· Use humor (but only sparingly). Improvisational humor is better than canned jokes.
· Smile—Have Fun. Being prepared, relaxed, and confident helps a lot.
· Focus on the host and not the camera (or crew).
· Tell brief stories to make your points instead of rattling of statistics.
· Know what you want to say, practice it, and then say it when the camera’s rolling.
· Think in terms of 8-second sound bites. Have about 5 points to make and learn how to integrate them into the interview no matter the questions.
· Forget that youʼre talking to millions of people. Just speak to the interviewer naturally—in your normal tone and volume—as if he is a good friend.
· Stay calm. A TV studio is a hectic place, whether itʼs a local news station or The Today Show. Donʼt panic if the staff seems stressed and disorganized; thatʼs just life in television. Ignore the hubbub and take control.
· Stay on track.
· Be yourself. Try to relax and speak to the reporter in conversational language. Avoid using “buzzwords” specific to your industry or organization that the reporter or the audience will be unfamiliar with; they will likely not make it into the story.
· Over-think your responses or they will sound canned.
· Repeat the question, because it comes across as giving yourself time to fabricate the answer. So, reword the question only as a last resort to buy time to think of the right answer.
· Take notes with you except to review briefly before the show.
· Answer questions that are either irrelevant to you or for which you do not know the answer.
· Argue with a reporter, especially when you are on-camera.
· Feel that you should fill empty space after you’ve given a response. If you are not prepared to elaborate—donʼt. Sometimes interviewers use the pregnant pause, hoping you will panic and blurt out something to fill the quiet space. Just sit there and smile and wait for the next question after you believe youʼve sufficiently answered the question. If the pause is awkward, then if all else fails, offer to fill it with an anecdote rather than a fact you arenʼt sure of.
· Whether youʼre on TV to promote yourself or something else, youʼre there to convey a specific message. When itʼs your turn to speak, make sure you get your point across.
· Avoid being sidetracked into a subject not directly related to the subject of the interview. Also avoid rabbit tracking.
· Watch the pace of your reply. Talk too fast and it will appear you think you have more material than time and youʼre trying to cram it all in. Too laid back and you donʼt appear passionate about the subject.
· Beware of being monotone. Allow your voice to naturally rise and fall in pitch, volume and tone.
· Enunciate. Thereʼs nothing worse than an audience misunderstanding because you didnʼt properly enunciate a word or phrase.
· Beware of the “s” and “p” sounds because they tend to hiss and pop with certain mics.
· Make sure you know which time zone you are scheduled for any phone call interviews.
· Be clear in advance if they are to call you or if you are to call them, and have phone numbers for both parties (the guest and the host), just in case.
· Set up your phone so you don’t get call waiting, which can interrupt the interview and create a silent pause each time it rings.
· Use a landline if at all possible for phone interviews, to cut down on risk for cell phone static interference and disconnects.
· Send an interview sheet in advance, but be prepared for other questions aswell.
· On the interview sheet, also put your bio, and your photo. Even if theyreceived your press release, it might not be in front of them. This will help the host know not only know what questions to ask, but also feel like they are connecting with you since they see your face on the sheet.
· Don’t forget to ask permission to get an mp3, CD or DVD of the interview, to use for promotional purposes after the show. See if you are allowed to post it to your site. Some prefer you to link to their online archives and others will give you full permission to use as you wish.
· Have talking points, but don’t be obvious about your talking points–youwant to come across as an expert on the topic or someone passionate about the topic, rather than a politician.
· The same goes for mentioning your book–you want to mention it, but limityour phrases of, “Well, in the book…” “When you read the book, you’llfind…” And the worst is, “I’m not going to answer that question. You’ll haveto get the book to find out!”
The final word on interview guesting is this: if your main goal is to sell books, you will come off sounding like an infomercial. But if your main goal is to connect your message to the audience, then God is going to use you in a might way. He’s all about making sure your motives are pure. And the great thing is, when your motive is to shine HIS Light, He takes care of those other loaves-and-fishes sorts of needs in your life, such as selling books and getting exposure.
Kathy Carlton Willis own her own communications firm and enjoys shining the light on others as they shine THE Light. She’s also wife to Russ, mom to fur babies, family and friend to many, and pastor’s wife to her church family. Find her on all the social networking sites, as well as her professional blog: http://kcwcomm.blogspot.com/
Write Kathy at WillisWay@aol.com with your questions on how to promote your books and your branding.
by Mike Duran
When it comes to defining Christian fiction, Tolkien’s epic fantasy is a reminder of the genre’s inherent stickiness. While many Christian readers embrace The Lord of the Rings novels for their literary depth, depiction of good and evil, redemptive themes, as well as the author’s religious worldview, those same readers are not so quick to label the tale “Christian.” Why is this?
However one chooses to define Christian fiction, the following three elements are usually contained therein:
- Author — Christian fiction is written by Christians
- Audience — for Christians
- Message — and contains at least a marginally accessible Christian message
These three earmarks — author, audience, message — serve as a barometer for much of what we call contemporary Christian art.
But by those standards, Tolkien is only 1 of 3. He was definitely a Christian author. (In fact, his greatest accomplishment may, in the end, not be his fantasy trilogy, but his role in C.S. Lewis’ conversion.) Yet in regards to audience and message — two pivotal planks in the prevailing argument — he strikes out.
