Solve: Partners in Crime

Discover what it’s like writing with a co-author from the pair behind Michael Stanley’s audiobooks

I’ve often heard authors talk about the solitude of writing, so people who write as a team fascinate me. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several writing teams through my attendance at conferences and book signings and such.

Jefferson Bass - Without Mercy

There are pairs who have always written together like the authors of the Body Farm series, Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Blass—collectively Jefferson Bass. The creators of Detective Kubu are the duo from South Africa, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, also known as Michael Stanley. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child simply use their own names to publish the Pendergast series.

Family members can make good writing partners. The sister writing team of Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols make up P.J. Parrish. They publish the Louis Kincaid series and the Joe Frye series. And Charles and Caroline Todd, mother and son pair, write two popular historical fiction series, the Bess Crawford series and the Ian Rutledge series. Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Tease: Interview with Author Kristen Ashley

Ready for a roller-coaster romance? Hear what superstar author Kristen Ashley says about her audiobook exclusive, COMPLICATED!

Kristen Ashley Pic

Superstar romance author Kristen Ashley’s new title—COMPLICATEDwas released as an audiobook original. We asked her to share her thoughts on the audiobook process and her favorite titles. Read on!

Read more…

Caitlin is a librarian from Connecticut who enjoys great narrators and happy endings. She has been reviewing audiobooks for Audiofile Magazine since 2006, and she has had the privilege of judging numerous Audie Award categories since 2009. Her favorite authors are Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and whatever she's listening to right now!

John Lee – Interview with a Golden Voice

Famous for his resonant voice, narrator John Lee chats with AudioFile

John Lee

When Golden Voice Narrator John Lee agreed to hop onto Goodreads for a narrator interview, we couldn’t believe our luck! John Lee is famous for his resonant voice, thoughtful characterizations, range, and stamina. He’s won awards for everything from serious history books to mysteries to Ken Follett’s sprawling novels. He has had many titles reviewed by AudioFile reviewers over the years, including the Earphones Award Winner Sweetland. Read a selection of our readers’ questions and John’s thoughtful answers below.

Q: I adored your performance of Georgina Harding’s The Solitude of Thomas Cave: A Novel, which takes place mostly in the Arctic winter. How did the situational details affect you while you were narrating?

John Lee: Some books excel at what I call mood. The Solitude of Thomas Cave seemed to have a sort of mournful music under the whole thing. It’s not quite the same as having an imagined soundtrack, it’s more like that unidentifiable hum you hear sometimes which catches your attention and you can never quite figure out where it’s coming from. That tone informs the whole reading and a book such as this requires a poetic approach or perhaps it might better be described as a musical approach: my tone needs to match what feels like the tone of the book. I certainly ended recording sessions on Thomas Cave with a sense that I was emerging from another world. It was very immersive.

Q: You are the historical fiction king—in my (audio)book. How do you decide if you’ll use an accent for characters or the narrative text? How do you prepare for speaking in an accent?

John Lee: The decision to use accents is always a tricky one. I just did a book about a historical Irish character and it was clear that both the narration and the characters needed to be in an Irish accent. Yet, if I am doing something like the Ken Follett’s The Century Trilogy there are dozens of accents and the narration needs to be in my voice simply to distinguish it from the Welsh and the German and the Boston ones. I prepare for doing accents mostly by trying to call up the voices of people who speak that way. It’s partly a visual recall of the people and partly a sort of recording I have in my head of their way of speaking.

Q:  Can you tell us how you engage emotionally with your characters and how you manage tension and pacing?

John Lee:  Pace is the heart of the matter. There are two basic schools of thought—one that the ear or brain takes in information at a certain speed, and that speed is quicker than you might think. The other is that a book is different from pure information and needs to be read a little slower. Because English people tend to speak more quickly than Americans, directors are always asking me to slow down. Speed, though, helps raise tension in the right places. And tension is that indefinable middle ground where the silence and the speed are just right. Engaging emotionally is a matter of basic acting. I am a creature of the theatre and came to audiobooks from a world where you know if you’ve paced yourself and held the tension well simply by sensing the audience’s reaction. I think of audiobooks as my personal theater space.

