • It helps having a publication behind you when you approach subjects for interviews.
  • Once you have found a subject that you wish to interview, approach their publicist.  ‘Publicists are generally good to deal with.’
  • Refer a friend. It’s not out of the question to ask your interview subject to refer a friend for an interview.  Subjects will often know someone interesting you can interview next.
  • Choosing person to interview – ask your editor first.  90% of the work will be tracking these people down.
  • Think of what an interviewee might have to offer on a larger topic.  Don’t be afraid to include news and currents events, to get their reaction to the world.  It is a wonderful way of getting an insight into how your subject views the world.  What could they teach readers, about a larger story?

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POV – The Effect of First Person Writing

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Point of View; First Person

Why do Authors head towards first person?

This is typically a beginners start to writing, using the first person, as it is a more natural progression from though and casual story telling in our every day lives, I did this and then this and so on.

Can focus more on learning as a consistent characters voice is more easily written.  It more easily fleshes a character on the page by allowing the audience to listen to their voice for long periods of time.

A beginning writer often finds it easier to keep consistent tone, style, and prose when writing in first person.  In some ways, a first person narrator can more easily “dump” information on the reader.

The most intimate is first person, where the narration is coming from the head of the character. We get the closest possible connection to the thoughts and feelings of the Lead.

By way of contrast, the omniscient POV is the least intimate.

Their Version

Relate their versions of the plots. Weather that version is true and honest or unreliable.

First person narration gets good when you are dealing with an unreliable narrator – Oh yeah.

Because another version of the story may exist that the narrator would like to debunk – an alternative history – or the Truth, as they see it.

Emotions and character growth

First-person point of view is used for numerous reasons, including creating a sense of emotional directness and drawing readers into the specific voice.

The first-person style also produces more immediate emotional appeal for readers. In third-person narration, with the use of pronouns such as he and she, the distance doesn’t give readers access to a character’s full response to events. Some stories require direct access to the narrator’s thoughts and feelings to be effective. Emma Donoghue’s novel “Room” is narrated by 5-year-old Jack, who has been imprisoned in a backyard shed with his mother since birth. The first-person narration gives a constant, present tense stream of his thoughts and feelings as he gradually learns of the world outside.

Allows people to see more closely how much a character has changed over the course of the novel.

First person narratives also have a much easier time garnering empathy from your audience, since they end up spending so much time in your character’s brain.

Explain their world,

They are the experts of their own world of the story.

Need to persuade

The reader of the characters point of view, or explain their decision.

If done well, it can give logic and motivations to characters that would seem otherwise evil, immoral, or otherwise not relatable.

Need to tell a tale.

Looking back on the past and recounting a tail, is self aware and can imput where they went right or wrong.  Retrospective recount can help the narrator to de brief and learn from their story – or actions.

Subjective Narration/Interior Monologue

The subjective narrator is an unreliable narrator who spends most of the story trying to convince the reader of something. This narrator has a firm position about a particular event or person and uses the time in the story to argue in favor of her position. Subjective narration is often used by anti-hero main characters to justify their actions or positions and to convince the reader of their values or views.

Interior monologue often avoids complete sentences and aims to present the narrator’s views and experiences as a train of thought. It is also called stream-of-consciousness narration and it can be reliable or unreliable.

So the first question to ask about your plot is how intimate do you want it?

Is the character aspect the most important factor? You might then consider first person. But that’s not always the best choice. There are other alternatives along the way, as we’ll see.

In between First Person and Omniscient is Third person POV, which comes in two forms. Limited and Unlimited. Limited means you stick with one character throughout the book. You don’t stray into the perceptions of any other character. Unlimited means you can switch POV to another character in a another scene.

A variation on the omniscient POV is the cinematic POV, rarely used except in detective fiction. Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon is the prime example of this style. Most literary novels choose the first person these days, for good reason. Since character drive is the motor of literary plots, using first person is a natural choice.

First person does not have to be limited, either. Many writers now use multiple first person narration, alternating voices with each scene or chapter.

Third person is most popular for thrillers and action driven books.

But this does not mean there is any one right answer. The right answer is what best fits your book.

Let’s have a closer look at your alternatives:

First Person

First person is the character telling us what happened.

I went to the store. I saw Frank. “What are you doing here?” I said.

Obviously, this POV requires everything to be seen through the eyes of one character. The lead can only report what she saw, not what Frank saw or felt (unless Frank sees fit to report these items to the lead). No scene can be described that the narrator has not witnessed. But, as we will see, there are some tricks you can use to get around this.

You can use past or present tense with First Person POV. The traditional is past tense, where the narrator looks back and tells his story.

But the narrator can also do it this way: “I am going to the store. I see Frank. ‘What are you doing here?” I say.”

There is an immediacy of tone here that, when handled well (as Steve Martini does in his Paul Mandarini legal thrillers) is quite nice.

But there is something you can’t do in First Person Present POV that you can do with the past tense form: The “If only I’d known” technique:

If only I’d known what was behind that door, I never would have opened it.

Can’t do that in the present. If only I knew what I don’t know now, I might not open the door, as I am doing now.

