SUCCESSFUL COVER ART

The award-winning cover of Murder on Mokulua Drive

Successful cover art is the product of teamwork. In November 2018, Murder on Mokulua Drive [the second Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery] won several awards. Notably, it won Second Place for Published Fiction in the 2018 Arizona Literary Excellence Contest. This was due in large part to the superb editing of Viki Gillespie, who has helped to refine each of the books in the series. Like Prospect for Murder, MOMD also won First Place for Cover Art Design in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, where it was also a Finalist in the Cozy Mystery Category.

 Let’s examine how the winning cover art for this series has been achieved.

 TEAMWORK
Regardless of what you do in life, one of the major keys to your success is teamwork. Even when you are the primary producer of a product, you will be relying on the merchandise, talents, and skills of others. If you are an artist, you utilize a variety of products to create your art, and usually employ a framer to present your finished work to the world. Authors, whether self-published or working with a publisher, are likewise dependent on the output of others to finalize their creations. First, capturing their thoughts depends on a variety of manual and electronic tools. Succinct editing services are also required. Then there is the issue of layout, fortunately provided to me (along with overall publishing skills) by Geoff Habiger of Artemesia Publishing. Of course, he cannot complete his work without the final art designs brought to fruition by fine and graphic artist Yasamine June.

MY APPROACH TO ARTISTIC PROJECTS
While I possess some skill as a design consultant and can produce certain graphic art elements for marketing materials and my websites, I lack the tactile skills to produce truly refined artistic images. So where do I begin art projects? First there is the overall concept, generally driven by text I have already composed. For a book cover, the first consideration is determining the images that will evoke the essence of the story I need to highlight.

Fortunately, when I began writing the series, I composed timelines, chapter synopses, and descriptions of settings and characters. Even a cursory review of these elements reveals a list of those that may be appropriate to a book cover and supportive marketing materials. While some authors create new art for each of their works, I chose to present certain images with consistency including Miss Una, Natalie’s silent but fleet-footed feline companion and images like palm trees and ocean waters reflecting Hawai`i. In addition, I have conceived a recurring gold frame based on Hawaiian heirloom jewelry. I also utilize pagination folio art that I designed, and a gold hibiscus flower that Yasamine has refined. At the point that I have a list of elements that might be good for book jacket art, I begin roughing out a tentative layout in a graphic art software program.

ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT
As I examine my list of suitable artistic elements, I manually draw a few pictures that fit the requisite portrait layout of a book cover—knowing that the final product can easily be converted to a square layout for an audio book. So where did the award-winning cover of Murder on Mokulua Drive begin?

First of all, Natalie’s life has shifted from a high rise in Waikīkī to a cottage in the beach community of Lanikai on the windward side of the island of O`ahu. Next was consideration of the fact that the murder in this story occurs at night. What does this add up to? A nighttime beach scene which includes the Mokulua islets, the moon, a palm tree, footprints in the sand, and Miss Una. Additionally, although I will not be completing the design, I try to allow space for the insertion of Titling in my signature Peignot font so that there will be no overlapping of images and text. Here is the initial layout I sent to Yasamine.

How did Yasamine’s magic polish this concept?

Since this is the second book in the NS mysteries, I had been through the publishing process for the series once. Additionally, I was able to draw on my experience as art director for the well-received multi-author anthology, Under Sonoran Skies, Prose and Poetry of the High Desert. For that project, I featured a picture I shot of the desert at sunset from my back lānai.

Whatever your artistic needs may be, I urge you to be involved in the process, even if you are unable to finalize the images yourself. The input you provide to a professional artist will ensure a product that reflects your own work and the goals you may be setting for future projects…Here’s a look at the before and after images for the forthcoming Murders of Conveyance, being released in early 2019!

Wishing you the best,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson,
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Discussion of art is available at the following blogs:
Authors Design Dilemmas 1, April 2015
Confronted by a Fantasia of Fonts, May 2015
Rainbows of Color, May 2015
Winning Logos & Slogans, October 2015
Quality Book Production, February 2016
Harmonizing Branding Elements, August 2016
Book Promotion and Evolving Art, January 2017
Balancing Text and Space, February 2018
Successful Cover Art, December 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

PUBLIC SPEAKING, 3

A shortened version of this third blog on using public speaking as a means for enhancing your branding identity first appeared on the website https://hometownauthors.com, which offers a variety of articles from guest authors of who are members of Hometown Reads. Before reading this blog, you may wish to review numbers 2, Effective Materials for Public Speaking and 1, All the World’s a Stage. Today we’ll explore making these events more than a presentation of an author’s books, for public speaking can be one of the most important aspects of any creative professional’s branding program

FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR PUBLIC SPEAKING

It’s time to hit the road!  You’ve prepared for speaking opportunities by shaping marketing materials, bios, introductions, and handouts for varied audience.  Your media releases require only the details of Who, What, When, and Where You’ve verified venue features and obtained equipment necessary for this and future appearances.  

All you have to do is pack everything and hit the road…right?  Not quite.

PREPARING TO BE A PUBLIC SPEAKER
I hope you’ve been vocalizing daily—in song [for those who can], vocal exercises, and oral readings.  Many events place a time limit on speakers, so timing readings can ensure completing your presentation with a generous Question and Answer segment.

Next, consider your appearance. You can’t lose weight quickly, but how are your hair, skin, and nails?  Do your clothing and accessories look good on you…and travel well? Perhaps you’ve worked with a stylist to determine your optimal color palette, hairstyle, clothing designs, and accessories to maximize expressing your personality…

Look professional, knowing you can remove a tie, loosen a collar, or remove a jacket. [See Resume and Career Tips.  Because my work centers on Hawai`i [especially with the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries], I wear dresses in tropical greens and jackets with Asian or floral designs.  Depending on the neckline, I affix a name badge (with magnet) and avoid necklaces (which can become uncentered).  To minimize distraction and sound interference, I don’t wear dangling earrings or loose bracelets.  I complete my theme with an artificial orchid for my hair—since fresh flowers don’t last through multi-hour events. 

MULTIPLE PRESENTERS
Panel discussion speakers are usually seated at a table or in a semi-circle or line of chairs. Whenever you’re in plain view, be aware of your attire and stance…to insure you’re not providing a less-than desired floor show! A dress that looks lovely when I’m standing, may not look professional when I’m seated. Male or female, check out other participants’ attire to harmonize overall appearance. For samples of color combinations, please visit Plays on Color.

