An Interview with Terry Murphy.
Abstract to Interview
1:23 - What is your official title at C-SPAN and when were you involved in Booknotes? – Murphy is Vice President of Programming and an Executive Producer. The producers of Booknotes reported to him.
1:50 - How were authors chosen for Booknotes? – Authors were primarily chosen by Brian Lamb. Producers also suggested ideas. Books were chosen from recent non-fiction releases.
2:36 - How did selected authors react to the call asking them for the interview? – Authors reacted one of two ways. Either they were excited to be involved because they wanted to sell books and were already on a book tour. Or they would be hesitant to talk about the book for a full hour.
3:24 - Were there any authors who wanted to be interviewed but were not chosen? Did anyone refuse the invitation to be interviewed? If so, why? – Murphy does not recall anyone refusing the invitation. Often they would run into restrictions for celebrity authors because larger programs, like Good Morning America or 60 Minutes, would have exclusive rights to air interviews first. In later years, publishers realized how influential Booknotes was and worked to get their authors’ books on the show.
4:53 - A Booknotes interview is quite simple in appearance – a black background and two people. Was there a reason for such a simple set? – The simple set was chosen so the focus would be on the author and what they were saying. The set should not be a distraction for the viewer.
5:44 - Would you describe what goes into preparing for a Booknotes interview? - Producers and Brian Lam would survey new releases in non-fiction. The group would then meet once a week to decide what works they would pursue. Producers and Lamb would read the books, with Lamb doing a thorough read and crafting questions.
7:05 - How did the production team prepare the author for the interview? – They would explain that the interview was live to tape with little to no edits. Occasionally authors would attempt to make the interview shorter due to time constraints. Authors were sometimes surprised by Lamb’s questions. Namely, the extreme detail of questions about the book and questions their biography and their writing styles.
8:23 - Were there ever any Booknotes bloopers or unplanned happenings during the tapings of the program? – Yes, including one author who “jumped around the set.” There were times when Lamb would ask very simple questions to help the audience understand. This would surprise authors because they expected Lamb to already know about these issues. One author said he “wrote in the nude,” which was a surprise. Occasionally authors forgot details Lamb asked about or would ask that sections be cut from the program, which C-SPAN did not do.
10:03 - What did you do after the interview in order to prepare the interview to air? Was there a rule for when they were scheduled to air? – The only rule about airing interviews was respecting contracts with other programs who had exclusive rights over airing their interviews first. Production of the program’s shows was minimal. Introductions and exits were added and sometimes photographs and videos about the book’s subject were added.
12:03 - What did you learn about authors and the book world while working on Booknotes? – Murphy learned how much work goes into writing and the amount of expertise authors gained on their subjects. He also learned a lot about public policy, history, and how authors went about their craft.
12:52 - What was your most memorable Booknotes experience or author? – Murphy’s most memorable experience with the show was himself and a small team working to decide what the program would be called the Friday night before the show was meant to premiere that Sunday. They were hesitant to choose Booknotes because a New York Times column went by the same name.
14:41 - In your estimation, what has been the lasting impact of Booknotes in the then-contemporary American society and, perhaps, in subsequent times? – For C-SPAN the lasting impact of Booknotes was creating programming which was regularly scheduled and not just a feed of the House or Senate. This greatly expanded C-SPAN’s programming and shaped their schedule.
16:19 - Is there anything that you would like to add regarding the Booknotes program, C-SPAN or Brian Lamb? – Murphy was very disappointed when Lamb decided he wanted to stop doing the program because of how much you learned from the program. He understood because of how much work went into the program for Lamb on top of all his other commitments. It is one of C-SPAN’s most successful programs in their tenure.
Lamb, Brian, 1941-
C-SPAN (Television network)