First Person makes for a very intimate, and potentially memorable, tale. But to do it well you have to:

• create a strong, interesting narrator.



Now that you understand the different possibilities for Point of View, which one is right for your novel? As you understand the possibilities, you can make a much more informed decision and carry this intentionality into your writing.



  • Many authors discount this, but I think it’s important: the narrator needs to have a clear reason to be telling or documenting the story in the first place.
  • Describing the protagonist clearly (let alone honestly and objectively) is very difficult, and usually requires tacky tricks (like staring into a mirror).
  • Perspective and perceptions are extremely limited.

First person narrators, unless they are telling the story far in the future, are less inclined to understand the gravity of any situation. In general they are more grounded in the immediacy of any given moment and less able to see its place in the grand scope of things.


  • Immersion – First person is the most immersive of perspectives, even more so than the rare, “elusive” second person (which is specifically aimed at maximizing immersion). You live the adventures of the protagonist through his own eyes. Second-person narration is still someone telling me to do something or see something. First person is me doing or seeing something. I know what I know, I see what I see, no deus-ex knowledge, if I have shortcomings, they affect the way I see the world. No immersion-breaking superpowers of a 3rd person narrator. This will be a disadvantage if you want to detach the reader from the protagonist – all parables are 3rd person and giving very simple descriptions, so that we concentrate on events, not on people.
  • Lack of reflection – while for “colorful” protagonists this is a disadvantage – it takes jumping through hoops to describe them for the reader, if your protagonist is more generic, you can freely skimp on details. Leave the protagonist nameless, faceless, maybe even in extreme cases genderless – and let the reader fill in the blanks with their own face and name. This does wonders to immersion. Instead of making your own, cherry-picked protagonist, you put your generic reader in the centre of events in person. They don’t follow – they live these events! Of course this leaves you without your own cherry-picked protagonist.
  • Surprising perspective – Do cherry-pick the protagonist. Take a story that would be generic at best but tell it from perspective of a dog. Or the villain. Take a common trope: time traveller stuck with cave people. Yawn? Not if told by a caveman! Humans discovered an alien civilization? Tell that from perspective of the alien tasked with organizing their welcome! You’ll never get this done so thoroughly with 3rd person.
  • Unreliable narrator – There is simply no way to excuse the 3rd person narrator skipping/skimping/falsifying details. It will always feel cheap or wrong – or may cause reasonable doubt in case it’s merely reported as told by others. Only first-person will let you lie to the reader with impunity and then make them jump with surprise at “The protagonist is schizophrenic!” – OTOH, you’ll have a hard time to ascertain things are true that way. Also, hiding things behind scenes is easier. You Were Elsewhere Then. But then, you can’t be everywhere!

Natural – This is the fundamental way people tell their own stories. It’s the classic of centuries. A war veteran will usually tell in first person!


The Catcher in the Rye,

The Great Gatsby

A Clockwork Orange

Lolita –

The Oxford Comma

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Here is a little something I wanted to share with you all.  You know you are a nerd when you think that grammar is interesting.

The other day at my writers group, the issue of the oxford comma was raised.  The Oxford Comma or Serial Comma as you may know it, is a point of contention among editors.  Amanda, another member of the group showed us this video – which was wonderful. Continue reading

Scrivener – Self Publishing is Easy

I have just started using Scrivener as my word processing software.

I love it.

I was looking for Software to convert my writing into an Ebook…

I found it when I started to search for software that could format my work into an Ebook available for Kindle and E Readers.  A couple of blogs recommended Scrivener for the formatting process – but what was really interesting is that Scrivener was recommend for drafting, planning your book, storing research and character outlines, saving images and setting writing goals – writing editing proofing and formatting.  It does everything.

I have used it for far more than just converting my writing into an Ebook.

Below I have included a couple of the features of Scrivener –

To give you an idea of how it looks and what it can do.

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Characters – Planning Board

Characters & Casting

Collect all your character profiles in one place.

Using images of real people, you can go through the process of casting your characters and keeping the images with your character’s profiles.

I love using old actors for Casting my Characters as there are lots of pictures of them through every stage of their lives.

Also – actors tend to have lots more photos of themselves in various moods, situations and styles.

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Location Planning Board.


Setting & Locations

Locations settings have always been difficult for me, as my novels tend to spand quite a lot of time and in doing so my locations age and change and develop.

Scrivener has a whole location setting to help you with mood boards, images, notes and consistency while writing.

Here is a board that I made for a location I had been struggling to image.  It is a cottage in the forest, that has not been touched or fixed or restored for a long time.



FORMATTING; Your writing to Ebook –

There are a load of ready made templates in Scrivener including a PhD thesis paper, Short Story formatting and Ebooks.  These templates make it so easy to format and publish everything you write in Scrivener.

There are heaps of tutorials Online about how to format your ebook using Scrivener – Even this one…

5 minute Video Tutorial from the makers of Scrivener – Literature & Lattes.

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Keeping track of your Plot

For those of you that are following along – however difficult, you will know that I have finished my first draft and am starting to read through it.  Not in an official editing process, but just to check it all makes sense.  It doesn’t!

