Q&A with K.B. Hoyle, The Six


Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

Honestly, no! While I always play my books out like scenes in a movie in my head while I’m writing, I never think about the audiobook side of things. I’m SUPER visual, so it’s actually difficult for me to sit down and just LISTEN to anything without also looking at something at the same time (even music). When I was a kid, I loved those audio cassette bags you could check out from the library that came with the book and the audio recording because I could follow along while listening.

How did you select your narrator?

We (my agent, Ben, and I) had a lot of people audition for The Six, actually, so I had options. And Ben was really good about not giving me his opinion until I had a chance to listen to the audition recordings and sift through my own thoughts first. What it really came down to for me was choosing someone who sounded like she understood my voice as the author, my main character’s voice and emotions, someone who had good range (because The Six is the first book in a six-book fantasy series spanning many years and a wide variety of characters, not to mention character development and growth), someone who was pleasing to listen to, and someone who fit the story itself. For example, we had one narrator audition out of somewhere in the UK, and although I’m a bit of an Anglophile, and I adored her accent, the story is a distinctly American story set in Michigan, so it just makes sense to have an American narrator. And it just turns out that Dollcie (my narrator) lives IN the region the story actually takes place! I believe she’s really meant to tell these stories for me.

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

The Gateway Chronicles (of which The Six is book 1) is based at a real-life camp in Upper Michigan I attended from the time I was a wee baby until I graduated high school. I even went back once in college, and again early in my marriage, and would be attending still if I didn’t live so far away now. Of course, for the story, I changed all the names of everything, and I didn’t import any characters from my real life wholesale into the story, but what I did do was take the essence of my experiences growing up there and transform them into a fantastical story that at once pays homage to my childhood and teen years and at the same time builds something entirely different. I think many of us wished to escape to another world when we were young — wished to discover another world through a magical veil where people expected heroic things of us. I used a very familiar thing — summer camp — as a launching point for greater adventure, and it is both true and untrue in the way all great stories (hopefully) are.

How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?

I don’t avoid burn-out, but I never lose my enthusiasm for writing and storytelling. Physically, I hit burn-out all the time — more often than I should. I’m 35, I have four sons, I’ve written twelve-ish novels in the last ten years, and I work as a full-time writer, which means I’m always, always writing. I drink coffee more often than I sleep, and weekends are laughably absent from my existence, but the thing is: I love writing. I love it with every fiber of my being. I probably love it too much. So when it comes to finding balance in my life, I often find I have to force myself to put the writing aside for a bit to focus on other, healthier facets of existence.

What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?

I think audiobooks are so, so important. As a former teacher, I’ve obviously seen the struggle many students go through with reading disabilities, and I’m honestly not sure where they would be without audiobooks. Although I’m not personally one who listens to audiobooks very much (my mind wanders if I don’t have eyes on the page), I so appreciate how they have opened up the written word for others — especially those with disabilities. Speaking of my time as a teacher, once upon a time, the oral tradition reigned supreme! In class, I always read aloud to my students — giving them the option to follow along, or just listen, whatever worked best for them. It is in no way “cheating,” it’s actually getting back to the core of a grand human tradition.

What gets you out of a writing slump? What about a reading slump?

I have never really experienced a writing slump, but I do frequently experience reading slumps. I am exceptionally picky about what I read, so I tend to not pick up new novels if I’m afraid they are going to disappoint me (and my free time is so limited I don’t want to waste my time on something bad). I may go months at a time where I’m only writing and not reading. Often what gets me out is someone making me feel convicted about the fact that I’m a writer of fiction who is not reading any fiction, and then I need to buy myself a new book (because once I invest some money into it, I feel like I have to read it). But then I’m an obsessive reader once I start, so I won’t do anything other than read until the book is done, lol. I need to learn better balance in my life.

What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Learn your craft, learn your craft, learn your craft. Don’t just assume that because you know how to put words on the page, you can tell a story. Figure out why your favorite authors are successful — why you admire them — and study how they tell their stories. Read books about writing. Read books about storytelling. Learn how the two are different things and learn to do both well. Your first book (especially the first couple drafts of your first book) is GREAT… for practice. Keep at it and don’t stop. Be teachable. So many aspiring writers are not teachable and waste time thinking they already know what they’re doing when they could be using that time to get better. I’m ten years in to my writing career and still learning new things. Humility and teachability will take you a lot farther in this industry than arrogance and stubbornness.

