Lessons Learned From a TV Interview

Last Thursday I had the chance to appear in my first TV interview on a Toronto cable program called Writers and Readers on the Rogers television network. As a writer who definitely prefers to shelter behind her keyboard, this was a pretty stressful adventure for me. As far back as I can remember—all the way back to elementary school presentations—I’ve been terrified of public speaking of any kind (yes, I’m one of those people who would list public speaking above death on the fear scale). But my Canadian distributor extraordinaire, Nelson, was kind enough to set up the opportunity for me, and I was determined to do it.

So what did I learn from my first TV experience?

  • You’d be surprised at how many times a lapel microphone has to be put on or adjusted. Right side or left side? Wireless transmitter attached to your back pocket or belt? Is the transmitter on? Is it muted? I was repeatedly checked for that outside and then again inside the studio.
  • The lights aren’t as hot as you’d think they’d be. I’m familiar with stage lighting from many, many high school concerts and productions, and it’s nothing like that.
  • You aren’t going to be asked anything for which you don’t already know the answer. You’re there to promote your series; no one is going to ask you about your peace plan for the Middle East or for the chemical formula for titin, the protein with the longest formula known to man.
  • When asked a question, don’t answer ‘yes’ and leave it at that or you’ll drive your host to distraction. He’s opening a door for his guests to talk about their work, so expand upon all your answers.
  • Be yourself. I might consider 20 years of studying HIV and dengue virus to be run of mill because I’ve done it for so long, but others will find it an interesting experience compared to what they do in their own day jobs. Tie your own experiences into your writing so viewers will see why what you do is interesting. 

  • A good host goes a long way to make you comfortable. Tom Taylor, an author himself of the War of 1812 Brock series, went out of his way to make his guests feel comfortable. He reviewed some of the questions he’d be asking before we started so there wouldn’t be any surprises. At each break in the taping, he was very encouraging. And when the interview was over, he grinned and said ‘now your nightmare is over’. Oh yes, he knew that this was a new and stressful experience.
  • Everyone is there to support you, so just relax and enjoy the experience.


The show won’t be airing for about another 5 or 6 weeks, but I’ll be interested to see the final result. Many thanks to Tom for hosting me and the wonderful Lloyd Kelly and Pat O’Neill from Nelson for introducing me to the wonderful world of television!

On a more sober note, our regular readers will remember that a few weeks ago we covered the hidden bodies discovered at the Dozier School for Boys in Florida and the allegations of abuse and murder at the reform school. Since then one of the surviving students has contacted us and would like the opportunity to tell what life at the school was like from his perspective. Please join us next week for that very special blog post.

Photo credit: Tom Taylor and Rogers TV