Over the course of his long and celebrated literary career, award-winning author David Almond has consistently explored the theme of opposing forces: His characters teeter between the dual attractions of good and evil, light and darkness. “I was brought up Catholic,” he explains, “so this notion is central to my childhood: deep, deep darkness and bright, bright light became part of my blood and bones, really. I couldn’t not write about those opposites.” While the title image of his latest novel, THE TIGHTROPE WALKERS, beautifully captures this central theme, Almond adds that he’s also fascinated by such acrobats: “I really admire what tightrope walkers can do--how beautiful it is and how dangerous.” He likens that balancing act to one required by writers. “You have to stay on that line, keep well balanced and have a sense of the void underneath you.”
Margaret Atwood—internationally acclaimed novelist, poet, winner of numerous literary awards, champion of women's rights, and passionate environmentalist—tells AudioFile, "Print is a score for voice, the way a piece of paper with music on it is a score for music. Until somebody is reading the page or playing the music, those marks just lie there. Reading the book out loud is the bridge between the oral storytelling tradition and the book in print."
Fans of Jean M. Auel’s hugely successful Earth’s Children series have been waiting 10 years for the fifth book about Ayla and her companion, Jondalar, in Pleistocene Europe.
Nevada Barr’s enthusiasm for audiobooks is palpable. When it comes to the spoken word, Barr says, “I’m a serious audiophile.” Barr was named for her native state of Nevada. But she grew up in northeastern California and currently lives in New Orleans. She is the author of 17 novels, including 15 featuring Park Ranger Anna Pigeon, each set at a different national park. Barr knows the ranger service intimately, having served in numerous parks as a patrol ranger and law enforcement ranger.
Dave Barry says he was ecstatic when he heard that Jim Dale had agreed to narrate the audio of PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS, the prequel to Peter Pan, which Barry co-authored.
Elizabeth Berg, known for her life-affirming books about people in crisis, likes to listen to audiobooks with one exception: her own works. “The truth is I don’t listen to my own tapes because it’s hard to hear someone read your work in a way that you wouldn’t. So with my own work I tend to just listen a little to hear what the voice is like.”
Celebrated children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce says the idea for his latest book, THE ASTOUNDING BROCCOLI BOY, was staring him right in the face. Literally. “I looked in the mirror one day, and I was bright yellow. I thought, ‘How have I never written about this?’” The author, who suffers from a rare blood disorder, turns a daffodil yellow when stressed. “It’s quite an alarming sci-fi color--not on the normal human spectrum.”
We gave an enthusiastic YES! when Fantastic Audio offered to set up an interview with award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy Orson Scott Card. The author of the popular Ender and Alvin Maker series, Card is well represented on audio. Fantastic is not only publishing some new recordings, but rereleasing some Card titles from the NewStar catalog. We assigned Contributing Editor Yuri Rasovsky the interview. He opened with a question relating to his own specialty, audio drama.
When Michael Chabon was about 8 or 10, he knew he wanted to be a writer. “I wanted to write about kids, about poor kids, like me.” In those early days, the author of WONDER BOYS and THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY (2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction) especially enjoyed reading Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, and comic books. As an adult writer, Chabon says, “I wanted to write the kind of book I would have liked when I was 11 years old . . . my secondary goal was to write something for my children.” His first children’s book combines elements of baseball, folklore, myth, and the wildly original inhabitants of his vivid inner world. “SUMMERLAND is a fantasy, based in the contemporary world and set against a background of American myth. The idea came to me at 10 or 11 to try to write a fantasy with a backdrop in American mythology . . . which is what I try to do in SUMMERLAND, 26 years later.”
Among mystery aficionados, Lee Child has become a household name. His nine novels featuring wandering ex-M.P. Jack Reacher have all done extremely well, beginning with his award-winning debut novel, Killing Floor (1997). Reacher is a mysterious but attractive character, traveling silently across the country, finding trouble and then resolving it. His adventures have taken him from Key West to Maine, from Chicago to L.A., and points between. Readers are sometimes surprised to learn that an author with such a clear grasp of America is an Englishman who spent 18 years working for Granada Television in the UK.
