Regardless of whether you write fiction or nonfiction, interviews can play a crucial role in gathering information. The first professional interview I did was with several members of a children’s theater group. I hope they didn’t realize how nervous I was, but they were gracious and kind and appreciated any publicity they could get, so were more than accommodating when I had to call back a few times to make sure I had written the information correctly. I was grateful for their patience, and appreciated it more as I gained experience and realized not everyone was so generous with their time.
Many years, and several hundred interviews later, I've learned a few tricks. First and foremost, do not go to an interview unprepared, because well-prepared questions can make or break an interview. The best way to increase your chances of success is to research your topic and/or subject, and prepare a variety of questions designed to uncover as much information as possible. Conducting thorough research before the interview shows you care about your work, and respect the person you are interviewing by not wasting his or her valuable interview time explaining information that could have been found online or through other sources.
I have a friend whose father was a state senator, who said that every time a new reporter was assigned to cover the capital, he had to explain to him or her how a bill was passed. That information is easily accessible through other sources. Why waste face time with someone who has much more interesting and pertinent information that could make a great story?
Next time, I’ll cover different types of questions you can use to get the most out of your interviews.