CALLING FOR ATTENTION
~ Event organizers may generate Media Releases, as can you—in your hometown and locales where you’ll appear. Consider also sending out event follow-up releases, to encourage members of the media to seek you out.

~ Add a news page to your author website and blogs that highlights your travel.

~ Social media can be more important than traditional media.  Publicize where you’ll appear with contact information. If your events aren’t open to the public, announce cities where you’ll be.

~ Take event pictures [book in hand] for immediate release and future marketing materials—asking permission to use images featuring other people.

TRAVEL CONSIDERATIONS
~ Ship books and some marketing materials in advance when possible.

~ Allow one day for rest and preparation prior to your event.

~ Purchase travel tickets permitting change of schedule.

~ Plan ground transportation minimizing strain on you, as well as cost.

~ Hotels often provide airport transport, valets, safes, and restaurants. Private hosted accommodations lessen privacy.  A B&B may be appropriate when driving.  

~ Financially, notify credit card institutions you’re travelling. Obtain cash for tips. Determine if you need a tax or sales license. Decide whether to accept credit cards, electronic payment, and/or cash for sales.

~ Carry emergency clothing, accessories, medicines, and toiletries in hand-held luggage, in case checked bags fail to arrive.

~ Personally carry hardcopy masters and electronic files for reproduction.

~ Dress to attract attention while travelling—name badge, book image, and business cards at the ready!

SET YOUR STAGE…WHEN YOU CAN
~ Place a banner or picture on podium front.

~ Check lights, sound, and projection equipment.

~ Position speaking materials, large watch, laser pointer, pen, props, travel mug with slightly warm water.

~ Display signage, marketing materials, books, handouts, and sign-up sheet for future event notifications near the entrance—manned when possible.

~ Be aware that electronic projections often fail because of file format incompatibility between source and venue operating systems and versions of software.

~ Maximize visibility of necessary folders and files.

~ Carry backup hardcopy of your presentation for you and handouts of primary points for your audience.

BEFORE, DURING & AFTER PERFORMANCES
~ Warm up vocally and physically.

~ Provide your bio and a short introduction to event organizers.

~ Pace yourself…allow time for Q&A to maximize audience interaction.

~ Conclude with an inspiring thought. I often hold up a pin with a single word appropriate to my message…

~ Make periodic eye contact with your audience. Let attendees feel you care about them individually.

~ Sending gracious Thank You cards/gifts helps maximize an event’s long-term branding value. Carry mailing labels, packing supplies, and postage.

Wishing you the best in your creative ventures,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson,
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Suggestions for Dynamic Public Appearances are available at:
Author Appearances, December 2015
Promo Materials for Public Speaking, July 2018
All the World’s a Stage, August 2018
Final Preparations for Public Speaking, September 2018

For more ideas to maximize being memorable and other marketing tips, see Wearing your BrandFor further tips on branding, please check out the rest of  my marketing website, Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

PUBLIC SPEAKING, 2

All the World’s a Stage…and it awaits the imprint of your brand!

The success of any branding program rests on harmonizing the look, sound, and feel of all of its elements!  That includes the setting in which an author appears. And while you may not be able to control every aspect of the physical environment of your presentations, you can enhance the positive impact of some aspects to boost the effectiveness of your overall book marketing program.

The Venue
If you have never spoken at the venue, you’ll be relying on the event’s organizers to provide the correct information regarding lighting, voice amplification, and projection of materials you’ll utilize to highlight your speaking points. In addition, they’ll be scheduling the podium, table, and/or chair from which you’ll speak.

If possible, visit the venue in advance of the event. While this may be easy in your home town, it can be impossible when you’re working in another city [let alone country]. Therefore, it’s good to arrive a day in advance of your presentation. If you’re lucky, you will be delivering your remarks at the hotel in which you are staying.  As this is seldom the case, travel with the basics you require to be effective.

From a Stage or…
Depending on your height and weight, and position in relation to the audience, you may need to modify your hair, clothing, shoes, and/or accessories to maximize your facial and overall visibility. Speaking engagements often occur in rooms with a stage that is at least a step above the floor on which the audience is seated. This enhances your visibility as a speaker, but it means you must look good from the top of your head to the bottoms of your shoes. And although many stages are carpeted, older wooden or tiled stages may have uneven surfaces, for which you will require sturdy and slip-resistant footwear.

Solo Performance
Sole presenters in a public venue usually have access to a podium. Free-standing or table top, it should offer sides that mask your script, notes, watch, and other items you may need to reference. Unless a free-standing podium is constructed of a tubular frame, it is probable that you’ll be visible only from your chest up. That gives you more flexibility in your stance and movement of your feet. If the podium is comprised of a hollow frame, or positioned on top of a table that has no tablecloth, you will not have that luxury.

Whispers to Screams
The quality of your natural speaking voice can be either an asset or detriment in public speaking. Depending on your audience, even the strongest of voices expressed in the wrong tonal range can be hard for some listeners to hear properly. Many podiums are set up with a microphone fixed in position. If you learn you’ll be using a hand-held mic, you may want to obtain a small stand in order to free your hands for gesturing, pointing to overhead projections, etc. Having said this, I must note some presenters like to speak off the cuff rather from written material and prefer a hand-held or wireless mic so they can roam freely—sometimes even moving within their audience.

Be aware that the effectiveness of the microphone you use [especially lavaliere or headsets] can depend on your neckline, arrangement of hair, and any chain or necklace you wear. Also consider that dangling earrings and loose watches or bracelets can interfere with sound projection.

Having a strong voice may lessen the need to provide your own electronic equipment. However, if you are embarking on a lengthy tour, you might consider acquiring sound equipment that can make you more independent of the facilities in which you appear—if it is compatible with the speakers to which your equipment will be connected. In making such a decision, you will want to seek the input of an electronics specialist.

