by Cerece Rennie Murphy
Unlike most public speaking opportunities, I actually look forward to interviews. Whether they are in-person, on camera, radio or via an emailed list of questions, I always feel like I know how to prepare and just what to do because an interview is about the one thing you know best – you. You might not be able to list significant developments in the Middle East Crisis or come up with a succinct definition of “irony” on the spot, but you are an expert in you and your work and that’s all an interview is really about. So here are some thoughts I have on how to approach an interview with anticipation instead of dread. You might even have a little fun in the process.
1) Ask yourself what you would want to know. Look at the body of work that the people interviewing you will be familiar with. Are there any interesting connections, inconsistencies or curious departures that, if you were a stranger, you’d want to know more about? Practice putting your thoughts together on how to describe, explain or clarify your unique journey. I wouldn’t recommend memorizing anything here, because if you get nervous and you can’t find “the word” that’s supposed to come next, you might convince yourself that you’re lost when you’re not.
You can never be lost in an interview because you have the ultimate home court advantage – you know you better than anyone else. You just want to have thought about the questions they might ask long enough for your to identify the themes and patterns that are important to you so that you can recall them with more ease when you need to.
2) Don’t be afraid to give an answer they don’t like. A really good interviewer wants to get to know you. The right answer is the one you give. It may not be what they are looking for, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. I’ll never forget one of the last job interviews I had. One of the interviewers asked me what I would do if I disagreed with my supervisor. I told her that I would voice my opinion and then leave it up to the supervisor to decide. She didn’t like that. I could see it right away, but it was the truth and if she couldn’t handle that then I probably wasn’t the right fit for her or the organization. It’s tough to do this when your livelihood is on the line. You have to decide what are the things you can compromise on and what are the things you just can’t and stand as firm as you can for as long as you can, otherwise, it will come back to bite you in the butt.
3) Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Expect the question you didn’t prepare for. Be surprised. It’s ok. The trick is not in the fact that you didn’t know they were going to ask that question. That’s obvious, unless you are clairvoyant. The trick is in how you handle the surprise and answer the question anyway. Talk about what you do know on the subject, or why your attention has been focused on X thing that is more important to you/relevant to what you are doing, or how you would find out about Y thing and what you think are the most pressing questions to be answered. A surprise is your chance to surprise them right back.
At a recent convention, I was pitching my book to an attendee (which is a mini-interview in itself) and in mid-pitch she cut me off and told me that my book sounded like another book by a British author. What do you say to that? Since I didn’t know what she was talking about, I asked her if she could remember the title and tell me a little bit about the storyline. I could tell she was taken aback. Her comment was meant to disarm me, but instead I was curious. She wasn’t expecting that.
Suddenly, she became flustered, “I don’t really know,” she said sheepishly then grabbed a bookmark off my table. “Does this have all the information on your books,” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. “You can read the first chapter of the first book for free on my website.” Another surprised look came across her face, “Ok,” she offered, looking me in the eye for the first time during our interaction. “I’ll check it out,” she said finally before walking away. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t, but the point is, I wasn’t afraid, either way.
4) And last, but not least, breathe and smile. I always feel honored whenever someone wants to know my opinion on anything. Take it as a sign that you’ve got something that someone thinks is worth sharing – so share it. You’ll feel better for it and you just might help someone else along the way.
About the Author
Cerece Rennie Murphy fell in love with science fiction at the age of seven, watching “Empire Strikes Back” at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C., with her sister and mom. It’s a love affair that has grown ever since. As an ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut and Alexander Pope from an early age, Cerece began exploring her own creative writing through poetry.
She earned her master’s degrees in social work and international relations at Boston College and Johns Hopkins School for Advance International Studies, respectively, and built a rewarding 15-year career in program development, management and fundraising in the community and international development arenas – all while appreciating the stories of human connection told in science fiction through works like Octavia Butler’s “Wild Seed,” Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and “The X-Files.”
In 2011, Cerece experienced her own supernatural event - a vision of her first science fiction story. Shortly after, she began developing and writing what would become the “Order of the Seers” trilogy.
Cerece lives just outside of her hometown of Washington, D.C., with her husband, two children and the family dog, Yoda.
Purchase Books by Cerece Rennie Murphy