Monday, January 23, 2012

How to Conduct Quality Interviews

Hey everybody, my guest today is Josh Medsker.

Author Bio: "Josh was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He has traveled all over the country by Greyhound bus, written for newspapers and magazines in several states, and caught the teaching bug while having an adventure in Japan. He has taught zine-making and blogging at the Universtity of Texas and Adelphi University. He currently works as a writing instructor at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, NY, Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ, and Kean University in Union, NJ."

Please welcome him to Literary Legs!

How To Conduct Quality Interviews

By Josh Medsker

I have had the good fortune of interviewing some of my writing and music heroes, both for newspapers and for my blogs/zines, and over the years I have found some things that work well for me. This goes for phone interviews and email interviews.

1- Show Attention to Detail

If you are sending out a request for an interview, make sure that you have all of your subject’s materials spelled correctly—whether it’s a book, CD, etc. If you make a mistake in this, you will show yourself to be an amateur, and possibly lose the good graces of your subject.

2- Do Your Research and Take Notes

Researching your subject beforehand, you will be able to figure out what questions you want to ask. A good place to start in your research is other interviews. It will give you a good lead in to your own questions. Also, by looking at current interviews vs. older interviews with your subject, you can formulate some good contrast questions, like “How have your feelings on X changed?”

Personally, I like to ask “deep focus” questions on the artist’s side interests or side projects. I have found that that is often where the most interesting insights lie—where the subject themselves diverged from a chosen genre or theme.

3- Make Sure You Don’t Ask Questions That Are Too General

Try to avoid broad, obvious questions like, “What is your book about?” and “What does your new record sound like?” If you avoid these questions, your interview will be tighter, and you can jump right into the stuff people want to know. Chances are if someone is reading your interview, they already know the answers to these questions. If you are writing for a publication whose audience may not know your subject, you can do a nice preview of your interviewee’s life and career in a well-crafted introduction.

3- Ask Your Subject How They Would Prefer To Be Interviewed

This may sound silly, but it’s a matter of politeness. Some people much prefer speaking on the phone, and some prefer questions via email. Don’t assume that your subject will have the same preferences as you. When you receive their answer, be gracious and professional. They are the one doing you the favor.

4- Make Sure To Ask For a Media Kit, or Graphics

Many authors and musicians will have pre-made media kits specifically for the press. If they don’t, it’s a good idea to ask them if there are any graphics or pictures you can use in the piece. Don’t just grab JPEGs willy-nilly off of their website, or Google Images.

5- Be Curious and Follow Your Interests

This may be the most important tip of all. If you are curious in general, the interesting, relevant questions will come naturally to you. If you follow your personal interests, the passion will show through in your questions, and in your final article.

You can read more about Josh and his work HERE and HERE. He's also on facebook and twitter! If this post was helpful or informative to you, I know Josh would love to hear from you! Leave him a comment, below!


  1. Thank you, Josh, for these great tips! I interview authors on my blog frequently, and you gave me new thoughts to mull over :)



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