Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Making Radio Waves

I woke up early this morning to steel my nerves for a live radio interview that—because it was with a morning show in Halifax, four time zones away—was set to begin at 6:30 am. My publicist at Penguin had set it up, and I was thrilled, as it was the first bit of East Coast media attention for a book that's based on the Bay of Fundy. The show was called "Maritime Morning", and for some reason (the homey name, my failure to do basic fact-checking), I had assumed it was on CBC Radio, and had told different friends and family members as much.

I anticipated a laidback, touchy-feely CBC-style interview. You know, the host asking me to describe my writing process or the "emotional arc of the book's tragedy". That kind of thing.

I realized something was up, however, once the show's producer got me on the phone and then put me on hold to await the host. Over the tinny line, I could discern advertisements—on the CBC? that didn't seem right—including one for a company that promised to help people break their leases. Definitely not the Mother Corp. I quickly Googled "Andrew Krystal", and realized that my interviewer was the morning host at a Halifax talk-radio station, broadcast in Moncton and Saint John, too, and one with a controversial reputation for confrontation. A shock jock, if you will, although one of a less crass, more Canuck bent than notorious U.S. radio personalities.

And then he introduced me and we were off and running. I immediately wished I'd brewed myself a pre-interview pot of coffee, as I didn't feel caffeinated enough to keep up at first with the Gatling Gun line of questioning and opinionating. But I soon got the hang of it. Krystal wanted to have a go at "extreme sports" and the people who participate in them: "Isn't this just Darwin's way of weeding out the morons?" he said at one point, or words to that effect.

I was accustomed to the standard dance of the radio interview, the gentle back and forth between interviewer and interviewee, the softball Q returned with a languorous A. That wasn't going to work on News 95.7. So after the break, I took a different tack and disagreed with Krystal at every opportunity, defending outdoor adventurers and describing the psychological benefits of organized wilderness competitions—the experience of "flow", the harmony of mind and body, like a runner's high.

"Wouldn't it be safer just to spark up a reefer?" countered Krystal, which made me laugh, but at least I had the presence of mind to reply, "But not as healthy."

In the end, after a final flurry, we agreed to disagree. He thanked me for coming on and said he had enjoyed Fatal Tide—in his introduction, he had even read aloud from an early chapter.

My radio experience wasn't what I'd expected when I'd gotten up this morning, but it was challenging and fun. In fact, for a good half hour afterwards I was buzzing from the after effects: more adrenaline rush than pot high for sure. Just like in outdoor sports, there is a flow to a radio interview—especially a fast-paced debate—that can feel almost as exhilarating. And you don't even have to wear pants.


richard said...

Sounds like a full-on rock & roll interview. Can Larry & Willy be far behind?

David L. said...

At least I didn't get the Bill O'Reilly treatment when I took an opposite stand: "SHUT UP!! SHUT UP!!!"