Inviting Displays
Will you be able to set up a display that greets and enlivens your audience? At the minimum, you should be able to drape a banner over the front of a podium [using double sided tape, if nothing else]. I carry the banner from the release of Prospect for Murder, first of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries. I also travel with varied sizes of boxes on which I can place color-coordinated tablecloths to create heightened surfaces for displaying signage, products, and handouts. And I carry stands of varying proportions to maximize visibility across a room. Do be cautious about displaying valuable items which could disappear…

Enlargements of colorful book covers, pictures of previous appearances, and banners with both your image and the works you’re presenting make a wonderful background for highlighting sales sheets, future project descriptions, and business cards. Since Murder on Mokulua Drive has an embossed jacket front, I present it on a stand, as well as on the table top to invite people to pick it up.  If there is a theme to your work, you can add decorative items that reinforce that reference. As most of my work centers on Hawai`i, I display a shell lei or two, a golden fish business card holder, and tablecloths that harmonize with my book cover colors.

Ensuring You have What You Need
If you’re speaking in your home town and have checked out the venue, you’ll know what you need to carry with you. The one thing that may affect your preparations is a change in the size of your audience, thereby impacting the number of books and handouts required. When traveling to a long-distance destination, you may be able to send a box ahead to a friend, colleague, or the hotel in which you will be staying. Regardless of whether that is an option, strategize the items that you should carry personally, rather than check into a luggage compartment.

I recall my gratitude for arriving in Hilo (after flying back from the U.S. mainland) two days in advance of a performance of Scottish Highland Dancing, since my costumes remained in Honolulu by mistake. I now keep the following items with me personally when traveling to author appearances: memory sticks and a master copy of materials needed for display and distribution; one copy of pertinent books and project samples; one small tablecloth and a shell lei to personalize a display; one copy of a short biography; two 3 x 5 inch cards with an introduction of me and my presentation; a brass name badge and any pertinent professional badges; a beautiful artificial orchid for my hair; and, one elegant jacket to dress up even an emergency wardrobe purchase if my luggage does not arrive with me!

This is the second of three discussions of Public Speaking Engagements.My next blog will address the ways in which public speaking engagements can enhance your branding as an author, and will be featured at Hometown Reads .

Wishing you the best in your adventures as an author or other creative professional endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Suggestions for Dynamic Public Appearances are available at:
Author Appearances, December 2015
Promo Materials for Public Speaking, July 2018
All the World’s a Stage, August 2018
Final Preparations for Public Speaking, September 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

PUBLIC SPEAKING, 1

PROMO MATERIALS FOR PUBLIC SPEAKING

Today, I am using the phrase “Public speaking” to cover several means of communicating orally. First there are traditional public addresses, usually delivered from a podium. The Internet, radio, television, video, and other methods for presenting your image and words can also be included within this classification. Within a broader context, I believe it’s also appropriate to consider audio books and interviews.

PUT SOME ZING IN YOUR PROMOTION!
In my blog on Author Appearances , I summarized some of the necessary preparation for successful public readings of an author’s work.  My comments encompassed a few basics for evaluating, seeking, scheduling, and marketing potential engagements.  I also skimmed over aspects for preparing yourself visually and vocally.

Today’s blog offers suggestions for preparing materials you’ll need prior to and during speaking engagements as an author. Some of these items may be useful in garnering opportunities for public addresses; others for shaping a rapidly-arranged display; and, some for quick reference during Question and Answer moments. All of them will be subject to constant redesign, as pertinent text and images evolve over your writing career.

Aside from the free-flow of dialogues with interviewers, you should be able to control most aspects of oral presentations—with the understanding that the mechanism by which your words are captured and projected can affect the tone and quality of your voice…

Self Introduction and Promotional Materials
There are several support items you should have available for general marketing, as well as for your public appearances and speaking engagements. Some of these may be appropriate to share with the event organizers in advance of your talk. Depending on the venue, you may be able to set up a display, which I will discuss in Part III of this series, Public Speaking to Enhance Branding, to be featured on Hometown Reads in September, 2018.

~ Business Cards. Consider double-sided, or even folded cards, to promote multiple facets of your work. As the author of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries, I now utilize  a folding card that allows me to mention my authorship and marketing consultancy on the outer sides, and two published books on the inside.

~ Biographies. To meet a variety of needs, the length may range from a sentence to multiple pages. See a discussion of the need for biographies at imaginingswordpower.com/bios-to-empower-you.html

~ Résumés. Having résumés of varying lengths and types (sometimes on  letterhead stationery) is useful. As I periodically provide marketing advice to executives and their organizations, I have résumés that address that aspect of my work, as well as another offering information on my authorship. Go to imaginingswordpower.com/resume—career-tips.html to view résumé and career tips.

~ Handouts. Depending on your audience, these may range from key talking points to reference data. 

~ Fliers and Sales Sheets. These should feature specific books and other products you wish to promote. At this time, I am utilizing a double-sided flier. It features Prospect for Murder and Murder on Mokulua Drive. I also have one describing Conversations with Auntie Carol, an oral history project planned for publication as both an audio and print book.

~ Media Releases. I use a format highlighting the Ws of journalism–Who, What, When, and Where. View samples for both print and broadcast media outlets at imaginingswordpower.com/media-release-samples.html.

~ Photographs. Large and small, some should show you holding one of your books.

~ Posters and Banners. These can range from you and your current work to previous events.

To Script or Not to Script Your Delivery…
With regard to your actual presentation, let’s consider the text of your talk. Do you require a formally written speech in order to provide an effective performance? Before you answer, consider the environment in which you’ll be speaking and your audience, as well as your strengths and weaknesses as a speaker. Personally, I find that while I may wish to use a scripted opening and closing, I like to refer to a detailed outline during most of my talk. In addition, I prepare a list of key points and facts to reference during Question and Answer sessions.

I carefully prepare all text that must be read accurately. Knowing that electronic devices can fail during a performance, I always carry hardcopy of the material I will present. And, while some speakers choose to read directly from published materials, or manuscripts, I employ the following guidelines to maximize the flow of the reading from scripted text:

~ To minimize the number of pages, I use 1.5-line spacing and half-inch margins on 8.5 x 11-inch paper.

~ To maximize readability, I utilize 14-point fonts, with Underscore, Bold and All caps as needed, with Seraphed Fonts for general text [unless you have a vision problem] and Non-Seraphed for titles.

~ To enhance the flow of your reading, end pages with the completion of paragraphs and quotes.

~ Present character voices in colorized text. To facilitate pronunciation of regional accents and foreign words, insert ellipses, commas, hyphens between syllables, and/or other marks. For the Southern accented voice of Lieutenant John Dias in Prospect for Murder, I modified the text I read:

            Book:  Ariel will be coming to the apartment tomorrow.

