Monday, November 10, 2014

Diana Belchase and the Art of the Author Interview

Diana Belchase is an award winning writer - she won the RWA Golden Heart in 2011 - but today she's at WWK because she's also the Barbara Walters of the Mystery world. On her YouTube page you'll find interviews with writers from Darynda Jones to Brad Meltzer, Louise Penny to Elaine Viets, Eloisa James to Don and Renee Bain. How does she score all these great guests?

Welcome, Diana.

Diana, you have interviewed, well, it seems like everyone. Do you have a count of how many authors you've interviewed?

Thank you so much for having me here, Shari, and for the incredible welcome. I have 70 interviews that are posted with more coming live every day. What means the most to me isn't the number of authors, but the number of views - that people are actually taking the time to watch these videos. I am so humbled every time someone leaves a comment or sends me a private email. It makes what I'm doing worthwhile.

Do you remember your first interview? How did it go?

The first interview I ever did was for Michael Hauge, a screenwriter and writing coach. We were in a room next to a restaurant and the staff kept talking loudly and dropping silverware. Absolutely horrible, but I soldiered on. LOL. It has the worst audio ever, but I keep it posted because there is information that people might want to struggle to listen through. My second interview was with Eloisa James who knew I was new at this and gave me pointers. She told me to break things into segments, she put up with technical problems, and was the sweetest, most wonderful interviewee I could have ever had. I think, if not for Eloisa, I might not be doing this today and thank her with all my heart.

What elements make a good author interview?

A forgiving and easy-going subject is so important - someone who won't balk during glitches and will open up on camera. I once had someone who was very funny who completely froze on film. Then there are people who ramble or are monotone. In these cases it's hard to edit together something interesting. But being able to capture who an author really is - their sense of humor, that spark of mischief - is what is essential. There are people who've been so wonderful on film I frankly forget I'm interviewing them - Cherry Adair comes to mind and so does Cathy Maxwell. I laughed so much and I think that joy shows on the video. I also think finding that one question that helps reveal something new, something unsaid, about an author is what makes it a success. I'll never forget the Bains sharing with me Don pretending to be an oversexed flight attendant or Elaine Viets admitting she looked into yacht windows as she surf boarded, or Louise Penny talking about spending a night with the monks.

What advice do you have for authors doing video interviews? Any do's or don'ts?

Be prepared. The special moments on camera come from knowing a lot about your subject before the camera starts rolling. It also gives you the confidence to direct the conversation and be less visibly nervous on film. When in doubt, smile. Remember the person you are interviewing is likely nervous as well.

Tell us about an interview that surprised you. 

I was thrilled to be able to interview Beppe Severgnini - an Italian filmmaker, writer, journalist, and TV personality. While he's not well known to my audience, it was like having Peter Jennings sit down with me.
The most touching interview I've ever done was for a sculptor who was an Australian/Italian named Victor Pirruccio. I was on vacation and stumbled upon his artwork and asked him for an interview. He was shy and had throat cancer so again he was difficult to hear and I added subtitles later on. During the interview he suddenly opened up and told me a secret about his art that he'd never told anyone before. I was astounded that he felt comfortable enough to share it with me, especially since he'd never consented to an interview before then. A few months after the interview I found out he had died unexpectedly. What a devastating loss for the art world and for everyone who knew that gentle soul. His manager wrote me afterwards and told me how much my interview meant to him. Imagine - my interview actually touched him. It doesn't get better than that and I'm glad that he is on film for art scholars to see in future years. I think I'm surprised every time a major author agrees to sit down with me. I am grateful and humbled by every one of them.

What projects are you working on now?

I continue to work on my spy series as well as a more literary novel called THE NATIVITY COLLECTORS. I am also working on Cyber-hugs for Heroes again - a project I've done in the past - where I gather messages of love and hope for our troops abroad. Last time I gathered 300 messages. I'd really love to get 500 if at all possible this time. If your readers would like to help the project they can leave a message at It is never too late to leave a message since this post will not be taken down. 

Your YouTube page has dozens of author interviews, but also video of Thai dancing, proper British tea, and a tour of the French Embassy.  Such an eclectic, international collection. You must be someone who loves to travel. 

I do love to travel and have my camera with me at all times. I'm also lucky to live in the DC area where there is so much to see and do, especially at the embassies. Right now I'm completely behind on posting things but I hope to eventually catch up. I have photos from the Italian Embassy's celebration of the film industry with close up shots of costumes from Cleopatra, Barbarella, and The Leopard. But I also do things that are much more mundane - like the display of sushi at a restaurant I visited that was exquisite. Life and art are all around and capturing it is something I love to do.

What books did you read when you were younger that inspired you to say, "I want to do that. I want to write."

