Question & Answer Format.
Obviously when deciding what questions to ask a huge amount depends on the person you are interviewing and on where the interview will be published. The interviewer wants to discover something new or interesting about the celebrity/writer/sportsperson/personality they are interviewing. The reader does not want to be left feeling that they’ve heard it all before!
However, most interviewers will think about 3 broad categories when coming up with questions.
- their childhood and how they became the person they are today.
- past successes and failures in their career.
- past scandals in their personal life.
- other jobs they’ve done (or previous tours/tournaments/shows/books).
- what are they working on currently.
- what they like/dislike about their current job.
- how their career impacts on their personal life.
- recent successes and failures.
- recent scandals and how they coped with the fall-out.
- what is their next project.
- will they ever change career/focus or do this until they die?
- do they have any fears for the future? things they’re looking forward to?
The tone tends to be very informal, you write as you would speak – this is after all a conversation that then gets written down.
Keep the questions short and the answers fairly long.
Avoid cursing or blank it out e.g. “For f*** sake, I can’t believe she said that”
Writer’s often introduce the interview with a paragraph describing where they met, what the interviewee was wearing, the interviewee’s general mood, friendliness and demeanour and a comment on how long the writer had to wait, how long the interview lasted, who else was there, if the interviewee’s phone rang during the interview – and if they answered it!
The first thing I notice on entering his house is the smell – a mixture of pipe tobacco, smouldering turf and men’s cologne. The second is that this is a man who knows what he likes – one glance reveals a room crammed full of books, expensive liquor, paintings of beautiful women and the carcasses of stuffed animals. He’s made no secret in the past of hating journalists so my heart is doing a conga beat as I arrive for our interview. I needn’t have worried however. Yes, he hates journos but he loves women, which is undoubtedly why my bosses sent me. He bows low, kisses my hand theatrically, helps me out of my coat, and offers me a drink. As he prepares a whiskey sour I look around. Despite being a married man and father of three, this is a bachelor’s dream pad. I’m about to lower myself into an armchair but he catches my elbow, steers me over to the couch and once we’re sitting in close proximity I’m suddenly very conscious of the plunging neckline of my blood-red dress. I decide the best thing is to start the interview before I get any more flustered.
ME: So what drew you to the theatre?
BILL: …hmm (teasing) I haven’t been asked that one before!…well, I like telling stories, and there was a small theatre in my town growing up so I guess I just embraced what I knew instead of turning to something completely alien. And I must be doing something right because the audiences keep coming.
ME: That’s true, your plays have been enormously successful. Do you read what the critics say too or is it just important to keep joe public happy?
BILL: (smiling, pausing thoughtfully)…the thing is, critics are a bit like teachers. If they were doing what they love instead of just talking about it then maybe they wouldn’t be so bitter, maybe they wouldn’t be so eager to criticise everyone else for their own failings. If they’re so bloody good at figuring out what works on stage, then why don’t they write their own bloody plays instead of trying to fix everyone elses.
(At this point he drains his glass and strides over to the sideboard for another. I sense it’s time to change the subject).
ME: so if you weren’t a writer, what kind of career appeals to you?
Again he pauses, and this time positively smirks while answering.
BILL: I’d like to see more women on stage.. I have an eye for beautiful women you know.
ME: But don’t you worry you might land yourself in trouble with the long arm of the law?
BILL: Well you and I both know I’ve already been in trouble with them on more than one occasion. But no, I think times are changing and we need to keep up.
ME: How interesting! If you were running the country what changes would you make?
BILL: I’d certainly never get in the way of the monarchy. The arts in this country would be dead without their patronage. I’d probably extend access to education so that scholarships were available for kids from poorer backgrounds. I’d improve the roads – it takes too long to get anywhere from London if your horse keeps losing his shoes on rough cobble and loose rocks. And I’d take a firmer stance on highway robbery too, those thugs deserve nothing less than the death penalty if you ask me!
ME: Strong sentiments. Can you tell my readers a little bit about your newest play? I believe it’s opening next week in the Globe?
BILL: Yes, we’re hoping for big crowds. Of course only a select crowd can attend the opening night on Monday with his majesty in attendence. But then it’s every evening at six o clock – thankfully the evenings are still bright so we don’t have to start at four like in winter! The basic storyline has all my favourite elements – love, lust, violence, murder, betrayal. The central character is really just an everyman, wanting to satisfy his own desires but also desperate to do the right thing. I think it’ll be a smash hit. Now let me get you another drink? We’ve surely talked enough about me…
William Shakespeare’s new play opens next week in The Globe. Royal Gala performance Monday, 13th September, 1599 @ 6pm.