Readers Listen Up

Great writers have always intrigued their readers. As a kid, I adored fantasy and science fiction books. Piers Anthony was, in my adolescent heart, a superstar. After reading A Spell for Chameleon, I remember trying to find out anything about him—where he lived, what he ate for breakfast. I would have gobbled up anything I could find, but I think all I came up with was that he lived in England.

author_IMG_2860This, of course, was life before the Internet and Wikipedia. Later on, I couldn’t find out much about Anne Rice either. On the paperback version of The Mummy, I was given the tiny nugget, “Anne Rice was born in New Orleans, where she now lives with her husband, the poet Stan Rice, and their son, Christopher.”

One time Stephen King stepped out from behind his typewriter, and was interviewed by Writer’s Digest. I remember reading, and re-reading, an article about how he described The Craft. I practically memorized his take on being a writer. He’s not much different today. He advises that all writers be voracious readers, and I tend to agree.

As an author, a screenwriter, and Hollywood tagline writer, I’m sometimes surprised how many times I’m asked the same questions. But, as a reader, I understand that yearning to find out. Readers want to know how writers create characters, and what inspired the story. (And there’s always a back-story to the story. That goes for movies, as well.) Readers want details on how the plot was constructed because it left them turning pages late into the night.

This isn’t a spoiler alert, but I was asked by a woman at my literary agency, Dupree/Miller, why a dog had to die in one of my books. And was the dog really dead? It wasn’t so much a question as a demand. She demanded to know!

I’m also asked about the writing process—do I map out the story, or write off-the-cuff? Do I use the same technique every time? What are the similarities and differences in writing a screenplay versus a novel? And what about those taglines? How do you come up with them? Personally, I wondered about Peter Straub’s Ghosts’ tagline: “What you can’t see can scare you to death.” It bugged me for years. And what’s a tagline doing on the cover of a book?

One of the great things about being a reader in this day and age is that you can find out about your favorite author online. Dig a little deeper and you’ll probably find your author interviewed on Youtube, a Vlog or Blog, or a radio podcast.

I gave a radio interview the other day. (One of many I’ve been doing lately.) Click HERE to listen to the interview on Culture Wars, a radio program out of New York/New Jersey.

I actually like talking shop with interviewers. Maybe it’s all those years spent in public relations. Among some of the things readers want to know wasn’t just the details of my work, and how I do my work, but they want to know about me. The way I wanted to know what kind of dog Piers Anthony had… if he, in fact, had a dog. Or if Anne Rice had ever met a vampire.

Okay, I don’t really want to know that.

Yes, I do.

Jennifer B. White is an award-winning director, writer and Hollywood copywriter and tagline writer. All her opinions and photos are her own.  

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