While at RWA, I met with Renee Raudman, audiobook narrator, and asked her some of the questions that folks asked after her first interview with the podcast. We talk about how the audiobook world and the author world used to be separate, but are now becoming closer as authors self publish their audiobooks and pursue the unique or signature performances of a particular narrator. We discuss new audiences for audiobooks, including young readers, and what she’s working on presently.
Special note: Curran makes a brief appearance. Sort of.
Then, because we’re still talking about young reader recommendations, I share a listener email from Sally, who recommends one book, but dude. DUDE. I wanna read this book RIGHT NOW.
Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
And because I said I’d link to it: the WorldCat library (US) listing for The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman.
This podcast is brought to you by Signet Eclipse, publisher of Hillbilly Rockstar—the sexy new Blacktop Cowboys novel from New York Times bestselling author Lorelei James.
Country music star Devin McClain understands there’s a downside to life in the public eye, but the laidback Wyoming cowboy has never imagined he’d attract crazed fans who would do anything to garner his attention. When veiled threats become real, he agrees to hire a discreet security detail. But Devin is shocked when that bodyguard is a hard-bodied woman. He’s even more stunned to be attracted to the steely-eyed stunner.
Former soldier Liberty Masterson’s return to civilian life has been fraught with challenges until she lands a job with a prestigious security firm. But when she agrees to provide personal protection during a cross-country tour, she doesn’t realize she has signed up to masquerade as the playboy star’s girlfriend. Though she’s more comfortable in combat boots than high heels, she has no choice but to appear to be the sexy groupie Devin prefers.
Living in close quarters causes the chemistry between them to ignite, and Devin realizes he wants to turn their charade of a romance into reality. Although Liberty surrenders to his every whim behind closed doors, she fears the sexy country star doesn’t see the real her; and Devin can’t help but worry when the tour ends that there might not be enough between them to build something that won’t fade away….
You can find Hillbilly Rockstar wherever books are sold, on sale August 5, 2014!
Our music in each episode is provided by Sassy Outwater, who is most excellent. This podcast features a song called “Ascent of Conival” and it’s by Peatbog Faeries from their CD Dust. You can find them at their website, or at iTunes.
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Thanks for listening!
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
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Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to another DBSA podcast. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and with me today is Renee Raudman, audiobook narrator. I interviewed Renee last year, and she was kind enough to answer some reader questions, but when we found out we would both be at RWA, we found time to sit down in the actual same room, as opposed to connecting over digital technology. We had a really great conversation about how the audiobook world and the author world used to be separate and how they’re becoming closer. We talk about new audiences for audiobooks, and Curran makes a very brief appearance. I hope you enjoy it.
This podcast is brought to you by Signet Eclipse, publisher of Hillbilly Rockstar, the sexy new Blacktop Cowboys novel from New York Times bestselling author, Lorelei James.
I’ll have information at the end of the podcast as to who this is, but I bet if you’re familiar with our music and what we like and what you guys like, you probably already know who this is.
And now, on with the podcast.
Sarah: So this is your first RWA.
Renee Raudman: Yes.
Sarah: What are you doing while you’re here?
Renee: I have meetings back to back –
Renee: – which is shocking, and – meaning, ‘cause it’s my first one, and I sort of didn’t know what to expect, but, but when word got out that I was going to be here, I was just really taken with how many authors reached out and said, please let us take you to lunch, or publishers were saying, oh, let’s get you and the author together, because I don’t think I’ve met, I’ve met one of my authors –
Renee: – Deborah Coonts, and she was very encouraging of me to come. She said, look, I live in Dallas. If you go, I’m there, I’ll drive in, and I’ll make sure you meet everybody you should. And you know, we live in such separate worlds, it’s hard to know how you’re received or perceived –[Laughs]
Sarah: Yes, of course!
Renee: – and it’s been a really amazing experience. La-, so today is Friday –
Sarah: Yes, today is Friday.
Renee: – so Wednesday night, Wednesday night –
Sarah: I think.
Renee: Yeah, exactly – Wednesday night, I, I – it was a dream come true – I had dinner with Catherine Coulter, J. T. Ellison –
Sarah: I would have lost my mind. Oh, my gosh. [Laughs]
Renee: – B. J. Novak, Erica Spindler, Deborah Coonts, and –
Sarah: My inner 13-year-old would have been losing her mind.
Renee: I was, I was like, I had chosen, and they made me feel so special and so welcome, and you know, I felt like such an outsider –
Renee: – sort of joining this elite group of –
Sarah: All the cool women.
Renee: – of all the cool women –
Sarah: I know!