These days, Michael Connelly, creator of Harry Bosch, listens to more books than he reads—but they’re "never, never" his own.
For 30 years Catherine Coulter has been entertaining fans with widely popular novels, including historical romances, romantic suspense, and suspense thrillers. In 1988 she hit the New York Times Bestseller List for the first time with her historical novel MOONSPUN MAGIC. She has now made the list 59 times.
"Audiobooks," Bryce Courtenay told AudioFile, "go back to where stories all began."
At this point, the Australian author is such an inveterate storyteller that he began to tell a story—about telling stories. "It is the gloaming time, and there is a roar of a lion. In front of an early cave, a man by the fire says, ‘This is what happened. . ." Bryce’s impromptu story was full of sounds, colors, and the human voice, and, as he does with his books, he put the listener in the scene, viscerally feeling all the personal and physical elements.
Robert Crais is crazy in the best possible sense of the word. His books ring with madcap characters as well as profound human observation, and in real life he is as charmingly sincere as he is nutty. AudioFile caught up with Bob Crais just as his latest thriller, HOSTAGE, was hitting the stands. The abridgment of HOSTAGE marks Crais’s first endeavor as an audiobook narrator.
Jeffery Deaver has been many things in his life: a journalist, a folk singer, an attorney, and a published poet. Originally from Illinois, he now lives in North Carolina, where he writes bestselling thrillers, raises show dogs, and listens to audiobooks. He listens in the car, in bed, and even while cooking. It’s something he and his girlfriend enjoy doing together.
After a college teacher told Kate DiCamillo that she had “a certain facility with words,” she went around wearing black turtlenecks for 10 years and telling people she was going to be a writer. She didn’t actually put much on paper during that time but supported herself with jobs “at the margin of society,” including stints working at Disney in Orlando. “I learned a great work ethic and about the show and being on stage. At the Magic Kingdom,” she explains, “there were underground tunnels connecting everything. Down there it was quite grim, but upstairs it was glorious! The first time I started to write a story I realized: Here is the tunnel--the hard work--and up there is the show.”
The Voices of Janet Evanovich: Conversations with Lorelei King and C.J. Critt Janet
Evanovich’s hugely popular Stephanie Plum series and romances have an avid following on audio. AudioFile recently caught up with narrators Lorelei King and C.J. Critt to ask them what it’s like to bring these audiobooks to life. - 2009 Update
After listening to author Joseph Finder a while, you realize he has the thriller instinct. When he describes his love for writing mainstream mysteries, his voice becomes animated. “I wanted to write ever since I was about 9,” he says.
In most of their novels, the husband and wife duo of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French (alias Nicci French) entertains readers with clever, suspenseful tales of damsels in distress. Awful things seem to happen to the nicest women. “A lot of our heroines,” Nicci Gerrard explains to AUDIOFILE, “don’t want to be in the thriller they’re in. They really want to be in a romance novel.”
Morris Gleitzman’s children’s stories are among the most widely read and loved in Australia. Armed with a vivid imagination and a clear sense of his younger self, Gleitzman is known for his ability to make readers care about what happens to his characters. Explaining what he looks for in a story, he says, “I’m attracted to a story that’s about something very deep for a small character. Something that involves big emotions, big fears, which, to an adult, might not seem important.” He continues, “As adults, we sometimes make the mistake of assuming that, because children are physically small, their internal worlds are small, as well. And that, of course, isn’t the case.”
John Green, winner of the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award for his debut novel, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, chats about recording a limited, private edition of his newest book, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, and about audiobooks and teen reading.
"I still like to think of myself as a fisherman," says Linda Greenlaw, of Isle Au Haut, Maine, "but when I’m gone for two months on a book tour as well as the time it takes to write and record the books, I have to wonder!"
According to Kerry Greenwood, “Phryne does exactly what she wishes, and I just try to type fast enough to keep up.” That would be Miss Phyrne Fisher, heroine of Greenwood’s witty detective series set in 1920s Australia.
