Excerpts from Gordon T. Allred Master's Thesis The Making of Kamikaze
Interviewing and Querying
Before our first interview session I attempted to learn a few facts about the Japanese Air Forces, that I might ask intelligent questions. Since the idea had only occurred the previous day, however, there was little time for planning. By the time our first discussion was half over, Kuwahara had related experiences that were totally absorbing.
There was one problem at the onset, though. While Kuwahara seemed eager to dispense information, his English was poor, and he was naturally reticent. This difficulty we solved by soliciting an interpreter. It was both fascinating and comical upon asking a seemingly simple question to hear the animated interchange in foreign tongue, punctuated by gesticulations and exclamations, before the answer was finally converted into English and condensed into such simple replies as, “Yes, he was,” or “He was only fifteen, then.”
Even though the Japanese are considered masters at circumlocution, I was obviously missing some fascinating informationa great source of frustration, initially, nevertheless, our meetings were fruitful, and I learned a lot in less than a week. After only a few sessions, in fact, I discovered that his English was almost equal to that of our interpreter. Consequently, we continued without her assistance.
Although it was necessary to garner outside information in order to formulate proper questions, I soon came to realize the futility of devising a carefully outlined questionnaire before each meating.
Kuwahara quickly lost his shyness and began answering the simplest questions with alacrity, even elaborating lengthily at times, I found note taking difficult. No sooner had I commenced penning the answer to one question, than my interviewee was amplifyinghurtling along the fascinating route of his past life.
Thinking of appropriate questions was usually no problem, since almost invariably, one question and answer immediately suggested another. But Kuwahara was difficult to restrain, and it quickly became apparent that I was going to end up with a scramble of notes not always logically related, and difficult to interpret once the subject had cooled.
For one thing. my writing was not the most legible, for another, my friend moved discursively, with such rapidity that it was difficult without knowing shorthand to write adequate answers. This latter problem was solved; to a degree when I began using a typewriter. I found this effective for three reasons: (1) Once I began typing, he held further remarks until the sound of the keys had ceased. (2) It was swifter than longhand. (3) By notes were neat and legible.
As to the other problem, I decided on what should have been obvious from the beginningto have him proceed with his account chronologically, commencing with the events that lead to his enlistment, proceeding through his basic training, then on to his role as fighter pilot and ultimate role in the suicide war.
Having commenced the interviewing, I began pondering the problem of querying magazine editors, to see if they would be interested in an article. Convinced that I did not want to undertake the task of interviewing and writing for long months without some faint promise of sale, I wrote queries to such magazines as Argosy, True. Colliers, and The Saturday Evening Post. Of those queried, True answered affirmatively in a letter as follows:
“November 4, 1955
“Dear Mr. Allred:
“Your story about the suicide pilots of Japan sounds like a strong possibility for True, and I think if it can be done right for us it would make a roaring story.
“Since we are not familiar with your work as a writer, the submission will have to be on speculation, but if it is acceptable, we pay prices as high as those of any other magazine on the market. The Hunting Yearbook, incidentally, was separate publication from True, so we are not familiar with its writers.
“Hope you will give this a try for us. We might as well see the manuscript as an outline, since we already know we like the idea.
“Douglas S. Kennedy
With this encouragement, I was determined to proceed with my plans to write a full- length article.
Chapter 1 - Conception of a book Chapter 2 - Interviewing and Querying Chapter 3 - Research Chapter 4 - Documenting Chapter 5 - The Rough Draft Chapter 6 - The Book Begins Chapter 7 - Creative Problems