Renee: – and I’m like, I can’t believe – and they would just so effusive and lovely and –
Sarah: One thing I have heard a lot of authors talking more and more about is their audiobooks. Up, I think up until a couple of years ago it was sort of like, oh, audiobooks happen, and that’s not something I have much to do with –
Sarah: – but now that you can self publish your audiobooks and connect directly with different narrators in different places, and audiobooks have become more and more popular –
Sarah: – authors are really paying attention to how important not only the audiobook but the narrator.
Renee: Right. I think that we’re going to see a lot of changes when it comes to authors understanding the importance of audiobooks, and I do think that it’s going to become more important to their book sales as well. I have the good op-, great opportunity to interview or, or, not interview, but speak with one of my authors’ agents, and I said, are audiobook sales important to you?
Renee: And she said, absolutely.
Sarah: Oh, yes.
Renee: She said, it not only is great for more recognition, but it sells more books, and when I was at my, my personal convention in New York in May at the APAC, there was a, a panel on author/narrator combinations and how they’re becoming more and more powerful –
Renee: – and they did a study, a really good job in terms of the means and making sure it was an even calculation of things, and when an author/narrator had a promo of some kind or did something special or unique prior to a book’s release, an audiobook’s release usually, which coincides with the, the book’s release, sales, I believe, were up one-third for day one but 50% over 30 days –
Renee: – which is amazing. Which means that now authors are probably going to become more and more interested and want to be more involved with –
Renee: – who narrates their audiobooks –
Sarah: Of course.
Renee: – but as well, they’re becoming educated about how this whole audiobook world works, because before, to them, it was like, well, my book is in the library in two forms; you know, it’s in audiobook form as well as, you know, published form, and that was really the extent of it, but now with digital downloads, it’s this mystery to them. In fact, I sat in one of the panels yesterday here at RWA, called Why Audiobooks Are Suddenly Chic, and it was a great lineup of people –
Sarah: Were you in the back, like, I totally know why they’re chic –
Renee: [Laughs] Yeah.
Sarah: – Show me all you got, ‘cause I’m aware!
Renee: Chic is, it was really interesting, because I not only learned some things, but you, you could see that auth-, the authors who were there were astounded by the information that they learned. And to me, I’m like, really? You didn’t know these things? And –
Renee: So it was pretty remarkable, and I also think, obviously, there’s a whole new audience of audiobook listeners –
Sarah: Oh, I was just about to ask you about that.
Renee: – because – So, here’s my answer to – I get asked this question a lot – Why do you think that audiobooks are becoming so popular? And, you know, why are they doubling in sales every year? And I think there’s several answers. On the technical side, (a) it’s available to everybody now, you know, through Downpour and Audible and, and iTunes, and it, it’s just so easy and affordable –
Renee: – which it wasn’t before. And now that a whole new generation is being introduced to the audiobook, and they’re very, they’re always going or they’re, you know, it seems like they’re always going from one place to the other and listen in the gym, or they don’t have time to read, and also, it’s just a great new form of entertainment.
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Renee: So that is, that’s one reason, and they’re exploding, and, and I think that there’s a whole section of the publishing business, in the author world particularly, that don’t even understand that this is becoming so big –
Renee: – and they’re slowly getting on that bandwagon. I also think, from a personal standpoint, that in our world, our technology world, you know, we’re, we’re with less and less people. I mean, I’m meeting you for the first time face to face, and it’s so cool, you know, but we had to travel each across the [laughs] country to do it.
Sarah: Yeah, you know, meet in the middle.
Renee: Right, exactly.
Sarah: America’s so small.
Renee: It is.
Sarah: Laterally. [Laughs]
Renee: And, but we have all these relationships over the Internet that –
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Renee: – to me, an audiobook – ‘cause I love audiobooks – but an audiobook is probably one of the most intimate, intimate forms of entertainment – other than that other form of entertainment. [Laughs]
Sarah: I have, I have two theories about audiobook popularity increasing. One, like you said, it’s so easy. Not only can I have 300 books on my phone, I can have, like, 85 audiobooks, because MP3s are a very high quality sound –
Sarah: – but they’re little, itty-bitty things. They’re, they don’t take up a lot of room –
Sarah: – but you can have a ton of them with you on the same device that you read on, plus Amazon has, has tied the audiobook to the digital book –
Renee: The Whispersync?
Sarah: – and the minute that you buy one, you get a discount on the other?
Renee: Oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t know that.
Sarah: So, like, if I’ve bought, for example, Diary of a Wimpy Kid – My children, who are eight and six, love audiobooks. They like to listen to them as they go to bed, and so they –
Renee: Oh, interesting!
