If you were to write an introduction/headnote for your interview.
- Short and sweet: no more than 100 words, no fewer than 50.
- Tell us who you’re interviewing, but while making a point or observation about your subject, as opposed to merely “I interviewed X and boy is she interesting/intelligent/lively.”
- If there is a reason why this person was interviewed, or something timely that is happening to peg the interview, say it in the headnote.
- Tell us how you spoke with your subject: email, sitting down in chairs in Starbucks, on the phone?
- Give us some tastes, some keywords regarding what your interview’s conversation includes.
One intro style comes from New York magazine’s Vulture website.
Ellen Page created Gaycation, a new documentary series for VICELAND, with her best friend, Ian Daniel. In it, the two travel to explore LGBT culture, and the state of LGBT rights, in countries around the world. The first three episodes take them to Jamaica, Brazil, and Japan. Our friend John Horn, host of the KPCC radio show and podcast The Frame, interviewed Page and Daniel about the discrimination and violence they witnessed across the globe and the courageous LGBT people and activists who are fighting it.
Four sentences. We could assume we all know who Page, the star of Juno and other films, is. Or we can get to that in the interview. The most important/interesting/timely aspect is her new VICE show. That’s the first three sentences. The last tells us the circumstances surrounding the interview, and a taste/keywording of the interview itself.
Paul W. Downs is having quite a moment — not only does the comedian play Abbi’s boss and now love interest Trey on Broad City (for which he’s also a writer, along with longtime girlfriend-slash-writing-partner Lucia Aniello), he was also just featured on Netflix’s The Characters. We caught up with Downs to talk about Trey and Abbi’s surprising compatibility, putting funny first, and kissing babies.
We need to know who this person is, however. Downs is a new face.
Two sentences. Short and sweet, but with a lot of expository information.
Notice how the kicker/last sentence gives us a taste of what the interview contains.
Another comes from Time Out New York’s Hot Seat interviews, which I don’t think run anymore, at least in their old format, but their interviews are a classic study in headnote succinctness.
Other than a recent feature in Vanity Fair, James Frey has kept a low profile since his January 2006 televised smackdown by Oprah Winfrey. That infamous episode came, of course, shortly after the muckraking website the Smoking Gun found numerous inaccuracies in his best-selling addiction memoir, A Million Little Pieces, and shamed not only Frey but the publishing industry as a whole. This week, the 38-year-old New York resident will face both fans and foes when he sets out on a tour to promote his new book, Bright Shiny Morning—which Frey unequivocally and absolutely promises is complete fiction.
Reminds who Frey is in first sentence, then zeroes in for the second. The third sentence tells us why we’re talking to him now, along with some expository facts and a kicker that summarizes one subject in the interview.
Now that’s efficient writing.
As he gleefully divulges in More Information than You Require, the second in a planned three-volume compendium of fake “facts,” John Hodgman is now a famous minor television personality—and a wealthy one at that. This is notable mostly because of how suddenly it came to be: Almost overnight in 2006, the cult (read: poor) New York City literary hero morphed into a shining beacon for geeks nationwide after being cast almost simultaneously as the resident expert on The Daily Show and as the stodgy PC in those ubiquitous Mac ads. Wearing a shirt he describes as a “very fine Banana Republic single-pocket, single-button polo,” Hodgman, 37, met us for lunch near his home in Park Slope.
The first sentence leads with the peg. The second tells us how we should or may know Hodgman, and the third lets us know the circumstances of the interview, with a nice little detail/quote that didn’t make the interview’s main body.