The Interview: One Primary Source

If you write children’s nonfiction, you’ll notice that certain publishers require primary sources.    Whether you are writing about archaeology, genetics or physics, one of the best primary sources at your disposal is the interview.

Most of my how-to write articles are based on interviews with editors.   The most important thing to remember is that you need to make the process easy for the person you want to interview.  To do that, remember these 5 things.  

  1. You are approaching an expert.  Don’t use this person to teach you the basics.  Interviewing shouldn’t be a research short cut.  Before you approach someone for an interview, do your reading so that you know about the topic.
  2. You will make them more confident if your approach is polished.  Be prepared.  Write out your questions.    Rehearse how you will introduce yourself and explain your goal.  
  3. Be flexible.  Some people will need to see your questions before they decide to be interviewed.  Offer to e-mail your questions to them.  Other people will want to do the interview then and there.  Don’t call when you have only a moment to spare.
  4. Go with the flow.  Don’t decide ahead of time that you want only phone interviews or that people must e-mail their responses back to you.  Be ready to deal with both. 
  5. Be gracious.  Remember when someone takes your call, they may have been expecting someone else and you might have caught them in the middle of something.  Always thank them for their time, even if they say no.  

Many people are willing to share their expertise with you and your readers.  Polish your approach and let them help you make your work sing!