            Script:  Ahr-iell will be com-n’ to the ap-ahrt-ment tom-mar-ah.

Organizing Scripted Pages

~ Insert single pages of your text in low-glare archival sleeves. This actually kills the rustling of paper.

~ Put sleeves within a solid colored three-ring binder. The front can feature one of your book jackets.

~ Position each sleeve uniformly on either the right or the left-hand side of the folder. This will minimize the movement of your head while turning pages. This will be less distracting to your audience and minimize variations in the sound quality at a podium microphone.  

~ Place clearly labeled dividers between sections. This will facilitate spur-of-the-moment shifts you may wish to make during your presentation and Q&A follow-up.

~ Convert softcover editions of your books to spiral binding for quick reference and reading in less formal settings. You can insert sticky notes or other markers for passages you wish to access.

In my next blog, we’ll consider aspects of space and equipment during your public appearance…

Wishing you the best in your adventures as an author or other creative professional,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Suggestions for Dynamic Public Appearances are available at:
Author Appearances, December 2015
Promo Materials for Public Speaking, July 2018
All the World’s a Stage, August 2018
Final Preparations for Public Speaking, September 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

Drawing on Sense Memories

What are your earliest and favorite sense memories? Most of us think of the five physical senses as we are experiencing them. The toast looks and tastes all right, but it has a slightly burnt smell. I wish the kids would stop screaming, my ears are starting to hurt. I love this faux fabric, it almost feels like my cat’s fur…

The Creator’s Sensory Perception
As a writer, or other creative person, sensory perception can be an important element in preparing a stimulating picture via words or graphic images. We may not be aware of it, but the way an image or scent impacts us personally can greatly impact or work. One of the most effective devices for creating believable images is by consciously drawing on our memories. This is because referencing something we’ve encountered personally provides a depth of authenticity in whatever work we are undertaking.

The Truth of One’s Experience
This does not mean that we have to reveal our personal circumstances in order to truthfully share a sensory experience. Of course, that may not be true if we are presenting a work that is a memoir or similar personal expression, for which we are obligated to reveal this aspect of our lives. The truth of our sensory experiences can be shared without revelation of the circumstances in which they occur.  Isolating the experience from its original circumstances, can encourage us to revisit the specifics of what we saw, smelled, heard, touched, and/or tasted with greater accuracy.

For example, while we may wish to describe the beauty of a star-lit night from our honeymoon, we do not need to provide details of the circumstances in which we viewed it. Even when we need to describe something we have not experienced, it’s good to seek out the concrete memories of those who have. In describing Shanghai in the 1920’s for Prospect for Murder, I drew on images shared by people whose fascination with the city transcended the actual era in which they traveled. And despite their degree of positive or negative reactions, I was able to utilize their perspectives to provide images of the bustling streets and even the scents they encountered in their sojourns.

In Murders of Conveyance, the third book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries, my heroine overhears a conversation in Chinese from outside of the building in which she stands. I’m sure we can all think of times when we’ve  accidentally overheard a conversation, whether in a language we speak or not. When I moved to Honolulu at the beginning of the 1970s, there were many occasions in which I heard languages I couldn’t understand, nor even identify. Because I needed my heroine to feel connected to foreign dialogue, I inserted phonetic sounds that allowed Natalie to guess the speakers might be referencing someone she knew.

Stimulating Vocabulary
Sometimes we are fortunate to be able to utilize vocabulary or pictures that effectively mimics the images we wish to share.  I find the following words and phrases can bring clarity to a description, sometimes reaching beyond a single sense: wispy; screech; a snapping branch; wrinkled; razor’s edge; staccato; fragmented; shrunken; glassy; whispered; fiery.

The perception of other words often relies on those who read or hear them. Reference to an Upscale dining experience may arouse the taste and ambiance of a five-star restaurant to one person, and a fast-food joint to another. While the phrase Opulent jewelry signifies a strand of synthetic pearls with rhinestones to one reader, someone else may envision weighty crown jewels. Vintage clothing could generate a disco scene from the 1970s for a millennial, whereas someone my age may picture a flapper dress from the roaring twenties—the 1920’s that is. Similar variances can arise with an author or artist’s use of color and shape, as well as a composer’s insertion of pauses, changing rhythms, and escalating tones.

I’m fortunate that many of the images I wish to share in the O`ahu setting of the Natalie Seachrist mysteries practically write themselves: the sparkle and whooshing sound of incoming surf on a moonlit night; the stickiness of teriyaki sauce on a barbecued chicken thigh; the fresh fragrance of a flower lei, the stench of rotting plumeria blooms beneath an aging and neglected tree. But although I bring personal insight to such images, I must avoid cliché verbiage that will bore the veteran traveler. 

Your Target Audience
This brings us to a brief discussion of one’s audience…one’s target market. If you’re working within a recognized genre of literature, art, or music, there may be standards to which the majority of your audience will expect you to adhere. If you are striking out on your own to create a variant or wholly new artistic expression, you can move in any direction you wish…keeping in mind that you will need to attract some degree of a following in order to achieve any degree of success.

Accordingly, I sprinkle snippets of pan-Pacific and world history across my mystery plot-lines.  And while I present a fair number menu items within each book, I place actual recipes on my author website, rather than completely bogging down a story.  As to the cast of characters, folio art framing page numbers, chapter aphorisms, and linguistically and historically detailed glossaries, the reader can choose to appreciate or ignore them…

Wishing you the best on your own creative ventures,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Tips to enhancing your writing may be found in:
Empowering Your Words, February 2015
Creating Fictional Characters, March 2015
Sidestepping Writer’s Block, April 2015
Communicating with Every Sense, May 2015
Energizing Narrative Passages, September 2015
The Author Recycles, July 2017
Balancing Text & Space, February 2017
Book Series Adventures, April 2018
Drawing on Sense Memories, July 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

BOOK SERIES ADVENTURES

This blog first appeared on https://HometownReads.com,  which I highly recommend to both readers and authors seeking to learn more about the art and business of publishing books! You can click on https://HometownAuthors.com to view a variety of articles from member authors…

The Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery Series

How are you enjoying your adventures in book publishing? You may have experienced both lows and highs if you have managed to publish a book series!  It’s a true accomplishment, regardless of whether you planned it or not.  But while you were promised great things would emerge at this point in your writing career, you are facing more than a few challenges.  Allow me to tell you about issues I’ve confronted during the publications of Murder on Mokulua Drive, the second Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery

Elemental Consistency
Beyond avoiding copyright violation in the chapter-opening quotes I use, I guard against repetition.  During pre-publication review of Murder on Mokulua Drive, I discovered I’d reused a quote from Prospect for Murder.  My records of aphorisms now indicate when and where a quote is used.

