As a professional journalist, I’ve embarrassed myself enough on interviews to know what not to do. And now that I’m writing a book, I realize these techniques are perfect for authors seeking information to make their characters and stories more believable.

Don’t be shy! Speaking to others about their experiences is the perfect way not only to get the facts, but also to learn the lingo, discover dialogue, and notice social cues that will make your characters come to life. People generally love to share their knowledge. And if one person says, no, there’s always the next.

So, without further ado, here are three tips, so your next interview will go smoothly.


3 Tips to Conduct a Professional Interview

  1. RESEARCH: Research your subject beforehand. I once found myself backstage after a show at the Santa Barbara Bowl asking a band how they met. It turns out they are related. Straight up brothers and sisters. So, yeah. That went well.
  2. RECORD: When using the “Voice Memos” app to record your interview, make sure your phone is on airplane mode so calls won’t interrupt your flow. I’ve been 20 minutes deep into an interview, and my phone rang. It is not only unprofessional, but it also stopped the voice recording, so I have to go back into the app to start again. Not cool.
  3. SEND QUESTIONS: Send your subject questions in advance. I’ve only recently started doing this, and I’ve discovered it helps in getting well-thought-out answers instead of short, generic ones. For example, asking someone what they think of fashion may result in, “It’s fun and creative!” If they had more time, they might go into why style is important to them. The kind of weighty answers you need to flesh out a story.


by Megan Waldrep