An Interview with Christina Hamlett: Author, Playwright, Ghostwriter & Script Consultant
Sylvia: Welcome Christina. Please give our readers an introduction of yourself and a little about your book.
Christina: Hello Sylvia. I’m an author, playwright, ghostwriter and professional script consultant for stage and screen. My credits to date include 30 books, 147 plays, 5 optioned feature films, and squillions of articles and interviews that appear in trade publications throughout the world. In college, I majored in Communication Studies (with an emphasis on Audience Analysis and Message Design) and have worked in all aspects of media relations and the performing arts. My latest release, “Media Magnetism: How to Attract the Favorable Publicity You Want and Deserve,” features the insider tips and advice of two dozen of my media colleagues and covers such topics as how to make influential connections, become sound-bite savvy, endear yourself to reporters, survive awkward moments, use social media wisely, and manage a cost-effective PR campaign.
Sylvia: Christina, wow! Amazing accolades! What inspired you to write your first book?
Christina: “Media Magnetism” is actually my 30th book and was inspired by a packet of dental floss. (You probably weren’t expecting that answer, were you?) I had been sent to do a feature interview with a prominent Southern California philanthropist. Within a few minutes of setting up my tape recorder, he pulled out a packet of dental floss and proceeded to aggressively floss his teeth for the next 20 minutes, leaving ooky piles of floss shrapnel next to my microphone. Hmmm. What possesses an otherwise intelligent adult to perform personal hygiene during an interview with a journalist? Did he have somewhere more important to be after our meeting and wanted to save a trip to the bathroom? Did he think I wasn’t watching him? Or was this a reflection of his attitude toward the press? When I began telling this story to some of my colleagues, they had even more bizarre stories to share. This led to the realization that as accomplished as some people are in their field of endeavor – be it writing, selling cupcakes, or running a restaurant – they become total idiots once you put them in the spotlight of a media moment.
Sylvia: Now that is interesting. Really, the gentleman was flossing? You are right, I wasn’t expecting that! Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
Christina: The first message is that the most common misconception that small business owners have is that a journalist is either going to be their new best friend or their worst enemy. Neither view is correct and yet both of these subsequently impact their comfort zone during an interview and the quality of the content they share. The second message is that just because you have a new book on the market, a media outlet should fall all over itself helping you to sell it. TV talk shows, radio programs and newspaper editors aren’t interested in selling your book; they’re interested in providing their target demographic with an entertaining/informative/inspirational story that will resonate with core values and consumer awareness.
Sylvia: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Christina: The universe will never open up and grant you nine unobstructed years to work on your Great American Novel. If you’re really committed to the dream of being a writer, you have to grab chunks of time whenever and wherever you can find them. As a writer, you are your own boss. You are also your own worst obstacle if you allow procrastination and self-doubt to keep you from plunging ahead. You also have to learn not to edit-as-you-go. Many a writer never finishes a book because she is much too hung up on trying to craft the best possible first sentence in Chapter One. Insider secret: whatever you write, a zealous editor could likely end up changing it anyway so just stop agonizing about it.
Sylvia: Great advice, thank you. What marketing techniques have you used to sell your books and which ones have been most successful?
Christina: Establishing myself as an expert has been invaluable in creating trust with prospective readers. Every article I publish, every workshop I teach, and every social media opportunity I utilize provides an invitation for people to not only learn something interesting but also to ignite their curiosity to want to learn more. Most recently, doing guest blogs has enabled me to reach an even broader market, especially in the business community.
Sylvia: So very true. It is important to seize every opportunity to get the word out. Why should we buy your book?
Christina: If you have a book, a product, a service, or a cause that you want the world to know about, you can’t afford not to be media-savvy. Even an activity such as designing your own ad, website or book cover could work to your detriment if you don’t know anything about the dangers of “over-stuffing.” Interestingly, many of the authors I’ve interviewed for feature stories are quite bad in their interactions with the press because they’re more interested in pushing the sale rather than appealing to the wants and needs of target buyers. (#1 Faux Pas: Never answer a question with the reply, “It’s all in my book.”) “Media Magnetism” not only covers everything you will ever need to know about how to sparkle in the spotlight but also helps you to make an informed choice as to whether you should hire someone to manage your public relations campaign for you. (Do you really want to trust your company’s image and reputation to your 17 year old nephew just because he needs to get some work experience during summer break?)
Sylvia: Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
Christina: I have a beautiful home office with French doors that open out toward the dining room. (We do lots of entertaining so this set-up makes it incumbent upon me to keep the room reasonably tidy.) The French doors are flanked by a suit of armor and a black velvet dragon named Mischief. Holding court in the middle of my Oriental rug is Viktor the Siberian tiger (one of 310 stuffed animals I have collected throughout my life). My L-shaped oak desk has a high, 6 foot long hutch with lots of cubbyholes and cabinets that prompted one of my friends to remark that it reminds her of a really quirky Advent calendar! My love of books is evidenced by all the bookcases behind me and my love of photography (we travel a lot) is reflected in the fact that virtually every square inch of wall space has something hanging on it. (I suspect that one day the drywall will completely collapse from the weight of all the frames.) A life-size standing cutout of Captain Jack Sparrow literally has my back. I often turn on the miniature white lights in my silk ficus tree when we have dinner parties; they throw off just enough light that guests who haven’t been here before have been known to freak out that there’s a pirate standing in the shadows by my chair.
Sylvia: Ahh, I can close my eyes and picture your office… soooo inviting! What projects are you currently working on?
Christina: In addition to a new chick-lit novel called “All But the Midnight Kiss,” I have several ghostwriting projects on the horizon as well as a collaborative book project with my gourmet chef husband called “Consumed with Passion.” My new playwriting colleague Jamie Dare and I just wrapped work on a Seussified version of “MacBeth,” for the high school market, and the publisher was so excited that we’re now being contracted to do an entire series. As soon as we exhaust all of the Bard’s material, we’re thinking of tackling Jane Austen.
Sylvia: What is the toughest part about being a writer and consultant and how do you get past it?
Christina: Being constantly asked by people (usually aspiring screenwriters and novelists) if I could read their manuscripts in my “spare time” and give them advice. This, I think, is akin to asking a doctor if he can take out your spleen for free on his day off. I tell them that I’d be happy to offer comment on their first two pages and a synopsis. If they want more than that, they have to pay my professional fees. This usually makes them go away.
Sylvia: What is your POWER WORD? Why this word?
Christina: Mine is “Fortuosity.” Every time I think about it, I can still see and hear Tommy Steele dancing and singing in “The Happiest Millionaire” (Disney, 1967). I’ve always liked the lyrics of the song in which this word appears because it’s consistent with my philosophy that every day holds the potential for something unexpected and amazing to occur.
Sylvia: Christina, you are so descriptive, I love it! Thank you so much for sharing your story today. Please share your social media and book contact information.