Interviews are great. It’s a collaborative and social way to write about an issue. Having conversations with people is the best way to learn and start thinking about things. Interviews are engaging because they invite you into someone else’s thinking process. They allow people to represent themselves and their work in their own language, rather than being written about.
Girl Love is all about empowerment, self-representation, collaboration, so I thought let’s get more interviews. But how?
How do I find interesting people and get in contact with them? What if they live far away? How do I record what they are saying? What questions should I ask? What do people want to read? What if I sound stupid in the interview? And when I type it up, how should I edit it? Is it more important that I leave their words untouched or that it reads well? HELP.
I send these questions around and 3 brilliant interviewers shared their advice with us.
- Research. A little bit goes a long way and it’ll help you fill any awkward pauses.
- Plan some questions. Figure out the vital information you’re going to need when it comes to writing up your interview and write it down. This will help give your interview some structure, too.
- Listen. People love to talk about themselves, so don’t be afraid to let the interview go off course for awhile – you might end up with extra information!
- Pen and paper, dictaphone, camera – whichever medium you choose, make sure you know how it works (check the mic is on, etc) and be confident with it. Phone interviews will often require the pen and paper method, so don’t be afraid to ask the person to slow down if they’re talking too fast.
- Write it up quickly. Even if it’s not the finished article, writing up whilst the conversation is fresh in your brain will make sure you get the most out of your work.
You can find her blog here.
I think interviews can be a really great way of exchanging ideas and forging connections with people, and can be valuable for both people taking part.
Personally, I prefer informal interviews: perhaps set up a recorder and then start up a dialogue with the other person, keeping a few questions in mind, but mainly letting the conversation flow naturally. Make sure you are in a comfortable and not-too-loud setting, with plenty of water and/or cups of tea. If you are both interested in each other’s work and ideas, then there should be nothing to worry about.
It’s a good idea to record things on a small dictaphone or your phone, so you don’t have to stress about remembering things, also it is far easier to transcribe and edit the conversation afterwards. You might even gain a fresh perspective on the topics discussed.
It’s an interesting question of how much/whether to edit the dialogue. Generally I think it is fine to edit and paraphrase things, as long as you ask the other person for permission and then check that they approve the final text. This way you can reorder things and ensure the interview is concise and well-structured.
I think the main tips for interviewing someone are: research their work beforehand and come prepared, respect them and listen to what they are saying, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
You can read her recent interview with Katie Tindle about art, accessibility + health here.
You don’t need to find interesting people. You already know interesting people. If you wanna interview someone about global capitalism, ask your mate what they had for tea last night. Then ask them why. Then ask them why again. If you want to interview specific people however, the key is asking. Ask everyone you know who it is they know. Find emails online: ask as many of them as you can, and some will respond. Be prepared to work on their terms, going to their area or work, or conducting an email interview.
Which brings me onto what if they live far away. Email works and Skype is amazing, you can get software that will film your screen but idk what it is. Use any sound recorder? I borrow them from college; ask around maybe you have a friend who has or can get one?
Ask difficult questions. They give you the best answers. I’ve been interviewing community artists, asking among other questions: what is art?
So long as you smile to let them know they’re cool, they will be. I also included a fun, easy-as-they-wanna-make-it question to balance things out: why did the chicken cross the road?
Ask questions about their answers: it shows you’re listening and makes them say more detailed things. Ask the person you are interviewing what they want to talk about and then ask them to talk about it.
Don’t show off your knowledge in the questions. No one cares, you sound like a nob and it can be intimidating for the interviewee. If you think listeners need context, ask the person you are interviewing to do it because they will do it better. There are so many people, there will be someone out there interested in whatever you want to ask, the difficulty is in finding them.
If you are working for a specific audience could you get them to suggest questions. You won’t sound stupid so long as you don’t do the thing I told you not to do. No one is interested in you, they are interested in the person you are interviewing.
Good luck have fun!
Keep an eye for more interview advice in Part 2 + let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org if you fancy doing an interview with someone you think is cool, for the blog or the print copy of the zine