On the Other Side of the Table

Sara Hodon and me being interviewed about writer's conference for Republican Herald staff photo by Steve Pytak

Sara Hodon and me being interviewed about writer's conference for Republican Herald staff photo by Steve Pytak

Last week I was on the other side of the table. I was the interviewee, not the interviewer. All thanks to giving a talk about Blog Tours at the Black Diamond Writers Network this Saturday. You can read the results here. I am definitely not an expert on being interviewed. In fact I can count on one hand the times I’ve been interviewed. But as a blog tour organizer for WOW-Women on Writing I spend plenty of time as the go-between for authors and those who interview them. And have heard plenty of comments from both sides of the table. So here are a few tips I’ve garnered from the people who would know

1. Don’t Make Things Up — Some would call this lying but most of the times it’s “OMG I’m so nervous and if I don’t answer I’ll look like an idiot so I’ll just say anything” Syndrome. Practice saying this, “What an interesting question. Can I think about that one and get back to you?” Often at the end of an interview, when you’re feeling calmer the answer comes to you. If it’s a specific fact(numbers and dates often evade our memories) simply tell them you have to check. It’s great to throw this on someone else. “I have to check with my agent/publisher/records.”

2. Interviews Are Not Conversations — If the interviewer is good you feel comfortable, you want to share, you want to chat. But never lose sight of the fact that, although it feels like just the two of you talking, it isn’t. It’s you, the interviewer, and everyone who ever reads the article. In a recent interview for my writer group’s first writers conference we somehow blurted out that only six people had signed up. Six! If you read about a writers conference that only had six people attending would you want to go? Thankfully, the journalist left that little tidbit out of the article. So keep asking yourself: is this a good thing for the world to know?(More people did sign up after the article!)

3. No Shoehorning — Sometimes you have something you really want to say. But they don’t ask the question. So in desperation at the end of the interview you just throw the information in some answer even thought the question has nothing to do with the information you’re shoehorning in. Some journalists will pull out that disjointed info and create a new question to match it. Others just leave it and you sound a bit wandering. Try saying, “I wish you had asked me…” And then give them that info you’re dying to share.

4. Don’t Answer Every Question — It begins to feel like school. If they ask the question you have to at least give it a shot. You don’t. In email interviews just leave the question blank. For live interviews learn to deflect questions when you don’t have anything worthwhile to say or it’ll distract from your purpose for the interview(selling a book, publicizing a class, etc.). Just Say No.

5. Be Prompt — We’re all busy. But the faster you get back to an interviewer with a yes or a no to an interview the less likely they are to replace you with another subject. And you don’t want to miss out on all that free publicity, do you?

Category: News, Writing Advice
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One Response
  1. Sara says:

    Ahhhh! There’s that picture again! It’s everywhere! I got a lot of comments on this story–not many from other writers, unfortunately, but maybe those folks know some writers.

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