Skip to main content

7 Thoughts on Conducting Interviews From Terry Gross, Host of NPR's "Fresh Air"

Here are 7 thoughts on conducting interviews from Terry Gross, host of NPR's "Fresh Air" show, from the February 2008 issue of Writer's Digest.

Here are 7 thoughts on conducting interviews from Terry Gross, host of NPR's "Fresh Air" show, from the February 2008 issue of Writer's Digest.

One of my favorite shows on NPR is Terry Gross' "Fresh Air" program. If you've never heard one of her interviews before, she does a deep dive into the career and interests of various interview subjects, usually writers, artists, actors, directors, and other celebrities. And she does it in a way that sounds authoritative and open at the same time.

(How I interviewed a serial killer and stayed sane.)

As I was diving into the archives, I noticed a round table on "The Art of the Interview" in the February 2008 issue of Writer's Digest that included thoughts from Gross and others on topics like what makes a good (and bad) interview question, what makes an author say yes to an interview, and more. It's really a great article.

Here are 7 thoughts on conducting interviews from Terry Gross that were included in it.

7 Thoughts on Conducting Interviews From Terry Gross

"Rule number one for me is to try to interview somebody whose movie, music, poems, or novel I genuinely like and want to know something about."

Image placeholder title

"What makes a question good or bad often has to do with to whom it's directed."

Image placeholder title

"I think people should be choosy about whom they give interviews to. Most well-known people give interviews because they have a book to sell or a movie to promote. I understand that, and I have no problem with it."

Image placeholder title

Write and Sell Articles!

Image placeholder title

It’s a great time to be a writer – because there are more places to tell stories, and more ways of telling them, than ever before. With print and online publications covering virtually every subject area today, and editors constantly seeking stories to run, along with dependable writers to write them, anyone with the right combination of skill, creativity and diligence can become a valued ongoing contributor and generate a reliable income stream from writing articles.

In online lectures, supplemental readings, and written assignments and exercises, we’ll talk about ­how to source, prioritize and develop topic ideas; compose and refine pitches to multiple outlets; stay tightly organized about submissions, follow-ups and correspondence; and execute assignments brilliantly – as well as why writers who query well, deliver on time and prove easy to work are gold to editors everywhere.

Click to continue.

"I always write down questions beforehand because the interview isn't the raw material for me, but the final product. I want it to have a shape. I want it to have a narrative, a beginning, middle and end, and I want each question to build on the one before."

Image placeholder title

"This seems kind of obvious, but you have to listen to what the person is saying. And, when somebody tells you something heartfelt or personal, don't move on to the next question as if nothing's happened. Acknowledge that the person has just given you a gift by sharing something meaningful. Be sensitive to that and follow up."

Image placeholder title

"Here's one of the reasons why I think high-profile artists don't like being interviewed: A lot of journalists want to make news by revealing something embarrassing or secret, and everything is driving toward that moment. It's going to be a really bad thing for the celebrity and a really great thing for the journalist, because it's going to make headlines and it's going to get picked up."

Image placeholder title

"I assume my listeners haven't spent their entire day Googling my guests.'"

Image placeholder title
5 Tips for Keeping Your Writing Rolling

5 Tips for Keeping Your Writing Rolling

The occasional bump in the writing process is normal, but it can be difficult to work through. Here, author Genevieve Essig shares five ways to keep your writing rolling.

From Script

How to Write from a Place of Truth and Desire and Bending the Rules in Screenwriting (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with screenwriter Steven Knight (Spencer), Mike Mills (C'mon C'mon), and David Mitchell (Matrix Resurrection). Plus, how to utilize your vulnerability in your writing and different perspectives on screenwriting structure.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Forgetting To Read

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Forgetting To Read

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is forgetting to read.

Tapping Your Memories for Emotional Truths on the Page

Tapping Your Memories for Emotional Truths on the Page

Sharing even a fraction of our feelings with our characters will help our stories feel more authentic. Here, Kris Spisak explains how to tap into our memories to tell emotional truths on the page.

Poetic Forms

Trinet: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the trinet, a seven-line form based on word count.

Tammye Huf: On Real Love That Sparked Inspiration

Tammye Huf: On Real Love That Sparked Inspiration

Debut novelist Tammye Huf discusses how her own familial love story inspired her historical fiction novel, A More Perfect Union.

Announcing the Second Annual Personal Essay Awards Winners

Announcing the Second Annual Personal Essay Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the second annual Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards!

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Going Rogue

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Going Rogue

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character go rogue.

How to Love Writing a Book

How to Love Writing a Book

When you’re in the weeds of the writing process, it’s easy to lose sight of why you started in the first place. Here, author Radhika Sanghani shares her tips on how to love the process of writing your book.