Jump over to John Lee’s narrator page for more of the interview, and come join the conversation in the Audiobooks group on Goodreads so you can take part in our next narrator Q&A!

Hear John Lee’s performances of The Century Trilogy that includes FALL OF GIANTS, WINTER OF THE WORLD, EDGE OF ETERNITY.

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Solve: Rather Be the Devil

Ian Rankin and James MacPherson are back with the 21st Inspector Rebus novel

When a narrator and an audiobook series fit perfectly together, the union can be a true work of art. It melds the author, performer and audience in a marriage of entertainment; not just a one-night stand, so to speak. They’re in for the long haul. That’s exactly the case with James MacPherson and Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series.

Rather Be The Devil

RATHER BE THE DEVIL
Ian Rankin, read by James MacPherson
Hachette Audio/ Blackstone Audio
AudioFile Earphones Award

MacPherson has been with the series since the very beginning. He knows Rebus’s tics and peculiarities as well as his distinctive humor and mannerisms. So when you’ve got a good thing going, why change it? MacPherson is back to read RATHER BE THE DEVIL, the 21st John Rebus novel from Rankin, and it’s a winner—an Earphones winner.

 

Those unfamiliar with the series can jump in easily at this book, but the excellent pairing will certainly have you checking out the backlist as well. Series fans are sure to enjoy their newest visit with an old friend. Still not sure? Check out this fun interview (above) with the two men responsible for this award-winning audiobook series.

Read AudioFile’s full review and listen to a sound clip here. or browse more reviews of Ian Rankin’s audiobooks.

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

In the Studio: The Hero with A Thousand Faces

Recording Joseph Campbell’s exploration of universal themes in mythology

Three narrators: John Lee, Arthur Morey & Susan Denaker were cast to record Joseph Campbell’s iconic work, THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES.

john-lee
John Lee in the recording booth during the Joseph Campbell project.

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” —Joseph Campbell

The Hero with a Thousand Faces
The Hero with a Thousand Faces

by Joseph Campbell, Read by John Lee, Arthur Morey, Susan Denaker
Brilliance Audio

AudioFile spoke with director Tony Hudz about recording THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES.

AF: What do you think a new generation might gain from being introduced to The Hero with a Thousand Faces?

TH: I hope they gain a new perspective on our history–not just of the Americas, but of humanity as a whole–a sense of the unity of humanity across cultures and societies. Chinese, Indian, African, American, European–look at this, guys! Look at all these wonderful stories we have in common!

AF: Did you have any connection to the book prior to your selection as director?

TH: There were two linkages. I first made Mr. Campbell’s acquaintance when I read Hero as part of one of my university classes. I was blown away. I watched this incredible dance of humanity spin before my eyes, and it was an awakening for me. Many years later, I directed an abridged version of the work–I wanted more, but at the time it was the best I could do. It was a wonderful experience, nonetheless. And then the third time, this time, was my personal charm. This time, I got to tell the whole magnificent story.

AF: Why three narrators?

TH: I think the three-voice structure was a brilliant way of helping listeners–as opposed to readers–keep track of what’s going on. Readers can always flip back a page and check out the story flow. Listeners can’t. So how do you keep things clear? In this case, you put Mr. Campbell’s narrative in one voice; then there are literal and psychological excursions that depart from the narrative, and those you give to a discreet voice to set them apart; finally, there are a number of first-person female narratives in the text, and/or text that I believe is more effectively expressed through a woman’s voice. I think the totality of those voices helps the book in its audio incarnation.

AF: What was your greatest challenge during the recording?