I have found  so many gaping holes in the plot, character and setting that I don’t know where to begin.  Day turns to night, boys turn into girls and summer is suddenly winter in a heart beat.  How did that house burn burn down and why is it rebuilt in the next scene?

If this is what Anne LaMott meant when she said write a really shitty first draft – then I have nailed it.  Not only is this a shitty first draft – it is actually nonsense, I seem to have composed the sequel to James Joyce’s Ulysses – the one where Buck Mulligan calls Stephen Dealus ‘Ishmael’.

How Can I Keep Track of my Plot?

Plotting and consistency seem to be a weakness of mine.

It has always been something I have struggled with.  To the point where I have not finished a few novels because I have not been able to trawl through the mess I made with their lives.

Perhaps I need to pay someone to design a plot tracking Iphone App!  I need to invent my own system to solve this little problem.  Make something I can put all my character research and plotting into – easy to read.  Portable.  On my computer – easy to change, and study.  I have tried all sorts of ways, and still don’t have a really solid solution.

Keeping it in my head – Has it worked for anyone?

I have tried to keep it all in my head – What a mess.   Just remembering does not work.

It was so difficult to hold the novel in my head that I was weighted down by the details.  This was my first method.  I just kept going forward with the writing every night with about any real regard for where I had been.  It was terrible and I was only 17/18 years old.   Rightly so I never was able to finish that book.  But there is an image of caged butterflies and a memory of a naked girl falling through a church roof that has stayed with me forever.

Writing everything in a note book – I mean five note books.

This was a better approach than the old noggin storage system, but the problem with having it all written down in a note book is that you still have to read the whole darn thing to remember it all. There was no method or order to easily retrieve the information that I needed.  A quick little note to check up with what season it was so I knew what the tides where doing.  How warm the water would be if it was say… Spring.

A Time Line Program – Ok so this one was not all bad.

I just forgot my password to log on and find all my work – Fuck!!

There is a feeling I have that it is not cool in the writing world to be organised – or to plan, of anything.

Are Chapters the key? –   Is that why chapters exist? 

I wrote a short story in a few weeks and it was such a breeze because I could hold it all in my head at once.  It was such a relief to start and finish something in the same house, with the same mindset and have it done…  I don’t know how good it is, but the feeling I have now is worth it.

Now I use Microsoft Excel – It has a promising title.  

How do you keep Track of your plot?


The Little Green Grammar Book; Mark Tredinnick

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This is a writer’s grammar book.  It’s a grammar book by a writer for writers.  I don’t want to put anyone off, but I am neither a grammarian nor linguist; I’m just a writer who’s thought a fair bit about grammar – and taught a fair bit of it too.  This book describes most of the grammar that’s taught me how to write.  I’ve written it down in case it helps you, too.’ Tredinnick.

The Little Green Grammar Book is a non Fiction book about grammar.  It is more than just a reference book. It’s a study on grammar as a craft and why it matters.  Beginning with the ‘natural history of the sentence,’ this book breaks down the elements of a sentence, in a clear and contemporary way.

How Did This Book Come to Me?
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Click here to Purchase

I purchased this book after receiving some negative feedback about my grammar.

I ordered this book at a book store.  I waited for it to be back loaded onto a truck traveling down the south coast from Sydney.  I checked in with the book store lady every few days, despite her promise to call me as soon as it came in.  I wanted this book very urgently as I had suddenly and scarily became aware of how terrible my grammar was.  I had become immobilized in my writing.  I was frozen and I could not have written another word until I had The Little Green Grammar Book in my handbag.

I had known about the book for a while, having read the Little Red Writing book many times, but it wasn’t until I found out just how bad I was, that I decided to finally buy it.

Why Will I Finish It?

‘The comma as pause has been oversold and under –explained.  We need a smarter notion.’  Tredinnick.

It is not really a book that demands that it be read cover to cover.  But I will.

I would like to read this novel slowly, so that I can pause and reflect at the end of each chapter.  I would like to learn, as I read.  It is very clear and easy to read.  It is light hearted, honest and somehow personal, while still being about and for grammar – interesting.

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Published in 2008 by University of New South Whales Press, this book is part of a series on writing – The Little Red Writing Book, The Little Green Grammar Book and The Little Black Book of Business Writing.  There is a fourth title that can be found by Mark Tredinnick on writing, ‘Writing well: The Essential Guide,’ which is the US and UK title of The Little Red Writing Book.

I know it will take a while before I can see the improvements from learning proper grammar.  I know I have a long way to go.  I know that I will need to practice this every day.  I know that I will need to re write a lot of everything I have just written.  And I know that when I read over this article in only a few months, I will want to re write it all, correcting all the mistakes I don’t even know I am making



IMG_0493Meghan Brewster is a Blogger, Freelance writer and general spinner of Fiction. She is the founder and editor of The Emerging Writers Diary, as well as Itp & Me, a website dedicated to managing the rare platelet disorder, ITP. To learn more about Meghan Brewster follow this link. By making purchases through links on this website you are helping to support a young emerging writer. Thank you.