Quick Note to Would-Be Interviewers

I’ve recently been getting a number of interview requests where the interviewer wants to do the Q&A with a procedural “hook” — i.e., some gimmick ostensibly to make the interview more fun and and interesting (“Answer as if you’re in the middle of being waterboarded!” “The questions are in the form of palindromes!” etc). Well, folks:

1. Most “gimmick” interview set-ups are not nearly as fun and interesting as one might hope they would be, either for the interviewee or the reader;

2. No gimmick can make a bad interview question good, and good interview questions don’t need a gimmick;

3. The interview is generally supposed to be about the interviewee, not the gimmick or the interviewer.

Correlative to all the above, it’s also been my experience that most gimmick interviews I’ve sat for have not been fun, had bad questions, and were more about the interviewer trying to show off than putting a spotlight on the interview subject. Or in other words: really not worth the time. Gimmicky fake interviews can be fun on occasion. Gimmicky real interviews? Thanks, no.

If you’d like to interview me, just ask good questions, straight, please. I find those a lot easier to engage with.

15 Comments on “Quick Note to Would-Be Interviewers”

  1. I agree, they’re not so great to read, either.

    The only exception I’d make is the in-character interview (“answer as the character, not as you”). Those can be interesting IF: the interviewee has good insight about the character, the interviewee improvises well, and an interview with that character would be an interesting.

  2. Recently, the only reason I’ve ever picked up the Onion is for their AV Club interviews. Despite being a gag weekly magazine they do good interviews.

    A lesson in there for the gimmick interviewers maybe?

  3. I remember once someone on Steven Brust’s mailing list interviewing him being Vlad. It was a great interview and we got as much out of Vlad as one would expect (ie, nothing).

  4. How about “Questions following soup dumplings at Grand Sichuan next time you’re in NYC”? Because that’s a hook you shouldn’t be able to resist.

  5. So…..no “Answer as if you were John Scalvi” coming out real soon? Darn.

    I admit I think I am missing something here. Why would one do a ‘gimmick’ interview? Presumably if I want to read an interview with Scalzi, it’s because I want to ‘hear’ Scalzi. It’s not as though I’m going to read an interview with somebody in whom I’m not interested just because there’s a gimmick in it.

  6. So my process of, yanno, reading the author’s books ahead of time and, failing that, maybe researching the interviewee was the correct one all along?

    And here I thought I was being all hip and trendy.

  7. Well, I would love to see you on The Daily Show with John Stewart. I don’t know if that would qualify as a gimmicky fake or gimmicky real interview, but it would be interesting. You could promote your work with SGU and show off your Hugo.

  8. Well, I would love to see you on The Daily Show with John Stewart. I don’t know if that would qualify as a gimmicky fake or gimmicky real interview

    Given the number of people who supposedly view an elaborate piss-take of news shows as an important source of real news, I think we have The Daily Show in its own realm of post-modern meta pop… something.

  9. Most of the time when i read an inteview I have only two goals.

    Learn something I didn’t know.

    Be entertained.

    Otherwise I have way to many others things I need to read.

  10. @Craig Ranapia Couldn’t agree more. I find the popularity of Stewart and Colbert positively frightening. I got it the first time, ya know? What’s even worse is the number of supposedly well-educated people who get the bulk of their news there….;.

  11. The difference between Stewart and, say, Limbaugh, is Stewart intends to be funny, Limbaugh is funny without meaning it.