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Handling TV Interviews
by Vera Marie Badertscher

Return to Public Speaking · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

Many writers, perfectly happy to spill words on paper by the thousands, become tongue-tied when they have to talk to an interviewer. Here are a few pointers to make a TV interview work for you by preparing, practicing and avoiding pitfalls.


Be sure you have all the information you need about the when, where and how long. Get the interviewer's name right. Arrive early at the studio... Wear just a little bit more makeup than usual (female) and wear something that won't make wavy lines on the camera (male and female). Stripes go wavy. Day-Glo colors look weird. Jangly jewelry distracts. Wearing something with lapels makes it easy to attach a clip-on microphone. It can be really embarrassing to have someone threading a microphone wire down through your turtleneck sweater. By the way, modern cameras can handle white shirts, but any color too bright will distract... If you have never been in a TV studio, you may want to arrange a visit prior to your interview, so you will feel at home. Studios usually are large, and quite cool. But be aware that once the lights come on, the studio will be very warm.

Where Do I look?

There will be red lights going on, floor managers standing around with signs and people pointing at cameras, someone fiddling with microphones.

Ignore them.

If you try to figure out which camera is on you so you can look earnestly into the camera and talk to Mom at home, you will wind up looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Just focus on the person you are talking to.

Know What You Want

Be clear about your objective. You want people to remember your name, remember the title, and buy your book. You want them to understand how to find it. You want them to know its something they will enjoy.

Remember the short pitch you made to agents or editors? You already have that down pat, so dust it off and use it to describe your work to this new audience. At least a day before the interview, make a list of your objectives and the points you want to cover. If the reporter starts going down a path you don't want to follow, just make one of your own statements and get the conversation back on your track. Some interviewers may ask you in advance what you would like to talk about. Have a written, concise list. For example, "I have an interesting story about how the incident at the beginning of the book came about, and I want to be sure people know that I'll be signing books next Saturday."

In listing your own objectives, it helps to visualize the way you would like this interview promoted. What would you like to hear as a promo for your interview? "Local writer untangles the mysteries of the Internet." "Gripping new mystery novel climbing the charts." "The book that will change your life."

Practice Questions

As part of your preparation, read some writer interviews on the web, or better yet, watch interviews done by the person who will question you. You will find some of the questions routinely asked of writers and you can practice your answers.

  • When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Do you use a pen or a computer?

  • Who is your role model?

  • Was there a teacher who inspired you?

  • Is it based on real people? (That's what everybody in your hometown really wants to know!)

Know When to Be Quiet

This story is YOUR story, so don't feel you have to say more than you want to say. Some reporters will ask a question and if your answer is short they will sit and wait for more. You should outwait them. There is no reason for you to fill the air with words if you don't have anything to say. That is where most people get into trouble... filling the air with stuff:

Interviewer: Are these characters based on your family?
You: No.
Interviewer: (silent as the tape continues to roll)
You: (wanting to be polite) ...except for the one who is kind of like Uncle Joe.
Interviewer: Which character is that?
You: (ever truthful) Well... The triple axe murderer.
Interviewer: Is your Uncle Joe an axe murderer?
You: Well, no, but...
Interviewer: I'm sorry, but we're all out of time. Thanks so much!

If you had stopped with "no" your next conversation with Uncle Joe would have been much more pleasant. And you would have sold just as many books. And the interviewer would still have had an interview.

The End

Be on guard. Don't assume the interview is over until you have left the TV studio. Many reporters specialize in getting the real good stuff in friendly chat after the "formal" questions. If this interview is being edited for later broadcast, they may add their own summary of your comments.

Think of this interview as a rehearsal for the hundreds in your future as you write all those best sellers.

Find Out More...

Getting on the Air - Brian Jud

Help! I'm Going to Be on TV!, by Barbara Florio Graham

How to Appear Your Best on TV, by Brian Jud

The Seven C's of Media Appearances - Brian Jud

Copyright © 2000 Vera Marie Badertscher
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Vera Marie Badertscher is a freelance writer based in Tucson, Arizona. Her travel and profile articles have appeared in Arizona Highways, Phoenix Magazine, Bride Again, Home and Away and other magazines. In her prior life as a political consultant she frequently made television appearances and prepared candidates for interviews.


Copyright © 2018 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
All materials on this site are the property of their authors and may not be reprinted
without the author's written permission, unless otherwise indicated.
For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor

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