About Jacquie

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Jacqueline Kent is… a writer of non-fiction and biography, fiction, general articles and literary journalism. Her working background includes radio interviewing, print journalism, radio and TV scriptwriting, editing books, ghostwriting, teaching editing and creative writing, and arts administration.
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Life on the road

Promoting a book is a most peculiar thing to be doing.

I’ve just come back from a week of it, spruiking The Making of Julia Gillard. It’s a very small taste of what it might be like to be Gillard herself: lots of people asking the same questions, having to behave as if you’ve never heard the question before. You get into a rhythm, you get used to it.

It’s different from any promotion I’ve done in the past, too. If you’ve had a look at the site, you can see that my two previous biographies were of women who were not well known to most people, if they’d heard of them at all. As one radio commentator, not my favourite person, asked bluntly about Hephzibah Menuhin: ‘Who is this woman and why should we care about her?’ In interviews I knew what the first question would be, so I always started off explaining who these women were, what they had done, etc.

No need to do that with Julia Gillard, of course: everybody seems to have an opinion about her. Most of the interviewers liked her, I think, which is why they were interested in talking to me. But a couple of commercial radio personalities — both blokes — were eager to use me as a way of broadcasting their own opinions. ‘She’s a mad lefty, isn’t she?’ was one question. ‘She’s gonna take over from Rudd, yeah?’ was another.

It’s not easy to answer either of these in a few seconds. In fact, the answer to both is ‘It depends’ … in (a) it depends where you sit on the right-left spectrum of opinion, but I would certainly not say Gillard is a doctrinaire lefty and (b) whether or not she is the next PM depends on a lot of external factors, not least Rudd’s popularity, the ALP’s popularity with the voters, and the ambitions of some of Gillard’s colleagues. One thing I did try and emphasise is that nothing is inevitable in political life, a fact that Gillard knows only too well, as do all politicians. It’s what makes the game so interesting. But yes, she’s looking pretty good.

Basically, this sort of promotion, which involved radio, a bit of TV and some newspaper interviews, depends on one thing I think: you get on, you say your piece as quickly and succinctly as possible, and then you  stop. I got better at this as the week  progressed. Most difficult, probably, were appearances in bookshops, which are basically extended interviews with questions afterwards. You can’t do soundbites for those. On the other hand, I really welcomed the chance for a bit of

thoughtful discussion.

In the end, it doesn’t matter too much exactly what you say, and ‘keep it simple’ is often the best way to go I think. And if you fluff, you can shrug it off with the thought that at least they got your name and the title of the book right.

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