FINE SPIRITS, The Audiobook!
When Amazon created its Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) site, I was thrilled to think that maybe some of *my* books might end up as audiobooks, mainly because I love and adore audiobooks. So I stuck a lot of my books up there, and waited. And waited. And waited. And slowly but surely, folks began to audition. I regret to say that I jumped a little too fast on the first audition, because she really wasn’t right for the book, but I learned.
I needed someone special for my Daisy Gumm Majesty books, because Daisy’s my favorite character of all time. Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail from Denice Stradling one day a couple of years ago, asking if I’d mind if she auditioned for some of my books. Would I MIND????? No, I would not. Denice and I had met donkeys’ years ago at the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America. I think I’d already moved to Roswell by that time, but I’d gone back to RWA/OCC for a visit.
Well . . . let’s just say that I consider Denice’s contacting me about auditioning for some of my books one of the majorly fortuitous events of my life. Denice started with ONE BRIGHT MORNING, my very first published book, and she was great (click here to listen to a sample): And she is PERFECT for Daisy. So, in this month’s blog, we (actually Denice) thought it would be a good idea to interview each other about FINE SPIRITS, Daisy’s second adventure, and recently released via ACX on Audible.com (click here to listen to a sample)
So . . . here we go. We'll go back and forth, sort of (and one of my questions of Denice isn’t about FINE SPIRITS because . . . well, just because):
Alice: Why the heck did it occur to you to get in touch with me in the first place?
Denice: First of all, thank you for this opportunity, Alice, to share your blog with you this month about something we both love. Having said that, I have to agree that contacting you through ACX was something I was SO GLAD I did ... connecting with you and the 'Daisy' books has been such a joy!
I've been writing and acting -- either one or both -- for most of my adult life. When we met at that long-ago Romance Writers of America meeting, I remember how active and helpful (and funny!) you were on their website ... and so when you were a guest speaker at their Orange County Meeting, I went to hear you, and that's how we met. I did a little voice acting in the late 90's and really loved it, but my acting career just seemed to go in different directions then -- mostly theatre. But when I first became aware of audiobook narration in the early 2000's, I got absolutely passionate about it. As a writer, an actor, and a fanatical reader, it was my perfect fit. I took classes, got a little work, built a home studio, and then ACX was created, and I got some work there. Then, one day I was researching some audition opportunities -- and there you were! I was thrilled when you chose me to narrate ONE BRIGHT MORNING. And we just keep moving forward, don't we?
Alice: Indeed we do, and I hope we continue doing so!
Denice: How do you segue from one book to the next … for instance, Flossie was a minor character in FINE SPIRITS, but then became a major one in HIGH SPIRITS … did you get that idea while you were writing FINE SPIRITS , or …??
Alice: Um... I dunno. That is to say, I guess I felt sorry for Flossie. I mean, another character in the books, Stacy Kincaid, is rotten to the core and has been from birth. Poor Flossie just seemed to be a victim of her circumstances, and she ended up with a rotten gangster. So I wanted to make life easier for her. Therefore, she got a bigger role in the book after FINE SPIRITS. FINE SPIRITS sort of grew from STRONG SPIRITS, and I *really* wanted to use Mrs. Bissel’s house, because it’s the house my aunt owned and I used to live in! So, here's another question for you:
You do such a great job with the characters in FINE SPIRITS. dId you find any of them particularly difficult (or easy) to create in audio?
Denice: I actually found them easy -- your characters are quite well defined and I can hear them in my head when I first read through the book. My biggest prayer is that you'll hear them the same way I do! You have a lot of humor in your books, and sometimes there's a tendency to go over the top with a character because of that, do you know? I really work on NOT doing that ... I don't want the characterization to get in the way of the story.
I'm in the middle of recording HIGH SPIRITS right now ... having an absolute ball with the gangsters and floozies ... a bit harder not to go all out ... but I think, creating a bit of a back story and motivations for them keeps me from doing that. But you'll let me know, woncha??
Alice: Oh, yeah. I'll let you know :-)
Denice: With the advent of audiobooks, has your writing changed in any way? Now that your characters have ‘voices’ – and not just your Daisy Gumm Majesty books, but all of them -- do you find that it affects what you write. Do you think your choices of narrators have informed your characters at all?
