I have another wonderful author answering my questions. I want to welcome Christina Hamlett. First I’d love you to introduce yourself.
Thanks for inviting me, Barbara. In a nutshell, my credits to date include 30 books, 155 stage plays, 5 optioned feature films, and squillions of articles and interviews that appear online and in trade publications throughout the world. In addition to being a former actress and director, I’m a script consultant for the film industry (which means I stop a lot of bad movies from coming to theaters near you) and a professional ghostwriter (which does mean I talk to dead people).
Tell us about your latest release
What is it that all authors, artists, business owners and nonprofits need but don’t know how to use once they get it? Attracting (and maximizing) media opportunities is as much an art as it is a science if you want to sparkle in the spotlight. Two dozen media industry experts (myself included) offer tips, resources and guidelines in the recently released Media Magnetism: How to Attract the Favorable Publicity You Want and Deserve, a must-have book for anyone who wants to learn how to make influential connections, become sound-bite savvy, use social media effectively, survive awkward moments and manage a cost-effective PR campaign. It’s available in paperback and on Kindle and we even have a companion website - http://www.mediamagnetism.org – that offers monthly media tips from experts across the country and around the world.
Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.
1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?
Inspector Javert from Les Miserables. He never deviates from his rigid personal and professional code of ethics and, thus, for 20+ years doggedly pursues a man that he believes is beyond redemption because of his criminal past. It is only at the end of the chase and their final confrontation Javert comes to realize that Jean Valjean has spent that same amount of time keeping true to his own vow to help others and, in doing so, has led an exemplary life. As a public servant, Javert can’t be faulted for doing what he believes is his duty and yet, as a human being, that obsession has blinded him to ever seeing goodness in anyone whom society has labeled as unworthy. I’m actually toying with the idea of writing a book called Javert: The Early Years and examining the childhood influences that made him such a stickler for rules.
2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?
Hands down it would be the deliciously wicked Adair Beath, the English priest in my Scottish time-travel novel, The Spellbox. Set against the backdrop of 13th century Scotland, Beath is understandably torqued when two American women on holiday inexplicably show up from out of nowhere at Thistleburn Castle. While Lucy and Max struggle to figure out how they got there – and, more importantly, how to get back – Beath is fueling the fires of suspicion that the two women are witches who should be burned at the stake. If The Spellbox were a movie, Beath would have to be played by my favorite movie villain, Alan Rickman.
3.) What genre do you write? What made you pick that one?
The genres I write – comedy, mystery, historical, suspense, nonfiction – are a reflection of the genres I like to read. My first agent back in the days when I wrote for HarperCollins wanted me to pick just one genre and not write anything else. To do that, however, would have boxed me in and truly bored me out of my mind. One of the reasons I’ve never been paralyzed by writer’s block is that I always have a multiplicity of different projects I’m working on at the same time and which keep me enthusiastically engaged in research and learning new things. My favorite type of writing, though, will always be for live theater, primarily because I spent 16 fun-filled years treading the boards. The bulk of my credits are scripts for the high school market because it excites me to ponder how many of those talented young people who act in one of my plays will one day grow up to be actors, directors, producers, set designers…and even playwrights!
4.)What are you working on now?
In addition to two full-length plays, I’m penning a chick lit called All But the Midnight Kiss and a political suspense novel titled Exit Strategy, which is about a corrupt president, a terrorist attack on a facility in the Congo, and a top intelligence officer who resigns under the scandal of adultery so as to remove himself from having to testify about a heinous cover-up.
5.) What got you to start writing?
I knew how to read and write before I started school and have been doing both ever since. Although I wasn’t encouraged by my parents to be a writer, I was fortunate to have teachers who saw the creative potential and provided me with the skill sets to sally forth, get my work published, and turn it into a full-time career.
6.) Where do you get your ideas from?
From being a voracious reader and a keen observer of all the free material that life throws at me on a daily basis. I think that non-writers could travel to the most exotic ports of call on the planet and still not recognize any wellsprings of inspiration. I, on the other hand, can overhear a funny conversation in the cookie aisle of the grocery store or see something quirky in the parking lot and I can’t wait to rush home and jot down notes about it.