“Audiobooks are very important and growing more important all the time—and you may quote me!” says W.E.B. Griffin, speaking dynamically with the same judicious word usage that shows up in his words in print.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s newest character, Lia, of WINTERGIRLS, hears voices. And so does the author! “I can make a lot of notes about a book, but until I can hear the character talking in my head, I can’t write it. You could say that my books are audiobooks first, which I then translate into visual text. I think that’s why I am so particular when it comes to listening to audiobooks. If the narrator’s voice doesn’t ring comfortably inside my skull, I can’t listen to the book.”
Though many listeners have discovered the work of Alice Hoffman through her most recent books —TURTLE MOON; LOCAL GIRLS, made into a movie; and HERE ON EARTH, an Oprah selection — she’s no overnight sensation. She’s been writing and publishing for 25 years. A trip to the fiction section of Borders reveals nearly a whole shelf of her work.
On the final day of a bicycle trip in Denmark back in 2000, author Phillip Hoose visited the Museum of Danish Resistance in Copenhagen, where an obscure exhibit caught his eye. “It was this little shrine to something called the Churchill Club. It had a photograph of these teenage boys--who looked like they’d yet to shave!--holding up numbers in a prison yard.”
Mississippi novelist Greg Iles likes to tell the story of a book signing in Seattle during which a reader told him that after finishing THE QUIET GAME, he and his wife drove 2,500 miles just to see Natchez, Mississippi, the thriller’s setting.
Hugo Award-winning novelist N.K. Jemisin goes to great lengths to “get it right” in her speculative-fiction stories, in which she explores a wide variety of Earth-bound subjects. She achieves her universe-building with finely drawn descriptions and fast-paced action. “I’m not doing anything different from what’s common in science fiction and fantasy. To make a story feel real, you have to have a certain amount of detail.” Fans of her audiobooks will find the same attention and craft in the recording of her latest book, THE OBELISK GATE. “I really think Robin Miles brings skill and professionalism to the production.”
In the early 1980s, with her children leaving home for college, Georgia homemaker Iris Johansen began filling her empty nest with the array of fictional characters who populate the romance novels she wrote for the Bantam Loveswept series. Today, more than 60 books later, Johansen is well known as the author of contemporary romance, historical romance, and forensic thrillers. This spring marked the publication of her twelfth thriller featuring forensic sculptor Eve Duncan. Hot off the presses this summer will be SILENT THUNDER, a stand-alone thriller and her first collaboration with her son, Roy.
Identity is a recurrent theme in Heidi Julavits’s novels. In life, she herself balances several distinct identities. Best known as the author of short stories and novels, Julavits teaches, raises her 3-year-old daughter, and is a co-founding editor of a monthly review magazine, THE BELIEVER. “I feel like I get to wear a different hat every day, depending on my mood,” she says. “Each thing I do informs the other things, and I never get tired of anything.”
Albany, New York, native William Kennedy has received numerous literary awards, among them a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for his novel IRONWEED.
Tracy Kidder has been reading aloud for the better part of a day and a half when he stumbles over the words “lymph nodes.”
Stephen King’s friendship with Stewart O’Nan was born out of a literary dispute. Nine years ago, O’Nan wanted to title his third novel DEAR STEPHEN KING.
Bestselling author Christina Baker Kline says her new novel, A PIECE OF THE WORLD, about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the real-life subject of his iconic painting Christina’s World, was by far the most challenging book she’s ever written.
It was three o’clock Friday afternoon when AUDIOFILE sat down with Rochelle Krich in the lobby of the Austin, Texas, Renaissance Hotel. She was attending Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, at which her story “Bitter Waters” was nominated for an Anthony Award in the Best Short Fiction category. She had two hours before she needed to head to her room to prepare for the Sabbath. Keeping kosher and observing the Sabbath might seem daunting for a woman on a two-month cross-country book tour, but Krich is up to the challenge with a graceful smile.
