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You're trying to find new ideas in people. I always think to myself, what question I am least comfortable asking the person? And then I make sure I ask it early in the interview.
When you're writing for newspapers you have all these parameters. You can't swear, you have to use short paragraphs, all that. If you stay within those parameters, you have lots of freedom because you're writing for the next day.
To me, every interview, even if you love the artist, needs to be somewhat adversarial. Which doesn't mean you need to attack the person, but you do need to look at it like you're trying to get information that has not been written about before.
The essays are very solipsistic and self-absorbed, I'm totally conscious of that. To me, book writing is fun, and I basically just write about things that are entertaining to myself.
The essays are different because ultimately it's things I'm interested in, and I'm really just writing about myself and using those subjects as a prism.
The biggest problem in rock journalism is that often the writer's main motivation is to become friends with the band. They're not really journalists; they're people who want to be involved in rock and roll.
The biggest hurdle to writing Fargo Rock City was that I couldn't afford a home computer - I had to get a new job so I could buy a computer. It could all change though. In five years, I could be back at some daily newspaper, which wouldn't be so bad.
It's just that what's important there is different there than what's important is here. Here, people care that you wrote a book or that you work in the media.
It didn't seem remotely possible. I had no idea how people got those jobs, I didn't know what the steps were, it never even dawned on me. It seemed so outside the realm of possibility.
In Fargo, they say, well, that's a job. How well do you get paid? For example, for this book I was written about in Entertainment Weekly, and it was kind of cool because my mom asked me if Entertainment Weekly was a magazine or a newspaper.
If you're doing an interview, you need conversational tension. After you talk to them, you're not going to have a relationship with them, they're not going to like you, they're not going to be your friend.
I've been asked about this constantly, and I compare it to how if you're walking down the street and some schizo guy comes up to you and vomits on you: You wouldn't be hurt by that, you'd just think it's weird.
I was fortunate that I was at newspapers for eight years, where I wrote at least five or six stories every week. You get used to interviewing lots of different people about a lot of different things. And they aren't things you know about until you do the story.
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