Tuesday 10 March 2015

The Interview: Being Allowed to Have a Seat at the Table

My husband used to say that when Larry King interviewed guests, he would rhyme off the questions, not waiting for the responses.  However, blogger Wendy Thomas says that:  "Some of my best interviews have happened not because of asking but because of listening." (https://nhwn.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/tips-for-writing-a-feature-or-inteview-article/).

Wendy Thomas compares an interview to "being allowed to have a seat at the table".  Pull up a chair and listen. Yes, it's important to have a list of questions ready and waiting.  It's important to research your subject and to be aware of what's already been written on the topic.  But remember to be flexible. Sometimes the best material comes from an unasked question.

Freelance writing expert Allena Tapia recommends that you let the interviewee's words, ideas and actions set the agenda.  Zero in on ideas that are mentioned twice or with great passion.  Wait for what she calls the "bottom line" quote from the interviewee and highlight it.  Use the bottom line quote as the centre of your article, making your other facts, quotes and information lead back to that quote.  For Allena's full article, visit

Allena suggests finding three to five broad subjects within the interview.  Then re-read your original assignment from your editor.  did he or she ask for a certain slant on the subject's childhood?  Does the interview promote a certain service?  Is there something remarkable about the interviewee's story? Compare your research to the editor's original wishes.

Refine your original broad subjects and use them as subheadings for your article.  Pull your best quotes and examples from your interview, and put them under the appropriate subheadings.
Introduce your subject, the history of the topic and your research.  Mention why each idea is important.

Focus now on the introduction which should reflect the article and frame the interviewee.  I like to include a central quote in my introduction as a foretaste of what is to come.  Turn now to your conclusion which should refer back to the introduction, making the article come full circle.  You may also refer to the subject's future plans here.

With your first draft complete, double check your spelling of names.  Double check your dates.  Reread your quotes.  Go on to a second draft (and third if necessary), editing what you have written.  Finally, submit your article to the editor.

Note:  Here is my feature interview article "Joel & Hayley Hensen:  Bringing Christ to the Congo" which appeared in the Feb. 10, 2014 edition of the Christian Courier at http://www.christiancourier.ca/images/uploads/past-issues/14Feb10.pdf.

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