You won’t hear Dennis Lehane, New York Times bestselling author of MYSTIC RIVER; GONE, BABY, GONE; and his new book, THE GIVEN DAY, read any of his novels on audio, but it’s not for the reason you might think. He has a pleasant bass voice and speaks clearly. “It’s too much work,” he explains. “That’s a job. I’ve actually done a little myself, but it was short stories.” He adds, “It’s very much acting. I can read chunks of narrative quite fine, but when I have to do four people talking in a room--you compare my version of that and a professional actor’s version, and you know exactly who’s going to win every time. Why would I want to put an actor out of a job?”
D.J. MacHale bounds to the front of the library room, where nearly 100 middle school kids are assembled to meet the author. Another hundred will follow in the next school period to hear MacHale talk about Pendragon, and his latest RAVEN RISE, number 9 in the 10-book series, Journal of an Adventure Through Time and Space. This school event is not unusual for MacHale, who makes frequent school visits, but the inclusion of narrator William Dufris to perform a scene of Bobby Pendragon and the start of another time-travel escape is a treat for the crowd. Dufris has recorded all nine of the Pendragon series since 2005 and creates not just Bobby’s voice but an extensive cast of Travelers and the demon, Saint Dane. The kids love the addition of actor Dufris and stay keenly tuned throughout his reading.
Debbie Macomber has written so many bestselling novels that the list of titles on her Web site scrolls for several pages. The number of audiobooks she’s heard may be almost as long.
Australian author Melina Marchetta is always excited about listening to her books on audio. “It’s kind of like the end of a journey for me, but it’s also a bit of a shock as a writer to have your own book read to you. You don’t ever get to creep inside the head of a reader and see how they say words, but with an audio you do.”
Ed McBain is a man who knows no rest. With more than 80 novels to his name—50 that have been adapted to audio-book—he continues to put in a full day’s work despite having recently completed his latest book, Candyland, co-written with another award-winning author, Evan Hunter. What makes this collaboration unique is that Ed McBain and Evan Hunter are the same person.
Fans of science fiction queen Anne McCaffrey, whose tales of the dragons of Pern have delighted audiences since 1968, were pleased when she took on a new co-author. That collaborator, who debuted with 2003’s DRAGON’S KIN, is her son Todd, whose contributions spark hopes that characters such as Halla, Pellar, and Zist will be around long after the elder McCaffrey retires.
David Morrell is most known for his thriller FIRST BLOOD, which introduced the world to Rambo. “The thriller,” says Morrell “is a story whose pace increases as it progresses. Like other stories, thrillers engage the reader’s emotions, but with the thriller that emotion is usually fear. Traditional mysteries are based on a puzzle—a body is discovered and the detective conducts interviews and puts clues together to solve the murder—a whodunit story. The thriller is more of ‘how done it.’ Thriller writers include Lee Child, Steven Hunter, Douglas Preston, and Lincoln Child.”
“My father was a great storyteller,” Marcia Muller told us from her home in California’s Sonoma County. “Every evening he would tell me a story when I went to bed. He’d make up fantastic stuff. He would act out different roles—it was really funny.” It was this early love of stories, and her experience
Author Jandy Nelson is a self-described “audiobook fanatic.” She listens at the library, buys the audiobook, and then buys the print book--“so I don’t have to sit in front of my apartment for hours listening.” But sometimes she does that as well.
Two-time National Book Award-winning novelist Tim O’Brien published his remembrances of his Vietnam War experiences as a young man in THE THINGS THEY CARRIED and GOING AFTER CACCIATO. However, he came to fatherhood late in life, and at the age of 57, he and his wife had a son. A second son followed soon after. O’Brien knew his time with his boys might be shorter than most fathers’, so he decided to leave behind remembrances, advice, and reporting on some of the antics they might forget as they grow older.
Perri O’Shaughnessy is the pen name of two sisters, Pamela and Mary O’Shaughnessy, whose series featuring Lake Tahoe attorney Nina Reilly is now nine novels strong. Pam is a lawyer living in Hawaii. Mary, who lives in northern California, is trained in writing and has worked as a multimedia producer. “There’s nothing like the warmth of a human voice telling a story,” Mary tells us. “That’s the great pleasure of audiobooks. It’s something adults can enjoy just as they did listening to their parents read them a book in the old days.”
