Last week I was at the Book Cellar for a reading from Jami Attenberg for her new book Saint Mazie (which you should check out!) She asked for questions and I shot my hand up because a.) I am a goody-goody b.) I had a lot of professors in college who made a big deal out of grading you on participation and c.) It is not fun to do a reading and then have no questions afterwards. Jami ended up getting a lot of good questions for a healthy question-and-answer session and it was a very lovely event as most Book Cellar readings are.
My friend Molly Backes and I later talked about the author Q&A and how good questions can sometimes be hard to come by. My least-favorite questions are often about the business of being an author, because it embarrasses me how little I have learned about how to be a successful author despite my experience as an author. Once I was asked about whether my book contract involved international film rights and I felt like a dummy saying "I don't know" and inwardly, sadly thought "I have a feeling this is not a situation that is going to come up."
Anyway, Molly told me she was working on a list of good questions for people to ask authors and she graciously shared it with me. Feel free to pull from this the next time you're at a reading, leading a panel or interviewing an author:
- Who is your ideal reader?
- Did you hide any secrets in your book? (names of friends, little jokes, references to things only some people will get -- easter eggs, basically)
- What books do you hope your book is in conversation with?
- What would you like people to offer as a readalike?
- What's been your favorite reader response so far?
- What do you hope people remember about it?
- What was the hardest scene to write? What was the easiest?
- What's something you're really proud of with this book?
- How do you think the setting affects the story?
- Did you do any research for the book? What was that like?
- What surprised you about this book?
- Is there a story behind the title?
Some others I'd throw in there are:
- Tell us about the cover of the book (if the cover is worth noting)
- What did you read/watch/listen to while you wrote this book?
The above list is so short not because I ran out of ideas but because the baby started crying as I tried to make it and he stole all my brain power. So maybe something else you can include is, "What steals your brain power?"