Four And A Half Things I Learned While Giving My First Interview

Unless you are Nora Roberts (who seems to have found a way to complete a novel during that interminable downtime between sneezing and wondering if anybody caught that scrunch-face you just pulled), you’ve probably spent more than a year writing your book. So it’s probably a sure thing that you find what you’ve written interesting. But some of the things you wonder about when you publish your first novel (and/or probably your 79th – I’ll get back to you on that) are:

  • Will anybody be the slightest bit interested?
  • And, if they are, will they be interested enough to buy my book?
  • And, if they do, will they be interested enough to want to know more about what went into writing the book?

All these thoughts swirled around my brain last January as my novel—The Garden on Sunset—hit the internet. It turned out that yes, people were interested. And yes, they were interested enough to buy my book. But it wasn’t until Katie and Hilary, the lovely girls at The Scarlett Olive appeared on my horizon that I realized that someone out there actually wanted to know more.

Katie and Hilary run The Scarlett Olive, a podcast devoted to the memory of classic films and are very active on Facebook, which is where I found them. We started to comment on each others’ posts and . . . I’m not really sure what happened next  . . . yadda yadda yadda . . . we were emailing each other. Katie said she planned to review my book on her blog once she’d read it but pleaded college student poverty. I happily sent her a copy and in due course, she did review it.

Then they asked if they could interview me. My first! Naturally I said yes, but I wasn’t sure how it would go, or how I would come across, or if I’d end up so tongue-tied that “Garden of Allah” would come out “gthenbly ock allawalla.” So we set up a time to record it and when the phone rang, I picked it up and hoped for the best.

It went very well. The girls are easy going, had done their homework, and knew that all they needed to do was ask a thoughtful question and then leave me to blather on. It was a great experience, but I did learn a few things.

1 . . . Don’t ask for questions ahead of time.
I did, but the girls told me they prefer not to supply them before the interview and favor letting the conversation go where it wants. They were exactly right. You don’t want an interview to be a Q&A session of pre-prepared questions and carefully rehearsed answers.

2 . . . Slow the hell down for crying out loud
Through most of the interview I was clear and understandable, but there were times when I got so caught up in my responses that I started speaking way too fast. Even I couldn’t comprehend what I’d said—and I’m used to my Australian accent. If I had my time over, I’d have grabbed the nearest marker and written the words SLOW DOWN on a piece of paper and stared at it.

3 . . . Don’t assume anybody knows what the Garden of Allah was
I’ve been reading about and writing about the Garden of Allah hotel for so long now that I’ve reached the point where I’ve started to assume that everyone knows about it. During the 32 years it was open, it became a famously infamous place where many, many people stayed, often when they were at the start of what later evolved to become a legendary career—how could anybody not have heard of it??? But there was a time when I’d never heard of the place either, and if I had my chance at a do-over, I’d probably take the opportunity to talk about the Garden of Allah more as it’s central to the whole series of these novels I’m writing.

4 . . . Stand up more
Although, in retrospect, there was no reason to be nervous, this was my first interview and so I was a teensy bit nervous. Perhaps “nervous” is the wrong word. More accurately, I was a teensy bit anxious that I didn’t come across like a numbskull with a concussion. About two-thirds through the interview I found that I felt better if I was standing up and keeping in motion, even if that motion was largely shifting my weight from one foot to the other.

5 . . . Have a large gin and tonic first
Actually, that wasn’t one of the things I learned during the course of this process, but I think it’s a good life lesson to keep in mind, no matter what’s going on.

If you’d like to hear the interview, click here >>>

Lost in the Garden: An Interview with Martin Turnbull

 And be sure to check out the graphic that the oh-so-clever Katie and Hilary created for the podcast. Notice how the 1920s girl is actually holding a copy of The Garden on Sunset. I must ask them how they did that.

About Martin Turnbull

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels blog is by Martin Turnbull, a Los Angeles based historical fiction author of a series of novels set at the Garden of Allah Hotel, which stood on Sunset Blvd from 1927 to 1959. Check him out at and Facebook: "gardenofallahnovels"
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2 Responses to Four And A Half Things I Learned While Giving My First Interview

  1. Jaye says:

    I thought you did very well, Martin. You’re a most charming interviewee, and I love the accent. Hoisting my virtual gin and tonic–good job!

    • Thanks, Jaye! Seeing as how we’ve never met or spoken, I guess the Aussie accent is new to you! It’s amazing that I’ve still got one after living here for 16 years but it never seems to go away!

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