There are good interviewers, bad interviewers, and a slew of people who are somewhere in between. I’ve been complimented on my podcast interviews, and I appreciate those comments immensely. My style is conversational. I don’t (normally) prepare questions ahead of time, preferring to start a conversation and see where it goes from there. Enough people like it that I’ve been able to do two hundred episodes of SF Signal so far. I also appreciate that I’ve been allowed to continue for so long. Having said that, I will add that some people do not like my interview style – and that’s okay. To each their own.
One of the things I always try to do is make the person I am about to interview laugh. I’ve had best-selling authors and first published authors alike, confess their nervousness at being on the podcast. Making them laugh puts them at ease. I say stupid things, make jokes, whatever it takes to make them comfortable. Once they relax, they’re going to have a better experience, and it will come through to the listener.
This may surprise you (probably not), but I am totally willing to be a fool on air, too, if it means my guest relaxes and let’s the listeners connect. Does it always work? No. But most of the time, it does. When it doesn’t, well, you can get an awkward interview.
To be a better writer, they say you need to read a lot – which I do. Or try to do. I’ve been having issues there which would probably make a decent blog post of its own. (Makes a note) To be a better interviewer, I think you need to listen to other interviews – which I do. This one is easier than the reading thing because I can have interviews playing in the background while I work. Yes, mister or miss smarty pants – I could have an audio book going in the background. Shut up. YOUR LOGIC IS NOT WANTED AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME!
A couple days ago, I was listening to an interview with the author of a book and the book did not interest me in the least. It was some non-fiction economics book with a weird political slant. Nothing I would ever desire to read. As I listened to the interview, though, I could tell that the interviewer, wanted nothing to do with it either.
He started out very muted. You could tell he had zero enthusiasm for the book, and the author. Now the author, on the other hand and despite having written a book I want nothing to do with, was actually quite engaging and entertaining. He came out the gate very up, energetic and bubbly. His enthusiasm was off the charts. That kind of enthusiasm is quite infectious. He immediately thanked the interviewer for taking the time to cover his book and even made a few jokes trying to break the ice. The interviewer refused to thaw. He gave nothing back. The author kept trying to engage with the interviewer, who didn’t respond in kind. Now, this is someone I’ve listened to before and I’ve noticed that when the politics of the author don’t match those of the interviewer, we get a very awkward interview. All the interviewer would do was ask the canned questions we always get; what’s the book about? What made you decide to write it? Blah blah blah.
I found it sad that this interviewer couldn’t let whatever he was holding onto, go, and give the kind of interviews I’m more used to hearing. And no, I’m not going to tell you who it was.
But the idea of these awkward interviews got me thinking. What I’d like to know is this: Have you heard awkward interviews that made you cringe? (It’s okay if you point to one of mine… dammit…) What happened? What made you cringe? Did you ever buy the book?