Sarah: – they are always listening to an audiobook before they go to bed, and they will listen to the same one over and over again, but it helps them sleep. So they’re at sleep-away camp, and I had to download a ton of different audiobooks, because they wouldn’t have Internet access at camp. All of the books that I had bought on Kindle, I was able to buy the audiobook for $1.99, $2.99, $3.99. I was like, oh, click-click-click-click-click, because they tied the prices together. Plus, with Kindle Unlimited, where you subscribe –
Renee: Oh, right.
Sarah: – and then you can borrow –
Renee: – get – Right.
Sarah: The borrowing triggers the discount on the audiobook, which you then own.
Renee: Oh, my gosh.
Sarah: And they’re –
Renee: That’s amazing.
Sarah: – and they’re eating that discount in price. That’s not going back to the publisher –
Sarah: – They’re eating that to try to facilitate more audio –
Sarah: – and they have a page where you can look at all of the things you’ve bought and all the discounts you’ve triggered, and you can just click-click-click and buy them. It’s amazing. So it’s super easy. Actually – and I don’t know if I told you this – I sat next to a guy who worked at Audible at my son’s elementary school, and I was reading on my, my Kindle because I had seen the movie that they were showing for family movie night, like, five times –
Sarah: – so I had my jacket up over me and I’m reading, and he’s like, is that a Kindle? And I was expecting the, I’ve never seen a Kindle, that’s really cool, and I was sort of like, oh. And he was like, yeah, I work for Amazon Audible, and I’ve been working on the audiobooks, and I was like, I’m going to put this away, and I’m going to ask you All The Questions. And there was so much, like, I would ask a question, and he would be silent. He’d be like, I can’t tell you the answer to that question –
Renee: Oh, right. Right.
Sarah: – I’m sorry; I’m not able to tell you, like, there’s nothing I can say, but he did tell me that the cool thing was that when you, when you build a webpage and you want people to be able to jump down to a specific section, like, if you have a list –
Sarah: – of links at the top and you click one and you jump down the page –
Sarah: – it’s called an anchor.
Sarah: They’ve basically added anchors to every single word in the Kindle file and tied an anchor to every single word in the audio file so that it tracks where you have stopped –
Renee: -stopped –
Sarah: – and then lets you pick up with the audiobook at that point.
Renee: So that’s what’s called Whispersync, right? Yeah.
Sarah: Yes, that’s the Whispersync. So they’ve made an individual anchor at every point that you’re reading so that you can seamlessly go from one to the other, and I was like, that’s. so. cool!
Renee: Oh, well –
Sarah: And young people are going to eat that up.
Renee: Right. And I didn’t know, I misunderstood Whispersync because I’m not using it –
Renee: – from the Kindle version to the audiobook version. All I know is that when I get in my car –
Renee: – it starts playing –
Renee: – right where it left off.
Renee: When I turn my iPod on –
Renee: – it says – I mean my iPad – it says, do you want to pick up where you left off? Click.
Renee: And it picks, it doesn’t matter whe-, and I, you know, so, for so long, that was the complaint of listening –
Renee: – on your iPod, and if you would –
Sarah: And you can’t –
Renee: – Because you couldn’t figure out –
Sarah: There’s no bookmarking.
Renee: – how to get to chap-
Renee: – right, there was no – and now, it just picks up –
Renee: It’s brilliant, and – so I thought that, I thought, wonder why they call it Whispersync, though, but I wasn’t understanding that it –
Sarah: It’s synchronizing your –
Renee: – synchronizes with the –
Sarah: -progress, and it’s both when you read and when you listen –
Renee: Yeah, amazing.
Sarah: – so if I read on my phone and I pick up another device, it’ll say, you read to this point on your phone. Do you want to pick up on this device here?
Sarah: And the same for the audio. The other reason I think that people are into audiobooks increasingly is that I think humans generally like to be read to.
Renee: That was my next thing.
Sarah: We like –
Sarah: – we like someone telling us a story.
Renee: It harkens back to our parents reading to us.
Renee: And it’s very warm and comforting.
