Interviewing Harrison Ford
Doing the talk show circuit.
It's how famous people spend their time when they're plugging a book, movie, perfume, just about anything. They glitter (both their smiles and their clothes), they laugh, kiss, dance, tell funny stories, answer questions...except for Harrison. Harrison Ford is not an interviewer's friend. I think I can safely say that he has never glittered, kissed an interviewer, or danced across a room. His smiles are fleeting; laughter as rare and brief as an eclipse. But worst of all, he prefers a one-word answer. Maybe he's shy, dignified, forgetful, or uncomfortable talking about himself. Whatever the reason, he's an interviewer's nightmare!
Chances are I'll never interview Harrison Ford (but Mr. Ford, if you're reading this I would LOVE to) but I have interviewed a few Harrison Ford imitators. May you never know the frustration of trying to piece together an article out of one-word answers and a refusal for any follow-up questions! Because if my experience I'd like to share my Harrison Ford Rules.
Read/watch old interviews. Do they show a pattern of taciturn, lifeless answers and extensive descriptions of what they're wearing (how else can a writer make a word count)? One or two bad interviews is just a bad day or bad interviewer, a series of them is bad news.
If a middleman (agent, boss, friend) suggests the interview AND insists on contacting the subject to set it up, be wary. They may be keeping you away from the subject so they have time to talk them into it.
Rules, rules, rules
Do they set restrictive rules? I can only give you 15 minutes. I don't answer follow-up questions. I will only answer pre-approved questions.
Hello? Are You There?
Are they difficult to contact or take an extremely long time to get back to you? Maybe they aren't that enthusiastic about the interview. Imagine that same pattern if you have to contact them after the interview for additional information with a deadline looming.
I'm Saying Yes But I Mean...
Do they come right out and say, "I hate interviews" or "I'm only doing this as a favor to..."? It might be time to come up with a Plan B--just in case the interview bombs.
On paper, their credentials may make them the perfect subject for your article. But if you can't get four interesting words out of them it won't matter how many degrees, experiences, or awards they have. When you have a choice, select talkative over taciturn every time!
Jodi Webb has interviewed Army colonels, motorcyclists, teachers, contractors, authors, artists, knitters, and more in her two decades of writing. Surprisingly, the motorcyclists were the most polite and enthusiastic! Enjoy more of her musings at Words by Webb and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the WOW Blog Tours she organizes. Jodi is also an instructor for WOW! Her class Breaking Into Magazine Writing With Regional Markets starts January 10, 2012.