Talk to Yourself Radio
John B. Rosenman
Recently I gave my second radio interview in an attempt to promote my writing. The program is “With Good Reason,” and it aired in Virginia, Maryland, and a few surrounding states from October 25-31. If you missed it, you can check it out below in the Nov. 1 slot (link provided.)
The first radio interview I gave occurred twenty-six years ago in Orangeburg, SC and focused on my first published novel, The Best Laugh Last, which came out both as a trade paperback and as a hardback. This was long before such things as E Books, blogs, an active Internet, Virtual sex, etc., and the interview unfolded in a traditional manner. That is, they wired me up and I sat facing an interviewer who asked me questions. As I recall, the interview went superbly well. The interviewer asked great, searching questions, and I responded with brilliant, perceptive replies. Now it’s possible that I’m looking at this past event through glasses tinged by rose-colored vanity, but I don’t think so. During the interview I felt completely comfortable and at ease and the words just flowed right out of me like fine, well-aged wine. I tell you, folks, I was eloquent. I have absolutely no evidence that my golden tongue sold a single damned copy of my book, but it sure didn’t hurt any.
One of my previous posts addresses the subject of Promotion, which I’ve been told is crucial. One of my publishers asks, “Are you a Writer or an Author?” Apparently the writer is the one who just writes books, and the author is the pragmatic, enlightened one who takes steps to ensure that folks know about it. An Author pimps and hustles, in other words, uses trailers, blogs, bookmarks, and nine thousand other techniques to ADVERTISE and SELL what he writes.
With that in mind, I decided that after a quarter-century, it was time for me to go on the radio and promote my stuff again. After all, I was competing with thousands of authors who were already doing that.
Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on giving promotional radio interviews in this New Millennium. My interview a few months ago lasted just twelve minutes and is only one, isolated experience, and perhaps it’s unusual and atypical, representative of nothing. However, in the event that it’s not, I hereby offer a short summary of this epic event, along with a few comments and recommendations which I hope will be helpful.
The Associate Producer of “With Good Reason” contacted me, and I had two fairly long, cordial conversations with him on the phone. Since my subject was Science Fiction (not just my own fiction), he asked me for some topics and talking points, and I complied, supplying them both to him and the interviewer. Then I did what I thought made sense: prepared, prepared, and prepared. I studied and reviewed the genre I loved so much for esoteric information I knew I probably would never need, and in general, tried to make myself ready.
Came the day. I drove to the radio station with a briefcase filled with goodies – copies of my novel covers, important books relating to science fiction, and so on. I went to the desk, announced my arrival, and was met by a gentleman who escorted me to a small room.
Where I was to sit alone and be interviewed.
If I had researched the modern radio experience, perhaps I would have learned that they prefer to do it this way these days. Perhaps they feel that face to face encounters are distracting to the one being interviewed. More likely, with this particular program’s format, it’s more efficient to do it this way. Whatever the case, the man plugged me in, wired me up, and I sat in a chair with headphones on, staring at a wall and waiting for Sarah McConnell’s voice to fill my ears.
Now, Sarah has a lovely, sinuous, expressive voice, the kind that perhaps only one in five hundred or a thousand women have. And she knows exactly how to use it and how to ask shimmering questions that on someone else’s lips might sound only interesting. But still, folks, this was not something I had expected. Thinking of my first interview a quarter century before, I longed for someone I could talk and relate to, someone I could have a genuine tete-a-tete with, a real, bona fide conversation and exchange of ideas and information. Waiting to hear words in my headphones so I could respond into empty air seemed unnatural, not my cup of tea at all. When you have nothing to focus on, no one to relate to, it must be exponentially more difficult, or at least it seemed that way to me as I waited in growing concern to hear Sarah’s voice.
First, though, they had mechanical problems, and then they had more mechanical problems. I squirmed, checked my briefcase, which I had placed open on the floor beside me, and waited some more. Now and then, I trotted out a standard pep talk and tried it on for size. You know the kind: “Nothing to worry about. You the man. You’ve taught college for ninety years and seduced whole rooms with your dazzling wit and mind. You’re a thorough, consummate pro, and this thing’s gonna be a piece of chocolate cake. You’ll scarf it down just fine.”
Then Sarah came on the line, the interview began, and it all went to hell.
Or so it seemed at the time. It was a little bit like dancing with someone who isn’t very good to start with, and who is a half-step out of sync with the steps. Only in this case, Sarah was the dancing master, and I was the one who couldn’t get the rhythm right. Without someone there to play off and relate to, I was intensely conscious of the need to respond quickly and smoothly, even though I had been assured they would edit the interview afterward and make me look good. But knowing that and feeling that were two different things. I was aware of dead air and sputtering brain tissue, located directly between my ears.
Even as the interview progressed, I told myself I wasn’t that bad, that I was my own worst critic. But I faltered sometimes in discussing the science-fiction genre I loved so much. Imagine doing that! It was like not being able to explain what you like about a pretty girl or a well-cooked tenderloin. Suddenly a subject I felt I was a near expert in seemed like an alien, unexplored planet – a truly strange and disconcerting experience, to say the least.
At my feet, I had my books, magazines, and novel covers, science-fiction show-and-tell items that would enhance the interview considerably, make it more interesting. But my interviewer was in a distant room, and this was radio, not television. I could hardly hold up to the mike a 1950’s pulp magazine cover of gruesome, multi-tentacled Martians carrying off sexy, near-naked human females.
Still another problem, one that only added to my discomfort: At one point, Sarah asked me to quote some of my favorite passages from my own novels. Since this question came straight from the blue, I was unprepared. How many of us can quote from our novels verbatim? I sure couldn’t, and muttered something about not being told about this question in advance.
Near the end of the interview, I became emboldened and introduced the subject of a really, really bizarre sex act in my novel Alien Dreams, suggesting that they’d probably “bleep” it out. Sarah encouraged me to discuss it anyway, advising me to use a little discretion in my choice of words. I did so, but basically threw caution to the winds. Shortly thereafter the interview concluded.
Seeing no one, I left the station, feeling I had done poorly and that they might not even run the interview. Later, I found out that they were very pleased. When I heard the interview myself, I was almost stunned. All the warts had been removed, and I actually sounded good, even loose, informative, and funny. As for that bizarre, weird sex act? Just put the kiddies to bed and click the link.
Gentle reader, can we learn anything from my struggle? The first thing I’d suggest, whether it’s a radio, TV, or any oral (as opposed to written) interview, is to think outside the box and be prepared for anything. Ask yourself what can go wrong, what unexpected questions they might throw at you. In addition, research not only the subject you’re going to talk about, but the manner in which you will be interviewed. If I had asked some questions in advance, I would have been better prepared.
At any rate, I don’t plan to wait another twenty-six years before facing the media again. Oprah’s my next target, folks, and you can bet there’s going to be a full PowerPoint presentation.