Thursday, 8 December 2011

Author Interviews: The Challenge of Live Radio

As authors we all hope our books will get noticed and invitations to be interviewed on radio or television are highly desirable. But I wonder if any authors look forward to these interviews with anything other than dread when the lucky opportunities arise? I have a feeling we all brace ourselves, aware that we could slip up and make complete fools of ourselves by saying the wrong thing live to the listening audience, including people we know.

I could hardly bring myself to say on Facebook that I was on my way this morning, but steeled myself and posted the link, especially as we were giving away five signed copies of the book for the answer to a simple question. You can still find it on the Colourful Radio website if you’d like a shot at winning.

Having spent most of my working life as a journalist I also feel more comfortable asking the questions rather than answering them. Making a guest feel comfortable is what I enjoy doing, and when I’m the interviewer I really enjoy the excitement of live broadcasts. You’re never quite sure where the interview might take you, because an unexpected answer from the guest can totally change the direction of the discussion.

It didn’t help that the Victoria Line was in trouble today, with delays, and I needed to get from north London to Vauxhall in the south in time for my live slot with Rosemary Laryea – a wonderfully professional presenter and interviewer. I got there by the skin of my teeth with just five minutes to spare, and Rosemary chatted to me and did a voice test while playing some of Colourful Radio’s gorgeous music.

The music is right up my street, so that was relaxing, and by the time the track ended we were ready for my first six-minute interview. Rosemary had told me she would then play another track and then we’d have another six-minute chat.

It’s incredible what a professional interviewer can cover in two six-minute conversations. For me it started to feel unreal once the headphones were on and I was trying to answer the unplanned questions without making a mistake. At times like that you go away unsure if you’ve given the right answers.

Usually when interviewed I make the mistake of speaking too fast to try to fit too much in, and I think that’s very hard for the listeners. Perhaps it was the early hour, perhaps it was the relaxing music, or perhaps it was the mantra I’d repeated all the way in the tube – ‘Don’t talk too fast, don’t talk too fast....’ but at least I avoided that pitfall.

It’s so hard to answer questions about a novel and fit your themes into a nutshell, but I suppose in the end it doesn’t matter. With more experience I suppose we can enjoy these chats and just make the most of them.

I had been invited to talk because the Colourful Radio book reviewer had been interested in the theme of homelessness in my novel Everything is Free, and particularly the fact that the main character Mel is a teenage runaway who moves into a shopping centre for warmth and comfort at Christmas.

I’m happy to talk about this theme and to draw attention to this issue. But I was also anxious because homelessness is just one theme in the book and the other major themes include racism and various types of prejudice including the way we view and treat women. One of the characters in the novel is in the BNP, and women are being watched on the sly using the CCTV system, while somebody in the darker corridors is attacking women.

Some of these themes can be difficult to talk about in a short interview, and I was wondering how the book reviewer on a black radio station might respond to my way of covering racism. I was both interested to get that feedback, good or bad, and also nervous. The review will be in another show, and in the meantime this broadcast is on on the Rosemary Laryea page if you click on the show for the 8th of December in the 11am slot.

I’m glad I did it and I’m glad it’s over!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, these things are petrifying. But I think once you start talking, it becomes comfortable, and if the interviewer is good, you can even forget you're being interviewed. you certainly sounded that way. I think you also did a great job of getting other points across, like your poetry, Ward Wood, other themes in the book. Well done, and congrats!


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