Last night I was watching a TV show called “The Conversation,” on Lifetime, a new hour long weekly series of interviews with interesting women celebrities, conducted by Amanda de Cadenet, a British presenter and photographer. This series started about a month ago and I find myself riveted to the TV. I wonder if anyone else feels like I do about this show.
One of the reasons that I am so into it is the way this wonderful woman interviews her subjects. I am required to do interviews for almost every book I write and I see that this form of Q & A is a powerful medium into someone’s soul. But it just doesn’t just happen. Probing into someone else’s life is a perilous journey, if you want to really get the good stuff. So I’ve discovered some tips to get to the juicy stuff.
It’s all about making and maintaining contact with the subject as we speak. This means that you don’t take notes or write down ideas while the interview is in process. There is nothing so disconcerting as trying to talk to someone who is so busy writing everything down, she doesn’t stop to actually engage in a conversation, as the above series is so aptly named.
Early on in my career, I remember interviewing someone without a tape, trying to jot down the pertinent information. It really didn’t work because the ensuing conversation was boring. If I was bored, how could I write something interesting? That was when I decided to tape the interviews, which I still do. I have to be able to meet my subject’s eyes and let him or her know I’m really listening. As simple as that sounds, it gets extraordinary results because many people are just waiting for someone to hear them.
I recently interviewed a 14 year old boy and it was the same. As long as he knew I was listening, he told me his futuristic story with great enthusiasm and joy. Imagine being able to spend two hours with a young teenager and come away with the information you need. I was able to do this because as soon as he understood that I was truly listening, he opened up and got intensely creative.
So no taking notes. Taping is the best way. But I have to admit, I have not yet found a program that will transcribe a digital recording. Maybe one of you out there can suggest something to me.