Ooh, too many to name. I especially loved the Mrs. Pollifax series which inspired me not only to write but to be more than I am - and to know I can do it at any age. I will forever be grateful to Dorothy Gilman for that message. I think one of the reasons I write is also from what I wasn't reading. I wrote my first book, THE SPY IN THE MIRROR, because I couldn't find anything like it and it was the book I wanted to read - a serious spy series with a female heroine who had a real life and a dollop of romance. I hope others agree. Winning the Golden Heart for that book, along with several other awards, gives me hope that I'm not the only one who is interested in this kind of novel. ;-)

So how do you score all these great videos? Have any authors said no?

I've been lucky that no one has turned me down - well, except for David Baldacci, who I'm still hoping will agree one of these days since I admire him so much. David was the first author who inspired me at a signing by autographing his novel "Welcome to the Club" - so interviewing him would be wonderful. I think knowing so many people personally certainly helps - and when I started out several of them vouched for me, too. Now, I'm fortunate that my videos sort of speak for themselves and authors are usually happy to work with me.

And the big question on WWK – E. B. always asks - Beach or mountains?
Oh, love them both, but falling asleep to the pounding surf is beyond beauty.

Look for Diana's interviews at


  1. I like to interview authors, Diana, but I need time to reflect and form questions that give readers insight into their books. Interviewing while on camera seems intimidating. You must be able to think fast on your feet. I'm not sure I'm capable of that response.

    I enjoyed meeting you at the Chessie meetings. Hope to see you again, and I'm glad to know you're a beach gal! Thanks for stopping by to see us.

  2. Diana -- hats off to you for doing something you obviously enjoy. How much prep time do you usually spend before you do an interview?

    ~ Jim

  3. Thanks for sharing. A good interviewer focuses on the person being interviewed, not the interviewer.

  4. Going over to Cyber Hugs for Heroes right now.
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and tips with us, Diana. It is so much fun to find out more about these authors.

  5. Great interview, Diana! I love your video interviews and always marvel at how you put people at ease and seem so comfortable yourself. You really are the Barbara Walters of author interviews!

  6. Diana, I love all your interviews, but one of my favorites is the Louise Penny interview. Count me as one of your fans eagerly awaiting Spy in the Mirror :)

  7. Nice post! I can attest to the fact that Diana is a gracious (and gentle) interviewer who, thankfully, knows how to make a tongue-tied author look good! Keep up the great work, Diana!

  8. Diana, I can't wait to read and hear your interviews. I always enjoy Terry Gross and Krista Tippet interviews and now I'll have someone else's interviews.

  9. E.B. thanks so much. I'm often not as quick as I'd like to be. Lol. You just have to roll with the punches sometimes.

  10. Hi James. It can range from hours to days, it depends on the author and if I need to read books etc. Thanks for the question.

  11. Oh thanks for your support of the veteran's project, Shari. I think sending a message is such a simple thing to do. I hope all of your readers will take the time to both post a comment and to spread the word.

  12. Carrie, Krista, Alan, thank you so much for your support of me and the videos.

    Alan you were a pleasure to interview. I hope to be getting to Carey and Krista sometime soon, too.


  13. Gloria, I'm glad to be joining such astute company on your list.

    If you'd like, feel free to subscribe or follow me, and the interviews will be delivered right to your email inbox.

    Hope to see you on my site sometime soon!

  14. Hoe fascinating!

    I now have tow things to do--leave a message for veterans and go read a few interviews!

  15. I love hearing about your interviews and your writing, Diana. And so impressed with your catalogue of interviewees! You're much braver than I could ever be!

  16. You're a doll for thinking so, Manda!

  17. I knew you'd be a good interviewee, Diana, because you're so gracious. I'll be sure to read more of your interviews. Love, Sarah

  18. Oh, You are so sweet, Sarah. I hope to see you online sometime soon.

  19. Just posted a Veterans' Day message. Thank you for setting that up and for your post on interviews. I've seen some of your interviews and know what a great job you do of putting people at ease and bringing out the best in them.
    --Maya Corrigan

  20. Shari and Diana, what a great interview. Diana, I've seen and admired your taped interviews. Your easy-going, enthusiastic style helps bring out the best in people. Please keep them coming and thanks for stopping by WWK!

  21. Dear Marianne and Paula, thanks so much for stopping by and for all the support!

  22. Sorry, that should have been *Maryann. Sometimes spellchecker and its auto-corrections gets me in trouble!

  23. Diana: I'm always in awe of your poise when interviewing people like Brad Meltzer and Karna Small Bodman. You never seem to forget a question and you always look like you're having a good time. You make it look easy, like a pro. Thanks for working on the veteran's project. I'll be heading there next. :-)

  24. I agree with Gwen, Diana. Your poise is formidable. Probably the reason I sneak behind hotel columns when you sweep in with your camera. ;)

    But what a unique way to get to know the writing world and have them get to know you! Looking forward to the day YOU will be answering the questions.

  25. Ha ha Sarah. You are so sweet! So glad to see you here.