I’m enjoying myself today because, earlier, I got to interview a superstar. Not of the stage, or screen, or court, or field but of the board. Alfred Leonardi is the co-creator of Ace of Aces, a series of picture-book games.
Copies of the varying “series” sit on the bookshelf of my basement office, just above well-worn copies of The Random House Thesaurus and The Associated Press Stylebook.
To me, an unapologetic boardgame geek, Leonardi is a superstar. Interviewing him was a thrill. The downside? Even though I’ve been a freelance writer for years and I don’t get starstruck easily, I still let the interview get away from me. Leonardi answered just one of the five questions I had planned, and that was for fact-checking purposes.
And that’s fine.
See, Leonardi was such an interesting character — topics ranged from his work on crucial fuel cells for the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to his current interest in Irish dancing, at 70 years old — that I just listened. Story after story fascinated me. I couldn’t scribble it down fast enough.
In the end, what I got in talking with Leonardi was far more than the rich history of a game-changing boardgame. Instead, I got a mini-biography that I believe will make a great profile for his hometown paper, one of the nation’s oldest and largest, and which I plan to query after checking a few more facts.
If there’s a lesson here it’s to let interviews be fluid, especially when you’re interviewing someone accomplished in their field. As Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell put it in The Renegade Writer:
“if the interview is interesting and you both have time to spare, feel free to let the conversation take on a life of its own. You never know where it will lead you.”