Sarah: Oh, and it’s, and if it’s in your ears, it’s very intimate, and I –
Sarah: – and I’ve watched with my sons, the reason my son discovered audiobooks is that one day my eight year old woke up, and he came into our, our bedroom, and he said, mom, I really don’t feel good. I don’t think I should go to school today. He loves school, so I knew something was wrong –
Sarah: – and I said, well, tell me what the problem is. Do you feel like you’re going to throw up? And he goes, no, my, my chest really, really hurts, and I was like, ohhh, that’s not good. So I called the pediatrician, and the first appointment I could get was 10 a.m., and this was, like seven in the morning, and he came up to my office on the third floor with me, and just going up the stairs started to make him cough, and the coughing was really hurting –
Sarah: – and I was like, oh, crap, he’s got pneumonia. So I, he was really scared. Really, really scared about the fact that it hurt to breathe, and he felt so awful, and I still had to kill time until the pediatrician appointment –
Sarah: – and I couldn’t give him anything, because I needed her to hear and see –
Sarah: – what was going on. And I said, okay, do you want to come watch TV? He’s like, no, I’m too sick to watch TV, to which me, my impression was, oh, he is –
Renee: It’s really bad!
Sarah: – really, really sick! I said, well, do you want me to read to you? And he’s like, no, I, I want to read, but I, I can’t pay attention to the book, I feel so yucky. And I said, well, have you ever tried listening to a book? And he’s like, what are you talking about? So I downloaded an audiobook for him on my laptop. I’m sitting in his bed with him, and I’m like, let’s, here, I’m going to download one of your books, and we’re going to listen to it, and he was like, I don’t think this is going to work, mom. I really don’t think this is going to work. And I pressed Play, and all of a sudden he was like, ohhh! And I could see him, like, just begin to relax and listen –
Renee: Oh, my gosh!
Sarah: – and it was a male narrator –
Sarah: – so it was different from my voice –
Sarah: – and he was so into it, and he was so relaxed that that’s what got him through that period of time until the pediatrician appointment, and then once we had the chest x-ray and he didn’t have pneumonia, I treated him like he did anyway –
Sarah: – because I’ve had pneumonia, and it is so not fun –
Sarah: – and he was listening to audiobooks while he was relaxing, because he was too sick to focus –
Renee: Yeah, oh, I –
Sarah: – but he was awake enough to listen –
Sarah: – and then he told his little brother. He was like, I was read to all day by this guy named Ramon –
Sarah: – and Ramon was reading me all of the Dan Gutman My Weird School books, and my six year old was like, [gasp] can Ramon read to me too?
Sarah: And I was like, actually, yes, he can. And so now they’re –
Renee: That’s amazing!
Sarah: – both totally into it, but they, their interaction is really interesting. They remember the narrator’s name, and they talk about which ones they like better, ‘cause Ramon De Ocampo does, I think he does the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and then there’s another narrator who does the Dan Gutman My Weird School books –
Renee: Oh, okay.
Sarah: – and they talk about which guy they like better –
Sarah: – and who tells – They’re aware of the fact that it’s a person –
Renee: That’s amazing.
Sarah: – and they’re really young.
Renee: Well, that – and I think that –
Sarah: People like being read to.
Renee: – and I think that’s the other reason why audiobooks are growing in such numbers is because the quality –
Sarah: So good!
Renee: – of, of the narrators are – not that they weren’t talented before, but it was a different kind, it was more of a, a straight read –
Renee: – you know, in terms of the –
Sarah: And now it’s a performance.
Renee: And now it’s a voice-acted performance and, and not everyone loves that, but I do think that this new generation who’s discovering audiobooks, you know, there’s an expectation for them to be entertained, and –
Renee: – so they want, I think, and desire that –
Renee: – more voice-acted performances and, you know, more and more of the narrators are doing that now and sharpening their craft and –
Sarah: Creative with their stuff.
Renee: Yeah. So I think all those things together have made a really –
Sarah: How many, how many voices do you do? Do you know? Like, all the different voices that you do in your narration? Do you have, like, a set range, and then you tweak them? How many voices do you do?
Renee: Oh, boy. You know, that’s a great question. [Laughs] I mean, like, when I, I finished Ilona Andrews’s Magic Breaks – I think it comes out next week –
Sarah: It comes out next week.
Renee: – and I would like to kill them. No.
Renee: – because –
Sarah: Did you have Curran problems?
Renee: No, I didn’t have Curran problems, but there, it was, I think it’s the seventh in the series?
Sarah: Yeah, I think it is.
Renee: Seventh? And, and they chose to bring back almost every character from –
Renee: – the first six series until – and it doesn’t – there must have been 130 voices. I mean, I don’t know if there’s 130. There’s a crazy number of characters in that book, and so I would have to keep running back to the other compute-. I’d go, okay, to my engineer, I’d say, okay, you’ve got to hold, because it didn’t do me any good to listen to all the voices ahead of time, because with 130 –
Sarah: You have to listen to them right before you do them –
Renee: Right, right. So I’d basically have to –
Sarah: – if you’re mimicking yourself.