TH: First, identifying which text was to be read by which readers. I went back and forth on many sections of the book to apportion it to “the best” narrator. In the end, this whole process ultimately worked best when I stopped trying to figure out the book and let it tell me what to do. Linked to this, I had a four-page recording log to keep myself honest and make sure I actually recorded every word. The book was about a 250-piece jigsaw puzzle by the time I was done, and I had to be very careful not to lose a piece. Second, the work’s pronunciations. Many of which were ancient and/or arcane, and/or nearly impossible to track down. But I think that ultimately we got them all right. I thank my lucky stars for three really, really smart readers who already knew many of the words and allusions and could back up my homework. Related to this, consistency of pronunciation was also a challenge. Keeping hundreds of names straight through 400+ pages was often a daunting task.

AF: Anything else you’d like to share?

TH: I’ve always thought that four of the greatest words in the English language are: “Tell me a story.” And what I do, my vocation, my avocation, as it has been for so many years, is tell stories in the grand sweeping context of this wonderful, amazing thing we call The Oral Tradition. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to do what I do–and what I did here was to tell one of the grandest stories of all: us. And I told it by directing one of the greatest books ever written about us: THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. And reading the story are three of my favorite talents–Arthur Morey, John Lee, and Susan Denaker–with whom, cumulatively, I’ve probably recorded a hundred books over the years. How could it possibly get any better than that?

Narrator John Lee was AudioFile’s guest on GoodReads on Wed. & Thurs, Feb 15 & 16. Follow the conversation with John about his audiobooks in this discussion.

Davina Porter: The voice behind the Outlander series

Eight volumes of OUTLANDER, 320 hours of listening—now that is binge-worthy!

AudioFile Magazine spoke with Davina Porter, narrator of the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon, published by Recorded Books.

Davina-Porter
photo by Jo Anna Perrin

Golden Voice narrator Davina Porter has performed not only the entire Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, but also other fantasy classics including many of Marion Zimmer Bradley Avalon audiobooks, and Erika Johansen’s widely praised THE INVASION OF THE TEARLING.  Davina’s audiobook work includes titles ranging from classics to mystery to philosophy, with an enduring thread of splendid fantasy audiobooks.

OutlanderOUTLANDER
Diana Gabaldon, read by Davina Porter
Recorded Books

AudioFile’s exclusive interview with narrator Davina Porter:

Davina Porter: Hullo, I’m Davina Porter, and have had the fun and privilege of narrating the entire Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, from the initial book up to the latest one, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD.

AudioFile: What background do you bring to the Outlander series?
I was born and raised in England, my father was English, a true “Londoner” (read Cockney!), and my mother was born in St. Andrews, Scotland. Two accents under my belt! I am married to a Glasgow-born Scot, more diversity. Being a product of my background, I am very familiar with the English and Scottish way of life, and all its foibles!

AF: How do you keep the characters and their accents straight?
DP: I keep the characters and accents straight by making rather scruffy lists in various notebooks, but as they are so well written, they come alive and stay in my memory.

AF: Have you ever visited the Scottish Highlands?
DP: I have visited the Highlands. Quite beautiful, unspoiled, and very mysterious. However, they can turn on the visitor in the summer because of the midges. Mosquitoes have nothing on these little pests!

AF: Is there one favorite character you love to perform? 
DP: My favorite character is Claire. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, I AM Claire!!!!

AF: What was the biggest challenge in narrating the time-travel sequences?
DP: There really isn’t  a challenge narrating the time travel sequences; I love history, and having visited Scotland, lived in London and four years in Paris, it is easy to put oneself in those cities and countries, and when voicing the characters, to keep them true to the morals and mores of their times.

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In the Studio: American Gods

Go behind the scenes of the creation of the 10th Anniversary Edition of Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS audiobook

Neil Gaiman and an ensemble of talented narrators created the full-cast audiobook production of AMERICAN GODS.

