Beth Neil (@bethneil), celebrity editor at Fabulous magazine, was awarded interviewer of the year at the Society of British Press Awards earlier this year. Here, Beth shares the secrets to the perfect celebrity interview.
Putting in the groundwork The key to any good interview is developing a rapport with your subject. But before I even sit down with a celebrity, I put in a lot of groundwork and make sure I've done my research.
Before every interview I trawl through cuts, print them off and read them thoroughly, making notes on anything that I think is interesting or important. I even check names and ages of the subject's siblings and what they do for a living.
Setting the mood It's important that the interview conditions are right, relaxed and that you can sit down one-to-one without any distractions. That's why it's always important to think about the venue and timing before an interview.
This isn't always possible but I always push hard for a decent chunk of time with the celebrity and I never do interviews over the phone. You need to be face-to-face with someone to develop that rapport and get the best from the subject.
Part of my job also involves setting up the interviews and I always go along to any photoshoots and prefer to do interviews after the pictures have been taken – when the pressure of having to pose for photos is out of the way.
It also means there's no photographer burning holes in the back of your head wanting to get on with the photos. By that point, thing are often a lot more calm and relaxed and I've already had chance to develop a rapport with the subject.
Taking an interest It always helps when a celebrity is open and gives you lots of great lines. Tulisa, for example, was an absolute dream to interview. She didn't have a PR sitting with her, she was very forthcoming and she didn't shirk any questions, so it was great to write up.
But although not everyone can be the most fascinating subject in the world, I think a good interviewer will always find something interesting about whoever they're interviewing. Sometimes you have to accept that you're not always going to get a great line and this can be challenging if you're planning to put an interview over four or five pages. So you have to think more about your questions and find an interesting angle.
Timing is everything I don't particularly relish asking a subject difficult, personal questions but sometimes it's got to be done. As long as they're asked in the right way and at an appropriate point in the conversation (not as the opening gambit!), then most people will give something back.
When I know I've got some tricky question to ask, they'll be in the back of my mind but I think it's about judging when the right time presents itself. And when it pays off, it can give you a great story, such as when Sarah Harding confessed during an interview for the first time to having cosmetic surgery.
Be observant I love all the colour and background you get in interviews: I think the little asides and the details help build up a picture of the subject. So I always make notes on these and weave them into the copy.