Jeff Parker is Southern California, through and through. He was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Orange County, and now lives east of San Diego. The initial “T” in front of his name is legal, but it doesn’t stand for anything. “My mother told me that she and Dad put the T. there because it would look good on the president’s door.” But instead of a president, Mr. and Mrs. Parker had a mystery writer. And quite an impressive mystery writer at that. He is a three-time nominee for the Edgar Allan Poe Award, which he won in 2002 (for SILENT JOE) and 2004 (for CALIFORNIA GIRL).
Dave Barry says he was ecstatic when he heard that Jim Dale had agreed to narrate the audio of PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS, the prequel to Peter Pan, which Barry co-authored.
George Pelecanos knows the seamy streets of Washington, D.C., far from the government and legal offices of K Street, and he feels the rest of the world should know them as well.
When bestselling novelist Jodi Picoult is writing, her head is full of shouts and murmurs and the rapid-fire conversation of people interrupting each other. “Sometimes,” she says, “it seems that all I’m doing is writing down what I hear.”
Mary Pipher was a college professor, psychotherapist, and community activist in 1994 when Reviving Ophelia, her bestseller on the needs of adolescent girls, made her a national celebrity. The psychologist and humanitarian went on to write similar books on the needs of refugees, the elderly, and families--all well-regarded and compassionate volumes that focus on other people and share a common methodology. “Most of what I’ve done,” Pipher says, “is try to be a really good listener to a demographic group. And then when I really feel like I have a sense for that population, I try to integrate that information in a way that allows other people to have a sense of them, care about them, and want to act on their behalf.”
"Reading out loud is the purest and most ancient form of storytelling," says Douglas Preston, half of the Preston-Child team that has so far created nine novels. Their books cross the boundaries from thriller to horror to science fiction to mystery, creating a challenge for booksellers to pigeonhole them into a single genre. Co-author Lincoln Child explains, "In difficult times people seem to frequently turn away from real horrors to invented ones--horrors they can switch off when they feel like it. Our books aren't horror; they're techno-thrillers with a frisson of the supernatural."
Sound emanates from Ian Rankin’s novels, whether in print or on audio. His books, featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus, are dark and edgy police dramas set in the author’s native Scotland. But instead of bagpipes you’re more likely to hear the Rolling Stones or The Cure.
Rick Riordan doesn’t listen to his own audiobooks. Ever. He’s been told they’re great, and he’s an avid audiobook listener himself. “But hearing my words spoken by someone else makes me unsettled--probably because I’m so used to how the narrative sounds in my head.” This hasn’t always been the case. “I tried to listen to one of my early adult mysteries on audio, and I got so agitated I had to stop after five minutes.” So Riordan hasn’t seen the movie adaptation of THE LIGHTNING THIEF--nor does he plan to. “My own picture of the story is so set and clear--I couldn’t abide seeing someone else’s interpretation.”
What do you get when you combine an inquisitive journalist with her inner 12- year-old? You get funny, informative books about dead bodies, sex, ghosts, and space travel. Add catchy titles--STIFF, BONK, SPOOK, and PACKING FOR MARS--and some great writing and research, and the result is Mary Roach’s series of bestsellers. Her newest volume, GULP, is about the journey taken by that piece of steak or cake after you swallow it--from start to finish.
According to PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Nora Roberts has written more bestsellers than anyone in the world. How does she do it? “Reading is the best writer’s tool in the box,” Roberts says. “I did plenty of that as a child. I think sometimes you’re just a born storyteller. You have to learn the nuts and bolts in order to turn that storytelling ability into articulating an entertaining story on the page, but a lot of times it’s instinctive.” Since her first published book in 1981, Roberts has produced about seven books a year. She adds, “It doesn’t matter how fast I write, it’s the quality of the output I care about. My books are about people. They’re character-driven. Relationships are the key to all of my books.”