Character and locale Parity
Initially, I had a male protagonist.  Whoops…my writers’ salon found that “voice” more appropriate to a woman.
Names, their spellings, descriptions, and pronunciation must all be checked.  Imagine my chagrin in realizing I’d changed a name’s pronunciation mid-way through PFM’s audio edition!
While my protagonist thinks in whole words, she speaks with contractions.  I now begin each book by reviewing my chart of persons, places, and their characteristics. 

Plurality
Promotional text highlighting aspects of a single book must encompass each title in a series.  Having multiple titles often means having different editions.  For PFM, I had hardcover, softcover, Ebook, and physical and digital audio editions. MOMD is currently available in only hardcover and Ebook. Softcover and audio references (like “Audible.com”) are omitted when describing the second book.    

Presenting Yourself
If you have a publisher or literary agent, they may have guidelines for presenting yourself personally, online, and in traditional and social media. If you’ve never been in the public eye, you may be grateful for suggestions about wardrobe, hair, accessories, and makeup [yes, men sometimes require makeup].

What you say and how you relate it will shift depending on the media or venue.  I’m not suggesting you become a shape-shifting chameleon, but envisioning each audience helps you see yourself as they will.

Marketing Yourself
Regardless of who directs your marketing, examine media kit samples to see what you should prepare.  This will include bios, photos, sample media releases, and relatable stories, covering:
~  Background [family, education, career]
~  Daily Life [home, work, writing locale, pets, hobbies]
~  Writing Methodology [research, writing, editing]
~  Influential People [affecting your work and life]
~  Author Experiences
~  Changes in Your Writing

Describing Yourself
Were you initially described as a debut author? That’s no longer relevant.  What other life changes will impact your self-description.  Are you in a new professional position?  Where do you live, or travel for research, sales, and presentations?   

Elastic Promotional Text
Periodically (and in varying length), you’ll need to restructure text for:
~  Media releases about books, awards, appearances
~  Bios for ads, event programs, introductions
~  Submission of your work for reviews and contests
~  Website discussions of your life and authorship
~  Social media posts, comments, and event announcements

Welcoming Images
Gather images to stimulate the interest of colleagues, readers, listeners, and the general public including:
~  You and your surroundings
~  Events in which you participate
~  Images attracting your interest
~  Organizational and community involvement
~  Images relevant to characters, scenery, and activity in your writing

Designing Inviting Websites and Blogs
Working alone or with a web master, there are many aspects to consider.  First, you may have a website from before becoming an author. Some elements may be recyclable.  With bios, book synopses, and pertinent images available, much of your material is ready for upload.  You just need to weave it all together to appropriately reveal you and your work.  Consider:
~  Styles appealing to your target market [realism, art deco, country kitch…]
~  Colors [you like and wear; those describing your work]
~  Shapes reflecting your style and work [linear or curved]
~  Textures, natural or man-made [wood, silk, metal, stone, plastic]

Final thoughts?  Well, there’s nothing final about the process of writing…or of marketing your work.  As with your compositions, keeping electronic and hardcopy samples of your promotional material, will help you shape attractive representations of your unfolding life’s work! 

Wishing you the best,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Tips to enhancing your writing may be found in:
Empowering Your Words, February 2015
Creating Fictional Characters, March 2015
Sidestepping Writer’s Block, April 2015
Communicating with Every Sense, May 2015
Energizing Narrative Passages, September 2015
The Author Recycles, July 2017
Balancing Text & Space, February 2017
Book Series Adventures, April 2018
Drawing on Sense Memories, July 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

A BIRTHDAY REVIEW

In checking the date of my last blog, I realize how long it’s been since my last one. With all that’s taken place in the last couple of years, the conclusion of 2017 and the arrival of 2018 inspired me to examine the process that brought me to my recent birthday.

What are your memorable birthday milestones?
Have you found that for most people, birthdays are either super important, or nothing at all?  I guess I fall into the latter category…with a few exceptions.  At age eight, my grandmother baked a cake with a beautiful doll embedded in the center.  At 21, I was treated to gourmet French cuisine by a young man on a limited budget. I was surprised on my fiftieth birthday with a party planned by friends, colleagues, and clients.   Continue reading A BIRTHDAY REVIEW

Dreaming Your Way to Success

Have you heard of lucid dreaming?  This is when a dreamer is fully cognizant of being in a dream state.  Some authors actually work at learning to control this form of dreaming as a means for shaping their projects, regardless of whether they are focused on fiction or non-fiction.

Dreamscaping or dream sculpting (as the process is sometimes called) allows the dreamer to actively contemplate the contents of a dream while asleep—and to question how these subjects may be relevant to their personal or professional living.

Dreamscaping Your Creative Project
Wordsmiths and artists are often encouraged to keep notebooks at hand for recording stray thoughts that can help them maximize future creativity.  This includes placing a pen and paper by your bed for capturing ideas that may materialize during the night. 

Regardless of your type of work, I’m rather certain that you have awakened on more than one morning (or the middle of a night) and thought, “Hmm, that was an interesting dream.  Now what was there about it that I wanted to remember?” 

For those of us relying on random ideas on which to build our shaping of words and images, it can be important to retain unexpected thoughts.  I can report that I have benefitted from vigorously striving to record the contents of potentially significant dreams.  And I’ve suffered the disappointment of having forgotten to have the implements for recording anything before falling back into a deep and dreamless state.  The mornings that have followed have been very frustrating.  Far worse than a simple hangover experienced by authors of yore!

My Methods of Directing the Dreaming Process
A simple Internet search will yield instructional resources for learning to implement Lucid Dreaming.  As I’m not a specialist in this field of study, I’ll merely share how I have approached the topic. 

