Listening with the Lights On ~ An Audiobook Afternoon

This past weekend I left my sleepy country neighborhood and took a road trip to Charlottesville, VA. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day and I started a new audiobook that immediately sucked me in (You by Catherine Kepnes, narrated by Santino Fontana). I couldn’t have been happier. Even having trouble finding parking didn’t hamper my mood. What’s a little extra driving around when a world of books would soon be at your fingertips?

My first stop was a Crime Wave panel featuring authors Tim Johnston and Mary Kubica. It was a great panel, but I’ll write more about that in another post.  This post is all about those narrators.


Photo courtesy of Andi Arndt

The Audio Publishers Association hosted this event at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Andi Arndt was the moderator of this panel, which featured Karen White, Barbara Rosenblat, Shannon Parks (Marguerite Gavin), and Sean Pratt. Walking into that room felt a little like magic to me. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Karen and Andi previously and was happy to see them again. It was also a pleasure to get a chance to listen to the three other veteran narrators talk about how they make audiobooks seem effortless.

The overall focus of the panel was about the art of narrating Mystery/Thrillers and these narrators each took a few minutes to speak about different aspects of recording the genre before answering questions from the audience.

  • Karen spoke about choosing the proper tone. She has found that capturing the tone correctly is one of the most difficult aspects of narrating an audiobook. She becomes the vessel through which a story is told. For her, choosing just the right tone is about storytelling, the author’s intent, and the overall affect on the audience. In fact, she tries to imagine the response of her listeners as she makes her decisions about tone. It’s easy when she reads to a live crowd. Inside her little recording studio is a much different thing.
  • Barbara talked about preparing for an audiobook. She was so glad to be in a room filled with fellow “word nerds.” We are all people who are careful about what we read, so it is imperative for her as an audiobook narrator to research books that she narrates. She pays careful attention to proper pronunciations, down to first and second references for names of characters and places. If she mispronounces something, the reader is taken out of the story and the narrator becomes “visible” in a way. She wants to disappear into the story for her listeners. That’s how she knows that she’s done her work properly.
  • Shannon explored how to maintain separate characters. While finding the voice of each characters is in and of itself a challenge, keeping them straight during a big action scene is even that much more difficult. To make those action scenes work for the listener, she pays careful attention to where each separate character is during each part of the scene. Then, when the a scene becomes fueled with gas, she can take the listeners with her smoothly. While a listener (such as myself) might think an individual narrator might record different characters separately to keep things straight, Shannon does not. She goes from one character’s voice to the next so she doesn’t lose the pacing and rhythm.
  • Sean talked about pacing and tempo. He began by saying something that makes a lot of sense to me. Fast paced chapters are exhausting. Even in those parts of the story that provide a little downtime, such as a characters’ back story, don’t provide much rest. Narrators have to be able to ride along with the dialog. He used our own day to day storytelling as an example. If you’re excitedly telling a story and you come to a part that leads you a little to the side, you hurry through those “extras” to get back to the meat of what you’re trying to say.

While I enjoyed listening to each of them talk about different aspects of life as an audiobook narrator and answer the questions raised by the audience, it was what came at the end of each narrator’s session that left me in awe. They each read either from some of their recent or favorite works or something fun they found. I was sitting in the front row and I could have almost reached out and touched them as they read. For me as an audiobook geek, this was an absolutely amazing experience. I’ve listened to several of Karen’s audiobooks now and her reading was the most surreal to me. While I’m very familiar with her voice and her work, I’m not used to being able to see her do what she does so well. I loved being able to see the way her whole body gets into the reading, but at the same time I didn’t know what to do with my eyes. I was tempted to just close them and pretend I was in my car, where she usually reads to me. Regardless, she had sold me on The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson.

It wasn’t just Karen’s reading that impressed me and the rest of the audience. Barbara read a piece from the New Yorker entitled “How I Met My Wife.” As the man tells his story he drops the prefixes to his words. She is one dynamic woman and she knew just what to read to us word nerds to make us laugh and hang on her every word and inflection. Shannon read from Ice Shear by M. P. Cooley. Her scene involved a female police officer and a male bad guy. Watching her go from one voice to the next was so impressive. Sean illustrated the pacing needs for back story by reading from a Mickey Spillane novel. I enjoyed how he picked up on humor while you could tell that the story itself was begging to get back to the action.

The session was recorded, so the audience was asked to turn our phones off. I didn’t have enough forethought to take a quick picture of the panel first. I did get a picture of something even more fun – to me, anyway. Recorded Books was there helping to keep the panel running smoothly. They brought photo cards of each of the narrators for the audience to get signed. What more could an audiobook fan ask for (well, other than more audiobooks anyway)? As soon as I got them signed, I took a picture of them to share. The ink wasn’t dry on them before I knew I wanted to collect even more. I loved the idea of narrator trading cards and here are mine!



