These are only suggestions. We encourage you to do your own thing and experiment with your own ideas.
Elephant is so big now that almost anyone is happy to be asked for an interview. You can contact them yourself or I will be happy to send an e-mail introduction.
I always tell them up-front that they will be able to approve the final version before it’s published, so they should feel free to speak freely, knowing they can edit anything later.
Each time you e-mail, you send them back the whole accumulated interview, so they can watch it take shape and remember what they already said.
This usually results in a very conversational interview.
Sometimes they will request to have all the questions in advance. Then you send them 5-6 questions. Here is my standard starter list. You can see that I have a preference for open ended questions that will uncover unexpected things that I could never anticipate.
Why did you decide to…(write, do, create)?
What are the most important things you’d like our readers to know that they don’t know already?
What are the biggest difficulties you had in…, and how did you overcome them?
What is most surprising experience you had in…?
Of all the experiences you had in doing…, which ones have stuck with you the most and affected your life today?
What’s the most interesting question I should be asking that I haven’t thought of yet?
or What is the question you’d most like to be asked, but no one ever does?
What are you doing now and what’s next for you?
Fun and easy as pie. The article just emerges from the discussion. Keep working on it until you have something you really like. Add a couple of photos and/or book covers and you’ve got a great piece.
You can see a lot of examples on my Elephant blog. Here are a couple of my favorites:
This interview in two parts with Cope was recorded over two hours on my smart phone in his office, transcribed by an Elephant volunteer, then extracted from there:
I loved that process, and you could do the same on a recorded phone call if you wanted to. I believe you can get free recorded phone calls using this service: http://www.freeconferencecall.
Another thing that I’ve seen done to great effect, but haven’t done myself, is a recorded video interview using Skype. Here are some examples from Roseanne Harvey, who is a good friend of mine and would be happy to give you some tips. She looks like she’s having fun: http://www.itsallyogababy.com/
Let me know how this works for you, and give me your own ideas, too, so I can include them here.