After reading some background material, and discussing the concept with artists, I decided to delve into the process several years ago.  I began my sojourn in this endeavor by placing a retractable pen and small bound book for journaling on my bedside table.  Do note that having a pen without a lid has proven invaluable to my night-time note writing, since I’m rather clumsy and a bit befuddled when rising from a vivid dream.

Most evenings, I spend a few minutes before going to bed contemplating projects I wish to undertake the following day.  Often, this is while rocking in a chair and petting my cat, which I find soothing on several levels.  I then read a few pages of both meditative and mystery books.  After turning off my reading light, I review my to-do list.  I won’t claim that my contemplation of work goals is directly responsible for yielding inspirational ideas during the night.  However, these practices do serve as an off-switch for my overactive mind. 

As anyone attempting to call me in the a.m. will attest, I am not a morning person.  Some of my best work is born in the silence of nocturnal hours.  So prior to entering my pre-sleep routine, I’m already in a creative thinking mode.  The number of hours I spend in sleep varies, but when most people are rising to their own days of productivity, often I am entering my deepest dreams.  While most may seem unrelated to the work I envision undertaking, they are varied in topic and have a film-like quality. 

Results from My Dreamscaping
Having disciplined myself to interrupt the dreaming process, I can now report overall success in benefiting from dreaming with lucidity.  Records of some of my dreams make it into my journal.  Elements of others capture my attention sufficiently to be recalled for several hours after my waking. 

Perhaps the worst challenge that arises from the overall experience, is being forced to fold new concepts into work I may have considered complete.  Sometimes that means reprinting quite a number of pages of text due to a minor edit in their midst.  However, I’m thrilled to report that expanding a character’s role by having her play a bamboo flute has yielded a lovely audio element to that scene… and an interesting twist to the epilogue for Yen for Murder, Book Four in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series!

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

THE AUTHOR RECYCLES

Is your pen always at the ready?

New Creations From Old Work

Is your pen at the ready at all times? In past blogs I’ve talked about examining your previous work as a writer.  Not only does this allow you to measure your progress, it also provides a pool of sources for new directions in content and style.  I am a member of the National Writers Union and the local chapter recently asked me to be their featured speaker at a monthly meetingOften, their speakers read from current projects, but since I’d help to fill in the previous month with a reading of both the Prologue and Epilogue from PROSPECT FOR MURDER [the debut title of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series], I decided to give a talk on how I’ve recycled parts of past projects.  While there’s nothing novel in this concept, I thought that in detailing how I’d used pieces I’d created during my years in Arizona, I might stimulate my listeners to consider the ways in which they might draw upon works in their own files…

Wordsmiths Don’t Fall into a Single Demographic Description

When you look around any gathering of writers, you’ll find that we’re: Young and old; formally educated and barely literate in the grammatical sense; gifted melodious speakers and hoarsely halting readers; technical prodigies and flawed yet persuasive explorers of every topic imaginable.  The breadth and depth of our compositions are as varied as we are.  And usually, if we’re old enough, such variety will be found spread throughout our individual bodies of work.  

In projects of both fiction and non-fiction, I draw on a background in business, education, and the performing arts.   As might be expected, there is no consistent pattern to my output—except for the decades of public relations, marketing, and design consultation I’ve performed for executives and their profit and non-profit entities. 

Forms from the Past…

In preparing for my talk, I looked over previous work I had drawn upon for recent print, audio, and Internet projects.  Not all were inspirational gems of form, content, or style, but each item I had chosen to re-purpose fulfilled a specific need.  With every new project, I contemplate how the assignment fits within the scope of my professional history.  Not only do I look for concepts, data, and text that may yield something I can reuse, but also the bits and pieces that should be moved to the recycle bin.

…Reshaping for Today and Beyond

This year’s springtime file pruning produced some of everything.  I found business cards, ads, and brochures that could be used for marketing workshops. As I continued my file and closet clearing, I eyed posters and signage that could be augmented with a large artistic label for some future event.  I quickly dismissed them as ineffective for a speech delivered from a podium.  There was, however, one item I could share:  a copy of Stephen Covey’s famous matrix of time and productivity management.  The gist of this true jewel of philosophy is that if we focus on aspects of both our personal and professional lives that are important but not critical, we’ll be better prepared for challenges that may arise.

After a brief introduction of this principle to open my talk, I noted how elements of past writing had been folded into my writer’s blog [for samples, please visit https://www.Blog.ImaginingsWordpower.com].  From project inspiration to background research, through the phases of writing and editing, production, and marketing, I discussed how I select issues that may be of interest to other authors and artists.  In addition to mentioning a few of those blog topics, I provided examples of material I’d chosen to use in recent book projects.

~  When I joined with five other authors to publish UNDER SONORAN SKIES, Prose and Poetry from the High Desert,  I contributed both fiction and non-fiction.  With new and as well as re-shaped pieces, we all expanded our repertoire.  Knowing that publication of  Prospect For Murder was approaching, I included its prologue.   I also featured historical articles such asThe Holidays in Tucson, 1878,” which I read at the NWU meeting.   

~  In  Murder on Mokulua Drive [the second book of the mystery series], I’ve drawn on notes from my studies in history, plus a series of oral history interviews I conducted many years earlier.  This has allowed me to mention the first woman registered to vote in the Territory of Hawai`i in 1920, and to place a major scene in the historic and ecologically significant site of Kawai Nui Marsh.  

~  The compilation of the oral history interviews, Conversations with Caroline Kuliaikanu`ukapu Wilcox DeLima Farias has indeed proven to be an invaluable resource.  Carol was a dear friend seeking to preserve her family’s history, library and other artifacts.   Descended from Hawaiian nobility, her recollections of life in upcountry Maui in the early twentieth century and dancing hula in Waikīkī on December 6th, 1941, delight both readers and listeners.  In reshaping the layout for a book of the seven interviews and an audio edition comprised of the original recordings, I described how this resurrected project is benefiting from the comprehensive glossaries I’ve constructed for the Hawaiian and other non-English vocabulary included in the Hawaiian mysteries. 

~  Finally, I referred to the fourth mystery, A Yen For Murder, for which I examined promo materials I wrote for Highland Games and the Hilo International Festival on the island of Hawai`i during the 1970s.  This led to having Natalie reminisce about hearing a remarkable young woman play the Japanese koto at the Festival…and decades later having that woman, then a Buddhist priestess, become the victim.

