Research and Interviewing

by Andrea Mary Paez Lozano
(West Covina, California)

How to do research and interviews for a children's book.

I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Andrea Paez Lozano. I am a new member.

Currently, I am working on a story about my uncle. When he was a child, he became a courier for the Filipino-American Underground Movement in World War II Philippines at the tender age of 7.

His story is so unique and inspiring; I am trying to share it with the world by putting it down on paper. However, I feel that historical accuracy is of the utmost importance.

I'm calling it The Boy Messenger.

I guess my problems writing this story at the moment are the following:

1. Research - and a lot of it. There isn't much information I can get about the town where my uncle grew up from the internet. This town is the setting of the story and I need a little more than just its history, population and whatever basic things they write about a town.

I have to research as far back as December 10, 1941, the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.

There is, however, one BIG piece of information I was so lucky to find. Surfing the net one day, I came across the book "The Bataan Diaries," written by Chris Schaefer (he did 5 years of research for this book; that is monumental to me. He has a website and everything).

In his research documents, I found

- the name of the underground guerilla association that served in my uncle's hometown,

- who founded it, and

- the name of the person that headed it around the time that my uncle had joined the underground. Possibly my uncle reported to him and did some courier services for him.

2. My other concern is how to interview my uncle. I have never interviewed anyone in my life before, so I really do not have a set formula of how to interview someone for something like this except to ask questions that I have myself, like,

- Who got him into the underground movement?

- Did he know the dangers he was facing?

- How did he keep his involvement with the underground secret from the family, etc.

Another big problem I have is

3. Uncle is in the Philippines, and I am in the U.S., and I really am not a person of means who can just up and fly to the Philippines to stay there for a few months to do some research and interview my uncle. But to get this story on paper is one of the things that is close to my heart.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my dilemma. I hope I have interested someone enough to give me some advice.


Comments for Research and Interviewing

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by: Steve B. (webmaster)

Andrea, can you communicate in writing with your uncle? I'll tell you, I often prefer written interviewing both as the interviewer and the interviewee, especially when the interviewee is someone who writes well.

My advice would be to ask specific questions, not general, and to see where they lead, regardless of whether the interview is written or oral. A good interview is a dialogue, as much about what interests the interviewer as about what the interviewer has to say. And when I say dialogue...

I mean back and forth! You never know where his answers will take the discussion. If you can, just ask a couple questions at a time. The answers will likely lead you to questions you wouldn't have otherwise asked.

by: Anonymous

Great idea!

It is so important to capture our history. Have you thought of contacting Chris Schaefer? I would write to him or his publisher and ask some questions.

He may even know of people who still know your uncle. Send your uncle a copy of that book...looking at his involvement on paper will probably make him very proud.

I love the written dialogue idea too. Be sure to include self-addressed envelopes to make it super easy for him to mail back.

Come up with 20 questions, and then reduce it down to the top best ones to send him. Good luck!

Research and Interviewing
by: Andrea Paez Lozano

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your comments and your wishes of good luck.

Actually your suggestion of contacting Chris Schaefer did cross my mind. I haven't done it yet, but I was going to ask his permission to use the part of his research manuscript for his book, "The Bataan Diaries", that pertained to my uncle's hometown for my story.

When I do this, I could also ask questions, like you have suggested, to see if he can give me any further information.

Steve, I regret to say that my uncle has had a stroke, and because of it, he has lost the use of his hand, so he is unable to write.

We have had some phone conversations, and I have asked my cousin (one of his sons) to help me interview him.

Thank you again for your interest.

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