My publisher had mentioned radio and TV interviews, but it seemed she must be talking about someone else. Even when she interrupted our telephone call to take one from “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” I didn’t associate myself with the national spotlight.
No, the phone call from “Ellen” wasn’t about me, but it made me think. How would I fare sitting across from Oprah, Ellen, or even a local newscaster? Let’s just say that I’m more comfortable on paper than in person. Well, the advice books would say, get over that!
Fortunately, my first interview was with a newspaper reporter, meaning that I would not need to worry about squirming, scowling, scratching, squinting, or screwing up on TV. All I had to control was my habit of blurting out too much information when I’m nervous.
The writer was someone whose work I’d admired for a while. She had been doing a series of “Innerviews” for my hometown paper in West Virginia, and I was thrilled that she wanted to talk to me.
Even though it wasn’t television, I duly reported for my beauty routines the week before the interview. When I thought about what to wear, my first impulse was to choose a business suit. Then I remembered I didn’t have one that fit. I’d recently achieved lifetime status in Weight Watchers, so it wasn’t the other problem—which I’ve had plenty of times over the years.
The interview required a trip of several hours. Every time I’ve taken a trip, I’ve bought something new to wear. It’s a compulsion, but my trip to the mall produced only a couple new blouses—nothing too dangerous to the pocketbook. I decided to wear dress pants, one of the new shirts, and a casual jacket.
This interview took place in a conference room at the newspaper offices, which I’d never seen. In my pre-meeting nervousness, I parked the car in a pay lot and stuffed the fee into the wrong slot—no attendant was present—then had to ask for change from the receptionist at the Gazette, trudge back to the lot, and pay again. For all my efforts to be cool, such mistakes seem inevitable. At least that one beat driving away from the ATM without my card.
The interview team consisted of the writer, who used a recorder to capture the exchange, and a photographer who snapped pictures of me while I was talking. I knew in advance that I’d be “taped,” so my greatest efforts were to be nice and avoid spilling my guts. The session lasted about an hour, and then we went outside for more photos.
My interview will run in the paper in a couple of weeks. Naturally, I have no say now about what goes into the story; my chance to shape it came when I sat down at that table on the second floor of the Gazette building in Charleston. I hope the article turns out well. I do trust the writer, so I try not dwell on the interview or dredge up what I said or didn’t say. I’ll just think of it as good practice for “Ellen."