Year One by Nora Roberts (w/ Interview)

Year One

It began on New Year’s Eve. The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed and more than half of the world’s population was decimated. Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river or in the ones you know and love the most. Narrated on audio by Julia Whelan. Nora Roberts is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than two hundred novels. She is also the author of a bestselling futuristic suspense series written under the pen name J. D. Robb, her other pseudonyms being Jill March and Sarah Hardesty. She was the first author inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. There are more than 400 million copies of her books in print. 

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Tower Review: After IRISH THOROUGHBRED you wrote IRISH ROSE and IRISH REBEL. Are you Irish yourself?
 
NORA ROBERTS: Yes. I’m Irish on both sides of my family, with some Scot thrown in. I’ve always had a strong connection to Ireland. When I was able to go to Ireland the first time years ago, it felt like going home.
 
TR: How surprised were you at your success? How difficult was it to establish your name?
 
NR: It was a gradual process. Selling the first book was like a miracle. I had, until that point, sought some avenue for creativity in every craft known to man. Ceramics, embroidery, sewing. I even put little flies in overalls I made my sons. How sick is that? Canning, macrame, needlepoint, baking. I had a distressing craft addiction. Fortunately writing cured me of it, and Silhouette opened a marvelous door for me.
 
TR: Do you have many male readers?
 
NR: Yes, I do. A varied and interesting base which has expanded since the Robb books were published. I got a letter from a guy who drives a rig, and habitually listens to my audios when he’s on the road. He assured me he was a real guy, but that parts of JEWELS OF THE SUN had him in stitches at the truck stop. I love that. I’ve also seen father-daughter readers at signings. I’ve always had mother-daughter readers, and I love knowing my books are a bond between generations.
 
TR: How did you decide to mix the SF and romance genres in the Robb titles?
 
NR: I write quickly. That’s just my natural pace. As a result, both of my publishers had considerable inventory. For some reason they refuse to publish only my books. Go figure. My agent and editors suggested I write under another name. I dragged my feet on the idea until my agent said, “Nora, there’s Pepsi, there’s Diet Pepsi, there’s Caffeine Free Pepsi.” And the light went on in my head. I could be two popular brands! So I agreed to try it if I could do something a little different. I’d had the germ of the idea for Eve Dallas years before. Tough, haunted, driven murder cop of the future. I really enjoy writing romantic suspense, and was intrigued by the idea of adding just a whiff of SF. Nothing too fanciful. Fun tech toys, societal changes, but keeping the basic human element. And I wanted to do it as a series, with continuing characters so I could develop relationships, and the romance between the man characters, over a number of books. Then Roarke walked onto the page, and the rest is history.
 
TR: What about female readers for Roarke?
 
NR: I have a lot of female readers who seem to enjoy the In Death books as much or more than the books I write under my own name. Roarke has a lot to do with that. After all, he is Roarke. And Eve seems to appeal to both men and women because she’s strong, just a little dark, courageous and sexy. They’re grittier, more violent books in many ways. So I’ve found there’s considerable overlap.
 
TR: What about films, like SANCTUARY with Melissa Gilbert. Did you visit sets?
 
NR: Yes, I was able to spend a couple days–nights really–on the set in Toronto, to meet Melissa and Costas Mendaylor, the marvelous and gorgeous actor who plays Nathan. The cast and crew were wonderfully welcoming, and I had the opportunity to watch them make a hurricane. It was freezing! Cold, dark, rain machines, wind machines, lightning machines, mud. And our actors out there in shirt sleeves as this was supposed to be summer on an island off the coast of Georgia. I felt the script stayed very true to the book, to the characters and the emotions. But filmmaking convinced me to keep my job where I can stay inside and stay warm.
 
TR: Where did you find the time and determination to do what you have done?
 
NR: You don’t find time. You make time. I have a fast pace–that’s just the luck of the draw, like eye color. But I also have a great deal of discipline, a gift from the nuns who educated me for the first nine years of my schooling. Nobody instills the habit of discipline and the shadow of guilt like a nun. I write six to eight hours a day, occasionally on weekends as well.
 
TR: So you do overtime, and you’re a prodigy writer to boot! How many drafts?
 
NR: I do a first draft fairly quickly. Just get the story down and don’t worry about fixing or fiddling. Straight through, no looking back. Once I have that initial draft, I know my characters more intimately, know the plot more cohesively, so I can go back to page one and go through it all again, fleshing out, fixing little problems, finding where I went wrong and adjusting it, or where I went right and expanding that. Adding texture, sharpening the prose. Then I go back to page one again, for a third draft, polishing, making sure I hit the right notes.
 
TR: The hard part is in the rewrites, so true, and the initial draft is a voyage of discovery. More fun. So you have an instinct when it’s ready?
 
NR: No book is perfect. I try to send in the best book I can write at the time. And I trust my editor to tell me if it can be made better.
 
TR: Now tell us about the phrase “a day without fries is like a day without an orgasm.”
 
