Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Radio Interviews: Difficult, Funny, and Fun

I have always loved radio. When I was growing up, my favorite station was "WSWR: The Wizard" which played "oldies" and was the community station in my hometown.

When I was in junior high school, I won a contest to write a PSA (public service announcement) against drug abuse. I wrote a melodramatic pause-filled 30 second script, and then I got to go down to the WSWR and record it to play on air. How cool is that?!

In college, I was, for a brief time, a communications major--and one of the major attractions of that major was the possibility of being an on-air personality. That never materialized (a good thing), but radio definitely flipped my switch.

It was during that time that I discovered Christian radio. WCRF out of Cleveland when I was in Ohio and WMBI during the school year were staples of my listening diet.  Pastor Donald Cole was a hero--he could take any question posed by a caller and give a well-thought-out biblical answer that applied to their lives.

When I was in seminary, I discovered NPR, as well. And my favorite part of "All Things Considered" was the numerous interviews.  It was always amazing to me to hear politicians, authors, musicians, and other public people talk about their views and work with such panache.

Now, I get to talk on the radio (or the podcast) about my own book!

However, I've found that it's a lot easier to listen to radio interviews than to be the one interviewed!


The hard part about a radio interview is that you have to be on your toes the whole time. You may or may not have a list of questions that might be asked. Even if you do, the interview can go all kinds of places you never expected.

The goal is to listen to the question and then say something intelligent in answering it.

That sounds easy enough, but it can be hard to do well. You don't want a lot of dead space, so you can't think long about your answer. I try to give one sentence answer that sounds interesting so that people want to keep listening, then tie that to a biblical text or principle, and then apply it with a story--all in 30-45 seconds so that the conversation ball gets tossed back to the host.

Whew. I'm always worn out after taping one. It's even more pressurized when the interview is live and in "real time." I'm thankful that all of my interviews so far have been with great hosts who know how to help out a rookie author like me!  (I haven't done a call-in show yet--I think that takes it to a whole other level.)


So, I'm learning how to do this well, and it's created a few funny moments already.

For example, I realized after the first several interviews that I had been asked the same question a number of times and that I didn't really know how to answer it.

The question was, "So, why do we gossip?"  It's a good and natural question that I should have an answer for, but I've floundered when it came.

"Uh, because we're sinners?"  Then silence. Crickets chirping. Hoping they followed up with another question for me.

It took several times for this before I realized that they were asking the title of Chapter Two of Resisting Gossip!!! These interviewers must have had quizzical looks on their faces about why I wasn't prepared to give some material from chapter two.

I also realized that they kept asking me for a simple explanation of how we can resist gossip. It turns out that my book was about resisting gossip, so I should have something to say about that. Ya think? (This is funny in retrospect but was scary in the moment.)  Now, I have a ready answer for that question, next time it comes.


For all of the stress of the moment in each interview, I am certainly enjoying it, as well. It's a great opportunity to tell others about the message of the book, and it's fun to talk with interesting hosts who are great at what they do.

Here is a shortlist of the shows I've been on so far. I'll let you know about others as they happen:
Here is a list of articles that I've found helpful in preparing for radio interview: