Three Simple Steps for a Great Interview

Saturday, May 19, 2018
Before you say "I don't interview people" and click onto the next article, I need to tell you this post isn't just for the person asking the questions. If you're a writer, it's safe to say you'll do an interview or two in your career. This post is just as important for the person answering the questions as it is for the one asking them.

Quick back story. I have the privilege of interviewing authors here at WOW! Some are authors who have asked me to help organize a book blog tour, others have won a flash fiction contest or essay contest, and others are assignments from my lovely boss and friend Angela. The first time I was asked to do an interview I froze. I sat at my keyboard not quite sure how I was going to pull it off. I agreed and still wasn't sure what to do. I decided the best way to tackle an interview was to treat it like a school assignment (homework first as my mama would say)! I thought about my favorite television interviews and watched a few of them with a notebook and pen in my lap. I read some interviews with my favorite authors and took notes about those as well. Based on that research, here's a helpful process regardless of which side of the interview you are on:

1) Do your homework. If you are being interviewed, find out a bit about the person, publication, or program. If you are interviewing someone, find out as much about them as possible. Style is important. IE: I have a 'coffee chat with Crystal' type of interview style and would be disappointed in an interviewee who gave me short answers with very little depth.

2) Get comfortable. When I am writing questions, I have the authors head shot, bio, and my notes in front of me at me desk, but in my mind, we are sitting in my kitchen sipping tea/coffee/lemonade with some soft music playing and the smell of cinnamon rolls wafting from the oven. I like to think those I interview also set the mood before writing their answers. This is clearly important for television interviews, but also for radio. Some authors have pulled off some great radio interviews while driving down the freeway or tending to children, but for the most part, finding a comfortable space with few distractions is important.

3) Show up. This is a no brainer for a live interview (television or radio), but when an interview is recorded and aired at a later date, or it's a print interview, showing up is optional, but it shouldn't be. Show up and comment on the interview, share it with your friends and family as well as your social media channels. If someone comments with a question, answer it. Engage the audience (whether you are asking the questions or answering them). If you don't show up, it leaves a not so sweet taste in the mouths of those reading, listening to, or watching the interview.

That's it! Three simple steps for a great interview!

Now it's your turn to answer some questions:

Who is your favorite interviewer? (television, radio, print, etc...) Why do you like this person more than others? What sets them apart?

Do you have a favorite author interview? What makes this interview a favorite?

What have you found helpful when interviewing or being interviewed? How do you prepare? What tips do you have?

Thanks as always for your time and your comments!


Crystal is a council secretary and musician at her church, birth mother, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, five young children (Carmen 11, Andre 9, Breccan 4, Delphine 3, and baby Eudora), two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!


Angela Mackintosh said...

These are great tips, Crystal! I love interviewing people. As a teen, one of my first magazine subscriptions was to Interview magazine because I was an aspiring artist and it was Andy Warhol's mag. I fell in love with the intimacy of the form. Recently, I've been listening again to Marc Maron's podcast WTF, and he has such an amazing interview style. I also saw him not too long ago at live talks in Santa Monica, where he was on the opposite end of the interview, which was great. I just listened to the Josh Brolin podcast a couple days ago during my walk and that interview blew my mind, and yesterday, I listened to Mary Steenburgen who was delightful! She talked about the movie Book Club, which is out now and something I want to see. I think my favorite interview I've conducted has to be with Amy Tan, whom I've met with on more than one occasion. She's a blast and will chat about anything without holding back, and her words mean so much to me. I actually cried the last time because what she said changed my outlook on life. She gets it. She's a true inspiration to me.

Margo Dill said...

I love Robin Roberts from ABC. I think she is an excellent interviewer! :) I think it is because she seems so personable and intelligent, and everyone she interviews seems to really connect with her.

Crystal Otto said...

I agree! Connection is SO important!

Crystal Otto said...

Thank you for sharing! Great perspective Angela!

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