According to thriller author David Baldacci, “A book isn’t finished until the reader reads or listens to it. I give them the template of what I think the story is, and they go and finish it off. It’s like I hand them a sculpture that is 85% complete and they finish the rest of it themselves.”
Likely, it’s this respect for the listener that drives the attention Baldacci gives to the production of his audiobooks, beginning with the selection of narrators. He auditions narrators to find the voices that reflect the characters—the voices he hears in his head—and the settings. Baldacci strongly believes in having a male narrator performing the male voices and a female one for the women. He prefers a team approach. “It’s incredibly important to get the right people. I like having narrators who are not going to just read the book but are going to evoke it. I can’t do that just with the words. They can do that with their voices.”
For the Archer series, Baldacci sought a performer who could convincingly portray the pace, tone, and speaking style of the 1940s-1950s. He found it with Golden Voice Edoardo Ballerini, who is joined by Brittany Pressley. The third book in the Archer series, DREAM TOWN, was released in April of this year.
His upcoming audiobook, THE 6:20 MAN, features a new protagonist, Travis Devine, whom Baldacci describes as a duck out of water—a military man who is now a junior analyst in a large, highly successful financial firm on Wall Street. “I needed the reader to relate to him—if not to love him, at least to root for him. I put into him what a lot of us have gone through. We find something we love, and then all of the sudden we can’t do it anymore. We have to find a second purpose in life. But Travis’s second life might mean life in prison.”
Baldacci’s penchant for strong female characters shines in THE 6:20 MAN. “The financial world is still a male-dominated world in which women have to work three times as hard to get to the same level. I wanted to show they can give as good as they get. It’s a gladiator experience.” Thus, Baldacci has given listeners several strong, smart women who can hold their own in this environment.
Listeners will be pleased to hear there is likely more in store for Devine. Baldacci says, “Devine is still trying to figure things out. I really want to bring him back. He’s an interesting guy.”
On writing in general, Baldacci shares how he doesn’t have to look far for ideas for his thrillers. He suggests that all you have to do is “follow the money to witness the weaponization of capital.” His thrillers are known for layers of stories that all come together in the end. He likes to have lots of on-ramps and off-ramps that add depth to characters and complications to the stories without confusing the reader. “I don’t plot everything out. I don’t know everything that is going to happen when I sit down to write it. It sort of grows organically.” The characters speak to Baldacci. “We have good relationships. I think that’s important because what I’m trying to do is make them as real and authentic as possible. And, really, the only way to do that is to connect with them on a human level.”
Baldacci believes that audiobooks are important to literacy. “Reading is the greatest fundamental skill you can have. I equate the verb ‘to read’ with the verb “to think.’ You can’t have a free and open society if the majority of the population don’t read. Audiobooks are so convenient, and in our hectic world they’re a terrific way to get people into reading.”
What’s coming up next for David Baldacci and his fans? In LONG SHADOWS, Amos Decker returns with a new partner and whole set of new challenges. Something to look forward to in October.
David Baldacci photo by Allen Jones