Overwhelmed by the experience of bringing out a first book, author Rainbow Rowell didn’t listen to her adult novel, ATTACHMENTS. And she was nervous about hearing her first young adult book, ELEANOR & PARK, as well. She knew her tendency to be critical from the days she wrote radio ads. “I was infamous for never liking them,” she says. “They would hit the beats wrong and sound cheesy.”
Hugo Award-winning and bestselling novelist John Scalzi knows just how lucky he is when it comes to the audiobook versions of his books. “I think William Dufris has done a very good job with the Old Man’s War series.
The year 2008 was a big year for children’s book author Jon Scieszka. In January, the Children’s Book Council and Library of Congress pronounced him the first National Ambassador of Books for Young People. Then he left on a national tour with David Shannon, the madcap illustrator of his Trucktown series. Scieszka describes a wild two weeks. “Kids all over the country made me sashes and crowns. We laughed ourselves sick, and because this was the first ambassadorship, we used the opportunity to make things up left and right on how it should go.”
Fifty years after her father Malcolm X’s assassination, author, educator, and activist Ilyasah Shabazz has teamed up with award-winning YA author Kekla Magoon to create a work of historical fiction that illuminates the civil rights leader’s formative years: “Malcolm before the X.” Her novel, X, offers young readers not only a valuable history lesson and a more accurate portrait of her father’s early life but also a story that celebrates transformation and the power of second chances.
Mystery writer Karin Slaughter, whose latest is BEYOND REACH, wanted her Grant County series to have a Southern narrator who didn’t sound like a hillbilly. “Joyce Bean’s narration,” she says, “is close to the voices that I heard in my head. She does well with the subtleties of colloquialisms and accents. And she doesn’t make anyone sound like they’re from a trailer park.”
Historical novelist Wilbur Smith is “riding high on the wave” of popular and critical response following the release of THE QUEST, the latest in his bestselling Egyptian series. Smith admits he doesn’t listen to his books in the audio format, but he appreciates the fact that audiobooks are a boon to people who want to keep up with the adventures of his colorful and fantastic characters.
Neal Stephenson may not be your average New York Times #1 bestselling author. He’s staked a claim to having written some of the most intricately detailed, philosophically dense, and tightly plotted novels of the past 25 years.
Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2009 for OLIVE KITTERIDGE. Robert Redford is planning to turn Strout’s 2013 novel, THE BURGESS BOYS, into a TV miniseries. Her latest novel, MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON, won an AudioFile Earphones Award and would win the award--if there were such an award--for touching the hearts of all who experience it.
A few years ago, British suspense novelist Minette Walters packed up the audio versions of all her books and sent them to the woman who had been headmistress of her childhood boarding school. “I got this sweet letter in reply.” Transforming her naturally exuberant tone into the precise diction of a 99-year-old retired schoolteacher, Walters recites the words from memory: “Dear Minette, I have listened with great interest to your books on audio. I couldn’t believe it; they are very imaginative. But I was a little concerned about the language. You used to be such a nice girl.”
“The time had come for me to tell a story about a pilot.” That’s how author Elizabeth Wein found her way to writing CODE NAME VERITY, a YA novel about two young women involved in the British war effort during WWII. The book’s many lovingly described details about planes and flying are a testament to Wein’s own experiences as a pilot--and as a woman.
With twenty published novels, and more than thirty audiobooks, few writers are as well rep-resented in the audiobook world as Stuart Woods. Half-a-dozen Woods audio-books are slated for pub-lication in 2000, including his latest novel, THE RUN (in abridged and unabridged formats from Harper Audio), and an unabridged reading of his 1981 novel Chiefs (Recorded Books).
Jacqueline Woodson was a storyteller even as a child--although when she was younger, she says, these stories weren’t the “once-upon-a-time kind,” but more outright lies, tall tales she told to see just how much she could get away with. “It wasn’t malicious,” she laughs. “I just loved to engage people with stories from a young age, and I didn’t know how else to do it.”
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