An Interview with Jean Strouse.
Abstract from Interview1:03 – Author Introduction.
1:31 - How did your book come to be on Booknotes? Strouse is uncertain how her book came to be on the program. It had just come out that spring and either her publisher contacted Booknotes, or the other way around.
1:54 - How did you prepare for your appearance on Booknotes? The book took fifteen years to write so it was so much a part of her that she did not have to do much preparation. Strouse holds that even if she had not been fresh with the information in her book that Brian Lamb’s questions are “so great” that the interview would have gone well no matter what.
2:22 - What do you remember most from your appearance on the program? “How generous Brian Lamb was with time. He gives authors the opportunity to really talk about their projects, and that is very rare.” The pace of the show, with Brian setting you up to talk in-depth about your book and its topics’ was a rare opportunity for authors and viewers.
3:05 - Booknotes’ hour-long format differed greatly from most of the network television interviews which lasted three minutes or less. What do you think are the benefits and/or drawbacks of this longer format for the author and for the viewer? A potential drawback of the longer format would be if the author or the author’s topic are boring. But there are many more benefits than downsides. The longer format gave authors the ability to give full answers to a range of questions. Strouse describes these questions as “great pitches” that helped to easily guide the conversation.
4:47 - Judging by the extensive marginalia in his books, Mr. Lamb read them thoroughly before the interview. Do you find this to be normal for interviewers? How does it change the interview experience? This kind of preparation was not normal. Most people have their assistants read the book and give them notes. Because Brian Lamb had read the books so thoroughly he could ask questions which would provide a broad spectrum of information from the book. Strouse thinks it is a strength that Lamb’s questions began with people, hooking the audience.
6:28 - Were you surprised by any of Brian Lamb’s questions? Strouse was not surprised by any of Brian Lamb’s questions. Instead, “she loved them” because he had thought about the questions so much. Lamb was interested in learning about some the most fascinating things from the book, allowing for good answers.
7:06 - Mr. Lamb asked about an author's research and writing methods. Do you believe the reading public finds these details about the practice of writing interesting? Do you think other authors or publishers find them interesting? Strouse thinks that the public finds the details about the process of writing interesting. She works at the New York Public Library on a program about the process of writing.
7:55 - Mr. Lamb frequently asked his guests biographical questions. Did that surprise you? Is this generally different from most author interviews you have experienced? Biographical questions are different. She was surprised but not put off by them because she felt that they were not intrusive.
8:42 - Did you watch Booknotes before or after you own interview? Did your experience on the show change your impressions of it? Strouse did watch the program before and after her own appearance, but not regularly. Her experience on the show did not change her opinion toward the program. However, she feels that she was very lucky to have appeared on Booknotes because it was one of her best appearances to discuss Morgan.
10:05 - As you may or may not know, George Mason University has been gifted all of Brian Lamb’s personal copies of the books used in the Booknotes series. This amounts to some 800 non-fiction books published between the late 1980s and 2004. What do you think the benefits and uses of such a collection might be? Now that people are reading so many books online, having these physical books is a valuable resource. Researchers curious about the subjects of the books, the program, and Brian Lamb will find the archive very valuable. The books, interviews, and follow-up oral histories provide excellent context.
13:00 – Strouse still gets notes and emails, more than ten years later, from people who have just seen her appearance on the program and want to ask her about it. This shows the lasting impact of the show.
13:27 - Brian Lamb had a rule that authors could only appear on the program one time. If asked, would you have returned for another interview? Not for the same book, but for another book she would have appeared on the show again. She reiterates that this was her best interview. Was there a difference in sales or national attention for your book after you discussed it with Brian Lamb on Booknotes? How about it’s critical reception? The book was well received, but she does not think that this is attributed to her appearance on Booknotes. She does not track book sales so she is not certain about the show’s impact on sales.
14:49 - Did your experience with Brian Lamb and Booknotes cause you to rethink any of your own approaches or assumptions regarding your research or writing? No. Her book was well reviewed and got positive feedback, reinforcing her writing process.
15:33 - What have you been working on after this book, and which projects are you most pleased with? She has been running a program at the New York Public Library for authors. For the past two years she has been working on her second book, which is about John Singer Sargent and his paintings.
17:03 - In your estimation, what has been the lasting impact of Booknotes in the then-contemporary American society and, perhaps, in subsequent times? The lasting impact of Booknotes is the time, space, thought, and intensity Lamb brought to these books and what the interviews gave back to American culture. Strouse wishes we still had a forum like this today.
18:28 - Is there anything that you would like to add regarding the Booknotes program, C-SPAN or Brian Lamb? “Come back! Start it again!” is her call for Booknotes.
Lamb, Brian, 1941-
C-SPAN (Television network)
George Mason University Libraries
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