Tag Archives: interview

WORD FOR 2016: COLLABORATION

This year is shaping up very different than my first three years in writing. Looking back, with the benefits of hindsight, year one was kind of a mess. I spent as much time trying to figure out how to publish and market as I did writing. Being all by myself, I made plenty of mistakes. The word for that year was clearly: LEARNING.

Year two could be best defined by a lack of improvement in finding customers. I felt like I know had the mechanics down. The mistakes in marketing inefficiently were behind me but, still, I wasn’t finding an audience. I continued to work hard to produce quality offerings in my work. I would call the word for year two: GRINDING.

Year three… well that’s when it all came together. Some of the marketing efforts I now was doing were working. Social media became incredibly important for me and I really started selling books, most notably with by best selling book Bourbon Mixology. The word for year three: STRIDE.

Year four looks like another step in a positive direction for me with some truly awesome things in the works, most of which involve my friends I’ve met through social media. That’s why the word for this year is clearly COLLABORATION. It seems almost everything I am working on right now involves a collaboration.

Some of simple bouncing ideas off of someone just to make sure you are on the right track. I’ve found that can be so difficult to do in evaluating yourself. My go-to person for advice is my buddy, and fellow blogger Jenna Brownson. What’s great about Jenna is she’s incredibly smart, very opinionated, very willing to share her opinions but she also listens. If you explain why you are doing something she will factor that into her help. Jenna is simply perfection when it comes to having a friend who can help you behind the scenes… even though I am sure I can drive her crazy much of the time.

Another collaborator is my buddy from Instagram Evan Haskill. Evan started a blog called thebourbonguyandrye.com. It was initially set-up as a way for Evan to just write about bourbon. Then, he started to expand the scope of what he was doing by having some of his friends from Instagram starting to contribute. I joined his crew and have written a few articles for him. I even had another friend of mine from Instagram get involved. She had was talking about my affinity for bourbon and mentioned she had never tried it but was interested in finally jumping in and seeing what all of the craze was about. She was literally a bourbon virgin. That concept immediately got me to thinking… what if we gave her a list of bourbon cocktails, had her mix them up and try them while blogging about the whole thing for Evan’s site. I hooked her up with my buddy Mark Hansen who is my graphic designer. Check out this awesome logo he designed for her (yes, she’s a redhead):

BOURBON_VIRGIN.jpg

The Bourbon Virgin made her debut on on Evan’s site earlier this week and I think it’s awesome. It adds a whole new element to the mix for the site. Now we have bourbon cocktails being shared as well as a fresh take on them from someone who hasn’t tried them before.

What was the response to her debut? Well, we already had another site trying to lure her away to blog for them. Luckily, the Bourbon Virgin is staying put and can only be found on thebourbonguyandrye.com.

Just last week I posted about my collaboration with 10 other authors on my upcoming Brain Tsunami book. I’ve also looped in artists and a photographer into SAP News, the newsletter designed to update my readers on what’s happening with my writing. I’ve also spoken a little bit about Bourbon Zeppelin another collaborative project I’m working on. I am not really sharing the full details on that one just yet, but I can tell you that I have 13 friends working with me on that one.

Yep, for 2016, the word is definitely COLLABORATION.

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INTERVIEW STYLE INFLUENCERS

Right now, a lot of you are in-tune with the O.P.U.S. interviews I am doing on Tumblr. If you aren’t familiar with this series of interviews, I suggest you check them out. They are just good fun. I ask acquaintances I’ve met through social media random and funny questions.

When you read the O.P.U.S. interviews you may think these weird questions are the result of a person who simply doesn’t know what they are doing in interviewing people. Actually, that’s wrong. I know exactly what I’m doing with those interviews. I think they are not only fun, they are incredibly insightful into the true person.

In terms of my credentials, I’ll estimate I’ve done over 500 professional interviews for publication in my life. I’ve interviewed over 150 CEOs for my Small Brand America series of books which feature small companies competing against much larger, better-funded competitors. In my full-time job I write all of our sales-related newsletters, all of which incorporate interviews with sales reps out in the field to share best practices.

I would say that while I have my own style, which varies greatly by the type of interviews I do, I do draw from three professionals… Bob Costas, Howard Stern and Marc Maron. These three are each perfection in very different ways.

First, Bob Costas. He’s the ultimate in preparation. I realize he’s probably got a staff that does all of the research, but to Bob’s credit he devours what they find. His preparation in taking all of that research in and then not even needing cue cards to retain what someone did in the third grade is amazing. I have to say, out of the three here, my style is least like Bob’s in that I’ve always kind of shied away from research. I like the idea of going in fresh and not taking a look at what others have done before me. This isn’t because I don’t think there is merit to doing this, it’s just that I know I can’t do it as well as Bob so I like the discovery what’s unique about a person in by asking probing questions. I do try to connect with a person like Bob does which really does help them open up.

