monique polak

Monique Polak's Books


Monique has interviewed hundreds of people – ranging from other authors to juvenile prostitutes and police officers. Here are some of her tips to help you get a great interview.

  • 01When you write or phone to request an interview with your subject, let the person know exactly how long you expect the interview to take. Also, give the person an idea of the kinds of questions you’re likely to ask.
  • 02Do your homework! Find out whatever you can about your subject before meeting him or her. Preparing in advance for an interview will show your subject that you are taking your assignment seriously. It will also allow you to come up with better questions.
  • 03Prepare a list of questions before the interview. Begin with basic background questions, such as your subject’s date and place of birth. Work your way up to more complicated questions.
  • 04If possible, interview your subject in a place that’s important to him or her (his home, her office, the community centre he or she helped found 50 years ago). Be sure to jot down physical details about your subject and the place where you are doing the interview. These kinds of details add what journalists call “colour” to a story.
  • 05It’s often a good idea to begin an interview with a little chitchat. (“I really like that painting over your couch.” “Did you get caught in the rain this morning, too?” Chitchat can be an effective way to warm your subject up for the interview. But don’t let this stage go on too long.
  • 06Don’t feel you have to stick exactly to your list of questions. Often, during the course of an interview, you will come up with new questions.
  • 07Try not to ask questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
  • 08Act interested! Nod your head when it’s appropriate; say “Interesting!” or “Cool!” when your subject tells you something interesting. Your positive energy can contribute to a successful interview.
  • 09Don’t cut your subject off.
  • 10Take careful notes. Use quotation marks to indicate direct quotes, that is, when you are quoting your subject word for word.
  • 11Don’t be shy to ask your subject to slow down if he or she is speaking too quickly.
  • 12Thank your subject when you are done. Ideally, follow up the interview with a written thank-you note, and if possible, send your subject a copy of your final story.