The publicist called. She said Jane Hutcheon from ABC News 24 wanted to interview me on her show on Friday night. Could I ring Jane to discuss?
The publicist was very pleased. My book had come out four days earlier. I had written two pieces to help promote it. Readers were engaged. They were commenting, sharing and tweeting and now TV was interested. I said I was pleased too but that was not true. I actually felt light-headed and squeamish. I had never been on TV before and the thought of it was terrifying.
Nevertheless, I called Jane right away. She mentioned the opinion piece I’d written on journalism degrees. A student had shared it with her on Twitter. I had a line in there about foreign correspondents. Jane had actually been one. She had the most beautiful voice. It lifted me and I found it easy to explain what my book was about. Jane said it sounded good. She agreed to call me again the next afternoon just to go over some questions.
Friday arrived. I felt sicker than the day before. The details of my television debut enhanced this sick feeling. Jane was not in Melbourne, she was in Sydney and I would be speaking with her ‘via satellite’. Also, the eight-minute interview would be live to air.
My throat was ticklish. What if I lost my voice?
My palms were damp. What if I sweated through my clothes?
What if I vomited?
What if I froze?
What if forgot what my book was about?
What if I said fuck by mistake?
What if I defamed someone?
What if I sounded like a complete dickhead?
What if I was boring?
What if I ran out of the studio after the first question?
What if Jane asked me a question that I could not answer?
A large question loomed over make up. My interview was not until 9.30pm. There were no makeup artists working at that time in Melbourne. “Just wear night make up,” the publicist said. “Not theatrical, just night.”
I did not own “night” makeup. At 5pm I left work and walked into David Jones. I went over to the Chanel counter and marched up to a young woman with a name badge. “Please help me,” I said. “I am on television tonight and I need to get some makeup. I just need something to cover my skin.”
My words galvanized her. “I understand what you mean,” she said. “You just need to feel protected.”
I left five minutes later with a luminescent foundation, a lash-separating mascara and an ivory eye shadow. The protection cost me $180.
At home, my family discussed the interview. My oldest kid, aged 12, advised me not to mention my book. “It will sound really boastful and arrogant mum,” she said. I told her she was wrong and that I would certainly pop in a word or two about the damn thing given that I had spent the past ten months slaving away on it, more or less for nothing.
Jane Hutcheon messaged me. She asked me not to mention the book.
I dressed in a block colour (not black or white) as advised, put on the makeup, scrunched my hair and took off. I told the taxi driver I was going to be on TV. “Congratulations,” he said. Nothing more.
The publicist met me there. “I’ll be watching,” the man at the desk said. “I’ll be able to tell if you are nervous.”
We got our security passes and went in. The cameraman said we were way early. The place was almost deserted. It was just us and the sound of a vacuum-cleaner. The publicist said my makeup looked good. We discussed the merits of comfortable shoes. My throat tickled. My palms were damp. “Don’t be scared,” the publicist said. “Don’t think ‘I can’t say that’ because you can!”
The studio was a small cold box. The cameraman sat in front of a computer, the publicist sat on a chair by the door. I sat on another chair and had to stare straight ahead into a camera. That hard black glassy ring stood in for a human face. A voice came into my ear. Ready for you in 30 seconds. You will be speaking to Jane Hutcheon. Asylum seekers, the weather and then me. There was that lovely voice again: assured, warm and competent. I opened my mouth and started to speak. I did not mention my book.
My partner recorded the interview. I watched it when I got home. I had no idea it was possible for a human being to blink so much. My eyelids were battling the unfamiliar weight of night make up.
I had also not realised that the camera was still on, right at the end, when I turned away from the lens, laughed and apologised for giving such depressing answers. What if I break out into hysterical laughter? That was about the only thing I hadn’t worried about beforehand but when it happened, it wasn’t so bad.