THE ART OF INTERVIEWING

If I had one piece of advice for a would-be interviewer, it would be this: don't ask the toughest question first!
The interviewee needs to feel comfortable in the setting before we start to go beneath the surface of a subject.
That's you. Relaxed, ready to be yourself and answer in your own way. That's what I want. It's a partnership, not a battle.
It would be natural if you had a few concerns about the interviewing process for your chosen book.
What will it be like?
What if I don't come across as I want to?
What if I feel self-conscious?
What if I cry?
What if I don't like him?
Let me address some of those concerns right away. First of all, I can't make you like me - but I hope you do. With that in mind, I aim to give you plenty of reasons to like me. I'm patient and sensitive and I'll be honest in my feedback. My mission is to write you a great book, one that will make you happy for the rest of your days, whenever you look at it.
But I'm certainly not perfect - and I don't expect you to be perfect either. We'll just be two people, chatting away and gradually capturing the essence of your story together.
You'll have lots of different opportunities to tell your story, so don't worry if it doesn't come out quite as you'd like on the first occasion. We'll get there, it's fine.
I can use a voice recorder or notepad to get your story down - up to you. Don't worry, everything is kept between the two of us - confidential until your published book arrives.
I want you to tell your story in your own way. It's not live TV or radio. You can come back to stuff if it feels too painful on any given day.
By the way, I don't mind if you cry as you remember sad or happy times. It's normal. Recalling key moments in your life can be very moving. You might see a tear in my eye too, as I listen. That's happened before - very recently, in fact.
But look, overwhelmingly I've found that doing these book interviews is a happy and satisfying process. Even when there are tears, they're cathartic. And far more often, there's laughter - and excitement as we sense the story is slowly coming together.
As you can tell from my first line above, I'll never just come right out and ask the most difficult question at the beginning.
I must have interviewed thousands of people in my time. You do learn from your mistakes.
There's precious little long-term reward for trying to score points over someone - or for getting their back up, just to provoke a reaction. I'm much more about trying to build trust in order to get to the heart of a matter, in the mutual knowledge that any subject will be treated sensitively and responsibly.
It's in my interests to see the best in you, to understand you and to focus on what makes you tick for the best possible book. If you're a success story in business, for example, what qualities and strokes of luck helped to you get to the top?
Be honest about your strengths - and be honest about your endearing weaknesses, too. I find a combination of strength and natural human vulnerability works well when I'm portraying someone. That balance helps to ensure people come across as likeable.
Sometimes my interviewees are elderly. Over the course of a few months, they might tell me the same story four or five times, because they've forgotten that they've told me this story before. That's OK - it comes with the territory. Besides, I might get a new piece of information about that story each time I hear it. I have great respect for the elderly, and for the very different and dramatic times they've lived through.
At the age of 61, I'm not exactly a spring chicken myself. We've all lived a life. But I'm here to focus on yours.
Does all that start to make the interviewing process sound OK?  I do hope so.
Mark Ryan WRITER, SITTING AT A TABLE FACING CLIENT INTERVIEWING.
Mark Ryans reading glasses resting on a pine table next to a mug.
close up of a ringbound notebook, a little writing and a pen resting on the top.