What’s next for you?

Dollicie and I will next be releasing book 2 of The Gateway Chronicles (The Oracle) on audio, so I’m super excited about that! And my agent and I are working on a couple of new manuscripts. I’m also in the process of re-releasing my YA Dystopian series in paperback and Kindle, so I have PLENTY to keep me busy over the next several months.

Q&A with Sullie Mason, Not For Me

When did you know you wanted to be an audiobook narrator?

It came to me while driving my 35 minute commute to work. I always have an Audiobook or Podcast on in my car, and I was like, “I can do this, let's just try and see what happens.” People have always commented on my voice, my least favorite, “ are you sick?”, so I thought I would like to use it.   

Did you find it difficult to “break into” audiobook narration? What skill/tool helped you the most when getting started?

What helped me get started was my mantra, “ If I try and fail, then I will know. But if I don’t try then I will regret never knowing.”

A lot of narrators seem to have a background in theatre. Is that something you think is essential to a successful narration career?

I don’t think it is really that necessary. I have minimal theatre experience. Mostly I have fun reading and imagining what a person would sound like. I use my theatre past to get a bit of what the character wants and feels but I listen to other narrators and pick up on what they are doing and I listen to criticism.

How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for narrating?

Taking a break and knowing your limits. Some narrators are machines (not trying to hide my jealousy) and can knock out chapter after chapter all day. Not me. When I notice that I’m starting to make a lot of mistakes or reading characters like I’m reading my narration then I’m out. Also my toddler rules my day. It’s an unhealthy relationship.

Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?

I LOVE audiobooks! They can take you anywhere. Driving into work, making dinner, grocery shopping, nah says I! I’m time traveling with a hunky highlander, battling fairies that prey on humans after the wall between our worlds fell or solving a murder while trying to survive the web the killer weaved to trap me.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of narrating an audiobook?

I love reading the book and acting out all the characters. I HATE editing. It doesn’t suit my soul.

What about this title compelled you to audition as narrator?

It is a fun upbeat book. It is set in Chicago and most of my family lives 3 hours away from the windy city. I thought it would be fun to play up a midwestern accent a bit.

Who are your “accent inspirations”?

My mother did many accents with us growing up. Me and my Brothers can do at least 4 well and we do it often when we play around with each other. Movies, tv shows, other narrators and actual people are who I mimic. Especially if you have a distinct accent, it is really hard for me NOT to mimic you. Awkward in job interviews on occasion...

How did you decide how each character should sound in this title?

My favorite could be the door man. I impersonated my grandpa. It’s who I would want to greet me when I came and went. He also would keep a tight ship.

What types of things are harmful to your voice?

Laughing so hard that no sound comes out. Every time I went home to visit my family or out with my friends I had to email Kat and tell her I might be a bit delayed until my voice came back.

If you could narrate one book from your youth what would it be and why?

It’s actually a children’s book, “How to Raise Dragons.” I got it for my little brother and latter in life I read it outloud to him again as a joke, ended up getting into it and when I was finished with it, I looked around and saw not just one brother, but my other one too and the neighbor boy leaning against the doorway. Hilarious because these are grown boys that are over 6 feet tall.

Q&A with Jess Montgomery, author of The Widows


How did you find the idea for THE WIDOWS?

As I was planning a trip to visit our younger daughter for her birthday weekend at Ohio University, in Athens County, Ohio, I ran across a tourism website for Vinton County (just southwest of Athens County), which featured Maude Collins, Ohio’s true first female sheriff in 1925 after her husband was killed in the line of duty while writing a speeding ticket. Inspired by Maude’s story, my imagination sparked Lily Ross. In her case, her husband’s tragic death is not so clear cut. Lily’s sheriff husband Daniel is murdered in the line of duty.

