Interviews

Interviews

  When the shoe moves or what writers must remember about interviews

To avoid the dreaded cliché “When the shoe is on the other foot,” I chose “When the shoe moves.”  Not that clever, but it’s not a cliché, and it brings me to the topic of this blog.

I have interviewed hundreds of people through my writing career, and most have the same concerns:

  • Sounding stupid
  • Omitting important facts
  • Being misquoted
  • Feeling obligated to include certain people

As the interviewer, I’m annoyed when people:

  • Tell me a fascinating fact or anecdote but say I can’t use it
  • Insist I include a person or antidote that has no meaning but that they feel obligated to include
  • Getting emails making additional comments they want me to include
  • Asking to read the story before it’s published

I’ve been interviewed a few times that cover topics I know about or for a brief bio, but recently I was interviewed for a feature about me. This is where the shoe moves. I was concerned about the same things the people I interview are, and I committed a “sin” that annoys me when I interview people.

  • The interviewer wanted to know how long I’ve been writing. I didn’t want to give the exact number of years, so I kept repeating, “I’m old. I’m old.” I didn’t tell her I just had a birthday, although I told her I wouldn’t tell my age. Then I said I’m not afraid to tell my age, but I wasn’t going to tell her my age or the exact number of years I’ve been writing.
  • She asked me about a recent story I wrote, but I couldn’t remember the core of that story, so instead of sounding stupid, I just said I appreciated the subject of that story taking the time to talk to me despite her busy schedule. As soon as our interview was over, I looked up the story in question and
  • Emailed the interviewer with facts I thought should be included.

What did I learn from this experience?

  • I have a better understanding of the concerns of the people I interview.
  • I will try to remember these feelings I had and take extra care at putting the people at ease.

The lady who interviewed me was wonderful. She didn’t put any pressure on me to answer the questions or include what she wanted me to include. She did an excellent job, and I didn’t ask to read the story before it was published.

 

Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I’ve been a professional freelance writer for several years and specialize in writing feature stories. I have more than a 1,000 bylines to my credit and have written on countless topics from autism to zoology. My columns on fashion and the Internet appeared in a Chicago area newspaper in the 90s. “Brunswick Buzz,” the column in The Sun News, the Myrtle Beach, S.C. daily, ran for seven years then “Events on the North Strand” took over in October 2013, also in The Sun News.

  1. Marlene Cook says:

    How true that is JoAnne, I had that same experience. It sure is different on the other side.

  2. Susan Lerner Friedberg says:

    You have accomplished so much with your writing. I continue to be impressed and proud to say I knew you when you and I were just kids, however many years ago that is. Keep on doing what you do so well! Susan

  3. Joan says:

    One of the best in your blog series!

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