Features Team: The Interview


I’ve just finished an interview with author Anna Jacobs.

It’s a real privilege to chat to such a successful author. I’ve been lucky enough to speak to some really interesting people — my team tease me about name-dropping, but I’m going to do it anyway!

Photograph by Clare Richardson.

Last month, it was Kate Humble. Earlier this year there was Bernard Cribbins, Eddi Reader and Sue Lawrence. Hopefully we’ll have someone special for one of our Christmas issues, too . . . we’re working on it now!

The Professionals

I still feel like an amateur at this. I still get nervous when I’m speaking to someone who I particularly admire, and I’ve an absolute respect for those on TV and radio who do it so well.

Media interviews are so slick these days. You feel like it’s a conversation between friends, and often it is. I can’t help but watch Graham Norton, who I’m an immense fan of, and wonder at both the incredible work of his research team and his own unflappable, relaxed way with celebrities.

The facts the researchers come up with about the interviewees really serve to draw the folk on the couch out of their shells.

I’m also a big fan of Sara Cox, now doing the drivetime afternoon show on Radio 2. She’s so natural. She has a way of setting up the questions and the interviewees that makes everyone sound interesting, and injects humour into everything.

Both of them bring out the best in people.

Can We Meet Up?

We’re often asked if we want to meet people face to face for interviews.

I’d love to, I really would, but being up here in Dundee does mean that we are conducting the vast majority of these chats over the telephone.

Though I did once get to go to Alexander McCall Smith’s house in Edinburgh! I had a china cup of tea and my hands were shaking like a leaf.

Photograph by Alex Dempster-Corlett.

It takes a wee bit of time to prepare for the interview.

Like everybody, the people we interview have something that they’re passionate about, or love to talk about. Just like in conversation with a new person, if you can find that, you’ll bring out the best in someone.

Research is the key. Reading other interviews, digging about in their past on the internet. Browsing through their books to pick up on some of their great career anecdotes, then wriggling them into the interview. All these things help.

All In The Edit

It’s not always easy, and I’d be lying if I said I always manage it.

Sometimes the people you speak to are just not responding to your questions. Sometimes they’ve been doing so many interviews about their new book or film that they’re tired, and they just fall into the some fairly formulaic answers.

Sometimes they get a bit inappropriate, and you have to keep going with the questions because you can’t use half of what they say!

The beauty of the printed interview, though, is after-editing.

Whether it’s a great interview or a lukewarm one, a bit of careful chiselling helps in writing it up — either to get it to fit, or to bring it to life, if it hasn’t gone so well. The interview itself is just the start of what you see on the final page.

And once we’ve laid it out, we try to run it past the people we’ve interviewed to make sure they’re happy with our interpretation of the conversation.

Unlike the news, we’re not trying to catch anyone out, so we want them to be happy with it. Although some folk do ask for the questions beforehand so they can be sure. And so they can prepare, of course.

Look out for our interview with Anna Jacobs in the September 7 issue of “The People’s Friend”!

Read more from Alex on his blog.

Remember, we give our readers a sneak peek into the fictionfeaturesknitting and craft that will appear in every issue.

Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.