Second is Howard Stern. Man, this guy is divisive. Many people automatically hate him and perhaps rightfully so. I’ve always had a sophomoric sense of humor so I have to say I’ve always like Howard. The good news is I have matured as I’ve gotten older and so has Howard. His show isn’t what it once was, but that’s not to say all elements of offensive material have been removed.

Even if you can’t get over the goofy stuff, you should hear his interviews. Howard isn’t confined by time constraints so when he talks to someone it’s a free form discussions that really helps you get to know the person. I hate talk show interviews with their 4 minute format designed more to pitch a movie than learn anything about the person. A 90 minute interview with Howard and you walk away really knowing the true person beyond the public persona.

Perfection!

The last person I like to hear conducting interviews is Marc Maron. If you aren’t into podcasts, you might not know Marc but he has a podcast entitled WTF. Now, by the name alone you may think he’s another Howard Stern… he’s not. I will say he’s a bit of a cantankerous old guy who probably likes the shock value of calling his program WTF, but if you get beyond the first minute where he’s kicking off the show, his interviews are unbelievable. I would say what makes Marc great is the fact this guy, you presume is a grumpy old man based on the show intro, is just so smooth in the interviews. It truly is conversation. What I also like is he comes at it from a fan’s perspective. If I was interviewing the stars he gets (Marc gets everyone by the way, Barack Obama recently was on), I would handle it in the exact same way.

One of the aspects I didn’t like at first, was the fact he just riffs for like the first 10 minutes before he starts talking to a guest. I used to wonder why he did it… now I love it. His approach to the show is exactly what I would want to do someday. The guy is just the best.

Those are the three main influencers for me when it comes to interviewing. I’m no where near any of these three gentleman in terms of success, or style, but I’m going to keep practicing.

Check out those O.P.U.S. interviews and see if you can see the influence of these three!

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Write Steve Write! is a weekly blog by author Steve Akley. Typically it is posted on (most) Sundays and features insight about his writing… though there is an occasional movie review or random thought post. It should be noted it’s posted as a live feed… no editing, no planning beforehand, it’s typed out on Sunday morning and the “publish” button is immediately hit. Apologies for any errors but you get this just as Steve thinks it!

Coming Next Week: I have no idea what I’m writing about next week, but it will be something.

In the meantime, follow check in on Steve in a variety of ways:

Steve’s Catalog on Amazon: http://goo.gl/kJpKcP

The OPUS Blog: steveakley.tumblr.com

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Twitter: @steveakley

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What’s App: Steve Akley

Home Phone: I’m not giving you that!

THE QUESTIONS OF O.P.U.S.

I’ve got a good one for you here today…

First off, I have to say I’m having a helluva good time with my O.P.U.S. blog. Thus far, I’ve managed to stay in contact with everyone featured. I really am getting new friends via this social experiment.

Yes, you do always have to redefine “friend” when you are talking about the relationships developed online. This is challenging for some people, but, I’ve always segmented friendships in my mind. Your true “friends” are people in your everyday lives with whom you interact with because you enjoy them as a person and their company.

Another already existing segment of friendships, at least for me, is work friends. Over time, you develop relationships at work… people you just like to be around. Some of the relationships may carry over into your life outside of work where they become “real friends,” but most stay in the 8:00 – 5:00 realm of when you are working.

The newest friend-type is online frienships. These friendships don’t carry the baggage you may encounter with face-to-face relationships. It’s almost like the joy you hear grandparents discussing. They get the best times with their grandchildren, then when they are fussy, or they just want to do something without children, the kids go back to the parents. Same thing with online. Enter into that world when it suits you, exit when you’ve had enough.

I think one of the key drivers in establishing relationships with the people featured in my new blog is the questions. They are meant to be fun without being offensive and never intended to make fun of the person. I always say it’s like the two of us are having dinner and just talking.

Wait a second, you may be thinking dinner conversation never involves me answering “who the worst celebrity is in the history of celebrity” or asking me to rank my favorite cookies from a list.

Well, clearly you’ve never had dinner with me. For me, that’s exactly what dinner conversation is like. The premise for O.P.U.S. is a genuine one. I am truly fascinated with regular people… especially those who say they aren’t interesting. Clearly, those people are so fascinating they don’t want to share it, right?