THE WIDOWS is centered on Lily Ross’s quest to find out who murdered her husband, but is told from the point of view of two narrators. Can you tell us more about that?

At first, I wrote only from Lily’s point of view. But she has a specific view of her husband, Daniel, and is missing (at first) vital information that helps her eventually discover not only his murderer but also a more complete view of who he is.

So, I experimented with writing from the murderer’s point of view—which I quickly abandoned, though it gave me insight into the murderer’s motive, so the effort wasn’t wasted. Then I tried writing from Daniel’s point of view—a life-flashing-before-his-eyes approach. That felt forced, but again, the effort wasn’t wasted as I grew to understand Daniel—his motives, personality, faults, point of view.

From those experimental bits of writing (probably 150 pages in all!), another character emerged—Marvena Whitcomb, Daniel’s childhood friend. She is a foil to, yet also an unlikely ally for, Lily. Marvena is a widow whose common law husband died in a mining accident, and a unionizer.

THE WIDOWS is told from the points of view of these two women, who together solve the mystery of who killed Daniel.

THE WIDOWS is set in 1920s Appalachia. What did you like about this setting, in terms of both place and time, and what were some of the positives as well as challenges in creating this backdrop?

The inspiration for THE WIDOWS required the time period and setting. Though it is still relatively rare for women to work as sheriffs or as officers in a sheriff’s department, it was startlingly unusual in the 1920s. My guess is that it was also expedient and practical in the real-life situation—Maude had experience as her husband’s jail matron and knew how the system worked, and was already living in the sheriff’s house. In a bigger county, with multiple full-time deputy officers, one of the deputies would have most likely filled in for the sheriff. The remoteness and small population, and the small office, with only a sheriff, a jail matron, and as-needed part-time deputies, contributed to Maude (and Lily) being asked to serve as sheriff.

I do think it is interesting to note, though, that in real life, Maude ran as sheriff in her own right in 1926—and won in a landslide!

My family of origin is from Appalachia, albeit a different part of the region, going back as many generations as can be accounted for. So, I delighted in tapping into those roots to weave in threads of my heritage and the rich Appalachian culture—dialect, foods, crafts, attitudes, music.

I also very much liked writing about a setting that “1920s” usually doesn’t bring to mind. So often, we think of glitz, glam, sparkly cities, and flapper girls as the first images that come to mind about the 1920s. All of that is great—but what about rural life in the 1920s? I was fascinated to explore that.

However, that made research a challenge—particularly about day-to-day life in rural areas of the 1920s. The details would very much depend on which part of the country a person was living in at the time.

The positive aspect is that the region of Appalachia in which THE WIDOWS is set has a rich history that pulls in so many issues that challenged (and in some cases, still challenges) the larger culture--women’s rights, workers’ rights in conflict with management, coal mining, unionization, and moonshining—to name just a few. I’m delighted that I have a wealth of material to draw on for future titles in the Kinship Mystery Series!

One of the minor characters—Marvena’s young daughter Frankie—loves to sing, and you include a few scenes in which her singing is featured. Can you tell us more about that?

I grew up hearing, learning and singing Appalachian ballads, which often center around all sorts of drama—love won and lost, tragedies, and yes, murder. So including a ballad is part of my homage to that aspect of my inspiration for THE WIDOWS.

I also grew up with many old-time gospel songs. My favorite—mournful as it is—is “Precious Memories.” Such songs often give voice to grief in difficult times when it would otherwise be hard to express those emotions. It was realistic to include a few such songs, and also showed emotions of the community at large as the drama unfolded.

The Kinship Tree is an unusual spot in THE WIDOWS—a conjoined tree of three species, alongside the Kinship River. Why did you include this spot in the novel?

Conjoined trees are rare—especially of three species. I wanted to include such a tree, both for the symbolism of fates and lives intertwined, and because such a rare tree adds a note of mystery to the entire setting and world of THE WIDOWS.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for having me! I hope readers will enjoy THE WIDOWS—the journey that Lily and Marvena take together to both solving the mystery of Daniel’s death and coming to terms with their relationship and community. I also hope book groups will enjoy THE WIDOWS. I’m grateful that my publisher, Minotaur Books, developed a set of readers’ group/book club questions, which I’ve linked to on my website, www.jessmontgomeryauthor.com

Q&A with Erin McDermott

"When did you first begin writing?"

