From Cheryl's Writing Crate
Writers who produce articles for magazines and newspapers are quite familiar with the interviewing process. Today, it actually happens to be one of my favorite parts of writing, but when I was a newbie writer I would easily get myself all worked up prior to an interview because I allowed my fear of the "unknown" and "what if" syndrome to dictate my experience.
During the past ten years, I've had the pleasure of interviewing hundreds of people from all walks of life for the many articles I've written. Thankfully, the majority of my interviews have all yielded a positive experience, some extraordinary and a few life changing. On the flip side, I've also come up against some tough individuals that have challenged both my wit as well as my interviewing skills, but I now consider these situations opportunities, not problems.
A difficult interview doesn't have to be frustrating--instead it can offer a writer the chance to grow by utilizing skills and strategies that can turn an awkward or unpleasant situation into something productive and wonderful.
Here are some of my best tips for conquering a difficult or challenging interview.
- Prepare your questions in advance. Never arrive at an interview to get information on the fly, this is a disaster waiting to happen and others will feel that you are wasting their time. Get organized and learn as much about your subject as possible beforehand.
- If possible, reach out to your subject well in advance. I love to either call or send a personal e-mail simply introducing myself as the writer for "such and such" magazine and let them know how much I'm looking forward to interviewing them. This can serve as an ice breaker and builds the beginning of a writer/source relationship.
- When scheduling the actual interview, ask your source if they'd like you to send along some questions in advance. While spontaneity is also important during an interview, if you have a particular source or subject that you know might be difficult this tactic can help keep the interview on task and can potentially be the catalyst to eliciting some great information from this person.
- Memorize 10 emergency questions you can ask any time you're in danger that will draw out more personal stories or more detailed facts from your source. For example, "What author has made an impression on you and helped to shape your writing career?"
- Ask questions when you don't understand something. Don't try and pretend you understand a subject matter that has left you completely baffled. Verify what you have heard, and don't be afraid to repeat what the interviewee has just said to clarify the accuracy of the information.
- Finally, after the interview is finished it's always a nice touch to send a quick thank you e-mail or written note acknowledging that you appreciate the time the interviewee has spent with you. You never know when the opportunity will arise again to work with this particular individual and difficult or not, this could be the start of a professional relationship that could be fruitful in the future.