How do you react to interview questions?

I welcome Rina Z. Neiman today, author of Born Under Fire – a historical novel – while she’s on her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. As I am the author of a recently published historical novel, Papa’s Shoes, I can totally relate to Rina’s book about a family’s immigration struggles.

Rina also struggled to get the information she needed for her book. Here she provides her thoughts about conducting interviews with people who are (and who are not) willing to talk with you.

Here’s Rina:

Interviews are a great way to collect information, and when working on a biography, sometimes the only way to get information. When I started to write my mother’s story, I went to Israel to conduct interviews with my mother’s remaining friends and relatives.

My first interview was a disaster. My phone ran out of battery. I couldn’t figure out my recording app. Why didn’t I buy that selfie stick/tripod? I did the interview, but took very poor notes.

Yes, this could happen to anyone, but I was a former public relations professional. I had been the interviewee and the interviewer countless times. I knew how to prepare for an interview.

So, as not to let my anxiety get the best of me, I made a prep list which I now share with you:

  • Know your subject (name, age, profession, relation to the main interview subject)
  • Prepare questions 5-10 depending on the interview length.
    • Start with name, age, profession, relation to the main interview subject
    • Ask about the “Who, What, Where, When, Why” of your topic
  • It’s easy to go off on tangents and sometimes that can be productive in surprising ways. Let the subject talk, but know when to bring the conversation back to your line of questions.
  • Technical:
    • Are you recording audio with video or without?
    • Are you using a camera or a phone to record?
    • Extra battery pack and charging cables for phones and computer
    • Headphones
    • Tripod or selfie stick (if shooting video)
    • Test the equipment before the interview.
    • Test the recording when you get to the interview. Make sure the levels are loud enough so you can hear from the distance the speakers will be from the recorders (i.e. sitting on the couch and the phone is on the table.)
    • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank your interviewee before, during and after the interview. Most people are glad to take the time to talk to you about an interesting person they knew or an event they witnessed. Still, they are giving you their time, as well as insight into their personal history. Which brings me to…

…the Reluctant Interviewee:

Sometimes you get an interview subject who is not as open as you’d hope. You ask them questions and they just shut you down or answer with a yes, no, or worse, a grunt. If it goes on for too long, thank them for their time and be done.

But other times, the subject may be shy or uncomfortable with the subject matter. In this case, start in with the simple questions (name, age) then ask them what they do, about their family and work. Even in the end, if they won’t address about a particular subject, they may shed light on the mood, news and physical characteristics of a place. All that information is part of your story.


Book Summary

Born Under Fire is a historical novel that tells the story of a girl coming of age and her drive to excel despite the devastating effects of long-term war. Born in Jerusalem under British rule in 1928, Shula grows up in a world in turmoil as Hitler rises to power and nations enter into war. Amid a landscape of ancient stone ruins next to modern Bauhaus architecture, and desert scrub ending at newly verdant farmlands, Shula grows into her independence as the State of Israel is born. Based on historical documents and events, Born Under Fire is also about the context surrounding the founding of the State of Israel, as well as the horrors and dangers of growing up in a conflict zone. Shula battles grief and depression due to the shattering events affecting her, her family, and the entire world. Despite this struggle, her resilient spirit enables her to reach great heights as a concert pianist..

Print Length: 258 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN-13: 978-1986349147
ISBN-10: 1986349144

About the Author, Rina Z. Neiman

Rina Z. Neiman is a writer, event producer and public relations professional. Born Under Fire is based on the true story of her mother, Shulamit Dubno Neiman, a Sabra, a musician and one of the first generation of modern-day Israelis. Rina lives in Marin County, California with her husband and son. This is her first novel.

You may find out more about the author and her book by visiting the website  Also, you may find her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Praise for Born Under Fire

“I went to high school in Israel in the late 50s and heard many personal stories about the early years and the struggle for independence. Your book makes these years really come alive. Also, most of my relatives’ tales were set in Kibbutzim and rural Palestine. Your book describes life in Tel Aviv as just as heroic. Lastly, I share your mother’s love for Yemenite embroidery and am happy that your book calls attention to this beautiful art form.”

-Vita Hollander

“This lovely coming of age story provides a view into the challenges, conflicts and dilemmas facing the European Jews fleeing Hitler’s reach and trying to make Palestine their home. It pulls no punches and honestly acknowledges the dilemmas posed by the creation of this new country, but as it tells the story from the eyes of a young girl, we see those intricacies as she would have seen them, allowing the reader an understanding not only of historical events that readers may not be aware of (the proposed partition, the ethical dilemma posed by Jewish terrorist groups, etc.) but also of the emotional journey of these refugees and their children. This story is an important reminder of the effects of war and provides a critical piece of history necessary for understanding the world today.”

-Nima M. Vincent via, 5 out of 5 star review

This story drew me in from the very first page. The vivid descriptions of smell, sights and taste, longing, disappointment and joy, evoked real emotion and made me wish I were sitting at the kitchen table with Shula and her aunts. I appreciated the many history lessons tucked into the adventures, and was relieved to discover details about this time period without being burdened by the author’s politics.”

-Lisa Fliegel via, 5 out of 5 star review

Thank you so much, Rina, for being here at Choices today. Hopefully we’ll hear from some of our readers about their family immigration stories.

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