He got up and sat on the edge of the bedstead with his back to the window. “It’s better not to sleep at all,” he decided. There was a cold damp draught from the window, however; without getting up he drew the blanket over him and wrapped himself in it. He was not thinking of anything and did not want to think. But one image rose after another, incoherent scraps of thought without beginning or end passed through his mind. He sank into drowsiness. Perhaps the cold, or the dampness, or the dark, or the wind that howled under the window and tossed the trees roused a sort of persistent craving for the fantastic. He kept dwelling on images of flowers, he fancied a charming flower garden, a bright, warm, almost hot day, a holiday—Trinity day. A fine, sumptuous country cottage in the English taste overgrown with fragrant flowers, with flower beds going round the house; the porch, wreathed in climbers, was surrounded with beds of roses. A light, cool staircase, carpeted with rich rugs, was decorated with rare plants in china pots. He noticed particularly in the windows nosegays of tender, white, heavily fragrant narcissus bending over their bright, green, thick long stalks. He was reluctant to move away from them, but he went up the stairs and came into a large, high drawing-room and again everywhere—at the windows, the doors on to the balcony, and on the balcony itself—were flowers. The floors were strewn with freshly-cut fragrant hay, the windows were open, a fresh, cool, light air came into the room. The birds were chirruping under the window, and in the middle of the room, on a table covered with a white satin shroud, stood a coffin. The coffin was covered with white silk and edged with a thick white frill; wreaths of flowers surrounded it on all sides. Among the flowers lay a girl in a white muslin dress, with her arms crossed and pressed on her bosom, as though carved out of marble. But her loose fair hair was wet; there was a wreath of roses on her head. The stern and already rigid profile of her face looked as though chiselled of marble too, and the smile on her pale lips was full of an immense unchildish misery and sorrowful appeal. Svidrigaïlov knew that girl; there was no holy image, no burning candle beside the coffin; no sound of prayers: the girl had drowned herself. She was only fourteen, but her heart was broken. And she had destroyed herself, crushed by an insult that had appalled and amazed that childish soul, had smirched that angel purity with unmerited disgrace and torn from her a last scream of despair, unheeded and brutally disregarded, on a dark night in the cold and wet while the wind howled

50 Brilliant, Original Questions to ask an Author

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Authors are tired of getting the same questions at every interview. They’ve answered them a hundred times and will not be excited to answer them yet again. I can tell you exactly the questions writers get time and time again at every book reading and interview:

  • Where do you get your ideas?
  • What is your writing process like?
  • What advice do you have for writers?

And if you look for other lists of interview questions for authors, they are remarkably uninspired. Everyone basically lists the same 20 questions that writers always receive.

My list below of interview questions are fantastic, but if those 50 aren’t enough, I would suggest you go here to see examples of fantastic interviews, and maybe pick up a few more good questions:

Now, of course, the best question for a writer is one based on their book. Every author is excited to talk about their most recent book, or the big one they published a few years back. If you have a good question about a character or a plot point or the process of creating that book, they will be overjoyed to hear it.

But if you haven’t read their book yet, this is the next best thing: I’ve compiled a list of good questions for authors that are surprising and unique. I guarantee that these questions will surprise them for a second, and make them think about their answer.

50 Good Questions to Ask an Author

  1. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
  2. What is the first book that made you cry?
  3. What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
  4. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
  5. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
  6. Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
  7. What is your writing Kryptonite?
  8. Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
  9. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
  10. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
  11. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
  12. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
  13. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
  14. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
  15. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
  16. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
  17. What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
  18. What did you do with your first advance?
  19. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
  20. What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
  21. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
  22. How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
  23. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
  24. What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
  25. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
  26. What does literary success look like to you?
  27. What’s the best way to market your books?
  28. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
  29. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
  30. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
  31. How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
  32. How many hours a day do you write?
  33. What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
  34. What did you edit out of this book?”
  35. Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
  36. What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
  37. How do you select the names of your characters?
  38. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
  39. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
  40. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
  41. What was your hardest scene to write?
  42. Do you Google yourself?
  43. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
  44. What are your favorite literary journals?
  45. What is your favorite childhood book?
  46. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
  47. Does your family support your career as a writer?
  48. If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
  49. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
  50. Do you believe in writer’s block? (DO NOT ask whether they’ve had writer’s block).

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66 comments

    1. I know this is over a year old post but I wanted to respond out of curiosity. What books do you like to review? I am a new author and was looking for questions people would what to learn from reading my biography. This questions list seems helpful. This is very new because writing has never really been a thought until now. My decision to write stems from a tragic event and hopefully will blossom into something great. Have a great day.

  1. Question 8: Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
    Question 50: Do you believe in writer’s block? (DO NOT ask whether they’ve had writer’s block).

      1. When you feel like you can’t read or don’t want to read any more or can’t even decide what books to read.

    1. Ashtyn, I don’t quite get what you and Angelica are noticing. One question is asking about writer’s block, and the other question is asking about reader’s block.

    1. When you have trouble reading. You don’t want to read, or you feel like you can’t read. It’s probably as common as writer’s block, but it doesn’t get talked about nearly as much.

  2. Thank you so much! We have an author coming to our school and I have “question block” and had trouble thinking of questions that were actually interesting. Appreciate this a lot 😉

  3. My dream is to be a writer in school we had a contest and i won a trophie thats why i want to be so happy today!

  4. I am a new reporter for a local paper doing a feature on a local author. This is my first piece, so I want to impress. Thank you!!

  5. These questions are amazing! Of course, not all questions fit in with the author’s I will interview but there are a good 30 that I can use. Thank you so much for posting them!

    1. Exactly my thought!
      I actually found it happens most when you got yourself stuck w/ one genre for too long & are already fed up w/ all the repetitive tropes yet you do not know this “trope fatigue”. Often as long as you’re willing to make yourself be adventurous & explore new types of reading materials, such as someone reading way too many young-adult fantasies, can start to explore maybe more mature-themed fantasy, or just give detective novels a try (I find myself solve my reader’s block most of the time through this principle ~~

  6. Thank you so much. This list is making me think that the interview I am to do in a month will not be the hot mess of crickets chirping that I was afraid of and I actually am looking forward to hearing the author’s answers.

  7. Why would an author make reference to his, or her writings as the ” finisher and author”? As oppose to an author and finisher?

  8. can you change the type of book, say from memoirs to narrative or creative non fiction is it a difficulf process?

  9. I know this an older post, but I will be interviewing my first author next week and found this post very helpful! and this may be an ignorant quest but why shouldn’t we ask if they’ve had writer block or how they combat it? I am obviously new to this field and want to understand why it is taboo or rude to ask.

  10. Hard to believe I had never googled myself since I published my first novel in 2015 – and the first page of results turned up a stunning review and article I had never seen.

    I have just sent a fulsome apology to the editor/reviewer – and gotten a nice kick to help me get the SECOND novel in the Pride’s Children mainstream trilogy finished and published.

    Interesting set of questions – though many seemed exclusively for traditionally-published authors. I take what I can from where I find it – thanks!

  11. I have a author interveiw soon and i was told by my classroom teacher to think of a “big juicy and meaty question” (lol)
    My mind was blank before reading this.
    thanks

  12. I really hate your mention of “spirit animal” it is enforcing a stereotypical view of American Indians. I respectfully ask you to remove that.