Tag Archives: interview

The Culprit

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Don’t let 22 pounds of blubber fool you. This cat isn’t sweet.

Yesterday, I was booked on a live radio show from 4-5 pm. This is not my first book promotion rodeo. I was ready to rock. I taped a note to the front door warning all comers not to knock or ring the bell. I cooked dinner early for the ungrateful wretches I gave birth to, and it was in the oven ready to be plated. I stuck post-it notes on my teenagers’ doors with dire warnings about homework, the state of their rooms, and miscellaneous bossy instructions to get them through two hours without my direct supervision. I had the usual spread across the floor: speaking calendar with dates and times for events in different cities, reading glasses, my social media addresses ready to recite on the air, and copies of my books with pages marked to read for different time constraints. (You can’t believe how often interviewers ask about specific pages or quotations in books I’ve written—as if I have all 4 books memorized or something. Who does that?) I was ready for drive time callers.

As soon as I started speaking, my adopted, born-under-an-abandoned-house, his-daddy-was-his-brother-was-his cousin, Hemingway-pawed ball of contrariness attacked. Full-on frontal. When I shoved him away and refused to focus my attention on him with the adoration he expects from the humans who share his space, he went nuts. By the time he came at me from my flank, my arms looked like I’d been juggling knives.

I couldn’t lock in him in another room because past experiences have taught me that he will raise the roof, bang on the door with his giant mitten-paws, knock over anything valuable that will crash with a big noise, and generally continue his feline tantrum until he gets what he wants. MEANWHILE, I was forced to continue chatting with an interviewer several states away and entertain callers as if nothing in the world was going on. Someone commented later that I had a “breathy” quality to my voice that was appealing. Yeah. I was breathy all right. I was totally out of breath. All out war will do that to a girl.

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Ask Melinda: Book Promotion, Live Interviews, and Challenging Hosts

Question: Do you like doing interviews to promote your book?

Here’s how I see it: Every job has benefits, challenges, and some downright unpleasant parts. My primary job—raising three teenagers—is a good example. Sure, I get to preen proudly when my teenagers win awards, cheer loudly when they score the winning basket, and bask in 24 hours of Mother’s Day glory, but I also get to handle discipline, consequences, poor attitudes, moody dispositions, sick days, and fender-benders. I’m sure CEOs enjoy their big, fat paychecks, private jets, and stock options, too, but I bet they hate firing people. Unfortunately, that’s part of their job, too. Responsible people don’t pick and choose. They do whatever has to be done. Lord knows, I am nothing if not nauseatingly responsible.

Writing is a real job, you know. I’ve said this at least a million times. Just because I work on a laptop in a corner of my bedroom doesn’t mean I don’t work! Sigh. This is a sore subject. Book promotion is part of my job. If nobody knows about my books, they won’t buy them. If they don’t buy books, I don’t get to write. It’s third grade math—not that complicated. Book promotion involves interviews for newspapers, radio, television, and online media outlets.

Here’s the secret: IT’S REALLY, REALLY FUN! Of course, there are exceptions. Not every interview goes as well as I’d like. Sometimes, I just can’t establish a rapport with an interviewer. In the hills of Tennessee, I once looked up in a radio booth while putting on my headphones and read decidedly racist and sexist bumper stickers stuck to the wall—right there in plain view for guests to contemplate during the interview. I had about 3 seconds to process that before we went on the air. Some interviewers (writers, too, obviously) are quirky. Usually, I can tell immediately if an interview is going to work or not. A good interviewer can talk to a wall and make it sound special. I can do that, too. I think that’s because I am naturally nosy, curious, and bossy. I really am interested in every little thing. That comes in handy in my line of work.

Bottom line: To interview well, you have to be flexible, ready for anything, and able to roll with whatever happens live. It helps to have a sense of humor and to be perky and eager to please. I am a pleaser personality. As a Southern woman, I think everyone should be happy with me all the time. I am naturally inclined to try to please my host and audience rather than being contentious or ornery. Because I write humor, interviewers expect me to be entertaining—even at 4:30 AM. That’s part of my job. Because radio and television personalities host so many guests every week, they rarely have time to actually read a book or even a page from a guest’s book. Generally, they flip through the book for the first time when I sit down for the interview, in the 30 seconds before we go on the air. I don’t blame them one bit. It’s not worth a big investment of time or energy on their parts for a 10-minute interview. I am always ready to hijack the interview and take it wherever I want to go—regardless of what I am asked. Yep. That really works. I have had my humor books introduced on live television as: a “cookbook” (well, no, although I do talk about chocolate, gumbo, sweet tea, and tomatoes a lot), a “love manual,” (ah . . . not so much, although if you pick up a few relationship tips from I Love You Now Hush, I am okay with that). I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers has been introduced as a “manners book” for teens. (Nope, just funny essays, although I am, generally, in favor of good manners in any endeavor.) An interviewer in Charleston once told me, while I was attaching my microphone to my dress:

“I’m really hung over, so I’m just going to read your name and your book title. Then you can just talk for about 12 minutes. Okay?”

“No problem! I can do that!” I responded gleefully.

I really do like an open mic, lots of room, and few constraints. I do some of my best work that way.

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