What Not to Do in a Radio Interview

Do not:

  1. Use your cell phone. When a panicked producer hears static or you lose your connection, you will be forever remembered as: That author who subjected our national audience to 15 minutes of white noise.
  2. Use a phone that has call waiting. It's very distracting to talk accompanied by insistent beeps.
  3. Eat breakfast, lunch or dinner five minutes before your live show. Your stomach will thank you for abstaining.
  4. Answer the doorbell, sit in the kitchen while a child makes a milkshake, or play with your dog while on live radio.
  5. Forget to have a glass of water handy for those dry mouth moments.
  6. Get irritated at people calling-in and say something like, “What has that got to do with anything, lady?”
  7. Talk on and on and on…. when you’ve forgotten the question and don’t know what you’re saying anymore.
  8. Interrupt the interviewer more than once or talk over other guests.


  1. Look over your notes and remind yourself of some interesting anecdotes and factual tidbits ten minutes before you go on air.
  2. Sequester yourself in a quiet room where you will not be interrupted and you cannot hear the other phone ringing or the child screaming for your attention.
  3. Surround yourself with a cheat sheet or index cards as a crutch, on the off off off chance that you get flustered.
  4. Answer the question you wish the interviewer had asked, rather than the question that you have no idea how to answer.
  5. Speak with inflection, but avoid fillers (like “um,” “ahhhh,” and “like”). Be friendly but not chummy.
  6. Make sure you’ve triple checked the time and that your ringer is turned ON.
  7. Take five deep breaths right before the phone is supposed to ring.
  8. Make sure the producer and/or the interviewer knows how to pronounce your name.
  9. Have fun.
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About the Author

Katrin Schumann is the author of The Forgotten Hours (Lake Union, 2019), a Washington Post bestseller; This Terrible Beauty, a novel about the collision of love, art and politics in 1950s East Germany (March, 2020); and numerous nonfiction titles. She is the program coordinator of the Key West Literary Seminar. For the past ten years she has been teaching writing, most recently at GrubStreet and in the MA prison system, through PEN New England. Before going freelance, she worked at NPR, where she won the Kogan Media Award. Katrin has been granted multiple fiction residencies. Her work has been featured on TODAY, Talk of the Nation, and in The London Times, as well as other national and international media outlets, and she has a regular column on GrubWrites. Katrin can also be found at, and on Twitter and Instagram: @katrinschumann.

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by Katrin Schumann


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