Alice: Oh, my, yes. With the advent of audiobooks, I no longer name people weird names. For instance, in one of my other series, I have a guy named Franchot. I STILL don’t know how to pronounce that name, so the reader and I just chose a pronunciation and went with it. I also realized that I have a pretty large vocabulary (nothing to brag about. Words just stick to me, kind of like dachshunds do) and I’m more conscious of using words that maybe the whole world doesn’t know just because they pop into my fuddled brain. I have learned to ask the audio readers of my books to please ask me before they assume they know how to pronounce certain words. For example, in another of my books, the woman’s a dancer, and the narrator mispronounced one of the dances and took exception to my correction. She corrected it anyway. That has nothing to do with FINE SPIRITS, so please forgive the diversion.
Denice: What I love about Daisy, is that she is so willing to call herself out when she realizes she’s being too judgmental or making assumptions without having all the facts. And I find this to be even more of the case with each book! This adds humor, as well as being a little ‘life lesson’! Is this something you planned, or did it just kind of evolve as her character evolved?
Alice: To tell the absolute truth, Daisy is me, only with a supportive birth family, none of my crippling neuroses, and with an infinitely more outgoing personality than I have. I love Daisy because she’s from my own home town and she and her family live in one of the houses I used to own. She travels to all the places and sees all the stuff I saw when I lived in Pasadena. Daisy is bold and daring. I’m definitely NOT. But in spite of that, I still think Daisy is the character closer to my heart than any other who’s popped up in my brain. In an upcoming book, Daisy will take Spike, the dachshund she earns in FINE SPIRITS, to the Pasanita Obedience Club’s obedience classes held in Brookside Park. I took my very first dachshund to Pasanita’s obedience classes in Brookside Park. Mind you the Pasanita Obedience Club started in 1940, and Daisy takes Spike there in 1922 or thereabouts, but I got permission from the Pasanita folks, so it’s okay. I used to buy fabric at Maxime’s, I shopped at Nash’s, and I haunted the Pasadena Public Library (although it was in a different place in the early twenties). I took my kids to see Dr. Benjamin. I mean, Daisy and her gang mean the world to me. And, yeah, she does get down on herself, but nowhere near as much as I get down on myself. It was difficult to write about Daisy’s hatred of Germans, but face it, Kaiser Bill tried to take over the world back then, and the entire USA (and most of the rest of the world) held a grudge against Germans. Besides, Germans ruined her poor husband, Billy. Not the soldiers’ fault, but there you go. Some folks even went so far as to call dachshunds liberty hounds and sauerkraut liberty cabbage!
And so, here's my last question for you: My part in the ordeal of getting FINE SPIRITS into the public’s hands was over a long, long time ago, so all the scratches and wounds incurred in the writing of it are healed. How long does it take you to get, say, an hour of audio prepared for folks to listen to (did that make sense?) Another friend of mine who read a couple of my books for audio said he wouldn’t do any more of them because it takes hours and hours and hours of work for one listen-able hour of a book to be ready. I think he was already mad at me over something totally not involved with audiobook production, but it sounds like a laborious process. Is it?
Denice: It is VERY laborious and time-consuming, but again, that's where the passion comes into play. When I work in my home studio, as I am doing for your books, for every hour of finished audio, I average approximately 3-8 hours of work -- with editing, cleaning up the sound, and mastering. Sometimes it can be longer -- if I don't like how something sounds and decide to do it over. It is definitely a labor of love! I've done a few books in other audiobook producers' studios -- with directors, engineers, etc. -- I have to say, that is heaven! But I also feel like with each book I do in my home studio, I get better in all aspects, including the narration. And narrators having home studios is almost mandatory at this point as the field keeps growing, so it is vital that I stay on top of my game!
Alice: Okay, now I feel guilty. But not guilty enough to stop giving you my Daisy books to narrate!
I'll be giving away copies of the audiobook copy of FINE SPIRITS in October, so if you'd like to enter, just send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll throw your name into Bam-Bam's special contest doggie dish!