Scottish-born Stef Penney burst onto the literary scene in 2006 with her first novel, the Costa Prize-winning THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES, a mystery featuring an immigrant farmers wife in remote 1867 Canada. Her second novel, THE INVISIBLE ONES, is a noir drama set against Englands Gypsy community in the 1980s. The story is told from two points of view: that of a troubled private eye who had left the Gypsy life behind and that of a 14-year-old boy who is trying to understand his place in the Gypsy community.
Penney was pleased to have Dan Stevens narrate the audio adaptation of THE INVISIBLE ONES. It was especially a challenge in that you have two first-person narrators. That makes it personal and intimate, and obviously Dan had to get into both of those characters and be intimate and personal with each one. That one of them is a 14-year-old boy makes it a particular challenge. Having her books adapted for audio was her first significant exposure to the world of audiobooks, but Penneys background in film and radio made for a fascinating conversation about stories and the spoken word.
I absolutely love adapting books for radio dramatizations, she says. Its a lot of fun. And compared to film, its incredibly quick, and you have so much freedom. In film youre up against reality, which, and she begins to laugh, you dont have to deal with as a novelist. Her adaptations have included Apsley Cherry-Garrards THE WORST JOURNEY IN THE WORLD, a personal account of Robert Falcon Scotts disastrous 1911 South Pole expedition, and Herman Melvilles MOBY-DICK, both of which were produced for BBC Radio4. Ive been lucky to have been able to do the type of stories that I really love, she says. I have this obsession with snow and explorers. Im that kind of Scot.
About the connection between the written word and the spoken word, Penney says, When Im writing, I sort of speak the words out myself. In order to get the rhythm, you have to hear it, and you have to say it. Thats the way of turning it into words on a page.
What does Penney like to listen to? I have a sort of guilty pleasure, an old series of radio detective dramas that my sister introduced me to: Paul Temple by Francis Durbridge. I have a sort of addiction to him. You can listen to the same one over and over again, and it just doesnt diminish your enjoyment even though youve heard it before. You know, theyre all similar. The BBC discovered how popular they are, so theyre rerecording them with the original scripts, using period microphones and props, and theyre really great. Its incredibly enjoyable. Theyve recently done quite a few Raymond Chandler stories on BBC. They were very good. I dont know, its that comforting thing; its like youre being read to. Theres something very secure and comforting about it.
Right now, Im doing A TASTE FOR DEATH, which is part of the Modesty Blaise series, written by Peter ODonnell in the 1960s. Thats a complete guilty pleasure. Ive had my sacred collection of Modesty Blaise novels for a long time. And now I have the chance to translate them to radio, which Im very excited about. I think theyre planning to release A TASTE FOR DEATH in November.Steven E. Steinbock
© AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine
Photo © Ian Phillips-McLaren