Interviews…A lot More than a Research Tool
Guest Post by Susan Violante
Writers have used interviews as the main research tool for their articles, essays, and even books. But with the Internet revolution, research can now be completed without speaking to anyone!
The internet is a very convenient research tool, as it offers entire libraries, infinite articles, and even expert interviews to provide us with any information needed without leaving the office, nor making a phone call. Information is obtained 24/7. But, are we missing out by relying on the Internet as our sole research tool?
When I started working on Innocent War back in 1995, I believed my main research was already done for me since I had the five tapes recorded by my father. However, I soon found out that there was much more research to be done if I wanted to create a setting true to the era of my story.
I went to the library and bookstores and began looking for any books depicting the 1940s historical time in Libya and Italy. Disappointment was my main result as I didn’t find much information on this subject.
Realizing that there was a lack of books on the shelves about the Italian side of WWII fueled my determination to write my book, but it also fueled my fear of not finding all of the information I needed. One day, while surfing the the Internet, it hit me… I had my father.
As I wrote each chapter, I started engaging in phone interviews with my father about the geography, culture, clothing, food, and architecture in Libya and Italy during WWII…anything that I could think of asking, I asked.
It was not only very convenient to have a living encyclopedia; it was also a lot of fun. So as I enjoyed every single conversation we had, I didn’t realize I was making a big mistake… I didn’t tape our phone interviews.
Once I published my book, I certainly wished I had all of the interviews with my father because as I found out while promoting Innocent War, he was my best promotional tool!
The biggest lesson I learned was to plan promotion as soon as a book idea comes to mind, because many of the research tools that we can get in our hands can also be key promotional tools.
Below are some tips to keep in mind when writing a book.
- Information sources can also be promotional contacts. For example, if I did a lot of research through a specific museum, library, or organization, the sole fact that they aided the writing of my now published book can open doors for events at their location. The Borders where I met with my writers group every week to get Innocent War critiqued, was more than happy to host my first book signing / book launch event.
- Also, your information sources can now be contacts which may be invited as guests to events; interviewed for articles or blog entries, and even the author’s radio shows or online radio blogs.
- Original documents found during research or even family heirlooms from the era of your story can be shown as conversation starters during book signings. I bring my father’s old history book and school report cards that show Mussolini Regime’s seal to every book signing.
- Pictures which were used as reference to describe places and sometimes even characters can be also used as conversation starters at book signings. They can also complement blog entries as you comment on how you came across with the picture, or you expose your r experience as you visited such place or spoke to the actual person who inspired the character. I actually based the book cover on my father’s picture, so I always tell stories about the picture and the uniform my father was wearing when it was taken.
- Finally, the most important tool I use for online promotion are interviews and videos of my father as he re-tells some of the true events that inspired the book, shares his reasons for taping his life story, and even gives his opinion about the world today in comparison with the era described on the book. I now tape all of my phone conversations with him, as I research for the second book of the series.
There are infinite ways to promote ourselves and our books, but I have found that once you get your book out there, what you need to create is an interest for the stories…what better way to do that than making it real for the possible reader by sharing true facts from your research, the real life places and characters that inspired the story, and your passion for the subject!
Susan Violante is the author of Innocent War: Behind an Immigrant’s Past, speaker, Blogger, Host of her online radio show I Have Something to Say Live, and Managing Editor for Reader Views and First Chapter Plus. For more information about Susan visit http://www.susanviolante.com