Renee: – keep referring back and pull up Magic Strikes, Magic –
Renee: – you know, and I’m like, okay, let’s go back to, you know, you have to go back, and then – and all, even some of the smaller characters, and, and I, I –
Renee: My attempt is to do as many characters as the book calls for, so I, I think in general, you know, my, the, the male hero, you know, there tends to be a bit of a formulaicness to most romance, certain, of novels –
Sarah: There are similarities in the character type, types –
Renee: Right. Exactly.
Sarah: – types that repeat.
Renee: And while they don’t, I hope they don’t all sound alike, but, you know, there is an element of, you know, I, I tend to, you know, create the men who I would want to be coming after me –
Sarah: Right, of course.
Renee: – who I would want to court me, so, you know, there is going to be a similarity in that or the – so I suppose there’s a bit of a stable that you draw –
Sarah: Of sets, yeah.
Renee: – that I draw from, you know, of essence, of that essence, but, so –
Sarah: Do you ever answer the phone as Curran?
Sarah: You know what you could do –
Renee: No, I never thought of it – [Laughs]
Sarah: You know what you could do, though? You could do, like, a giveaway with Ilona and do voicemail greetings in Curran’s voice for people.
Renee: Oh, my gosh.
Sarah: This is Curran –
Renee: So, Curran, so Curran’s a big, like, that would be the voice.
Sarah: Yeah. This is, this is Curran. You have reached so-and-so. She’s not available, and when I let her out, she’ll –
Renee: Hi. This is Curran. If you feel like it, leave a message; otherwise –
Sarah: That would be so great! That was somebody, that would be so great.
Renee: [Laughs] Yeah, and then the growl. I love his growl. [Growls]
Sarah: [Laughs] Well done!
Renee: Yeah, I think. Oh, that’s funny. That’s a great idea. We were trying to think of some promotional ideas for –
Sarah: That would be good. Well, Jay Baruchel, who does the voice of Hiccup for How to Train Your Dragon –
Sarah: – it is his speaking voice. Like, you’re listening to him –
Sarah: – doing an interview –
Sarah: – and he’s that character. So he was saying in an interview at one point that he had done some prizes for some kids, and he would call their voicemail, or their parents’ voicemail, and like, hey, it’s Hiccup, I heard you’re a big fan of the movie. Come hang out with –
Renee: Oh, my gosh, that’s so cool!
Sarah: – come on and hang out with us on Berk; we would love to see you. And these kids are like, OH, MY GOSH!
Renee: Right. I forget – this is going to sound funny, but I, I forget that people have these relationships with these characters
Sarah: Oooh, yes.
Renee: You know, really? People would –
Sarah: And voice is so intimate. Oh, yes. Voice is so intimate.
Renee: That’s interesting.
Sarah: You can totally do Curran voicemail messages; they’re going to be so awesome!
Renee: [Laughs] Okay, we’re going to, we’re going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about that. In fact, I’m meeting Ilona and Gordon today at 2 o’clock, so I’m going to –
Sarah: Oh, yes. Ohhh, yes.
Renee: You had a great idea. [Laughs]
Sarah: Or you could have, you could also do a set of Curran ringtones for people. Your phone is ringing. [Growls] [Laughs]
Renee: Yeah, yeah. I’m trying to think of some of the things – they, they’ve got so many good lines, and of course, you know, we’re early, so, and I haven’t had enough –
Sarah: Yeah, they do, very good, they have very good dialogue.
Renee: That one line about, something about the kitty. Oh, what –
Sarah: Here, kitty-kitty?
Renee: Yeah, that’s it. [Laughs]
Sarah: Here – that was Kate, though.
Renee: It was Kate, though, talking about –
Sarah: Here, kitty-kitty.
Renee: -you know. And Ghastek, I do like, Ghastek. He’s funny.
Sarah: Oh, that would be fun.
Renee: He’s pretty. And Der-, anyway. Oh, well, and Derek when he first got his mouth. You know when he got his –
Renee: – when he first got his – Well, he still has a bit of an impediment, but not as bad as used to be.
Sarah: So one of the questions I have for you from Kay, which I know you answered a little bit in, in writing, but I wanted to ask in the podcast, she wrote:
How do you combat vocal fatigue? As someone who sang for years in many groups and for quite some time in a gospel quartet, I know that after a couple of hours, my voice got thin and strained, and if you’re performing for eight hours a day, five days a week, how do you protect your voice and keep it in performance condition?
Sarah: I struggle with this at RWA, so I totally want to hear this answer. [Laughs]
Renee: Okay, well, you know, I really work to talk from my diaphragm and not from my throat.
