Vick Mickunas reminisces about his years working for public radio.
Seventeen years ago, I worked as the music director for a public radio station in Ohio and hosted a weekday music program. Those were simpler times. Nobody ever asked for our e-mail addresses or our cell phone numbers. The Internet was a mere rumor.
Listeners called in to inquire about music they had heard on the station. Record companies called to see if we were playing their recordings. Every once in a while a book publicist called to ask if we could interview an author who was passing through the area.
I used to field many of those calls. I responded to questions from listeners and told record companies what music we were playing. When I fielded the stray call from a book publicist, I had to tell them the station didn’t have any local programs of author interviews.
But those book-related calls kept coming. We have a bookstore in the area that brought in a steady flow of writers. I went there for an event featuring Gloria Steinem, and while sitting in the audience, I had one of those “lightbulb” moments. Wait a minute, I thought. Maybe I should be interviewing these authors.
Until that moment, the thought had never entered my mind, even though I’m an avid reader, my house is jammed with books, and I talk about books with just about anybody who’s willing to engage in that sort of dialogue.
Not long afterward, I started interviewing authors on the radio. And I’ve been doing author interviews for radio and newspapers ever since.
Things have changed over the years. We are now awash in a sea of enhanced media. We blog. We tweet. We podcast. We have multiple platforms and e-mail addresses. Smart phones. Tablets and e-readers. Author interviews are archived in cyberspace. Book reviews proliferate at the pace of high-speed connections.
Yet all this technology is still subject to the whims of nature. The first time I interviewed Pat Conroy, he had come out to the radio station with his publicist. She was nervous because they had not been able to tune in our radio signal. That’s because it was gone. A lightning strike on our tower had knocked us off the air. Conroy took it in stride. We taped an interview to play later. We talked about his book Beach Music. During our conversation, I asked when we might expect another novel from him. He quipped that “it will probably be published posthumously.” Fortunately, that was not the case.
Each year I note the passing of a few more of my former guests. A number of years ago I interviewed the late Brendan Gill. After I recited a list of his many accomplishments, he said: “It sounded like you were reading my obituary.”
There’s something bittersweet and sentimental about going back and listening to the voices of those who were once so generous with their time.
I’ve revisited conversations with former guests who died last year. Gloria Stuart had written a memoir about her early career in Hollywood and her triumphant return to the big screen in “Titanic.” Ambassador Richard Holbrooke had written about his leading role in brokering the Dayton Peace Accords. Sparky Anderson had published a memoir about his Hall of Fame baseball career managing the Cincinnati Reds and the Detroit Tigers. Steven Cannell made the transition from writing hit TV shows like “The Rockford Files” to a career as a crime novelist.
Fortunately, we still have the memories of their voices and all those books to read whenever we choose.
I’m pleased that the Washington Independent Review of Books now offers readers, writers and book lovers another venue for exploring our shared passion for books. We all have stories to share. Tell your friends.
Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News. He interviews authors on WYSO Public Radio (wyso.org).