After the Interview: How Planned Questions Turn Out to be More Safety Net than Map

Kevin Eagan

Kevin Eagan, my guest on the next Kindle Chronicles show

I just finished my Skype interview with Kevin Eagan, creator of the Critical Margins blog and podcast, for the next Kindle Chronicles episode. To follow up on last night’s post about my preparation for the interview, I thought I would share here the list of questions that I used during our 20-minute conversation. Here they are:

Kevin Eagan Questions

1. It looks as if you have relocated from Illinois to Florida since we last talked in June of 2012. What led to the move and what work are you doing now?

2. Two years ago you were reading on a Kindle Touch and a first generation Kindle Fire, with occasional reading of books on paper. What’s the current profile of your reading technology? Are you still using your library card at a local library?

3. What’s your connection with Goodreads? What do you make of the integration of Goodreads and the Kindle?

4. I am interested in what you have learned about blogging. The first post I found at Criticalmargins.com was dated September 28, 2007 and it was a review of a Canadian indie pop band named the Stars, which had just released an album wonderfully titled “In Our Bedroom After the War.”  What was your vision of your blog at that time? Why did you choose the name Critical Margins? How old were you in 2007?

5. In the six-plus years since then, how has your focus for the blog changed?

6. What was the genesis of your decision to begin a Critical Margins podcast, which debuted on March 3rd with Episode 0. How did you choose Jason Braun as your co-host?

7. What will the podcast enable you to do that you can’t do on the blog?

8. What did you end up learning about the topic of literary elitism as a result of the in-depth conversation you had about that topic with Jason on your first episode of the podcast? (Triggered by Salon critic Laura Miller’s article “Is the Literary World Elitist?”)

9. New York Times media reporter David Carr wrote a thought-provoking column on March 9th titled “Barely Keeping Up in TV’s New Golden Age.” In it he confessed that the ease of watching highly regarded TV shows like House of Cards and Breaking Bad on portable devices has reduced his reading of magazines and books. He stated that “The growing intellectual currency of television has altered the cultural conversation in fundamental ways” partly because television shows are “much more like books—intricate narratives full of text, subtext and clues.”

“In the short span of five years, table talk has shifted, at least among the people I socialize with, from books and movies to television. The idiot box gained heft and intellectual credibility to the point where you seem dumb if you are not watching it.”

Are we entering an age of television snobbery?

Has your media consumption in the past five years shifted from books and movies to TV?

10. Subscription model – Oyster has improved its interface so you can highlight and make notes, still not as robust as Kindle. What’s your current thinking about these innovations?

11. Two years ago you mentioned the idea of having book groups facilitated by the Kindle and Kindle apps. Do you still think that would be a great idea?

I have been speaking with Kevin Egan, creator and editor of the Critical Margins blog and podcast at criticalmargins.com . Thanks very much Kevin.

If you compare these questions with the interview in TKC 294 this Friday, you will notice that I never asked approximately least half of them. The unasked questions were how he is using Goodreads, what he learned about literary elitism in his first podcast conversation with his co-host Jason Braun, how his TV consumption has changed, what he thinks of subscription models for books such as Oyster and Scribd, and whether he has any new thoughts on book clubs for Kindle, an idea he mentioned in our interview two years ago.

In writing this, I realize that it’s not unusual for me to prepare more questions than I have time to ask, but this surplus of possible conversation topics is still a good idea, I think. What I really wanted to talk to Kevin about was his new podcast, which is off to a very promising start. I could feel the tug of that topic pulling on me as I watched the timer on Skype count down toward five minutes. So I jumped in there and was delighted to learn the surprising story of how this show got its start. No spoiler here–you’ll have to listen to TKC 294 to find out!

Prepared questions are a good idea for an interview of the sort I’ve been doing for five years on The Kindle Chronicles, but I see them as less of a map than a safety net. Once the conversation gets going and the red light is flashing on Skype Recorder, I look for a thread to follow that might take me to the topics I’ve written down. Or maybe we’ll go somewhere unanticipated, and that can be great.

But sometimes as I’m talking with someone, I can feel the momentum of the conversation slowing or reaching a transition point to a new topic. That’s when I’m very glad to have my questions, printed out on paper, to scan as my guest finishes up what he or she is saying in the moment. That’s when I look for where my next leap might take place, and I’m ready to make it just in time.

It was a real pleasure to talk with Kevin Eagan again. I hope you will enjoy the interview and the rest of TKC 294 later this week!

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