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Interview tip #4: Ask all the stupid questions

Fourth in a series of seven blog posts on interviewing techniques for nonfiction authors.

Maybe you are concerned that if you interview your company’s founder, say, to draw out his story about starting the business, he will be shocked or offended that you know so little about his story. Maybe he will leave out details thinking you already know them.

Don’t be afraid to seem ignorant by asking what appear to be the most obvious, fundamental questions. Think of it this way: your questions are indicating not that you are ignorant, but that you are interested enough to want to know more.

You can more easily ask these kinds of questions by indicating that you have a little knowledge, but you want more:

I’ve heard a bit about how you started the business, but I’d love to hear your take on it. Can you tell me more about what motivated you to set out on your own?

How exactly did you move into manufacturing rock climbing gear rather than just selling it?

(This is a better question than “Why did you.” “Why” questions often come across as a challenge to justify, rather than an invitation to tell the story.)

What prompted you to develop a process for making the production line more effective?

Tell me about the lawsuit that almost wiped the company out in 2005. How did that even come about?

In the next post in this series, I’ll give you some tips on asking the hardest, most challenging questions of all.

If you’re at the planning stage for your book, sign up for my free email course What Drives Your Story? It will give you the rocket fuel you need to propel your book-writing energy! Or my free email course Make Your Book Stand Out to put your book head and shoulders above the competition.


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