  I began writing in 3rd grade while watching my brother's Little League games. I would just sit in a corner and write. The books I wrote were inspired by "Little House on the Prairie," by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I would sit and write about my life in the houses I lived in, just as she wrote about her life in her diaries.

"When did you decide to first publish a book?"

  I always loved writing, but the idea of publishing a book seemed like an impossible dream. I never thought I'd finish a book, never mind actually publish something. It wasn't until I was working a job that I really didn't enjoy that I decided to set to my dreams and complete a book. Then my first book was born, Captive Rebel.

What inspired you to write Captive Rebel?

   Actually, I had a dream. It was a vivid dream and I needed to get it down on paper. In one night I wrote 10,000 words. Then, I didn't look at that story again. Not until after my job in New York City when I finally decided to begin pursuing my dreams.

What advice would you give to those who are trying to write a book?

   I once read somewhere that writing is like building a sand castle. The first draft is you filling a sandbox with, well, sand! It's messy, it's unstructured, but it's something to work with. Knowing the first draft is going to be sloppy is the only way to finish the book. Once you finish a book your goal seems more realistic and the edits will come on easy. The edits are you building the sand castle in that scenario, by the way.

Q&A with JC Alaimo, To Laugh Well

How did you select your narrator?

I had a specific sound in mind for this book, so I combed through a number of narrator samples before coming across Josh’s. It was perfect, so I reached out to him once I posted the book on ACX and asked him to audition.

Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?

I tried to give him as much background information as possible - where the characters were from, what kind of personality they revealed throughout the course of the book. If the book made reference to an accent, I wanted to be sure he knew it up front.

How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?

I came up with the general arc for this book after writing a short story with Alex and Nick as characters years ago. But I didn’t start writing the novel until much later. I kept writing short stories and character sketches until I felt confident enough to revisit the idea of the book. By the time I felt ready for it, so much had been built-up that the story seemed to tell itself. It had enough of a life of its own that I never experienced burn-out. I committed to writing just a small bit every day, and the story itself drove the process.

Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?

There’s several parts where this seems true, and I think that’s really due to the excellence of Josh’s performance. The protagonist, Alex, generally resists emotion, positive or negative. As a result, moments of profound suffering are displayed in brief sentences. I think if you’re reading the book at a quick pace, you might miss these moments. But if you’re listening to Josh’s narration, I think you get the significance of these bits, because his voice delivers the weight of them.

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

This question has come up quite a bit, I think because it’s a work of realistic fiction. There were absolutely real life inspirations, but it’s not an autobiographical story. It’s an aggregate of the experiences I’ve had with college life. Whether those experiences were my own, those I’d witnessed, or born from imagination, I think, ends up being somewhat irrelevant. In the end, I tried to write it in the most authentic way I could, and my hope is that it hit on some bit of truth.

What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I think it’s important to write everyday, but it’s also important not to write a book for the sole purpose of publishing a book. My advice is write the small things, whether it’s a story or a moment or a character description, and give the book a go once it presents itself.

Guest Post: Kirsten Fullmer, The Hometown Series


I may live and work in a forty-foot trailer, referred to as an RV, but I don’t consider my home a recreational vehicle just because it’s self-contained, and has wheels. My home is spectacularly well thought out, cozy, and complete with everything we need. (washer/dryer, fireplace, even a dishwasher!) So what does my house have to do with my writing? Everything! When I conceptualized Smithville, the small-town setting for the Hometown Series, I didn’t realize that I was creating a hometown for myself.

My husband, Steve, and I, travel for his job with our little dog, Bingo. We usually live in one place for three to six months, then hitch back up and head to the next job. Even though Steve has a job waiting when we get there, the moves are sometimes stressful, but always interesting. I have to put aside my work, pack up all my do-dads, crafts projects, dishes, and plants. We maneuver our home through storms, narrow mountain roads, lost RV park reservations, and traffic. Steve has to start over with a new crew on a different site. Sometimes it seems that only Bingo truly enjoys all aspects of the journey. We do get to meet a lot of great traveling folks, as well as weekend campers, and we see loads of beautiful countryside. Sometimes we even manage to slip a stay on the beach into a move.

