If you have questions while writing your book, chances are the answers are online. For writers, the internet helps us create more believable worlds, shaped our characters to sound more realistic, and given us enough information to become textbook experts on a number of topics.
That being said, one of the most important tools in a writer’s skill set is the face to face interview.
Over my years of writing, I’ve spoken with a number of people regarding my writings. From a woman who lived at a Hindu temple in Texas, to a Wiccan priestess, to even people who trim trees for a living; I’ve contacted a number of individuals to speak with to help me create my novels.
Here are some questions I get asked from my fellow writers as to how I go about my interview process.
How do you find the people to interview?
I’m a wanderer. I like to go for drives to see where I end up, and often times it’s in the most interesting places with interesting people. If I’m not lucky enough to find a place, however, I check with friends and family to see if they know of anyone who’s associated with the topic I’m needing information about. And last case scenario, I check online for people who come recommended in their field.
What type of questions do you ask?
Anything that could possibly pertain to your novel. From personal opinions, to politics of that lifestyle, to what it took to get them to where they are today. Most people are willing to share it all.
What should I do if I don’t use the information?
There have been a few interviews where the information I gathered wound up not helping me for my novel at all. In most cases, I don’t do anything. I log the information away and see if I can use it in the future. I do, however, keep track of who I interviewed so I can credit them, should I ever use the information they’ve given me.
Be up front – Not everyone will want to be interviewed for a novel. If you’re not honest with them, and later on they find out you used things they’ve said in your book, that’s a bridge you could potentially burn for future questions.
Have your questions written out ahead of time – No one wants to spend 45 minutes of an interview fumbling through words, or trying to come up with questions. This is especially important for phone interviews as the interviewee can get bored very quickly, and lose interest in what you’re asking.
Be polite and professional – This should be a no brainer, but keep in mind that this person is taking time to talk about their personal life or work. They don’t want to feel like they’re wasting that time or you don’t know what you’re doing. Again, you don’t want to burn bridges with people you might need in the future.
Be aware of scams/Be safe – This is another thing that should go without saying, but don’t feel like you should have to pay your interviewee. If you’d like to take them out to coffee or lunch, that’s one thing, but if someone’s demanding payment or is asking you to follow them to a location where you don’t feel safe, don’t do it.
Be grateful – I would recommend putting a mention to your interviewees in the acknowledgement of your book. Even if you only use a little bit of information from them, it’s important to show gratitude as a courtesy.