Once again, thriller/suspense/mystery writers, both published and aspiring, gathered for Thrillerfest XVIII in New York City to celebrate their craft. The lineup of honorees, speakers, and panelists leaves a fan like me in awe. See the full program here.
This year, I had the privilege of being a panelist for the session devoted to audiobooks. The Panel Master, Stacy Creamer, Vice President of Audible Studios, masterfully directed questions to panelists and shared her expertise, which the audience greatly appreciated.
The panelists included three narrators: Ari Fliakos, Hillary Huber, and Megan Tusing. You can hear Ari in the recently released CITY OF DREAMS by Don Winslow. You can hear Hillary in the Earphones Award winner TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY by Linwood Barclay. And you can hear Megan in EVERYBODY KNOWS by Jordan Harper.
The panel also included author Sebastian Fitzek, a German thriller writer whose works have been translated into more than 36 languages. An interesting fact Sebastian shared was that his German language audiobooks are narrated by the voice actor who dubs Matt Damon for the German releases of most of his movies. Sebastian’s recent audiobook in English, THE GIFT, is narrated by Ari Fliakos.
During the session, panelists spoke about what makes for a great audiobook, the challenges narrators deal with, what it's like to perform a series, the relationship between authors and narrators, and finding the right match for characters of varying ages, genders, nationalities, and personalities.
Some highlights included the acknowledgement that the starting point for all audiobooks is the writing. Ari Fliakos shared that narrating a poorly written book can be “torturous” for the narrator. Hillary Huber explained that a great narrator can enhance the experience of mediocre writing, but as I pointed out, even the best narrator can’t save a badly written work.
Challenges that writers present for narrators include the overuse of attributions (the “he said, she said” in dialogue), and when the authors don’t indicate that a character has a specific accent until well into a book—or worse, well into a series.
When asked to name an audiobook they admire, Hillary Huber immediately identified Earphones Award winner THE NIX, narrated by fellow panelist Fliakos.
Audible's Stacy Creamer was asked about upcoming trends and mentioned the increase in multi-cast audiobooks. She also urged the writers in the room to get involved in the selection of narrators for their audiobooks and to ensure that their books are simultaneously published in hard copy, e-book, and audio versions.
And of course, I encouraged the participants to check out the reviews and articles on audiofilemagazine.com to deepen their understanding of what elements go into making a great audiobook experience for listeners.
Beyond the audiobook panel, the highlights of the conference for me were the two sessions I attended where Karin Slaughter interviewed 2023 ThrillerMaster Charlaine Harris and Jerri Williams interviewed 2023 ThrillerMaster Walter Mosley.
At the Saturday night banquet, the 2023 Thriller Awards were announced. The Best Audiobook for 2023 went to THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK by Jennifer Hillier, narrated by Carla Vega.