In the future, I anticipate giving talks on the authorship process, for which many of these examples will be useful.  Of course, there will also be samples of flawed book covers, changing email addresses, and evolving reviews to reference.  How does all this relate to your work?  Well, I wonder what awaits you when you dive into your own files.  Will you choose to build on your dramatic successes?  Or will you determine that what was once viewed as a failed project may rise to the realization of full and positive fruition?

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

QUALITY BOOK PRODUCTION

The art of communication is as varied as its practitioners.  Success in your creative process usually rests on the degree of your inspiration.  For any professional, it also reflects perception of the desires of your target market. And, if you are an author, success also depends on the writing skills to which you have been introduced…and have mastered. There are many comprehensive sources of writers’ guidelines available online and in print. I will sometimes mention issues in the writing process, but in most of these blogs, I am attempting to share snippets of authoring strategies as they arise in my own wordsmithing

Many publishing houses restrict the amount of input an author may have in the printing process.  But as a writer, you should be able to express concerns you have about the production of a work that will carry your name.  As someone who has assisted in the process for other amateur and professional writers, and served as the art director on a collaborative effort, I am somewhat familiar with aspects of producing a high quality book.  

Now, as a debut author of fiction, I am entering a new phase of professional experience.  While the following areas of concern may not be presented in the sequencing of a publisher or art director, they represent my thought process while preparing for the publication of Prospect For Murder, the first book in the new Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series.
branding program
Unified Appearance in a Series
Career longevity for a writer often rests on their successful book branding and advertising.  These issues bring us to the appearance of one’s product; in this case, books.  There are many design dilemmas facing authors and the people who will introduce their work to the world.  Personally, I enjoy reading a classic hardbound book, so my contemplation of quality book printing rests on my perceptions of what constitutes a fine hardcover edition.
the reader’s experience
While the design elements of a print or on-line artistic project may vary in several ways (sometimes because of the genre), some issues are common.  In general, the test of a book’s initial appeal is its cover.  Does it draw the eye of the potential reader?  I say the reader, rather than the buyer, because with the constant rise in the cost of hardcopy books, library patrons represent a large segment of the public that may read your book.  Of course, to reach that readership, you will first have to appeal to the buyers of books that line library shelves.

Book jacket design is one of the most important elements that concerns marketers.  Therefore, I encourage you to seek an artist whose skills in fine and graphic art (as well as typography) will meet the needs of myriad projects.  Fortunately, I have found this breadth of talent in the work of Yasamine June.  

I do not claim to be a specialist in color theory, but generally, bold colors and print in product packaging are believed to help maximize sales In book publishing, successful cover design does not rest solely on these elements, or even on the overall quality of the artwork.  In publishing, the book’s genre is also vital.  Prospect for Murder is clearly a mystery.  In this genre, the coloration employed in book art often features dark colors, sometimes enhanced with the use of chiaroscuro [the effective contrasting of shadow and light]. 

To facilitate communication with my readers, my artistic vision embraces continuing historical and cultural features within the content and artistic accents that unify the appearance of the books.  Because my stories center on Hawai`i, I am using Island-themed framing based on Hawaiian heirloom jewelry for each book’s cover.  This repeating image, plus ones that are pertinent to each story, will serve to meet potential readers’ expectations by unifying my branding, thereby increasing the public’s recognition of each new addition to the series.

In classic format, I have included a cast of characters, chapter aphorisms, and a notes and acknowledgments section.  In addition, because of the inclusion of considerable foreign language and historical references, I offer a guide for pronouncing Hawaiian words and a glossary of non-English and specialized vocabulary.  For emphasis, the aphorisms are presented in italic fonts and a distinctive hibiscus-based image frames each page number.
formatting tips
Empowering Your Words Through Readable Text
The next concern I have is readability.  Given the length of my books [PFM is 92,000 words], concerns about the cost of printing could lead to printing decisions based on saving paper: Margin size can be reduced; spacing after periods can be decreased from two spaces to one, blank pages between chapters can be eliminated, and the weight of the paper reduced.  Such choices might reduce the overall size of a book and conserve paper; but they would not enhance the sensory experience of the people reading the book. 

Beyond these general considerations, my target market is older, well-educated women and men who are as interested in character relationships as they are intriguing plotlines.  Many readers within my target market may wear eye glasses or contact lenses.  Nevertheless, I am told that with the lack of certain vocabulary and situational elements, the inclusion of historical references and multiculturalism, my series may be appropriate to students in advanced placement courses in secondary school.  These students may not be as concerned with the layout preferences of older readers, but they too will benefit from easy-to-read text.

Regarding my recently published book, I have agreed to a layout that includes single spacing following the end of sentences, despite the continuing use of two spaces by many publishers both here and abroad.  To compensate for this, my publisher has used a larger font that enhances the readability of the text of the hardcopy.

Audio Books and Public Readings
With a trilogy of books already completed in the Natalie Seachrist series, I have already completed an audio edition of the first volume.  In general, I knew I had to employ a believable voice for each of the characters.  As the series is written in the first person, the most important voice is that of the protagonist, who is roughly my age.  For Natalie’s inner narrative, I use a measured and calm voice; for her interaction with other characters, I employ tones and rhythms appropriate to each scene.  Other characters are presented to showcase their unique profiles.

In preparation for reading portions of Prospect for Murder, I recorded descriptions and samples of each cast member. The text for each was printed in a distinctive color.  In addition, I utilized a 14 point font and 1.5 line spacing. I also used varying spacing and marks to indicate pauses and emphasis. 

For instance, I use: upward and downward arrows for changes in tone; ellipses for the trailing off of my voice; and long dashes for abrupt breaks.  For vocabulary or phrases about which I was concerned with correct pronunciation, I inserted underscoring and added hyphens between syllables.

In future blogs, I’ll report on the response to the decisions I have made in this phase of my practice of the art and science of writing!

 Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Discussion of art is available at the following blogs:
Authors Design Dilemmas 1, April 2015
Confronted by a Fantasia of Fonts, May 2015
Rainbows of Color, May 2015
Winning Logos & Slogans, October 2015
Quality Book Production, February 2016
Harmonizing Branding Elements, August 2016
Book Promotion and Evolving Art, January 2017
Balancing Text and Space, February 2018
Successful Cover Art, December 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

Interview and Oral History Projects, 2

Researching For Interviews 

The Art and Science of Writing
Today’s post is a recipe to help you prepare for any general or oral history interview you may conduct.  While the ingredients may prove dry for some of my readers, my intent is to simplify the process for those of you seeking to broaden your skills as a researcher, interviewer and writer For, like a piece of fine art, the strong interview provides a complex layering of elements that leads to a deeper understanding of the interviewee’s life, their place within world events, and the experiences that have made them who they are. 

Relying on their charm and a heavy dose of luck, some interviewers claim that establishing a good rapport with one’s subject is all that is required for a strong interview.  But although creating a personal connection with your subject is definitely required, I urge you to consider that doing a bit of research will strengthen your credibility with the interviewee and boost your skills as a professional interviewer worthy of respect.

Although the following example falls under the category of art, it demonstrates how the lack of professional training can interfere with one’s work.  Many years ago, I met a gifted painter who employed the tiniest makeup brushes to create delicate lace, fine hairs on African wildlife, and complex patterns on silken fabrics.  Noticing flaws in the placement of shadows, proportion of objects, and the musculature of human bodies, I gently suggested she take classes in the foundations of art

When she responded that an art teacher had previously crushed her spirit, I suggested she study privately with an artist she could carefully select for compatibility.  Over the years she has achieved a measure of success, but the flaws I first noticed continue throughout the body of her work.  I can only imagine what the knowledge of an authoritative artist could have added to the depth of her art.

Where should you begin your research as an interviewer?  Like the ideal scientist, you will want to thoroughly research your interview subject, confirming basic facts you may have assumed were correct.  To establish a reliable foundation for the facts to be revealed in the interview (as well as to offer a concise expression of the interviewee’s viewpoint), you will need to conduct research that goes beyond the details of their résumé.  This work should be completed before formulating the questions you will ask in the interview. 

As you move through the process of gathering information, consider the following questions.  What is the purpose of the interview project?  What are the demographics of your target audience who will be accessing your work?  Also, what direction is suggested by the format and themes of the media outlet with which you are working

Regardless of the proposed thrust of an interview, information that the public may seek about the subject should be addressed.  In addition, if you wish to separate your interview from others the subject may have granted, I believe it is good to have at least one surprising fact revealed. 

Now comes what some will consider the boring work.  There’s no way around it, unless you want to rely on your great charm.  To organize the facts you have discovered effectively, I suggest you consider using several tools.

  1. Create a double-spaced copy of the interviewee’s résumé or curriculum vitae [CV].  Highlight each piece of information you need to verify.  Place a check mark beside each one you confirm.
  1. Working from either a list provided by the subject (or revealed in your research), examine the interviewee’s articles, books, previous interviews, and other expressions of their thoughts that may exist.
  1. As you proceed with your research, write out potential topics for your forthcoming dialogue.
  1. Create a timeline of the subject’s life.  Although you may be focused on their career and public persona, list highlights in both their professional and personal living as a guideline to help you respond to unexpected turns your dialogue may take.  Depending on what has made the person newsworthy, you may wish to look at a graph of historical events that intersect with their life.  

How will such timelines be useful?  If, for example, the interviewee was involved in the labor movement of the post-World War II era, the strikes of labor unions on the West Coast and in Hawai`i greatly impacted the general public as well as union members.  Consider also the arts.  If your subject is a composer of music or lyrics, you may find that their noteworthy pieces were created at times of considerable importance in history.  Sometimes their work will actually be named for such an occurrence or an entire era.  This was true of a symphony named for, and embodying the discordant notes of, the Chinese Cultural Revolution.  Depending on the flow of your interview, reference to an intersection of general history and your subject’s life may yield surprising insights about their career or personal living.  This can help you communicate with your subject, as well as with your readers or listeners.

  1. Prepare an interviewee survey.  Sequence your questions from the information they have provided to you.  You can simplify the process for your subject by filling in information you have been able to confirm through your research.  This could include:  Dates and descriptions of their degrees, certifications, accreditations, and other qualifications; institutions of affiliation; professional positions they have held; published works, community volunteerism and other involvement; names, ages, careers of spouse, partners, or children.  Remember that if you put in data you have not confirmed, you may be inviting errors—should their memory be flawed, or they actually wish to perpetuate dissemination of erroneous information.

To further your acquaintanceship—and to trigger your subject’s memories—you may want to offer blank space for them to fill in items such as:  Their nicknames; mentors and public figures who have impacted their life; programs and schools of thought that have shaped their perspective; adjunct and social organizations with which they may be associated; and, hobbies and interests.  Whether or not you wish to pursue topics such as political, philosophical or religious associations may depend on both what you have learned about your interviewee and the orientation of the media outlet with which you are working.

Despite the details I am suggesting you consider, keep the resulting survey as short and simple as possible.  I also recommend using a five-point Likert Scale for any questions you wish answered with a measurement of the subject’s agreement.  Hopefully, your subject will be able to provide you with a completed survey prior to the interview.  This will allow you to fold their responses into questions you are preparing for conducting the interview. 

If you do not receive a response to your survey, have a pleasant conversation with your interviewee about your preparation, so that they will want to participate fully in the process.  If necessary, try to reschedule the survey by a day or two to ensure you are fully prepared.  If you must conduct the interview without seeing your subject’s survey responses, you may want to take a few moments to try to write notes in the margins of your interview questions about issues you now feel you need to explore.

By the time you are nearing completion of your research, you should know whether or not the facts you have uncovered demonstrate your subject’s ability and desire to answer your questions fully and honestly.  In addition, you will have determined whether the facts revealed are in accord with the original goals of your project.  It is also important to determine whether the direction of the interview indeed fits within the thrust of the media outlet with which you may be working

It is possible that you will find there are fundamental conflicts within the facts revealed in your research, your initial perspective on the interviewee, and the boundaries of the planned interview.  If you are able to control publication of the information resulting from your interview, you are fortunate.  But if you are restricted by the media outlet’s direction, I sincerely hope you will discuss your concerns with their management team prior to conducting an interview that does not honor you or your interviewee.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors, 
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Here are my offerings on interviews and oral histories.
Overview of Interview and Oral History Projects, June 2015
Researching for Interviews, July 2015
Conducting Interviews, May 2016
After the Interview, August 2017

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.