I’m a believer that the way you get to the interesting stuff is to simply get people talking. If you say, “what are your hobbies” or “what do you like to do outside of work,” these questions are so commonplace you almost get canned answers from people. In our minds, it’s kind of like we have a rolodex of commonly asked questions and we draw upon that anytime these questions come up.

If you throw people a curve… something they haven’t asked before, then you might just find something out about the person way more interesting than the fact they enjoy reading, knitting and singing show tunes in their spare time.

Everyone seems to be enjoying the interviews at this point…me, the person being interviewed and those who are accessing them from Twitter and Instagram. I think I’m even up to 9 people now following me on Tumblr. These are people who likely found the interviews on their own and like them. While it’s a small number, I do like the fact there are people without a connection to me finding the interviews and liking them enough to follow me so they are sure to see all of them.

I do have some go-to questions I like to ask everyone… what they do for a living, where they are from, who would play them in a movie about their life. I think it’s great to have some consistency, plus it might be fun to look back and see how everybody answered the questions that carry over from interview-to-interview.

The real signature O.P.U.S. questions, though, are the crazy ones. I do have to say, it took a bit for me to hit my stride. Not because I didn’t think of the types of questions I really like, I was terrified of peoples responses to being asked them. It’s really tough, when you have no track record, to ask people funny questions. They just might think you are an internet-nut and move on. I feel like now, with a nice group of regular people answering these questions, and me retaining those relationships, my non “internet-nut” status is confirmed so I can ask away.

I’d like to present you now with my favorite 10 questions so far (presented in random order). For the answers, you need to proceed to steveakley.tumblr.com. Note that not all of these are posted just yet. I’ve got 11 posted so far an another 10, or so, waiting to be posted on my way to 100 when the project ends.

#1 – Tall Samm Lim – Tall Samm started it all for me. I had no idea how she was going to react with a request for an interview, especially because I couldn’t reference her to anything else, it was just an idea. Looking back, this one was pretty vanilla, but my favorite question for Samm was:

What’s your favorite nightmare dating story? – What a great way to just get a person talking about a story you know is going to be funny.

 

#2 Ray Taylor – Ray Taylor is a person I play the game Dice with Buddies with. He was just a random computer generated opponent that I’ve managed to continue to play against for quite a while. My favorite question for Ray was this one, which was the start of a reoccurring theme:

If you had your choice of being banned for life from one of these, which would you choose (remember, your selection means you never get to have this item or person again): A. Pizza  B. Sunglasses  C. Kate Upton – I love this question for a few reasons. First, it makes no sense. I mean how are you getting banned from these things anyway? Secondly, it was the introduction of Kate Upton into the questions. I think Kate Upton is, well she’s all right, let’s just say that. People don’t like her, though. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. We can’t like someone who is attractive? We are jealous? I don’t know. What fascinates me about Kate is the fact one society is fascinated, yet negative about you, it then people often become anti-you just because that’s what everyone else does so I like asking about Kate to get a feel for how the person really is. My personal stand, I don’t care what society tells me I should think about Kate Upton, I just like her myself, so, for me, I guess I’d be banned from wearing sunglasses the rest of my life if this question was posed to me.

 

#3 Jenna Brownson – For Jenna, her question was more of a situation. Jenna is smart so I wanted to give her something really unique. Not even ask her a question, but pose her a situation and see how she reacted. If it isn’t a traditional Q&A would she quickly follow-up with a “where’s the question?” Check it out:

Waiter: “And for a side?”

Jenna: “Well, what are my choices?”

Waiter: “Homemade chips, curly fries, regular fries, seasoned fries, green beans or a side salad.” 

Jenna’s response was pure gold! She definitely came out on top of this battle of the wits.

 

#4 Mike Swain – The notable question from Mike’s interview was:

If you see someone fall down…nothing heinous like a serious injury, but there may be some significant bruising or ankle twisting, is your first inclination to be concerned with their well being or to laugh? – The ironic twist here being Mike is an x-ray technician. What are the chances I ask a person who helps injured people for a living a question like that?

 

#5 Stephanie Adlington – I feel kind of bad for Stephanie. She caught me on this crazy day and the questions I asked her were way out there. My favorite is:

Worst scenario for you:

  1. You walk into a restaurant called the “Condiment Cafe” and you realize they are out of all condiments except for ketchup… and the real killer is they don’t even have Heinz. They have Brooks…and that’s not even ketchup by the way…it’s catsup.
  2. You are dating a guy and he tells you he has made dinner and you look in the trash can and his “homemade” soup is Campbell’s red-and-white label chicken noodle (he did add parmesan and a bit of cracked black pepper to punch it up slightly).
  3. You get a job at the zoo and on day one they are all like, “Until Lester gets back the use of his left arm from that forearm strike you are going to have to take care of the King Cobra.”