Renee: And I didn’t used to when I was younger, and I, I heard my, I was speaking at some college on communication or something years and years and years ago when I lived in Michigan, and I heard, my voice sounded tight and nasally –
Renee: – and I thought, oh, God, that’s horrific!
Renee: And, you know, and I know that everyone has that reaction for the most part when their voice for the first time, but I started looking into it a little bit, and when I would hear people with really tight voices, I was uncomfortable –
Renee: – and I didn’t know why.
Sarah: ‘Cause they sound tense. ‘Cause they are tense.
Renee: Right! It’s because they’re – yeah, they sound tense, they probably are tense, and so that makes me tense, but I didn’t understand all the, the little nuances of, of why I felt that way, and so I thought, boy, I wonder if people feel like that about me. And so I just more and more started to relax my throat, drop my voice so that it comes from my chest and the breathing is a little different. It changed my speaking voice in terms of, you know, speaking engagements, but – and at that point I wasn’t on the radar for audiobooks, but certainly my voiceover career started to take off more, and I thought, oh, well, that’s working. And little did I know it would really come in handy when you’re doing the marathon of, of the audiobook world. And I have never lost my voice.
Renee: I can say, and that, and we’ve done more than five days in a row, or we’ve done more than eight hours a day, but – and it’s not to say that sometimes I won’t get a little more gruff. If I’ve got a cold and I have to take cold medication, sometimes it will dry it out a little more and – actually, that helps with my male characters a little more. But –
Sarah: [Laughs] So the secret to Curran is Benadryl.
Renee: Yeah, yeah, Benadryl.
Renee: Well, then I’d be a little sleepy. Mucinex D, a little Mucinex D.
Sarah: Mucinex and Curran. [Laughs]
Renee: Right. But the, the eight hours, ten hours a day, you know, you just, if you’re talking from your throat, it will wear it out. I will say that there are some characters, and I, and I don’t know, I’m trying to think which books. Sometimes some of the younger, younger adult books, you know, [rasps] they’ll have really, [normal] you know, that sort of thing, and that will start to get a little bit scratchy –
Sarah: Oh, that hurts. Oh, yeah.
Renee: – you know, and when I have done video games and that sort of thing and you’re, you’re doing all the screams – when you audition for a video game, they make you scream in four different versions.
Renee: They may, or I, I should say, they make you die in four different versions.
Renee: You do the first hit scream, you do the, it’s almost in every character you audition for, and those will sort of wear –
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Renee: – wear my voice down a little bit, but for the most part it, it, it stays pretty true.
Sarah: That’s cool! Kay also wanted to know, has an author ever responded or contacted you after the audiobook had been produced to say that they didn’t like a performance of a character or that they didn’t like the work you’d done?
Renee: I’m deciding whether or not to use names.
Sarah: Up to you!
Renee: It doesn’t – ‘cause I thought it was really – yeah, I’ll, I’ll be, I’ll, I’ll be straightforward with it. After – I have to tell you, I, I’ve been a big fan of Catherine Coulter’s for years. Years! Oh!
Sarah: Oh, she was my first romance novel that I read, and she walked by me at the signing on Wednesday, and I was like, [Gasp!] that’s Catherine Coulter, oh, my God!
Renee: Right. And I was reading Blowout –
Renee: – when I got a call from Brilliance Audio that said she had chosen me to narrate, to, you know, pick up in her FBI series, and I completely freaked out.
Renee: I was so nervous. I was so nervous. I’m not that – I always get nervous on page one of every single book, but, you know, this was iconic. So I had done the book, and she reached out, and I’m not sure if she reached out directly or through the publisher, but she said, you know, I don’t like that one thing you do with Sherlock’s voice.
Renee: There’s a little, there was a little – she goes, I don’t like this little sexy thing you did with her voice. Don’t do it again. And she was very straightforward.
Renee: And I went –
Renee: – oh, absolutely, never again. And she remind-, I, I don’t think I ever did it again, but she reminded me for several books. She goes, don’t do that thing, and, and I didn’t take – it was wonderful that – I would much rather be brought back on the book –
Sarah: Of course!
Renee: – and, and try to make any changes that she wanted versus not be brought back and not know why.
Sarah: Oh course.
Renee: And, so now I always, especially with new characters, for example, the new collaboration between Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison. It’s called the Brit in the FBI series, and on the first one, there was a new character who was very important, powerful, named Kitsune, and I said, what do you want with her? You know, I –
Renee: – we, we had developed a relationship, and I said, just spell it out and –
Renee: – and she did, and she has told me over and over again, she was a, much to my – oh! it just touches me so much – but she said, you nailed Kitsune, and it was everything I dreamed of. So that made me very happy and, you know.