I do miss having my own yard and garden, friends nearby, and of course I wish my kids and grandkids were close enough to pop in for Sunday dinner. I miss knowing for sure which way is east. (Am I the only map loving person who is bothered that the GPS is upside down half the time?) To be honest, I even miss running into someone I know at Wal-Mart when I look a mess. But I love being with my husband, and I enjoy meeting new people and seeing new places, so it works out. I even wrote a stand alone novel based on my husband’s work and the lifestyle we lead!

I grew up in a small town, number six of eight children, and I’d describe myself as caring but opinionated, self-sufficient, and very attached to my husband. Maybe that’s because when we travel, we depend on each other. I’ve been writing full time for five years and I’m hooked. My stories take time and effort to mold and shape, but the characters are my companions, my traveling friends. If that means I’m wacko or quirky, all the better! I collect input for my books from my husband and grown kids. I discuss story lines with them, and ask them to read and reread my drafts, helping me create characters and situations that feel real, and that are entertaining. I couldn’t do it without them.

I had written three of the books in the Hometown Series before it occurred to me that, in Smithville, I had created a place for my heart to live. Smithville is filled with people going about their daily lives, dealing with their personal issues, irrational fears, and hard-won accomplishments. They can be silly, flustered, selfish and unaware, as well as resilient and clever, that’s what makes it feel real. It’s a place I’d like to call home.

In book one of the Hometown Series, Tara, who grew up in Smithville, is working to overcome childhood trauma. She learns to loosen up and overcome her control freak nature. (I may, or may not struggle with this, haha) Her loving grandmother, Winnie, is partly my own mother and bits of both of my grandmothers. In book two, Julia comes to Smithville expecting to hide away after a debilitating illness, but colorful characters like Becky and Bobby draw her out and build her confidence. This one was written from the heart after I spent a few rough years healing from my own illness. In book three Lizzie moves to Smithville to live out the dream of owning her own alpaca farm, as well as escape her overbearing mother. (I do love alpacas!) Through friendship, laughter, and Smithville craziness, Lizzie finds illumination where she least expects it. In book four (a Holiday romance) Gloria struggles to overcome her past reputation, one that small towns don’t easily forget, but her kindness hasn’t gone unnoticed. (If you’ve ever had everyone in town know your business, you understand!) And in book five, the one I’m currently writing, Katherine returns to Smithville, after years away, to open a vintage RV glamping park, and is forced to face her first love, as well as her lost naiveté. (I have no idea where the glamping idea came from!) Of course my leading ladies fall for an imperfectly delicious man along the way. I suppose that each of these women, their friendships, and their healing processes, are a part of me looking for resolution to my own upsets and disappointments, in a place surrounded by camaraderie and fun.

I hope you will join me in Smithville, and get to know and love the people there like I do. Bingo and I will be waiting for you in the fifth-wheel parked just outside of town.

Q&A with Snowball


Let's talk about the title of your book. I'll say quite provocative but when you turn the page, there is a story that deserves to be heard. There's no wrong answer to this question but curiosity. Why'd you name it that?

The title reflects two things.  For a number of years, I thought that was my name.  They were words that were often spoken by staff in regards to children in care.  They would precede much of what they had to say to myself and others, and were reflective of the complete contempt that they had for us.  There were no niceties involved in the way we were treated, and the use of expletives, alongside the casual violence, was used to drive their messages home.  Secondly, it is just a means of articulating the feeling that came from many of the encounters that I describe. In many ways it minimizes the impacts through humor, but there comes a time and place where maybe that approach is pertinent on a personal level.  I personally quite like the title. I think it is challenging in many ways, because it potentially offends, but also amuses. However, if the title offends and the contents don't, then maybe people need to be asking themselves why, because the title is the least of the issues when you delve into the content.

Your book deals with personal experiences with the childcare system. What compelled you to share your story?

