Author Katherine Center and narrator Patti Murin are a match made in audiobook heaven. While it may have taken Center a few years to become a published author (she started writing when she was 12), her titles now enjoy immense popularity. THE LOST HUSBAND was a smash hit, becoming a Netflix film, and her other titles have received equal acclaim with New York Times bestseller status and buzz about more film options.
In addition to narrating titles for Center, Christina Lauren, and Jodi Picoult, Patti Murin is a superstar overachiever with credits on Broadway and in television and even a music album.
Now Center and Murin have teamed up to record audiobooks, including THE BODYGUARD and their latest joint endeavor, HELLO STRANGER. AudioFile asked Center and Murin to give us the inside story on their newest project.
Katherine Center: It’s the story of a struggling portrait artist who gets a “probably temporary” condition called face blindness. She can see everything just fine except for human faces, which read like puzzle pieces that won’t snap together. This happens just as she places in a big career-making competition and needs to paint the best portrait of her life. At the same time, in all the chaos, without ever meaning to, she accidentally falls in love with two very different guys at once: a dashing vet who saves her dog Peanut’s life and an obnoxious but surprisingly helpful neighbor in her building. It’s both a very swoony love story and a heartrending depiction of family, growing up, and learning to see and be seen.
AF: Are you involved in the creation of your audiobooks?
KC: I get to listen to samples of potential narrators early in the process, and I’m always partial to narrators who can capture a wry comic tone when delivering both the dialogue and the main character's voice. I also in recent years have had the chance to narrate bonus chapters and author’s notes from my books—which I love, love, love. I’m a huge fan of both reading aloud and of listening to other people do it, so it feels thrilling and glamorous to get to step into that world of voice performance.
AF: Patti, can you tell us about narrating Katherine’s HELLO STRANGER? What was it like to create this audiobook?
Patti Murin: I absolutely loved recording HELLO STRANGER, which is the second of Katherine's books I have been lucky enough to record. Her characters are so clear and well written and easy to connect with, so as an audiobook narrator, I appreciate her writing style even more! She also walks the perfect line between creating uber-realistic human characters and having some fun with their personality traits. It's never boring and always soul-filling.
AF: Pictures and video of you narrating your audiobooks show you are very animated in the booth. It almost appears as if you are having a two-way conversation with the characters! What’s your process when narrating?
PM: I've learned over the years that I need my hands to be free so I can "talk" with them as I record. Each character naturally develops their own style of movement through my hands, though I don't know that an observer would be able to tell the difference between them. But it matches the energy I'm trying to communicate and makes each human character different. Though I do have to be very careful not to hit the microphone when I do this. I've definitely had to do some retakes because of this!
KC: I “met” Patti online through Jodi Picoult years ago, and then when I was writing my book THE BODYGUARD, which is about a famous actor, I asked if she’d be willing to let me interview her about acting and fame—and she graciously agreed. We had a very warm, easy phone chat that didn’t even feel like an interview—and I wound up using lots of inside info that she gave me in the book. I was writing the acknowledgments for that book and thanking her when I got a message from her that she’d be narrating the audiobook, and it was so thrilling to think that she’d helped me write the story and now she’d be reading it! I feel beyond lucky that our shared love of stories has brought us together. It totally makes sense to me that she’d be a phenomenally great audio narrator for my books because we get along so well talking in real life. We just click on many levels.
PM: I had been reading Katherine's books for years before we connected on social media, and then I believe I shamelessly reached out and told her how much I love her writing and that I would love the opportunity to narrate for her at any point. When she was writing THE BODYGUARD, I had an hour-long phone conversation with her about the realism of celebrity as she researched that book. Little did we know that I would soon be auditioning to narrate it! As luck would have it, I got the offer for it, and that was that. I remember having the best time speaking to her and feeling that we were kindred spirits in some way. And I've been a voracious reader my whole life, so authors are my rock stars. Katherine is essentially my Billy Joel!
AF: Patti, you’re a versatile entertainer, to say the least, with roles on Broadway, in film, and even a music album with your husband during the pandemic. How does audiobook narration fit with all that?
PM: I recorded my very first audiobook [THE HONEY DON’T LIST by Christina Lauren] in January of 2020, and I was in a proper studio in New York City—in absolute heaven. Then the pandemic hit, and everything transitioned to in home recording. I already knew I would be doing Jodi Picoult's THE BOOK OF TWO WAYS, so my husband and I invested in a recording booth for our basement, and it paid for itself very quickly! Also, as a mom of two, I find it incredibly convenient because recording hours are generally very flexible. So I don't have to bend over backward or go whole days without seeing my daughters because I'm busy working out of the house all week. I'm always looking to narrate as many audiobooks as possible because it really is my dream job in that it combines my obsession with books and my acting skills. Plus, I get to wear sweatpants, and that is excellent.
AF: Katherine, you’re a bestselling author whose books have become both audiobooks and popular films. Is your process as an author any different knowing your book will be enjoyed multiple ways?
KC: It’s absolutely joyful for me that the stories come to life in all these ways, but I wouldn’t say it’s changed my process much. I’m always just trying to tell the best story I can—to really see it and hear it and get lost in it and then to put it onto the page in a way that will help readers see and hear and get lost in it, too. I’m always trying to render what’s going on in my head just right so that the experience I’m having—which often makes me laugh and cry while I’m writing—hits readers the same way. It’s a visual process for me, but it’s also an auditory process—maybe even more so. I hear the sentences and the rhythm and the music of words in my head. I especially hear the dialogue—the staccato beats and syncopations of the people’s voices back and forth. My job is to find the best way to get all that into words on a page—and that never changes. It is really fun, though, to see other people’s interpretations of the sounds. They’re often quite different from mine!
AF: Patti, how does your experience as a film and theater actor inform your work as an audiobook narrator?
PM: Both of these media have helped me tremendously. As a film actor, everything is a little smaller and a bit closer to realism, and this informs how I use the microphone. No one wants to hear me shouting like I'm onstage! But my theater work has allowed me to expand the way I imagine the characters I'm voicing, and I find I can take it a little further in terms of largeness of personality, thanks to my onstage training.
AF: Any upcoming projects you both can share with your listeners?
KC: I’ve just turned in my summer 2024 book, which is a connected story to THE BODYGUARD, and I’m madly in love with it.
PM: I just finished recording IT HAPPENED ONE FIGHT by Maureen Lee Lenker, which is her debut novel.
AF: What if listeners want more Katherine Center and Patti Murin?
KC: I’ll be on book tour July 11-26 all around the country—and all the details are at my website, katherinecenter.com
Katherine and Patti will also be doing an event together on 7/18 at 7pm at St. Louis County Public Library @ JCC’s Mirowitz Performing Arts Center.
Photo of Katherine Center courtesy of Macmillan Audio; photo of Patti Murin by Justin Patterson