This started a whole new line of questioning where I use the “worst scenario”. Look for this in several of the interviews.

 

#6 Lauren Elizabeth – Lauren is a photographer from Australia. My favorite question of her is a great one:

What does the stereotypical American look like? – I know that’s a loaded question and it was one Lauren really struggled with. She asked friends and family to have some input and she was worried the responses were way to harsh. When you ask for a “stereotype” you get kind of this worst case scenario where no one actually believes it, but it always just hangs out there. It is fun to hear what Aussies think of Americans…at least us at our worst via stereotypes.

 

#7 – Sarah Mitchell-Jackson – Sarah is the nicest person in the world. Despite her title, she’s still cool. You don’t normally see nice and cool staying together. Sarah’s got that going on so when I asked her this, I had no idea what she’d say:

If you joined the circus, what would your job be? – Sarah, as you can imagine, put together a well thought out answer!

 

#8 – Tina Williams – Tina Williams’ upcoming interview was unique in that it was a “friend of a friend.” Tina is the blogging buddy of Jenna Brownson, but we also follow each other on Twitter so I reached out to here. I like this question from that interview:

If the Antiques Roadshow came to town, what would you bring in for them to take a look at? – It’s just a cool question because it helps you find out a little about the person, and what potential undiscovered gem they may have.

 

#9 – Six Feet of Dynamite – Dynamite is an awesome person. She’s a character too. If you read through her entire feed you see a person who is passionate, fun and a good family person. That’s perfection  in my book. My personal favorite:

Six feet of dynamite. That’s name has a significant amount of punch to it. Are you the real deal or are perhaps really something like 5’-10 ½” and realized that didn’t have the right ring when you said it? – I mean she’s either going to like this question and see the humor in it, or she’s going to think I’m a real tool. Luckily, she like it and Dynamite and I are good friends who continue to check-in on each other from time-to-time.

 

#10 – The Dawn Husted – My longest online friendship. A true bud.  I like this long drawn out gem:

You are an outdoor enthusiast. Say your backpack for an overnighter only had room for three of the following, which of the three do you take (no need to overthink it, so if you select the ribeye, for instance, there is some sort of way to prepare it on this trip, an essentials like water and other provisions are already packed…these are your luxury items): 1). A Bottle of Bourbon 2). Your Hairbrush  3). A Ribeye  4). A Eyeliner  5). A Package of Fruit Stripe Gum 6). An Oversized Bottle of a Limited Edition Beer 7). A Book from Your Favorite Author 8). A Journal to Write In/Pen 9). A Bottle of Wine 10). A Bottle of Rum – I loved Dawn’s answer too. She’s no diva. 100% cool cat that one is! (Yes, I know that last sentence isn’t really correct, but it sounds cool, right?)

With 80 more interviews still to go, there are plenty of unique questions still to be asked. I hope you check out O.P.U.S. if you haven’t already!

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Next week we’ll take a look at where I’m at in my writing career. It’s self-assessment time!

In the meantime, follow check in on Steve in a variety of ways:

Steve’s Catalog on Amazon: http://goo.gl/kJpKcP

The OPUS Blog: steveakley.tumblr.com

Sign Up for Steve’s Newsletters: Email Registration

Twitter: @steveakley

Instagram: @steveakley

What’s App: Steve Akley

Home Phone: I’m not giving you that!

MINI PROJECTS ABOUND

I’ve had a busy week getting some mini projects checked off the list. This week alone, I have done all of the following:

Started a new blog where I interview interesting people I meet online. My first post involves an interview with Tall Samm Lim. She’s an interesting character and a positive force. Check it out here: Tall Samm Lim Interview.

I also completed my Coffeehouse Jazz series with a third and final booked aimed at building the ultimate holiday playlist of jazz instrumentals. Pick up this eBook for only 99 cents here: Coffeehouse Jazz 3.

Since publishing my book Small Brand America V: Special Bourbon Edition way back in the first quarter of 2015, I’ve planned to turn a couple of the chapters into mini eBooks with some further “behind the scenes” information. Well, I have two done already and will finish the third today which will complete all of the ones I have planned for now. Here’s where you can pick up the first two for 99 cents: Ozark Distillery & Syntax Spirits.

My other big news is the fact my book Bourbon Mixology is selling like crazy. It is apparently a hot Christmas gift this year. If you have a bourbon fan on your list, check it out: Bourbon Mixology.

If every week was as successful as this past week, soon I will be a force to be reckoned with!