Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blog post for JD: ‘The art of interviews – to cut a short story long’

The lovely and talented Morgen Bailey everyone!!!

JD loves to set me a challenge and this could have been the shortest guest blog post in history because I figured there isn’t really an art to interviewing someone but then I thought again…

Although I’m famous (amongst my friends anyway) for cutting a short story long (one of the attributes I inherited from my father), I’ll try to restrain myself here… (do I hear a “hoorah” from the back?).

I started my podcast (Bailey’s Writing Tips) not long after buying my first Mac laptop (another “hoorah”… who is that?) last summer and once I spotted the ‘Podcast’ logo I was hooked. I’d already been listening to, and loving, other writing-related podcasts for several months and so I started mine with mixed hints and tips – rehashed… er, carefully crafted from the fortnightly handouts I provide to my writing group. I did this, as an episode a week, for almost a month and then thought it might be nice to do some interviews as I’d enjoyed the ones I’d been hearing, so my first guinea pig… um, interviewee was the poetry circle host of one of the writing groups I belong to. I went round to her house mid-September and there she was, Sunday best outfit and full face of make-up… oops. I’d neglected to mention that it was audio only so I felt guilty, but Julia being Julia, she didn’t mind one jot and gleefully sat in front of the (lovely-looking 1950’s style) microphone. I’d emailed her the questions I wanted to put to her, to which she’d typed in her answers and then read it like a script, including some of her poetry towards the end. As you would expect, we did go off topic but it generally went to plan and after some minor editing, was then released as a 17-minute special episode (no.1) a few days later.

Another writing friend / former tutor (romance novelist Sue Moorcroft) was then October’s guest although we went off at more tangents than a schoolchild’s geometry set so that ended up being two nearly half-hour episodes revolving around her genre, short stories, non-fiction writing (including a Formula One column) and her competition judging for the monthly Writers’ Forum magazine.

In November I then travelled to Derbyshire to meet my third guest, another former tutor (of women’s magazine writing) Joanna Barnden. From then on, having discovered Skype, the genres became more varied, the frequency upped from monthly to fortnightly and locations became a little more exotic from Cardiff (Wales) to Yorkshire and Surrey to the USA and finally meeting up with former tutor (I have a lot of those don’t I?) crime writer Sally Spedding (whose writing group I took over in 2008) at Winchester Writers’ Conference this July.

The downside of all this was the editing time. I wanted to produce polished episodes and therefore every “um”, “ah” and “er” was chopped which often meant listening to the recording several times which in the case of Jane Davis (because we had such a good time) was nearly two hours. It took the whole day to record, edit and publish, although it produced three episodes, which was great.

The time spent on these interviews was starting to take its toll on my other commitments so I was beginning to think about easing off this side of the podcasts. Then I started my blog and not long after that I was invited to partake in a blog interview; cue light-bulb moment. So, using the questions I used in my in-person and Skype interviews fellow Litopian (http://litopia.com/radio) Colin Barnes became my first subject. I emailed him the Word document of questions – which has grown considerably since then – which he completed and emailed back with a photo and web links – and the rest, as they say (or they would if it wasn’t a cliché) is history.

These days I post an author blog interview every morning with other projects (including author spotlights, guest blogs, flash fiction – of which JD has been a regular contributor) every evening. Yes, it’s time consuming (especially the interviews as I add my comments to their replies in for a ‘fireside chat’ feel) but to me, if a job is worth doing it’s worth doing well (another of my dad’s attributes) and these days I post 14-31 times the amount of interviews I did when I was podcasting then so that’s got to be a win-win… or it would be except it’s also a cliché. J

So, is there an art to it? I don’t really think there is; just ask the right questions, get the right interviewees, smile in all the right places and have fun.

If you’d like to listen to any (or all, they’re all there) of my audio interviews the details are listed on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/bwt-podcast and the blog interviews on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/blog-interviews.

Thanks JD.

Morgen Bailey

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