American Gods
AMERICAN GODS, 10th Anniversary Edition with Full Cast
Listen to a sound clip

Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS is headed to the small screen with an all-star cast, but lucky listeners already have two wonderful versions of the audiobook that they can listen to. In 2011, AudioFile Magazine spoke with Harper Audio executive producer Karen Dziekonski and producer/director Paula Parker about the 10th-anniversary full-cast production of Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS.

AF: How did the idea of a new, full-cast recording come about?

KD: Neil Gaiman proposed the idea of a full-cast recording after he and two others performed a section of the book in front of a live audience. He thought it really worked, and we loved the idea right away. Over the years, Harper Audio has produced many Neil Gaiman audiobooks. Each production was special—in terms of use of music, or Neil’s involvement as narrator—really fun and rewarding because of Neil’s support of the audio format. This production of AMERICAN GODS would take our long collaboration with Neil to a new level. We saw it as great creative challenge and a wonderful way to commemorate the 10th anniversary.

Neil GaimanNeil Gaiman in the recording studio

AF: How much was author Neil Gaiman involved in the process, aside from the parts he narrated himself? What was the casting process like?

PP: Neil had some wonderful narrators in mind: Ron McLarty, Anne Bobby, and Sarah Jones. We submitted voice samples for other roles such as Shadow and the narrator, from which Neil selected Dan Oreskes and Dennis Boutsikaris—both experienced and talented narrators. The rest of the cast—most having to play at least six different roles—were chosen for their versatility and vocal quality. The cast included 20 actors. We all had enormous respect for Neil and wanted this recording to honor his special voice.

AF: Did any of the narrators record in the studio together, or was it all put together post-recording? How did that work?

PP: Each narrator’s part was recorded separately. However, we meticulously matched the actors’ performances by focusing on the intention of the scene and always listening back to what the previous actor had recorded. I worked closely with the engineer—editing and using very precise script markings as a road map for our post-production team—to ensure that performances sounded as though they were recorded with everyone present.

AF: Were there any particular challenges in putting together this full-cast recording?

PP: This 20-hour, 20-actor audiobook’s biggest challenge was to ensure that small errors didn’t undermine the larger effort. For example, during pre-production, I made certain that each character and each line was accounted for. Otherwise, we could have been bringing actors back three or four times for missed lines. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Only a small number of pickups and rerecords were necessary.

AF: Anything else you’d like to share with us about the process of recording and producing AMERICAN GODS?

PP: The team effort behind this production made this massive recording enjoyable and creatively rewarding. I’d like to thank Neil for trusting us to bring his incredible characters and narrative to life, HarperCollins for giving us the opportunity to produce it, the “best there is” production team at John Marshall Media, and last but not least, the actors who delivered their performance heart and soul to this audio program.

We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!

Outspoken Girl to Outspoken Woman

An Autobiography from Janis Ian

Janis IanJanis Ian came to public attention using both her voice and her lyricism while she was still a teenager. Today, she continues to work both with her voice and her poetry, and we’re all still listening and learning to think prejudices under her tutelage.

In SOCIETY’S CHILD: MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY, we have the wonderful experience of hearing her memories and developing ideals and ideas in her own narration. STARS takes us on journeys of the imagination in which Janis Ian’s songs inspire speculative short stories from a variety of science fiction authors and are performed here by ten narrators, including that songwriter who sparked these short stories.

SOCIETY'S CHILD: MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY

She lends her mellifluous and quiet voice to others stories with equal justice and Earphones Award-winning grace. Miriam Therese Winter’s autobiography, THE SINGER AND THE SONG comes to us in Janis Ian’s voice. As happens with some author and narrator combinations, they became a team to create this, reaching out to befriend each other as the print book moved to voice.

These days, Janis is working on a couple of audiobook projects, including a collection of poetry from her youth. We’re looking forward to that and hope you move it onto your future listening list, too! While waiting, we can visit her at home performing the upcoming children’s audiobook, THE TINY MOUSE.

Portrait photo of Janis Ian by Floyd Bagge

Francisca Goldsmith
Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.