"The fascinating thing about audiobooks is that it adds another dimension. It becomes my words and her performance and your experience. It’s a literary ménage à trois!"
Talking with Julia Spencer-Fleming
Growing up a military brat, mystery author Julia Spencer-Fleming did a lot of traveling. She spent her childhood living all over the globe, from Mobile to Rome, from Stuttgart to Syracuse. Having finally settled in rural Maine with her husband and three children, she still doesn’t let the dust settle. Book tours, conventions, bookstore and library visits all mean a lot of time in the car. “And I listen to audiobooks when I do that. A lot!
“I really am a big audiobook fan,” she tells AUDIOFILE. “When we take trips as a family, audiobooks always come with us. We went to New York during this past school vacation, and on the way we listened to Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE and Eleanor Estes’s THE MOFFATS. On another trip we listened to one of the Harry Potter books. I love ’em.” While she does most of her listening in the car, Spencer-Fleming admits, “I have been known to put on a good book when I’m doing housework; it helps make the time fly.”
Spencer-Fleming has written four mystery thrillers featuring Reverend Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne, an Army helicopter pilot turned Episcopal priest and the local sheriff. Her novels blend elements of traditional whodunits with fast-paced detection, a bit of church politics, and just the right amount of romance.
And what does the mother of three listen to when she gets a break? “My current book is JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL.” While she tends to read genre fiction in print, for audio she prefers literary fiction. “I’m a mystery writer. I’m very plot oriented. I’m looking for that plot when I’m reading.” But listening to fiction allows her to slow down and experience the language. She recalls Charles Frazier’s COLD MOUNTAIN. “I couldn’t enjoy it in print, but listening to the author read in his beautiful North Carolinian accent, I just let myself go. It was as though someone was sitting on a porch telling me the story. I just loved it in a way that I couldn’t access it in print.”
Spencer-Fleming shares with us her theory about the collaborative nature of writing. “A book is not complete until it’s read. We create it between us: I write it, and it plays out in your head. And only then is it complete. The fascinating thing about the audiobook is that it adds another person—another dimension—into the mix. It becomes my words and her performance and your experience interpreting all of that as you listen to it. It’s a literary ménage à trois!
“Audiobooks are becoming increasingly better produced, more interesting, professionally performed,” Spencer-Fleming reflects. “Nowadays there are these wonderful performances, and with the onset of podcasting and MP3 downloads, this is just getting bigger and bigger. People like to listen to things. We have very busy lives. Everybody I know listens to audiobooks.”—Steven Steinbock