Jun. 8, 2022

Your Big TV Interview

Some people dread the idea of being interviewed live on TV, but I am here to tell you that it is actually just as much fun as other common activities such as colonoscopies or root canals.

Just kidding. Being interviewed is fine. It's the preparation for being interviwed that is excuciating. I was recently interviewed about my new novel, The Book of Invasions, and in case you are faced with the prospect of an upcoming live interview, here is how I approached it:

Step 1: At least a week beforehand, begin the process of worrying that the interview will expose you as a completely incompetent pretender. Then stop. Take some deep breaths while you come to grips with the actual reality: You probably ARE a completely incompetent pretender. But there's no need for viewers of your interview to know this. Turn on the CAMERA function of your laptop, which will show how you will look on a video screen. as you stare back at yourself, you can practice answering sample questions. And this will bring you to...

Step 2: The fear that most people who are interviewed on TV look like Jennifer Lopez or Paul Rudd, while YOU look like Medusa or Steve Buscemi. I briefly wondered whether I should wear makeup to make myself appear more Rudd-like for my recent interview, but quickly realized that, having little talent or experience in this area, I was likely to end up looking like that uncle whose funeral you went to and everybody said the undertaker did such a nice job and he looked so natural, but this was because people are overly polite at funerals and no one wanted to admit that the undertaker had actually applied so much makeup that your uncle looked like Pennywise from Stephen King's It. This led me to...

Step 3: The realization that common looks are really irrelevant as long as you can come off as likeable. Hell, people LOVE Steve Buscemi. So give us a friendly smile. Aaiiii! Not THAT friendly smile. That's the guy-in-a-windowless-van friendly smile. Tone it down a couple of notches. There you go. Now that the appearance issues have been settled...

Step 4: Several days before the interview, begin brainstorming questions you think the interviewers will ask you. This may take some time, since your first reaction will be to wonder why anyone would want to ask you about anything. Then you will remember that you have written a book. Interviewers will almost always want to know things like where you got the idea for the book, how you did your research, and what the book is about. Avoid going into College Lecture Mode with your answers. Keep answers brief and focus on things viewers will find unusual or interesting...things that make you and your book different. In my own research, I happened to learn how ancient Egyptians made beer and how it was a staple of their diet. Although I hardly used that detail in my writing, I mentioned in my recent interview that ancient Egyptians drank more beer than even folks from Wisconsin. And THAT, of course, was the detail the interviewer found fascinating.

In short, relax and be yourself. An interview is really just a conversation, so your job is to simply be that person you are when you chat with friends. And if you're still nervous, try the trick my old high school speech coach recommended to defuse the tension: Imagine your audience in their underwear. Unless it's Steve Buscemi.