If I’ve yet to mention it, I’m a freelancer. Lately, I’ve been doing interviews pretty regularly, which is pretty much equal parts awesome and terrifying. But now that they’re becoming a regular part of my working life, more and more people are asking me how I got into the glamorous part of the industry so quickly.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic to talk to musicians, writers, and people I admire, and to meet new and wonderful people and hear their stories. It’s a part of my job that I love, certainly one of the best bits.
But glamorous? Really? It’s not glamorous. At least not for me.
I’ve been working with a group of emerging writers who are starting to interview people, and I’m noticing, again, that there’s a lot of talk about how glamorous and easy this kind of work is.
And, okay, it’s easier than surgery. Or parenting. Or teaching. Or about a billion other high stress jobs that people do. But it’s not exactly sitting around watching movies and gossiping with celebs, either.
Here’s what they forget to tell you about all that glamour:
I have had interviews where I’d said yes and had about five minutes to prep questions. Where I was searching Google frantically even as the phone was ringing, or where I was standing awkwardly in the corner because my mobile needed charging and I didn’t have time to find an extension cord so I could sit down. You don’t always have a lot of time to get yourself, and your questions organised. Pro tip: have some basic ones ready to go, so at least you’ve got the foundation work done. And charge your phone nightly.
Unless you’re at the top of the interviewer food chain, it’s likely that a dozen or so other people will have already asked those witty questions you’ve dreamed up. If you’re lucky (and thankfully, I’ve been blessed with awesome people who tolerate it if and when that happens), they’ll be gracious. If you’re unlucky? Well, there are more than enough videos of failed interviews out there. Sometimes the person you’re talking to has been doing this for hours already, and wants a break. Sometimes they’re not great public speakers, or their kid is sick and they’re distracted. That perfect interview really isn’t a daily occurrence. Even celebs are human, and have bad days.
Last week, I had two phone interviews lined up in a day. It was in the middle of our second, though happily (slightly) less painful, heatwave. I had to keep the house closed up entirely because our neighbour has children at the ‘scream every thought that pops into your head, or just scream’ phase of development. It hurt. It took maybe 5 minutes for the house to get uncomfortably hot, even with fans going. I stayed with the house that way for over an hour, feeling the temperature climbing.
And guess what? Neither of the interviews happened.
That happens quite a lot. When you have a conga line of interviews, sooner or later, they’ll run over, or someone will get overlooked, or a phone will die and need to be changed… or, y’know. Poop breaks.
It’s hard sometimes to be able to see the glamour from inside the job, especially when you have a waterfall of sweat pouring down your back, and you’ve had to drink so much water that you spend twenty minutes praying for time to speed up.
But you’d get free tickets to so many cool shows!
I’ve been offered tickets a grand total of once. And it was a band I loved, so I was so, so excited. Aaaand? The guy I interviewed didn’t actually make it happen, but I didn’t find that out until I was at the show. I’d organised to write a review of the show for the mag I did the interview through, as a way to say thank you for the tickets. Mortifying. Especially when I just so happened to score the most sarcastic, loud-mouthed staff member berating me for lying to try and get into the show. That girl had the sort of booming voice better suited to teachers, police, and preachers. People stared, y’all. And I had to walk away, pretending that it didn’t bother me.
Awkward. Less glamour, more ‘panic attack in car park’.
I’m not really trying to make you feel sorry for me. Did those moments suck? Totally. Like a vampire riding a Hoover. But for every cringe-worthy moment, there’s two really amazing ones that leave you grinning for a week. People are pretty awesome, and there’s always an interesting story in their lives.
Interviewing people isn’t exactly like the romcoms where shy reporter meets big time celebrity and romance ensues. You’re probably not going to start off interviewing Tom Hiddleston (sorry). Maybe you’ll get that politician who wants some air time before an election. Maybe you’ll get a musician who plays the spoons in a death metal tribute folk band.
And maybe you’ll prep your butt off, and everything will still go to hell around you. It happens.
It’s not glamorous. It’s a job. And it’s the sort of job that won’t always run smoothly. Knowing that makes it easier to cope when it all goes horribly wrong around you.