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Turning the tables: I get interviewed on the radio

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When I interview people, they (or their P.R. reps) often ask for my questions in advance. I always say no. If you feed them their questions before the interview, they’ll rehearse the answers, making for a phony interview that’s of no use to anyone.

I get interviewed myself from time to time. I never know what my interviewers are going to ask me and I don’t want to know. I like the thinking-on-your-feet aspect of an interview, especially when it’s a live broadcast, without a safety net to catch you if you fall. You have to be conscious on several different levels. You want to be cogent, sound reasonably intelligent, current on events, perhaps be funny, not say anything demonstrably false, and keep up with your interviewer. When I was recently interviewed (for the second time) by Laura Lawson on her “Wine Crush” radio show, all these parameters applied, especially the latter: keeping up with Laura Lawson is no easy task! She’s got a great talk radio personality, meaning it’s her show, she’s the boss, you go where Laura wants to go. She’s got strong opinions, and the leash she puts you on isn’t particularly long.

But I like that! I like my women like I like my wine: powerful. I thought it would be fun to share my interview with you here on the old blog. (Sorry for the commercials, especially the one on acne. I don’t come on until about halfway through, so if you want to advance the feed, feel free–and you can also fast-forward through the subsequent commercials.) I had no idea what Laura was going to ask me, because I hadn’t heard the introductory part of her spiel, where she explains her “shiny object” theory of wine: the “new stuff,” the “newest, the coolest” things that apply to almost every consumable: new and improved cereal, laundry detergent, TV sets and, yes, wine. This is the “shiny object”, and Laura wondered how much shininess is too much shininess in wine–things designed to grab our attention.

This isn’t something I’d given a moment’s thought to, so when Laura started off by asking me if some wineries are getting gimmicky (offering flip-flops, balloons, flowers, pens, perfume and so on with the purchase), I was a little unprepared. When she said, “This is our shiny object show,” I was like, uh oh–I have no idea what she’s talking about, so I was glad that she extended her opening question with a couple questions-within-questions, so I could think a little. But if you listen to my answer, you can hear me hedging a little. I always see everything from six different points of view (that’s the Gemini in me), so as soon as I say “black,” I see the white, and the purple, and the polka dot, and I have to frame my answer accordingly.

Anyway, the reason I like chatting with Laura is because our conversations are never stilted. I wrote yesterday about canned conversations, the kind neither party really wants to have but for some reason both have to have. Traditional interviews often go that way. I’d love to have an interview with a winemaker (or owner or publicist or whatever) where we both agreed to talk about anything but wine. Maybe start off with a little politics, or philosophy, or TV shows, or our earliest memory as children, or favorite restaurants, or all-time favorite books, and take it from there. Wine will enter the discussion at some point; it always does. In a fluid, living conversation, people end up talking about stuff they love (or hate).

Of course, the risk of a fluid, living conversation is that it can lead into cul-de-sacs that go nowhere. But what’s wrong with that? It happened in my conversation with Laura (can you detect where they are?), but people of good will can always agree to quickly change direction, back up and find the conversational path again.

Anyhow, this interview represents an aspect of me you might not see if you’re only familiar with my writing. I’d like to do more interviews. They’re fun, and as the interviewee, I always learn something to make me a better interviewer. Interviewing is like dancing: it takes a lot of practice to get good at it, and the more you do it, the better you get.

  1. Steve, I listened last week to the interview, and to the other interview you had with her sometime ago; Laura is much to handle and can give more than she takes (I listen to her every week). What I especially liked about the earlier interview with you is just how gracious and friendly you came across; must have been the Gemini in you, in me (June 16).

  2. Thanks Dennis for your own gracious and friendly comment.

  3. I’m always on the hunt for a candid interview, Steve. Let’s get a date on the calendar.

  4. Deborah: You interview me or I interview you? Or both?

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