Sarah: Oh, that’s amazing.
Renee: So I appreciate it when authors are straightforward. I, I think a lot of times authors are not as involved or don’t know that they can be as involved –
Sarah: No, I think you’re right.
Renee: – as Catherine is, and –
Sarah: She’s been in the industry a long time. I’m sure she’s –
Renee: She’s got the –
Sarah: – going to be like, you’re, I’m involved whether you like it or not.
Renee: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly!
Sarah: ‘Cause I’ve been here for a long time.
Renee: You know, she, she has choice of narrators and –
Renee: – that sort of thing, so I appreciate it. And –
Sarah: Oh, I, I completely understand that.
Renee: You know, and then it’s always a surprise. Look, I assume, right or wrongly so, that when I narrate an author’s book that I have not communicated with, that it will be really hard for them to listen –
Renee: – because I’m taking their baby. They just had to turn it over. They worked nine months, a year, two ye-, you know –
Sarah: And it’s been in their head –
Renee: It’s in their head.
Sarah: – all that time.
Renee: They hear those voices, and they just have to let go, and they get the product back, and I talk to a lot of authors who say, oh, it’s really hard for me to listen to my book in audio. Oh!
Sarah: Oh, I, I saw an author this week on Twitter, I think, Bree, Bree Rogers, who writes this more, who co-writes with another author as Moira Rogers was saying, I, I, I just got the audio file for this book. I cannot listen to what I wrote on audio. Gosh, I can’t do it. I have to do it, but it’s so hard to listen to what I wrote read by someone else.
Renee: When I was flying, I flew from L.A. to here, and there was another author on the plane, and she said, she said, I, it’s almost impossible for me to listen to my books on audio, because I feel like, no! No, no, no! That’s not the way it’s supposed to go!
Renee: She said, and having said that, I love listening to everybody else’s audio books.
Sarah: Oh, yes! [Laughs]
Renee: So I can only, I, I assume that they don’t like it – [laughs]
Renee: That they’re not – that they’re going to have a problem with it, unless they reach out and – I have got, I have gotten nice things as well.
Sarah: My interview with Renee was a little too long for one podcast but not quite long enough to be split easily in two – not unless I wanted to get email from people asking why the podcast was only 25 minutes long? That’s not nearly enough! I’m here for you! See? Here I am! I’m actually, I will tell you honestly, I am locked in my bathroom, because if I step outside all of my cats will start yelling at me, because they think it’s dinner time, but they’re all senior citizens, and so they don’t understand that 3 o’clock is not actually dinner time, they just think it is. So I am hiding in my bathroom for you guys, because I’ve got more reader recommendations from you guys, ‘cause you’re all so awesome! So.
This email is from Sally:
Dear Sarah and Jane,
Long-time reader, first-time commenter, etc. [S: Welcome!] I wanted to offer the book that was kind of unknowingly my gateway to romance as a young reader, because I think it might be especially good for girls who, like me, were kind of skeptical or haughty about overt bodice-ripper type stuff or anything that seemed at first glance to be not that intelligent but who still want a bit of romance. I grew up getting my romance fix within other genres like fantasy, especially those with strong and smart heroines like in Tamora Pierce and Patricia Wrede’s books, but I didn’t really appreciate anything that claimed to be a romance first until I was in my early or mid 20s, whenever I first discovered your site, and ultimately, what really drew me to the romance as a genre, that it treats it characters’ emotions as important and legitimate, that personality and character could be just as important a driving force as external plot points. This particular book was part of developing that view.
