How Not to Prepare for a Radio Interview

Ron Letterman of WGMD interviews K.S. Brooks
Ron Letterman of WGMD interviews K.S. Brooks

Two weeks ago, I was scheduled to do a live radio interview with the talented Mr. Cyrus Webb on Conversations Live! Radio. Cyrus and I had worked together about a year ago, and I knew him to be professional, enthusiastic, and passionate about books. I was looking forward to the interview despite the fact I dislike doing promotions.

Cyrus Webb does his homework. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do mine. I had planned on having all three Mr. Pish children’s books in front of me, as well as print drafts of the three currently in the works. I was going to have a list of all the states and provinces Mr. Pish has visited. The call would take place in a relaxed, quiet setting, on a fully charged phone, and I was going to be the consummate professional.

There’s one thing I forgot to keep in mind: This ain’t no perfect world.

The day of the interview, due to circumstances beyond my control, I was called to Spokane (over an hour from my home) at 10:30 a.m. No problem, I thought, this should only take a few hours, and I’ll be home in plenty of time to prepare for the interview. Preparation would include refreshing my memory by looking through the books I mention above. Sure, I should know them inside and out by now, but I’ve been submerged in formatting a fiction project, and my brain is sort of fried. Besides, I like to be on my toes.

My meeting dragged on. Nothing was resolved. I started getting anxious. I needed to be home long before five o’clock (the time of the interview). I was supposed to call in at 4:45 p.m. It was already after three. Things were looking iffy.

Normally I take a copy of each of my books with me any time I go somewhere, but now that I have nine in publication, my book bag is getting a little heavy. (No, I don’t own a Kindle.) Also, I left the house in somewhat of a rush. Note to self: from now on always bring that book bag no matter what it weighs. (No, I can’t leave it in the car. I only have the car on Fridays.)

It was now 4 p.m. I had to make the call in 45 minutes. I thought, if I drove really fast, I could make it to a Stevens County library where they had my books, and check them out so I’d have them with me when I made the call. But I didn’t have my library card with me – and the nearest branch was just about forty-five minutes away. And, in Friday afternoon Spokane summer traffic, I’d need every second of that. It surely beat sitting around thinking about how dumb I’d been. It was worth a shot. Maybe I could pull this off after all.

I thought about what I really needed to know and I figured I should really have handy exactly how many states Mr. Pish visited in each book. Refusing to sit idly by, as I was driving, I called a few friends and left voicemails asking them to count the states in each book and call me back. That’s when I noticed I’d burned up a lot of my cell phone’s battery making calls during the drive into the city. I now had two (of four) bars left. Would those be enough for a 35 minute interview? I called my friends back and left rushed voicemails saying “Never mind.” Like that wasn’t awkward. Then I turned my phone off to save battery power. (My car charger broke two years ago.)

My nerves were starting to kick in. My throat was dry as hell. I didn’t want to take the time to stop for something to drink, but hacking during an interview was even less desirable. So I got myself a 16 ounce bottle of water.

I wasn’t sure how far I could get, but on the hopes of getting far enough – and to a decent phone signal – I kept driving north. I live in a very mountainous region of Washington State, so I figured if I could get to a town center, then my chances of finding a good phone signal without too much road noise were better.

With a scrap piece of paper precariously positioned on my right thigh, I began geographically recounting each of Mr. Pish’s books in my head and writing down each state visited. For all FIVE books. Some books overlapped locations. How was I going to get a total number of states? Was it that important? Surely I’d be asked that. I numbered each state for each book. I hoped this would be good enough. But what if I was asked a specific question about a specific location in one of the books? How could I have let this happen?

4:30 p.m. My stomach was starting to churn. I was at Loon Lake. I never paid attention to how long it actually took to get to the library from there. I figured possibly 30 minutes. I didn’t want to turn my phone on to check the signal. I didn’t want to sit in a parking lot somewhere for fifteen minutes running down my battery when there was a possibility I might be able to make it to the library, as well as a better phone signal. The better the signal, the better the chances the call wouldn’t chew up my battery power. Or drop. Did I mention my stomach was starting to churn?