7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?
That I owe my expertise in character development and dialogue to all of the years I spent onstage.
8.) Do you have any special talents?
Like my husband, I’m a gourmet chef. I also love architectural design and – owing to an incredibly nifty software program - have “built” dozens of virtual dream houses for friends’ birthdays and anniversaries. (It pretty much eliminates any worries that someone else will give them the same thing!) When I’m not building houses, I use this program for all of my set designs since it’s much more exciting to imagine a cast when you’re looking at a 3D image of the stage.
9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?
Write what you want to write, not what you think is the next hot “trend.” Trends are too transitory. I also believe that readers can tell when you’ve written something you’re just not passionate about. Which is why I’m not writing about vampires, zombies and dystopian societies.
10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?
I would like to have lunch with Teddy Roosevelt and – if history could be altered as a result of that chat – persuade him to run for a third term (which he would likely have won). Not only was he someone who knew how to keep campaign promises but his reputation on the world stage would have kept us out of World War I. Without World War I, the seeds would not have been planted for World War II. While I have absolutely no patience for anyone who shoots animals for sport (and he would get an earful about this from me), he was passionate about everything that grabbed his interest and exercised a level of integrity, trust and competent leadership that is woefully lacking on Capitol Hill.
Christina I think we're kindred spirits! Loved your answers - you made me laugh a few times - and Alan Rickman is one of my fav's as well.
Now stay tuned for an excerpt from Media Magnetism:
Excerpt from Media Magnetism
PHONING IT IN
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. The following year, he formed the first telephone company and even found time to fall in love and get married. Perhaps the only thing he regrets is giving his phone number to the media which proceeded to call him incessantly and ask what he was going to invent next.
All right, that last part isn’t exactly true. Still, there’s no escaping the fact that the phone is an indispensable tool for getting quick quotes on a late-breaking story, background info for an upcoming magazine feature, or a remote guest’s ‘presence’ in a podcast or radio show. The convenience of being heard but not seen gives both parties the freedom to follow script-notes, look things up and even engage in quiet multi-tasking activities totally unrelated to the call. I once, for instance, finished addressing my Christmas cards when it became apparent that the glacially slow-talking restaurateur I was recording on Line 1was intent on reading aloud the entire dinner menu (even though I reminded him it was posted on the website right in front of me).
Despite some of the advantages of invisibility that a phone call provides, they’re often cancelled out – and usually by the interviewees themselves – when there arises a quirky insistence on inappropriate disclosures. Is it to forge a more personal connection with the party they can’t see or does common sense just get put on hold the more casual the ‘meeting’ environment? Yes, we live in a world where Hollywood and 24/7 tweeting have collectively made TMI the rule rather than the exception, but would you really want the media’s first impressions of your business to be influenced by any of the following:
“Hold on a sec. I’m just getting off the can.” (combined with audible toilet flushing)
“Oh, was that today? Wow, I must be drunker than I thought.”
“Let me go grab a towel. I just got out of the shower.”
“Can I put you on speaker-phone? I’m changing a stinky diaper.”
“Sorry if I’m kinda loopy. I have no idea what’s in these meds…”
“Can you hear me okay? I’m sitting in the back of my closet.”
While doofy revelations like these are more likely to occur in the setting of a home-based enterprise, one of my more unusual phone interviews came in the form of a story I was doing about the vice president of a regional savings and loan. She effusively opened the conversation with the news that it was her first week back at the office following the birth of her second child. “This company has absolutely the greatest maternity leave policies,” she told me, “and don’t even get me started on its fantastic daycare program for employees.”
Following my congratulations about her new little bundle of joy, I proceeded to dive into my questions about the challenges facing today’s first-time home buyers trying to secure financing in a troubled economy.
“Can I put you on hold for just a second?” she asked after a moment.
I assumed that she was being interrupted to sign an important document or respond to a time-sensitive question that only someone at her executive level was qualified to address.
“Okay, that’s better,” she said when she came back on the line. “I’m breastfeeding and had to switch to my other boob.”
To be honest, that was quite a lot more than I – or anyone else – really needed to know.