The book I want to recommend is The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer. It’s not a summer book; it takes place between December 22nd and January 6th, which I know because as a teen I plotted out the dates and spent at least ten years reading each day’s section of the book on the corresponding date every year. There are big events centered on Christmas and on New Year’s. The narrator, Kate, is a linguistics and English nerd, but her friend took her through a trashy romance phase a year or two before the book begins. Kate’s gone through a real-life romance, so she starts the book talking about how she’s got her own copy of The Romance Writers’ Phrase Book, and she’s going to attempt to write about her own life as a romance novel, and eventually she finds that it just doesn’t work for her. She can’t write torrid phrases, doesn’t feel like she’s herself when her friends try to make her wear makeup and stumble around without the glasses she needs to not be legally blind. Life’s just too messy in reality. It’s also very meta, but written before that was a thing, in that Kate is constantly commenting on what should happen if her life was a romance novel and how one should write fiction versus real life. All of the characters are smart, sarcastic, and hugely quirky, and it’s got lots of subplots. There are at least four or five other characters dealing with their own problems throughout, some of which do not end happily, with acknowledgements that you can’t always fix people’s problems, but also that heartache in one’s past is no excuse for behaving like a jerk in the present. It’s a friends-to-lovers plot with Kate’s brother’s friend, and she notes at the end she “began this book as a virgin and is going to end it as one,” so even though Kate is a senior in high school and the hero is three or four years older, it’s aware but consciously chaste. Kate describes the sexuality of those around her, but knows she isn’t there yet. I must have read it for the first time in middle school or so, because I remember the feeling of slowly approaching and then surpassing Kate’s age and how my opinions of the characters changed. Aside from the fact that it’s set in the state where I grew up, Minnesota, I related to Kate’s simultaneous longing for and skepticism of clichéd love stories. That she’s both aware that she shouldn’t and can’t be a traditional heroine – she’s tall and bespectacled, she’s too knowledgeable about tropes, her name ends in an unvoiced dental plosive – and that she still wishes she could be beautiful or easy to love. She’s a hyperaware realist and also a teenage girl, and the main theme of the book is how she’s constantly balancing these competing desires for fantasy versus reality in all of the aspects of her life.
So that’s way more than I planned to write in this recommendation, but it’s a book that hugely shaped my views on romance reading and life. I still mentally quote it to myself all the time, since I’ve never met anyone else who knows it. I haven’t read in five or six years, but I still own this book and can probably recite parts. Recommended for other realist, idealist teenage girls. The last time I looked for it on Amazon a few years ago it was weirdly expensive, but it’s definitely gotten its worth many times over.
Sarah: Okay, I have goose bumps, ‘cause I want to read this right now. Like, right now! I don’t need to finish a podcast! I need to read a book! Oh, my gosh! I want to read this book! Seriously, I do, in fact, have goose, goose bumps. Ee! I am going to have links to this book. If it’s out of print, I will try to link to as many sources as possible in the podcast entry on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and I will try, for U.S. readers, to also link to the WorldCat Library catalog so you can try to find it in your local library, or you could go up to your friendly neighborhood librarian and beg them to order you a copy from some far distant inter-library loan. And oh, my goodness! This books sounds amazing! Thank you, Sally, for this email. I’m, I’m, I’m having some squees right now. I just, I need to put myself in a timeout.
Sarah: And that is now the end of this week’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed my interview with Renee, and I want to thank her and also Sally for their time and excellent, excellent information. This interview will continue next week, and I will also have more young reader recommendations after the interview, and then beyond that, I have more recommendations, because all of you are awesome, and some of you left voicemail, and more of you sent email, so, yeah, basically, between now and the end of the year, if you are shopping for books for a young reader, you, like me, will be largely broke or have a really long library wish list. But this is all good, right? ‘Cause books. Books are awesome.
This podcast has been brought to you by Signet Eclipse, publisher of Hillbilly Rockstar, the sexy new Blacktop Cowboys novel from New York Times bestselling author Lorelei James.
The music in this episode was provided by Sassy Outwater, along with every other episode. This is the Peatbog Faeries, and I’m betting you knew that. This is from their album Dust, and this song is called “Ascent of Conival.” I’ll have links to their website and iTunes and other places where you can buy this particular song.
And I’m sure you already knew this, because so many of you have sent email messages because you’re all awesome, but if you have suggestions or you want to make some young reader recommendations or you would like to tell me more about this book that has given me goose bumps, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can leave a message at 1-201-371-DBSA. Please don’t forget to give us a name and where you’re calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast.
And one last thing: No, I’m, I’m not going to, like, debut a piece of technology. One more thing, though. I was recently speaking at RWA, and I mentioned at some point that when you have a podcast on iTunes, which we do, there are no stats. This is true. iTunes will tell you all sorts of things if you self publish a book, but if you self publish a podcast, you just kind of have to guess. I am guessing at the reach that we have, and I’m switching to a different stats monitor so that we can get some different statistics, but if you were so inclined, if you were thinking, you know, this podcast is not bad, and if by chance you wanted to write a review of the podcast on iTunes, that would be completely rad. Please do not feel obligated! I will still continue to yammer in your ear whether you do or not, but if you felt like doing it, it would be awesome. And I could actually use words like “rad.” That would totally be rad! And I use that word without irony because I have met way too many snowboarding instructors.
So in the meantime, on behalf of Renee and Jane and myself, we wish you the very best of reading. Thank you for listening.