Why Readers Are Smarter Than Journalists

Reading & Writing

Today’s Guardian reports from the Hay Festival and has authors interviewing themselves with the questions journalists never ask them. The article’s here. It set me thinking; the questions I’m asked by readers are markedly different from those asked by journalists. Often readers ask the very things journalists fail to ask. The most common questions readers ask and journalists don’t are:

‘Do you write under your own name?’
‘How many books have you written altogether?’
‘Where should I start reading you?’
‘Do you just make things up, or do you use people you know?’
‘Where do you get your ideas from?’
‘Does your publisher decide what you should write?’
‘Do you make much money doing it?’
‘Does anything get censored?’
‘Is there anything you won’t write about?’
‘Do you do sex scenes?’
‘Why are there so many books that look the same?’
‘How do you have the discipline to write?’
‘Is there such a thing as writer’s block?’
‘Do you ever run out of things to write about?’
‘What happens if your novel is turned down?’
‘Is writing something you always wanted to do?’
‘How do you write, and with which software?’
‘How many hours a day do you do?’

These for me are the key questions, and maybe some of them seem too obvious for journalists to bother with – but if they asked them, they’d get some revealing answers.

3 comments on “Why Readers Are Smarter Than Journalists”

  1. Mary says:

    I certainly wouldn’t make a good journalist. I would never have the nerve to ask any questions…I’d just be grateful for the finished product! I think it’s rather important to retain some mystique and above all, privacy.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    But privacy should be determined by the author. Ask any question, but be ready to accept, “I won’t/can’t answer that.” Journalists take that negative response as an indicator that they should dig harder. The questions you listed above are real curiosity, coming from the certainty that an author is as unusual as a two-headed dog and we’d really like to know what makes them tick. Perhaps that’s why author interviews are so boring to read, especially if the journalist is trying to impress author/reader with how well read (s)he is.

  3. Steve says:

    How about: What would you do if you couldn’t write?

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