At the end of the event, I was able to walk along this really nice outdoor mall area with Karen next to the Omni in Charlottesville. It was a beautiful day, a quaint area, and great company. We even ran into Andi and fellow narrator Paul Heitsch at the end. It was a wonderful way to end my afternoon away from home. I may regret not taking more pictures, but I had a wonderful time living in the moment. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Monday Mini ~ The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Audio Drama)

MondayMini3Getting back into the swing of things each week is hard. So is finding the quiet time to write a review over the weekend. In order to ease out of the weekend, I’ve decided to begin my blogging week with a mini review.

It’s Armchair Audies season. In addition to judging the Literary Fiction 2015 Audie category, I’m toying with the idea of judging the Audio Drama category as well. This production of The Hound of the Baskervilles is nominated this year in the Audio Drama category. As it was available inexpensively via Audible.com, I picked it up. In between much longer Literary Fiction nominees, I gave this dramatization a listen. Even if I don’t judge the Audio Drama category (three of the titles are not readily available for less than $20 and the other on Audible is 45 hours long!), I’m glad I picked up this title. Audio dramas make for a fun listen.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan DoyleCover of The Hound of the Baskervilles
L.A. Theatre Works ~ Geoffrey Arend, Wilson Bethel, Seamus Dever, Sarah Drew, Henri Lubatti, James Marsters, and Christopher Neame ~ 1 hour 53 minutes

While there are local theaters here in the Roanoke area, Southwest Virginia is not known for its theater scene by any stretch of the imagination. I’m sure this comes to no surprise to my readers. Having access to recorded dramatizations from larger theaters helps to make up for that. This production of The Hound of the Baskervilles was no exception. I enjoy the mystery Doyle wrote in general and the cast did a marvelous job of bringing it and all of its characters to life. They brought all of the humor and the intrigue packed into this story right out into my car, making my daily commute entertaining. I also enjoyed the use of sound effects throughout. They were realistic and helped add to the atmosphere of the story. They also gave me just a touch of what it might be like to have actually seen the play in person. This is my second audio drama produced by L.A. Theatre Works and I am a fan. I hope to one day sit in the audience.

I found this dramatization of The Hound of the Baskervilles to be outstanding. I loved every how every character was portrayed as well as the radio drama feel of the recording. If you’re a Sherlock fan like me, waiting for the next season is maddening. Pick up a copy of this audio drama. It will make you see that you’re attracted to Sherlock Holmes and his mysteries for more just Benedict Cumberbatch. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes mysteries translate very well to all mediums. Audio drama is by no means the least.

Audiobook Adventure Ahead

Listening with the Lights On

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a long winter. While I did take a trip to Atlanta in February, I am feeling cooped up. I need to get the heck out of the Noke. Aren’t I lucky that the Virginia Festival of the Book is this week and they are hosting an audiobook […]

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Monday Mini ~ The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

Cover of The Age of Desire

Getting back into the swing of things each week is hard. So is finding the quiet time to write a review over the weekend. In order to ease out of the weekend, I’ve decided to begin my blogging week with a mini review. A couple of years ago I embarked on an Edith Wharton journey. […]

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A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison ~ Audiobook Review

Cover of A Small Indiscretion

A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison Published by: Random House Published on: January 20, 2015 Page Count: 338 Genre: Fiction My Reading Format: Audiobook download provided by the publisher for consideration. Audiobook Published by: Random House Audio Narrator: Kathe Mazur Audiobook Length: 10 hours 15 minutes Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook Summary from the […]

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Monday Mini ~ The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (Audiobook Review)

Cover of The Paying Guests

Getting back into the swing of things each week is hard. So is finding the quiet time to write a review over the weekend. In order to ease out of the weekend, I’ve decided to begin my blogging week with a mini review. I love Sarah Waters. I have enjoyed each and every one of […]

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Monday Mini ~ Euphoria by Lily King (Audiobook Review)

Cover of Euphoria

Getting back into the swing of things each week is hard. So is finding the quiet time to write a review over the weekend. In order to ease out of the weekend, I’ve decided to begin my blogging week with a mini review. In the 12th grade I was assigned The Heart of Darkness by […]

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What It’s All About


Sometimes all of the stresses of life seem to come at you from all angles. There are days when you have to run from emails, to working lunches, to oldest kid’s school, to the orthodontist, to the youngest kid’s school, and finally home to finish up the work day (purely hypothetical, right?). They leave you […]

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It’s Armchair Audies Season!


The 2015 Audie Awards were announced last week. Since then, I have been busy pouring over the nominees by category and have gotten the Armchair Audies blog up to date and ready for the new season. I also created a Pinterest Board to make it easier to keep track of our progress leading up to […]

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The Art of English Murder by Lucy Worsley ~ Mini Audiobook Review

Cover of Art of English Murder

The Art of English Murder by Lucy Worsley Published by: Pegasus Published on: October 15, 2015 Page Count: 336 Genre: Non-Fiction My Reading Format: Audiobook purchased with a monthly credit from Audible.com. Audiobook Published by: Tantor Media Narrator: Anne Flosnik Audiobook Length: 7 hours 6 minutes Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook Note: I was so […]

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