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Talking with Lisa Gardner

When one imagines the type of person who writes dark thrillers about FBI agents and serial killers, abduction, abuse, and violence, Lisa Gardner is not the kind of person who comes to mind. She’s the kind of person you’d expect to meet at toddler time.

But when we caught up with Lisa last spring at a library appearance, we were able to affirm that the young Oregon native is, in fact, the author of evocative and realistic crime novels. After more than a dozen romantic suspense novels (under the name Alicia Scott), Gardner’s novels took on a distinctly darker and more realistic tone with THE PERFECT HUSBAND (1998). THE KILLING HOUR (2003) was on the New York Times bestseller list for four weeks and was a Publishers Weekly and USA Today bestseller as well. Three of her novels have been adapted for film, including THE SURVIVOR’S CLUB, which starred Roma Downey and Jacqueline Bisset. All seven of her suspense novels are available on audio.

We asked what she thinks of the audio adaptations of her books. “I’ve always been very impressed by the abridgments,” she told us. “I mean that’s a real art form, taking something and condensing it down to 55,000 words. Every now and then there’s an issue of a plot hole because of things that have been removed. But the system works really well. “I have warm memories of my grandmother reading to me. It was always a part of our night-time ritual, and she’s a former English teacher and has a wonderful book collection. I give her credit for my career because she got us hooked on the Perry Mason books by Erle Stanley Gardner [no relation].”

Listening to a story is a vastly different experience from eyeball-to-page reading. “Audiobooks force your ear and your brain to work together in a way we don’t use much anymore because we’re such a visual society. My brother and I did a cross-country trip a few years ago, so we checked a bunch of audios out from our local library. For the first few tapes we really struggled. It’s like that muscle wasn’t well developed. But by the time we hit Nebraska, we were pros. It’s a very exciting way to experience a story.”

So what’s up next for Gardner? The hardcover version of her latest novel, ALONE, was released in January simultaneously with the abridgment from Random House Audio, and an unabridged reading from Books on Tape by Audie winner Anna Fields. “This is a non-series book that features a police sniper. He is called out for a domestic dispute. He witnesses what appears to be the husband preparing to shoot his wife, so he shoots and kills the man. In the aftermath there are a lot of questions about what was really going on in the house that night. It’s an interesting book, one where nothing’s quite what it seems.” Much like its author.—Steven Steinbock

APR/ MAY 05 © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine

Photo © Barbara Peacock

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