I was guzzling water like I was stranded in the desert. I could feel it boiling inside me. I’d almost finished the bottle. What had I been thinking? I needed that for during the interview.

4:40 p.m. I was at the top of a mountain. It was going to take more than 5 minutes to make it to the location I wanted. I’d really done it now.

4:50 p.m. I turned on my phone. Still two battery bars. At 4:55 p.m. I dialed in. I figured I could make it to a good enough spot by the time the show went live. I apologized for calling in so late.

5:00 p.m. Desperate, I settled for a dirt lot on the west side of the highway. The interview started. I turned the car to face away from the traffic, hoping that would reduce the amount of road noise in the background. I was now pointed directly at the sun, which beat down into the car…and onto me. I started to perspire. Okay, I won’t lie. Within ten minutes I was sweating. I didn’t want to turn the car on to reposition it – because we all know how cars ding ding ding to announce that the key is in the on position. So I cracked the windows just in time for some eighteen-wheelers to blow by. I tried to cover the phone. I slugged back the rest of my water. I prayed I wouldn’t be asked anything I couldn’t answer.

5:20 p.m. Interview ends – I haven’t flubbed, floundered or spontaneously combusted. I was smiling. My call didn’t drop. My battery didn’t die. And I truly enjoyed talking with my host.

The moral of this story is: don’t do what I did. The interview was great, but the 1.5 hours leading up to it were hell. And it was no one’s fault but my own. Next time, I probably won’t be as lucky. So I’m going to make sure there is no “next time.” I learned my lesson, and I’ll always be prepared…from now on.

[Note, if you missed the radio show, you can listen here.]

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director and administrator of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is currently a photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two NE Washington newspapers.  She teaches self-publishing and writing topics for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page.

22 thoughts on “How Not to Prepare for a Radio Interview”

  1. What a refreshing post! It's one every author can relate to (and most of the general public, for that matter.) It's always best to be prepared and professional. The stress we cause ourselves by not being ready is far worse. Thanks for sharing your dilemma and reminding us to always be ready for the worst!

  2. Oh, my god. I was with you moment by moment. But you're such a pro you pulled it off! Wicked awesome! (Off now to put some books in the car…oh, no, I don't have the car today!)

  3. What a nightmare. But I heard the interview and it sounded great -professional, friendly and enthusiastic. Being prepared is so important but sometimes we just can't foresee what we need. At those time we must deal with what we are handed.

  4. I'm completely stressed out, now. Thanks for that, Kat. But seriously, this post is the best demonstration of "show, don't tell" I've read in a long while.

  5. I'm a good preparer and I've learned that even good prep can't always avert catastrophe. Seems like the lesson I would have learned from your situation is don't schedule anything before the interview. Or have clear boundaries when to end the preceding engagement.

    I did great prep for a radio interview. I was at home on my cell and the interviewer was at the station. But the day of the interview, the tech was bad. When it played back, I could barely hear myself. I had wanted to come into the radio station to do the interview, but the interviewer said it wasn't necessary.

    I recently had a request from a teacher at a high school where they are teaching one of my poems. She wants to do a Skype video conference. Hope that works out. Would be fun to do Skypes with book clubs.

  6. I listened to your interview with Cyrus, Kat, and I had absolutely no idea there was anything untoward behind it; you sounded relaxed and knowledgeable, like you felt right at home. You are clearly a professional, madam!


    1. Aw, thank you, Chris! Professional? I'll take that… but I think perhaps it has more to do with being a veteran in the field. Thanks for your kind words!

    1. Lindsay, live interviews are no problem if you prepare. I certainly wouldn't ever want to discourage anyone from doing them. I would encourage them to learn from my mistake(s) and be ready! 🙂

  7. K. S., I have to say until reading this I had no idea all of that was going on. I agree with the previous comments: you're definitely a pro. Thanks for another great conversation. Looking forward to the next one!

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