A Word on Interviews, as I’m Running Out the Door . . .

Talked to an acquaintance of mine, a freelance writer, who’s really bummed about the lack of response on a bunch of interview requests sent out. I told her to just shrug it off. I send out a few interview requests a month to people who are better known than I am. They’re pretty straight-forward – I want to interview you, this is why, this is what, here are my credentials, this is why I think it would work, this is the time frame, let me know. Some say yes, some say no, and it’s up to them.

Sometimes it’s because someone is busy or overwhelmed or doesn’t want to discuss the topic, or even because the person doesn’t think being interviewed in the publication I work for is “important” enough or that I’m important enough to take the time. That’s fine. We all have way too many demands on us, and we all have to prioritize. What’s important to me, exciting to me, may be too much for someone else, or even someone else right now. I’ve had people contact me as much as two years after my original request, asking if I still want to do it, and we take it from there. Sometimes, I can’t do it for the original publication, but then we discuss the possibilities of a different one. We know the work of the person we want to interview; they know us only from the letter or the clips. It’s not personal because we don’t know each other. Sure, sometimes you get a really nasty response – usually from the potential interviewee’s handlers. Just shrug it off and move on.

I love interviewing people because I’m genuinely interested in them and their work, but it’s not my be-all and end all. And, as someone who’s been interviewed quite often, nothing is worse than an unprepared interviewer. I just sent out a couple of requests recently where I had to say something along the lines of, “look, I’m early in the research. I need a few weeks to be well prepared and ask interesting questions, so any time that’s good for you in the next few months is fine.” And then I go ahead and do the research, so I’m prepared. If it’s a yes, great – I can shoot off the questions. If it’s a no – well, I’ve got a batch of research done and maybe I’ll write an essay or a critique or fold it into some other type of article.

The great thing about being a writer is that nothing is ever wasted. EVERYTHING comes in useful somewhere down the line.


Published in: on March 31, 2008 at 12:06 pm  Comments (4)  


  1. Good advice, as always. And, I’ve added mystic-lit to my blogroll; good site, thx. d:)

  2. Nothing is ever wasted. How right you are.

  3. Devon, you said, “I love interviewing people because I’m genuinely interested in them and their work…” That is absolutely THE key ingredient to a good interview. Well, that and preparation. What separates an okay interview from a great one is the interviewer’s ability to really listen and respond and carry on a conversation. That’s what interviewing – great interviewing – is. It’s a conversation in which the writer shows genuine interest and the interviewee enjoys telling his or her story.

  4. You are a fantastic interviewer. Hope you enjoy your day–as much as you can!


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