For me, one of the many skill-building consequences of publishing a book has been dipping my toe into the wild, wild world of interviews. As it turns out, just because a person likes to talk a lot doesn’t mean she is going to interview well (who knew!) and I now have an appreciation for the abilities of those people who sound so articulate in interviews.
I didn’t do a huge number of interviews for ‘A Funny Kind of Paradise’, but I was really fortunate with those I did: every person who interviewed me was kind and I inevitably wanted to buy them coffee and interview them back. They made me think but the truth is, sometimes I don’t think fast. One of my friends who is a big radio fan told me that she values the moments when a speaker pauses in an interview–when she fumbles and corrects herself, saying, “No, that’s not quite right . . . what I really meant to say was . . . ” My friend says that’s where the juice is, because the speaker is considering on the spot, and trying to get as close to the bone as possible; that’s the bit where the speaker digs out something she didn’t even know was true, like an archeologist gently brushing dirt away from bones.
My lovely publicist told me that twelve is the magic number of times one says something out loud to make it sound natural, and had me write out some practice questions, so I didn’t come to the laptop totally unprepared, but one of the things I discovered is that the zinger comes at the end of the interview. For example, for CBC’s program, The Homestretch, Doug Dirks’s last question for me was regarding my thoughts about my own mortality. I was so unprepared for that one that I flat out lied, saying that I hadn’t given it much thought, and after the interview was over, Doug called me on it. “What do you mean, you haven’t thought about it? Of course you’ve thought about it!” Because my publicist had also told me, “Don’t say anything off camera that you wouldn’t say on camera,” I floundered, unwilling to admit that I was born morbid, and not a day of my life has gone by that I didn’t think about death, and furthermore, like the younger Francesca in my novel, I still absolutely believe that I’d rather be dead than lose my mobility and my memory. (I’m going to be one of those people who have a hard time switching from care-giver to care-receiver. My son says when it’s time to “place” me, he’s going to tell me, “Mom, there’s someone in there who needs your help, and we need your money.”) I did not tell Doug that, although I should have.
Here is another thing I learned about interviews: Editors are the Best! and I’d like to give a huge shout out to them right now. Thank you, editors, for making me sound good, both on the air and on the page. Big fat grin, and a bucket of love from me, Jo.
Here are two of my favorite interviews: