On Radio Interviews

I start doing radio interviews again and remember why I stopped doing them in the first place.

I’m at home, sitting at a table (my old kitchen table, as a matter of fact) in our upstairs “den.” (If we had a family, we might call it a “family room.” But we don’t, so we don’t. We sometimes call it a “TV room,” because that’s where the TV lives, but I like to think that we use the room for more than just being pacified by the universal pacifier.) During the day, this room’s two 4 x 8 windows have an incredible view of the Weaver and Bradshaw mountains, but it’s dark now and I can’t see much more than the lights in a few neighbors’ homes. It’s 7:30 PM on a Friday night.

I’m waiting for the phone to ring.

I know who’s going to call. It’ll be David Lawrence, host of “Online Tonight with David Lawrence,” a radio talk show. Or it’ll be someone who works for him, just making the connection while David does other stuff in preparation for interviewing me. That’s why he’s calling, of course, I’m tonight’s guest on his show.

Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time I’ve been interviewed today. At about noon, I had to put my day on hold while I was interviewed by Alan Ashendorf and his partner (whose name I can’t remember; sorry!). I called at precisely 12 noon, chatted for about 20 minutes as a sort of dry run for the interview, and then got asked some of the same questions all over again, along with a few others. The whole thing took 45 minutes. I think I did pretty well. I only forgot what I was going to say once and, hopefully, they’ll edit that out. That’s one of the benefits of doing a taped interview. If I sound like a moron, they can fix things up to make me sound better. Of course, if I sound like a genius, they can also fix things up to make me sound worse. Whatever.

The interview by David will be live. With listener call-ins. I hate listener call-ins. Half the time, they expect you to solve some kind of obscure problem they’re having with their computer. The kind of problem that they shouldn’t be having in the first place, so you really don’t know why they’re having it, let alone how to solve it. But I like David and he supposedly “loves” me (for reasons I don’t quite understand). And I think he’ll protect me from the listener from hell. At least I hope so.

As you might have surmised, I don’t seem too enthusiastic about being interviewed. And you might be wondering why.

Peachpit Press used to line up interviews for me. Some of them were online chats which, I can safely say, are pretty much a complete waste of time. You’d check into a “chat room” at a prearranged time, then spend 50 minutes answering questions by typing them in. There would be about eight people in the audience — people who probably didn’t have much else to do with their time. Of those people, at least two worked for the organization that was holding the chat and at least one other was a fake person planted in the chat room to ask questions when no one else had anything to ask. Call me an idiot, but it wasn’t until I commented to someone about how one particular person turned up for all my chats that I was told that that person didn’t exist. And I thought I had a fan. Instead, I was wasting 50 minutes of my day typing words of wisdom for the benefit of five people.

Peachpit also lined up real interviews, though. There was one that I did in a radio station studio in the Los Angeles area years and years ago. I can’t remember why I was in LA — I certainly didn’t go just for the interview — but there I was, sitting at a table with a mike in front of me. We were live and listeners were calling in. And my headset didn’t work right so I couldn’t hear a word anyone was saying. Needless to say, I didn’t make much of an impression on that show.

There were others, too. Telephone interviews. I remember doing one while I was up at my property at Howard Mesa. Mind you, I’m on top of a mesa (a flat-topped mountain for you east coast folks), 5 miles down a dirt road from pavement that was 15 miles away from the nearest town. I did the interview on my cell phone, plugged into the car’s lighter jack with the windows rolled up. I don’t even remember what I was interviewed about or who interviewed me. For all I know, it might have been Alan Ashendorf and his partner — they seemed to remember me from another interview today.

The cell phone interview at Howard Mesa was the last straw. The problem was, Peachpit would line up these interviews weeks or months in advance. I had to arrange my schedule around these interviews. And I didn’t like that.

One of the best things about my lifestyle is its flexibility. With a day or two of planning, I can go places and do things that keep me far away from telephones and other ties to civilization. (In the old days, before dogs and horses and parrots and airports, we didn’t even need those planning days.) But things are a bit more difficult if I have to be reachable by a talk show host at a certain day or time.

So I told Peachpit I didn’t want to do any more interviews. Or chats. They tried once or twice to line something up for me, but I reminded them that I wasn’t interested. So they stopped. That was about two years ago.

Last month, I did a project for FileMaker, Inc. It was a very good project that required me to write a 15-page, illustrated document about using FileMaker Pro with Excel. The pay was excellent — heck, I wish I could get work like that all the time. But the pay included making myself available for — you guessed it — radio talk show interviews.

Earlier this week, the man in charge of lining up the interviews told me that he had two for me — both today. And because FileMaker, Inc. paid me to do them, here I am, waiting for the phone to ring.

What FileMaker, Inc. probably wouldn’t like is that this afternoon’s interview centered around my recently released Word 2003 book. That’s not what they wanted me to talk about. In fact, they sent a detailed e-mail message to both interviewers and me, outlining what they expected us to talk about. But the PR guy also made the fatal error of sending the interviewers my Word 2003 book. They didn’t care about FileMaker. Microsoft’s Office 2003 software release interested them a lot more. After all, there are millions of Word users throughout the world. What’s FileMaker Pro? I did my best. I mentioned FileMaker Pro twice in the interview. But neither interviewer picked up on it. I think Peachpit should pay the PR guy’s fee for this one.

But in reality, I know it was all a waste of time. My Word for Windows books never sold very well — they do just well enough to warrant revisions every two years when new versions come out — and I don’t expect one radio interview to change that. There’s too much competition in the Windows world and Peachpit is a very small player there.

Peachpit did send the books as requested. So the cat’s out of the bag: they know I’m doing interviews again. I wonder if they’ll try lining something up for me.

So here it is, now 8:00 PM. According to the PR guy, the show is at 8 PM mountain time. My time. And I’m wondering why the phone hasn’t rung yet.

But deep down inside, I know why. The PR guy got it wrong. The show is at 9 PM Pacific time. That means 10 PM mountain time. Which means I’ll be staying up late tonight.

I’m wrong! They called. I’m on.

— LATER —

The interview is over and it was a lot of fun. David does a great job interviewing people.

But guess what? We didn’t talk about FileMaker Pro.

What do you think?