An interviewer on interviewing celebrities

An interviewer on interviewing celebrities

by Nalini Haynes

At this link, an interviewer on interviewing celebrities: Anthony Morris on his experiences interviewing celebrities, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Luckily for me, I don’t have any horror stories – yet. I have had to deal with some very short windows of opportunity, though. I think my shortest interview was with Edward James Olmos, about 10 minutes, and the background sound was so HORRIBLE it’s only publishable in text format after I spent HOURS deciphering the recording.

YOU’RE WELCOME.

I have a horror of ‘sound bite’ interviews – they’re so unsatisfying – and also of doing an interview that is ‘just the same’ as everyone else’s. The latter is really unavoidable because if you search hard enough, you’ll probably find the interviewee has been asked that question before. The more famous they are, the more often they’ve been asked EVERY KIND OF QUESTION UNDER THE SUN.

I was so glad to read Anthony’s comments on these points – it’s a relief.  If paid professionals have these problems, then li’l ol’ me who is seen as a relatively small fish – would you believe krill?  How about bacteria?  The good kind, not the nasty kind 😛  Li’l ol’ me is BOUND to have short windows of opportunity and issues with content.

My biggest peeve with interviewing, and something that hasn’t happened now for – oh, several months…

I’ve been part way through a novel and dropped it like a hot brick because I’ve been offered an interview with a different author close to publication date or on a tour.  I’ve rearranged my schedule, my days, my week, in order to read a book or even a series as part of interview preparation.  Then, after days or even weeks of reading and research preparing, having the publicist renege on the interview.  ‘Oh, sorry, the timetable has changed…’

Or, worse: preparing the interview that is email only, sending it off and never hearing back.  After a HUGE amount of effort.

Or, even worse: the publicist contacts me to change the game.  ‘Oh sorry, it’s no longer a face to face, it’s a phoner, you can have half an hour…  now it’s a 10 minute phoner…’  At this point I know what’s coming next: ‘I’m so sorry but such-and-such is busy and can’t make it.’

I’m trying to think back to when this last occurred; it hasn’t happened for months.  I think the key to opening doors for interviews is to build positive relationships with the publicists.

Keys to opening doors for interviews

I’ve tried to always be polite and helpful to publicists, publishers and authors.

All items received are showcased in the ‘items received’ column on this website, with the assistance of snarky Smokey to hopefully make those blogs entertaining.

While I’m honest in my reviews, I try to keep it objective.  I try to only be emotional when I love a book, but then it’s like ‘I don’t want to tell you about this book, JUST READ IT.’

I send publicists links to their items received posts and to the reviews.

If I’m interviewing an author I usually read at least one of his or her books before an interview.  A pet hate of mine is not being able to talk knowledgeably about their work.

Interviews are online promptly, or at least as promptly as technical difficulties allow.  (Even the IT monster is on a learning curve regarding audio and video editing.)

While I try to make the interviews expansive, exploring author’s career AND their novels, I don’t pry into their private lives or try for sensationalism, although I’m very happy when they give me NEWS to SHARE.  [hint]

My personal goal and one fear

I’ve had a huge learning curve to travel in interviewing and I’m sure I have a huge learning curve yet to go.  I try to learn from past experiences, improving on technology, research, interviewing skills, always striving to improve although I have to stay within a budget.  (So many people have said, ‘you should buy X piece of expensive technology’ that now I have a stock answer: DONATIONS WELCOME.)

I think my biggest ongoing concern is geeking out.  I approached Christopher Heyerdahl for an interview at Armageddon’s media call, he consented and we were heading to sit down when he said, ‘I’m Christopher Heyerdahl.’

I said, ‘I know.’  Very flat, low pitched voice.  I was trying not to SQUEE; ‘I KNOW! I THINK YOU’RE GORGEOUS, EVEN BALD.  ESPECIALLY BALD.  DO THE VOICE.’

I mean, if I’d embarrassed myself there, END OF INTERVIEW.  I would have stuttered and stammered and blushed my way through the interview.

Talking to Bruce Boxleitner, it was like: OMG! OMG!  I’M INTERVIEWING SHERIDAN!!!  And I was trying so hard to be cool, and Bruce’s voice almost caught, he almost had a tear in his eye when talking about the men who died too young from the B5 cast, so I leapt to the next topic, Lantern City, instead of pursuing Babylon 5 as a topic.  I didn’t pursue discussing one of my favourite TV shows of all time to put an actor at ease.

So I learn – the HARD way – that I need to relax.  When I’m not caught up in OMG THIS IS JOE ABERCROMBIE, HERO TO AUSSIE SFF WRITERS, then my interview with, say, Rachel Caine whose books I’ve never read, has better flow and is more natural.  And Roxanne – aka Rachel – sold me on her books.  Through the natural course of conversation in the interview, without clues, Roxanne ticked so many boxes for me that I want to read her work.  If that’s how I feel about that interview, then I’m sure it comes across to others too.  And yet the Roxanne/Rachel interview had technical difficulties.  I have a long way to go before my interviews will reach a ‘professional’ standard, but I’m working on it.

If you’re an aspireing blogger/interviewer – and I can’t think of any other reason that you’d persevere with this blog until the very end – then I encourage you to persevere with your interviews.  If you keep plugging away, seizing every opportunity you’re given with both hands, doing the best you can and learning from every experience, you’ll learn and grow too.  Every interview online opens doors to future interviews.

Just. Keep. On.

Try not to make it hard work, try to keep it fun.  Relax.  And Enjoy.

I wouldn’t say every interview is better than the one before, but I’d say that generally my interviewing skills and technology skills are improving.  Yours can too.

Alien portraits

Alien portraits by Ian Gunn

 

1 Comment

  1. We are very similar in our approach. I haven’t had any horror stories to do with interviewees, mostly technical stuff beyond my control or having to somehow fit interviewing a NY Times Best Seller in between teaching classes.

    I try not to listen to any other other interviews before I do mine. I do a bit of research and find areas that interest me personally. Then go and listen to other interviews after. But you are right if a person has been prolific they have been asked the same question before.

    I like your response to the “you should buy this”. We do this for free and most of the time we are doing as good a job as Michael Cathcart or Jennifer Byrne but without the pay. Indeed we are doing a better job because they rarely interview speculative fiction peeps.

    As for professional standards, I think if you are professional in your approach, then the technical side of things can be forgiven.

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