The issue for me was one of addressing the sometime judgmental attitudes that pervade in society, in relation to care experienced children and adults.  We are still, in my opinion, viewed as some sort of nefarious sub-culture, that society should somehow, for its own safety, be extremely cautious of. We are not.  We are normal, educated, productive people. We are as much part of society as those brought up in traditional family settings, whatever that is, and we should not be expected to justify ourselves, or explain away our upbringings, in order to satisfy the curious or the intimidated.  We did not fail society. Society failed us. Society should be begging for our forgiveness, not the other way around.

We often hear about stories of abuse, neglect and alike. Who's to blame? What are your thoughts on a solution?

The question of who is to blame is not a complex one, but is perhaps best answered in reverse.  The people who are not to blame are the victims, and victim blaming is a sign of complicity in my opinion.  Perpetrators are to blame, negligent authorities are to blame, lack of oversight and scrutiny is to blame, complicity through either deed or silence is to blame, lack of care is to blame, there are many things that are to blame, but it is never the victims.  Society in the UK has always struggled valuing children in my opinion, and it has never valued a child in care. It still fails to value a child in care, in the same way it might value its own, the difference now is that it is much more aware of the corporate responsibility that it has, even if, as is the case in many private care homes, the driver is financial gain, rather than unconditional care of the child.

For those who didn't have a voice or felt no one would listen, what do you recommend for them to do to help themselves feel heard?

There is no generic answer to that one.  It is really a case of what works for them as an individual.  I made a formal complaint to the police in regards to historical abuses that were perpetrated against me, and they are currently under investigation.  I also wrote the book as a permanent record, and potential learning tool for others. For others there is counselling, and there are even initiatives across Facebook and Twitter that are specifically aimed at care leavers. Amanda Knowles MBE runs an annual event called Your Life, Your Story (YLYS)which is specifically designed for bringing care leavers together in a supportive environment, where they can share their experiences, whilst also using the creative medium of writing to explore shared experiences.  This is where my book was actually born, and it has been a very successful and rewarding event.

How long were you in the system? 

Effectively I was in the system for roughly 16 years.  I had been the victim of some substantial physical harm within the home environment as a baby, and committed to hospital for numerous surgeries, reconstructions and rehabilitation.  From there I went directly into care, and my journey began in earnest.

For those who have experienced abuse, is there a support system in place to help them deal with their experience?

I think that as with all areas of support these days, there is a severe lack of funding and initiative, but it is better than it was.  When I left the system there was absolutely nothing. You reached your 16th birthday, and they started to make plans for their abdication of responsibility.  There then quickly came a time when they effectively gave you breakfast, dropped you off at a bedsit, and that was you finished with as far as they were concerned.  There was no support structure, no help, no assimilation into a society that they had effectively excluded you from, you were just abandoned to either stand or fall, and they didn’t care which.

Your story is one to be told. What impression or takeaway would you like to leave upon readers?

If anything it is twofold.  Firstly, when we look at the statistics for such things as homelessness, unemployment, prison admissions, mental health suffering, drug addictions and many other 'ailments of society', there is a high correlation between sufferers in those areas and previous experience within the childcare system.  That tells me that we are getting something wrong in the childcare system, and society needs to take responsibility for that, and the solutions to it, rather than victim blaming as a means of abdicating responsibility for its own failings. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I want to ensure that society never switches off to the fact that this could be, and is going on under its noses right now.  I have been to conferences and heard first hand from sufferers. People need to step away from the 'that was then, and this is now, mentality. It is happening today, it's just a little bit harder to hide, that’s all. Predators need to be a little bit smarter, but they are still active, and our children are still suffering.

Thank you for sharing your story. 

My pleasure, and I hope you enjoy the book.

You can purchase this book on Amazon

Q&A with Jennifer Alsever, Venus Shining

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Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.

As an avid audiobook fan, I knew when I finished my trilogy that I wanted my books to be an audiobook. But finding the right voice was going to be key. I went into ACX, Audible’s back-end system for authors, and I listened to dozens of sample narrators until I found Moira Todd, an actress in Oregon. I wrote her an email and said, ‘You are Ember!’ She had a gorgeous voice, youthful with the perfect amount of snark and authenticity plus, I didn’t know it at the time, but she could sing. Working with Moira has been a dream, as she sent me samples along the way, and I ate the chapters up as we went.

Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

No. While I was writing, I was conscious only of the voice on the page. I was fully engrossed in the logistics of the writing and pacing and ensuring readers could see what I saw in my mind’s eye.

How did you select your narrator?

I listened to Moira’s sample on ACX, the backend of Audible, and loved her voice. She had a youthful voice that exhibited the kind of intellect, angst, snark, strength and sweetness of my main character Ember. When I heard her audition, I emailed her saying “You are Ember!”

How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process?

Moira gave me periodic updates on her editing and chapters as she finished them. We collaborated, but really, Moira just nailed it with no revision requests on my part.

Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?

I didn’t give her insight into characters-- nothing more than what was on the page. I gave her some pronunciation tips when asked, places and names and some weird Egyptian words.

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

I drew on my experiences walking around the real-life town of Leadville and the scenery of the Colorado mountains where I live, plus took nuggets of scenery from my past visits to Utah, California and L.A. I also peppered in small bits and pieces of real stories from people gathered and heard over the years. To get into the teen head, I invited a group of seniors at a local high school for pizza when I was writing the book, and I listened to them talk. I got a lot of good perspective and a few nuggets of stories from them. They were so generous with their stories and time. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. The general plot, too, is taken from real-life theories from crazy websites about the Annunaki, energy vortexes and Egyptian mysticism. I did a lot of research and drew on interviews with people who had experienced what Ember did-- mainly a friend who lost her parents as a teen.

How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?

When I get stuck, I give myself time and space to do something else. I hike, read, ski, watch smart TV shows or I write other things. I don’t feel like I honestly can get burned from writing. I was obsessed with my story and it just flowed out of my fingers. It’s my most favorite thing, outside of my family and friends.

Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?

I am an audiobook listener for sure. As a slow reader, I love listening to a book while I get other things done, whether it’s chores around the house, a long drive or a hike. I am very picky about the narrator of the books I consume, and the voice can make it or break it for me. I’d listened to enough YA books that had similar voices or tones I liked, and I knew Moira would be perfect for my series. She had a voice I personally could enjoy hearing for hours.

Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?

Ember is a singer-song writer, and so that was a challenge for me to write lyrics to songs. Some of the lyrics had a loose tune in my head but not really. It was so fun to hear Moira take the lyrics, make a song and then sing it in the audio recording. She has a beautiful singing voice.

What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?

I say a story is a story, heard or read. People say they don’t have time to read. So if listening is an easier way to dive into a imaginary story without sitting in front a screen, then go for it.

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?

Pros of a series: You have more time to develop a storyline and a character, and you can fall more deeply into that world. People can binge your books just like they can binge watch TV.

Pros of standalone: You’re done with one and can dig into another entirely new idea next.

Cons of a series: Some people hate series and so maybe they read one book and may grumble about having to read another two to find out all the answers. It’s harder to market the other books in the series because they’re a continuation of the story so you end up having to tout your first book over and over, when you really might be proud of the writing or the story in the second and third too.

Cons of standalone: Sometimes, it can be hard to get everything you want in the book and it feels rushed. As a reader and an author, you’re sad to leave those characters behind and close the book to move on to the next idea.

Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?

The genesis of my book came from a dream. I was running through a forest, but I wasn’t myself. I was someone else. I came to a gate, went inside and met three of my characters, Tre, Lilly and Zoe, and after spending time there, they whispered how I could never go home, despite the world spinning forward on the outside.

When I woke up, I told my son about the dream because it was so vivid and striking to me, and he told me to turn it into a novel. So I did.

Q&A with William Todd, Murder In Keswick


Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.

I never used to even think about how a book would sound as an audiobook...until I finally had one done. Now, I do. The story is most important, whether read or heard. I a bad story is a bad story. But I am more cognizant now when I write with how a phrase might sound read aloud. I think my audiobooks now are much easier on the ear then my first ones because of that. And my narrator, Ben Werling, I’ve used on every story. He’s great and has a wide vocal range. He makes turning a book into audio so much easier on me. I think we’re a good team. I basically give him my manuscript with some simple directions as to accents, maybe weird words that might pop up, since I write typically late Victorian era material, and he does the rest. He does a chapter at a time and sends them to me to okay. We rarely have to redo anything. I am truly lucky because the process, at least for me, is very simple with Ben at the helm.

Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

Because audiobooks are so prevalent and getting more and more popular by the day, I think you have to be conscious of it becoming an audiobook while writing, especially if you plan on using that format. And I think an author is selling himself short if he doesn’t at least consider putting his creations on audiobook. It is another channel to garner readers and followers...and revenue.

How did you select your narrator?

I put up three pages of my book for narrators to “audition”. I listen to each audition and pick the best one. But because Ben and I have such a good working relationship, ultimately, he gets my jobs. It is not only because he is such a good narrator. I write Sherlock Holmes and gothic horror. At least for the Holmes stories, I prefer having the same Holmes and Watson in each of my stories. Ben has been hands down the best Holmes and Watson I have found so why would I switch? I don’t think my readers would like that, and I know they would hear the difference.

Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?

I am. Until I land on the best-sellers list or get a movie deal, I have a job to pay bills and raise my family. I drive 45 minutes one way. Sometimes, that hour and a half is the only time I have to myself, and the perfect way to spend that time is listening to audiobooks. There are just times in this hustle and bustle life where cracking open a paperback is not possible. But your ears are always available to listen.

Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?

I might have to say all of it, but there’s a reason. Well, okay I’ll narrow it down to the final scenes of the book during a storm. But the reason I say all of it is because Ben employs subtle sound effects in the background much like the old radio stories. There is one part of the story where there is a storm, and the thunder and lightning in the background of the narrations lends itself perfectly to the feel of the scene.

If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go? Answer. Oh absolutely. I would love to go back to say anytime between 1880 - 1915. The late Victorian era/ Gilded Age fascinates me. It was a time of extreme change, and those changes caused fear. I play off those fears in my horror stories, and Sherlock Holmes was the penultimate player in those times.

What gets you out of a writing slump? What about a reading slump?

For both it is the same--just do it. It is very easy for life to get in the way of writing. And it’s also very easy to fall out of the habit of writing. Mowing, cleaning, doing things with family, work, prepare for holidays, just plain being lazy (guilty as charged), etc. You have to make the time. This just happened to me where I wrote nothing for over two weeks, and I have deadline to have a Holmes story written by the end of the year for a publication next year. I had been under the weather and busy with life on top of that. There were times where I could have written but didn’t. The good habit of writing almost daily had been broken. But for me, all it took was forcing myself to sit at the lap top and writing a few sentences. Those few sentences ended at ten pages. Same with reading. Even if you have to force yourself, do it. If you love to read and love to write, just the mere act will set you right again. At least it does for me.

What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?

Be picky in who you choose. The narrator is 50 percent of the audiobook, the other 50 percent being the story itself. I have heard many good stories butchered by bad narration.

What’s next for you?

I was approached by the editor of the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes stories and asked if I would contribute a story to Volume XIII due out next summer, so I am honored to be one of the authors selected to add to that volume. It will be the first time that I am published with a traditional publisher but hopefully not my last.

Q&A with Stella St. Claire


How did you select your narrator?

Machelle tried out for me and I feel in love with her warm and homely voice. I thought she would make the perfect narrator for a cozy mystery!

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

There is a coffee foodtruck at my local dog park and this was the inspiration for the murder in Barking up the Wrong Bakery!

How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?

Doogle, my dog, is my biggest support. Taking him for a walk refreshes me a great deal and helps keep me simplify ideas, he keeps me focused on what matters. Reading my reviews and readers’ emails keep me motivated to keep writing!

Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?

Yes, I listen to an audiobook every month. I adore the format! I listen to a book while I’m doing a mundane task like laundry. It makes dull tasks so much enjoyable.!

If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the primary roles?

Olivia Rickard would be played by Olivia Munn.

Janelle Allendale would be played by Mandy Moore.

Andrew Patterson would be played by Timothy Olyphant