David Dark, in his book Everyday Apocalypse, expounds upon Tolkien’s “moral aversion” to message-driven fiction:
In his efforts to overcome the popular misreading of his work on Middle-Earth as a project in allegory, J.R.R. Tolkien expressed a distaste for the domineering quality of the allegorical while offering a helpful distinction: “I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader; and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”
“Purposed domination” is a wonderfully illuminating phrase in Tolkien’s explanation not only in regard to what he assures us he isn’t doing in The Lord of the Rings but also concerning a mode of creative expression to which he feels an almost moral aversion. Purposed domination, we might say, is the method of propaganda. It leaves the audience with no room for “applicability,” and the propagandist wouldn’t have it any other way. The tightly controlled “message,” after all, was the point in the first place, not the dignity of the reader or the story (if we can even call it a story).
The very thing Tolkien eschewed, this “tightly controlled message,” is often a defining factor in Christian storytelling. Like it or not, much Christian fiction relies on the “domination of the author” rather than “the freedom of the reader.” As I suggested recently, if it needs interpreting, it ain’t “Christian”. Multiple opinions as to what your novel “means” (especially opinions that lack Gospel distillation) could be evidence that your “message” wasn’t “tightly controlled” enough.
Dr. Ralph Wood, Professor of English at Baylor University and a Tolkien expert, in his wonderful essay, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: A Christian Classic Revisited, states that Tolkien, “…called The Lord of the Rings ‘a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.’ Its essential conflict, he insisted, concerns God’s ‘sole right to divine honour’ (Letters, 172, 243).” But despite the author’s stated intent, Wood affirms that “Tolkien’s work is not self-evidently Christian.”
And herein lies the rub.
Even though J.R.R. Tolkien was a Christian, an expert at his craft, and his work was “fundamentally religious,” it is the subtle, nuanced, non-explicit presentation of those themes that keeps him outside the camp of “Christian fiction.” In other words, the very thing Tolkien decried — i.e., “the purposed domination of the author” and unwillingness to allow “the freedom of the reader” — are the very things that cause many believers to paint his masterpiece as un-Christian (or at least, spiritually neutral).
It makes me wonder whether we have collapsed the boundaries of Christian art too far. Unless there is “explicit Christian themes” and overtly Christian characters, or a “tightly controlled message,” the artist, no matter how Christian she is or how “fundamentally religious” her work, falls outside the pale of Christian art. How many great Christian writers, musicians and artists are not embraced by the Christian subculture simply because their work does not adhere to a predetermined template? Well, if it’s any consolation, neither did Tolkien’s.
So is The Lord of the Rings Christian fiction? Your answer will ultimately determine what you think Christian fiction is or should be.
Marcia Laycock is a pastor’s wife, mother of three daughters and an award-winning writer and speaker. Her novel, One Smooth Stone won her the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006. The sequel will be released soon. Marcia’s devotionals have appreared in many publications and go out to thousands via email. Visit her website – www.vinemarc.com
Watching old home movies can be a hoot, especially if the amateur moviemaker was as technologically challenged as my father. We have reams of family memories on film, but you have to know the people well to figure out who they are. “Oh look, that’s Mom’s knee … isn’t it?” “And Ron’s feet. I’m sure those are Ron’s feet!”
When my parents made a trip to San Francisco, the camera went along. A few weeks later the rest of the family enjoyed seeing China Town – superimposed over an inverted Golden Gate Bridge. It was a little blurry, but no one seemed to mind.
On one occasion my father relinquished his camera to my eldest brother. He was somewhat better at capturing the significant events of our lives on film. In fact, the footage he took on the main street of our hometown, one day in the mid 1960’s, could be called a classic. It’s a bit bouncy, but that was because Ron was running as he filmed. It’s a bit blurry, but that’s because the vehicle he was filming wouldn’t slow down. In spite of these disadvantages, my brother managed to capture a brief picture of Queen Elizabeth II, waving to a large crowd.
Well, okay, the film isn’t really a classic, but somehow it does capture the wild enthusiasm of the people. We see them leaning forward, smiling, hands upraised, eager to dispense their praise as the procession flows by. Somehow that blurred, bouncy film makes you lean forward eagerly too, straining for a brief glimpse of that person of importance.
Such was the atmosphere surrounding the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowd leaned in, chanting their praise, waving their palm branches, laying them at the feet of their hero. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they cried, “Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:1-11). If we had been among them, we would have been chanting and waving palm branches too. This was indeed a man of importance, they said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
A few days later they crucified Him. When He rode into Jerusalem they thought He might take over the city, or set himself up as a King, or at the very least, lead a revolt. Instead, He allowed himself to be arrested. He allowed the hated Romans to beat Him and execute Him. And He did nothing to save Himself. So those who had leaned in close with praises on their lips now spat on Him and demanded his death.
If we had been among them, we probably would have done the same. But His mercy and grace is poured out on us anyway, as it was on those who were there that day.
The procession Jesus led into the city looked like a triumph and His death looked like a defeat. In reality, His death was His victory. In reality, His death was our victory.
“Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!”