Preparing Your Interview Questions

In “Securing Your Personal Interview” I taught you how to approach experts for your personal interview. Congratulations on approaching one and getting a “Yes.” Now you’ve got to prepare your interview questions. This is your time to shine.

Do the research to find out all you can in advance. If your interviewee belongs to an organization that is pertinent to your book, read literature on the organization. Read articles the person has written on your subject. Study biographical information.

You don’t want to ask “How old are you?” or “Where are you from?” when that information is readily available on the Internet. Answer those Level A interview questions in advance and begin the interview at Level B. Let your questions rise to the level of your expert’s expertise.

I Panic

A personal example: A progressive Jewish publication, Present Tense, invited me to write an article on the Arabic community of Detroit, the largest Arabic community in the world outside the Middle East.

I had no idea at the time but I did what I always do when I’m given an assignment. I said, “Sure, no problem.” Then fear of failure hit me and I panicked.

I Do the Research

But I also began doing background research. I found a book on the Arabic community in America, which had an entire section devoted to the Arabic community of Detroit. I read it three times and took extensive notes.

What I learned was that the greater Detroit community was home to a mosaic of Arabic subcultures. Christian Palestinians lived here. Muslim Palestinians lived there. Maronites, Melkites, Chaldeans, Coptic Egyptians, and others lived in their own communities throughout the city and the surrounding suburbs. Some were largely blue-collar factory workers, others shopkeepers and professionals. The more I learned about the different communities, the more I realized I didn’t know.

I Call the Experts

Then I called the co-editors, who, lo and behold, were totally reachable because they taught at colleges nearby where I lived. When I spoke to them on the phone, they could tell I was knowledgeable on the subject; I was sincere in my desire to write an authoritative, fair story; and I respected their expertise.

I Prep My Interview Questions

Finally, I prepared my list of interview questions—but that’s the topic of next week’s blog: “Inspire Quotable Quotes for Your Interview.”

The subsequent interview and the introductions they gave me to members of the different Arabic communities became the foundation of my article and a second one I wrote for a local newspaper.

Start freewriting your list of questions now. Next week I’ll show you how to put them together.

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This piece was adapted from Ken Wachsberger’s You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. Ken’s other books may be found here and here. For book coaching, editing, and speaking, email Ken at [email protected].

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