I have interviewed hundreds of people through my writing career, and most of them have the same concerns:
1) Sounding stupid
2) Omitting important facts
3) Being misquoted
4) Feeling obligated to include certain people
As the interviewer, I’m annoyed when people:
1) Tell me a fascinating fact or anecdote but say I can’t use it
2) Insist I include a person or antidote that has no meaning but that they feel obligated to include
3) Getting emails making additional comments they want me to include
4) 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. I was concerned about the same things the people I interview are, and I committed “sins” that annoy me when I interview people.
1) 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.
2) 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 person who was 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
3) I emailed the interviewer with facts I thought should be included.
What did I learn from this experience?
1) I have a better understanding of the concerns of the people I interview
2) I will try to remember these feelings I had and take extra care at putting the people at ease.
3) Look for the humor in our insecurities. They just make us human.
The lady who interviewed me didn’t put any pressure on me to answer the questions. It was like a chat between friends. And I didn’t ask her to send me the story to read before it was published.