Interviews Without Pain
Guest Post by Celia Hayes
It is a given that writing the book is only half the job – the other half is marketing it, which is an important-sounding way of saying ‘figuring out what sort of reader your book will appeal to and putting it in front of them.’ Media interviews are involved – unless you are J.D. Salinger, you have to do it. You can only do so much from behind a keyboard and monitor; eventually you must get out there and talk to real people about your writing and your book. Since many writers are shy and retiring types or do not have a background in media relations, speaking to a large crowd, or being interviewed in a broadcast studio can be a daunting and horrible prospect. It need not be – better yet, one can work up to it by easy steps, beginning with the least intimidating.
That would be a radio call-in interview; either internet or broadcast radio where you simply call in on the telephone from the comfort of your own home. You’re just at home, on the phone; you do this all the time. This should ratchet down the tension considerably. With this in mind – there are certain steps you can take to make a good impression on the interviewer and the audience.
1. Prepare in advance. If possible, ask the interviewer to send the questions they will ask, ahead of time, or at least let you know what they are going to ask you. Know about how long you will be on. Interviewers and show hosts will almost always oblige. They do this all the time, and they will have a pretty set standard set of questions: What is your book about? How did you get into writing? What is your inspiration? Who is your favorite character? Where do you get your ideas from? What kind of research do you do? Et cetera, et cetera. Good interviewers never ask a question to which the answer will be a plain ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ They want to hear you talk! Have in mind a set of entertaining replies or amusing anecdotes for responses, keeping the time limitation of your interview in mind. If you only have a five or ten-minute segment, be prepared to be brief. Have someone practice with you so that you can say them naturally. Polish the responses which work well, and remember to use them in the next interview. There will be more interviews, of course.
2. If you have been listening to the show that you will be on, prior to your segment – turn off the radio or the audio on your computer before you call in. Otherwise there will be awful audio feedback. This is not a good thing. Ensure also that the place you are doing the interview from is also fairly quiet. Banish noisy pets, small children, other telephones which might ring – any and all potential sources of interruption and/or extraneous background noise. Also – and this may sound trivial – but use the bathroom just before the interview is scheduled.
3. You may want to consider standing, rather than sitting for the duration of the interview. This allows your diaphragm more room; you voice may sound fuller and richer.
4. Finally: try your best to project energy and enthusiasm. This will come across in your voice and presentation, although you may feel that you are overdoing it. Don’t worry – you’re not.
Like any skill, you will improve with practice. Once you have done enough call-in interviews, you should feel more confident about in-studio interviews – and that is yet another author skill-set to polish.
Celia Hayes is a retired military broadcaster, who currently lives in San Antonio. She has written five historical novels set on the American Frontier, and is currently the junior partner in the boutique publishing firm of Watercress Press. Her current website is www.celiahayes.com and my most recent book is Deep in the Heart.