I was hoping for an insider's view of the interview process, with a few witty anecdotes thrown in. What I got was a comprehensive guide to the many types of interview/interviewee, the approaches demanded by different editors and the many different potential pitfalls. All of them are handled with wit and attention to detail, much is made of the need for professionalism and common sense, and the anecdotes are used to illustrate points rather than as throwaway extras. This book is a must for anyone who does intend to make a living from interview based journalism, and a thoroughly entertaining read for those of us who don't.
Last year I co-wrote a book for which I had to conduct dozens of interviews, in person, on the phone and by e-mail, some of which needed to tease out quite sensitive information. Before starting, I read 'How to Interview...' - and its terrific. The advice was invaluable: the practical details of booking, conducting and transcribing interviews are all great, but particularly useful were the tactical tips. Don't underestimate the worth of knowing how to frame a question, liven up a monotonous interview, and when to drop in the controversial topics.
Its a lucid read, peppered with a veteran's anecdotes, and my own research was very much the better for having read it. An indispensable handbook.
Both a useful and entertaining book, which is quite an achievement. It's full of advice you can actually put into practice if you are a journalist, and I can see it being very helpful to people just starting out. I would recommend it to people considering a career in journalism, as it gives a good impression of what you have to go through as part of the job. It makes it sound both terrifying and fulfilling at once.
But if you're not a journalist or will never be interviewing a soul, don't worry because it doesn't actually matter. It's all still pretty interesting. There's a lot of humour and some surprising stories, and you get an insight into the side of it that you don't really consider when you read an interview in a magazine. How many times have you read an article and thought "I could think of better questions than that" or imagined that you'd have a better rapport with a person, by just being lovely to them? It's not as easy as you think, and the book details why.
I bumped into an old guy on a farm. He opened a gate for me. I noticed an all-weather track running around a field - there were horses there but the track was in dissuse. Fascinated, I asked why. He told me he was an ex-jockey. Had been banned from race riding in England. Took up a career of riding in Belgium. Came back to train horses but had given all up through age to help his wife and her passion for caring for dogs. Kenneling and rescue, which is why I was there.
And here's the thing.
I drove away wishing I'd asked a thousand more questions. If I'd only have read Jason's book I would have known how to find out more. But this horsey experience came way before eBooks and way before this book.
You are all very lucky because you can read this book now.
Not just if you want to be a professional interviewer but if you have an incidental meeting with a fascinating person and want to not end up saying to yourself "why didn't I ask..." afterwards. Like I did back then. Five stars.
I bought this book because I live in fear of some random news person asking me to comment on whatever weirdness just happened that I inevitably witnessed. Don't ask, you don't want to know. It's happened more than you'd think. I don't want to be the random-person-on-the-street claiming I thought the tornado in the middle of the night was just my neighbor's donkey scratching his ass on the house again.
So I thought I should prepare myself. They use techniques during interviews! If I knew them, I'd know what they were after and how to deliver it without becoming a viral laughingstock. This book has everything, how to set up an interview, how to set the interviewee at ease, how to conduct the interview along with technique after technique on how to get useful content even from the shyest person. I'm the shyest person. For me it became, 'how to say something they can use without appearing as if my family tree is a straight line'.
Now when strange things happen and the news van pulls up while I'm still waiting to talk to the police about the chupacabra that tore through the neighborhood, I won't sound like a hick because I'll know exactly what blurbs they're after and what techniques they're using to get them. Like an oracle, I'll see into the future and tell what comments are useful to them and what comments aren't.
This book set my mind at ease and I recommend it for anyone that might ever have to look into a camera and talk intelligently about anything. Or for anyone that may have to interview someone because there's step by step instructions on how to have a successful interview no matter what else is going on. Even if it's Chupacabras.