The Art of the Interview

What makes for a great interview that will eventually find its way into a ghostwritten memoir or autobiography?

I turned to an interview with Terry Gross, the host of NPR’s Fresh Air written by Susan Burton for the New York Times Magazine, to reinforce my own experiences and theories.

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What’s In a Title?

I’ve ghostwritten 25 books for my author/clients and inevitably the job of picking a title is one of the thorniest. And why is that?  It sets the tone for the book; it is what catches a reader’s attention, second only to the cover, and it’s what an author repeats most often whether in an interview, or chatting a book up with friends.

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Book Tour Envy

Give or take a month or two, “Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge,” by Cliff Simon with Loren Stephens was launched at about the same time as “A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles. Granted “A Gentleman in Moscow” was released to an expectant fan base – his first novel, “The Rules of Civility,”  was a surprise hit from a first time novelist, who was formerly an investment banker. In 2011 it lived on the NYT best seller list for months.

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Tool-Belt Diva

I never thought of myself as a tool-belt diva.  And then my husband mentioned the miracle of home leaf blowers, and I was a woman on a mission. I had recently added a forty-foot outdoor living room to our townhouse in Brentwood.  During the six weeks of construction – building a variegated bluestone terrace, installing drainage, a drip irrigation system, and a granite helix fountain with a catch basin of blue-green Mexican rocks – I would periodically marvel at the skill of the workmen with their saws, trowels, jackhammers, levelers, and muscles. I was giddy as the trucks rolled up to our front door every morning – it was a real male beehive of activity.  The patio exceeded my expectations – Shangri-la in Brentwood. 

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The 4 Benefits of Working with a Ghostwriter

Do you have a story in your head that you would love to get down on paper?

Working with a talented ghostwriter will make life a lot easier, without sacrificing the quality and vision you have for your project.

Here are four common reasons people turn to professional ghostwriters to take their ideas and turn them into compelling books for a general or niche audience.

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Servicio Por Favor

I settled into the dental hygienist chair. Aimee greeted me. “How are book sales going?”

“Great,” I answered flattered that she remembered I was in author mode, appearing at book signings with Cliff Simon for “Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge,” which was six months into its publication.

Clipping a paper bib around my neck, and sticking a mirror into my mouth so she could get a look at my gums, she said, “Excellent. I see a big improvement.”

I relaxed. I didn’t want to get a failing grade, and I certainly didn’t want to lose my teeth.

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Many of the paintings I own have circles, which symbolize numerous ideas: no beginning, no end; a centering in the midst of chaos. A large abstract canvas in my collection is entitled “Portals and Pathways,” by Michael Moon. I had seen it hung horizontally in a Melrose Avenue gallery , but I wanted to hang it vertically. When the artist came to my house to install it I asked him if he would mind my turning it on its side. He said, “No, I painted it so that it would be pleasing to the eye either way.” It’s been hanging in my living room cattycorner to another large oil painting, “After Monet’s Water Lilies,” by Sigrid Burton, a New York artist, originally from Pasadena who studied at Bennington with Helen Frankenthaler (one of my favorite artists known for her vibrant color field.)

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Personal Aspects of the Writing Life

Many years ago before I proclaimed myself to be a writer, I worked for a mortgage banking company in Boston – our offices were on the top floor of what had been a grainery in Faneuil Hall, across the street from the Sanborn Fish Market. My boss was a sailor and the office was decorated with ships’ clocks, Spode china, and models of Boston whalers.  I was hired on the basis of my prior position as an editor of economics and business textbooks at what was then Houghton Miffllin.  Initially I was in charge of writing offering memoranda for potential lenders (banks, pension funds, insurance companies and the like).

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The Leather Funnel

Listening to NPR on my car radio last night, the commentator interviewed an editor who had put together an anthology of the best horror short stories. The program was of course timed to Halloween, which is looming and will be upon us shortly.

The story that was chosen as the standout was “The Leather Funnel,” by Arthur Conan Doyle, who was by the time he wrote this pretty sick and tired of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, or at a minimum needed a palate cleanser before chewing on his next case.

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Amazon and My Mother

My mother was a Luddite. She grew up in the days when you went into a bank and were ushered into a private room where a personal banker fetched your money, took your deposit and knew the names of your children – my sister and I used to accompany her on these missions. I remember there was a doorman. Even when that bank closed its branch and she had to transfer to a bank that was acquired by a bigger bank, she refused to learn her PIN number and chose to wait on line rather than use the ATM.

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