NR: (laughs) Actually, that was one of those on-line message board conversations. Just silliness. There was some discussion on one of the AOL boards about dieting and cutting out beloved yet fattening foods. Fries came up, and I happen to have a deep emotional attachment to fries, so this was my response. Some of my readers caught it, so when they established a reader web page for me, they named it ADWOFF–A Day Without French Fries. A delightful and fun site. 
Secrets in Death

Nelson DeMille on Florida

Nelson Demille

Nelson Richard DeMille, a #1 New York Times bestselling author, was born in New York City. He was a first lieutenant in the United States Army (1966–69) and saw action as an infantry platoon leader with the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam. His first major novel, By the Rivers of Babylon, is still in print, as are all his succeeding novels. He attended Hofstra University, where he received a degree in political science and history. He is the author of By the Rivers of Babylon, Cathedral, The Talbot Odyssey, Word of Honor, The Charm School, The Gold Coast, The General’s Daughter, Spencerville, Plum Island, The Lion’s Game, Up Country, The Gate House, Night Fall, Wild Fire, and The Lion. He also coauthored Mayday with Thomas Block and has contributed short stories, book reviews, and articles to magazines and newspapers. A member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, and American Mensa, he holds honorary doctorates from Hofstra University, Long Island University, and Dowling College.

We spoke to Nelson DeMille briefly about Florida and his older novel The Gate House. Several of his books became movies, notably The General’s Daughter starring John Travolta. His new book is The Cuban Affair.

JONATHAN LOWE: To what extent are Sutter and Bellarosa based on real people you’ve known living on Long Island, and what’s your attraction to them as characters of fiction?

NELSON DeMILLE: I’ve never used a single real person as a character in my novels, but I do base my characters on composites of people I know or have met, or who are public figures. John Sutter is a type that I’ve known among the old families of Long Island, but, of course, I’ve given him some quirks, and a self-awareness that is not all that common in this class of people. Frank Bellarosa as a Mafia don could have easily been a stock figure from Central Casting, but I gave him a lot of brains, a good eduation, and he, too, has a self-awareness that would be unusual in his profession. Both characters – Sutter and Bellarosa – have a good sense of humor, and together they are more than the sum of their parts.

JL: I once interviewed Ronald Kessler about his book “The Season,” which described the social undercurrent of billionaires living in Palm Beach, Florida near Trump. One of your characters makes a comment of disdain toward those “living in Florida,” so I’m wondering what are the similarities and differences between these playgrounds of the world’s super wealthy. Is there a rivalry there, as between those living in New York and Los Angeles?

ND: New Yorkers take some pleasure in looking down on other New Yorkers who move permanently to Florida. Maybe, though, it’s jealousy. In any case, it isn’t rivalry as it is with Los Angeles because these “Floridians” are, for the most part, New Yorkers who’ve chosen to leave New York. As for Palm Beach, this is a seasonal town, and becomes New York South from Christmas to Easter, then empties out.

JL: Do you listen to audiobook performances of your novels, and if so, in what ways do you think the personalities of the characters are illuminated by the actors? Any which have nailed the way you perceived a character by voicing him or her, as in films?

ND: Yes, I listen to all my audiobooks, and I think that Scott Brick has nailed down my character of John Corey in PLUM ISLAND, THE LION’S GAME, NIGHT FALL, WILD FIRE, and THE LION.

James Lee Burke

Agatha Christie

 

Imagining Diana Author Interview

Diane ClehaneDiane Clehane is the author of Diana: The Secrets of Her Style and has served as a commentator on the British royal family for CNN, Access Hollywood, and CBS News. She has written about celebrities and popular culture for Vanity Fair, Forbes, People, Vogue.com and Adweek.com, and is a U.S. correspondent for British Heritage. In her weekly “Wednesdays at Michael’s” column, Clehane chronicles the Manhattan media scene. She co-authored the New York Times bestseller Objection and edited the New York Times bestselling collection of essays, I Love You, Mom.

Tower Review) There’s much background on Diana, and of course speculation about what her motives were, played out in fiction after her death. Wondering what the biggest guess was, besides the fact that she wanted to live her own life and create an honorable life for her boys amid all the glitz and paparazzi.
 
Diane Clehane) I have been writing about the British royal family for a long time and did extensive research for the book. As someone who has written about Diana for two decades, I felt very confident about the path I imagined for her had she lived. The biggest mystery was if she would have remarried. What I did in the book is directly related to a relationship she really had with Teddy Forstmann. I believe the greatest happiness Diana would have found later in her life would have come from the relationship she had with her sons — and their wives and children — and her work as a global humanitarian figure. 
 
TR) Did Diana really not want to go to Paris, making it a jealousy play with no intention of a serious relationship with Dodi? 
 
DC) When Diana met Dodi, she had just had a devastating break-up with Hasnat Khan. I believe she was trying to make Hasnat jealous by allowing herself to be photographed on the yacht in Dodi’s arms. That said, she was enjoying herself on that vacation because Dodi was focused solely on her. She found him very attentive, but when the holiday was over she was ready to go back to London. I don’t think their romance would have lasted for a whole host of reasons — the fact that William didn’t care for the Fayed jet-set lifestyle being among them.

TR) The agent in New York looking to exploit Diana. Was there a specific agent in mind, perhaps based on one you encountered in real life? Or is she a total fiction, like Meryl playing a fashion snob in The Devil Wears Prada?
 
DC) The agent Lois is a composite character based on many people I’ve known in the media, publishing and entertainment fields. I thought it would be fun to make her a larger-than-life presence.

TR) Was Diana ever in love with Charles, and vice-versa, in your opinion? Who cheated first, and why?
 
DC) Diana was definitely in love with Charles when they married. She was all of 20 years old and very much believed in love and romance. Charles told friends he hoped he could ‘grow to love Diana’ and he did, I believe, in his own way. Unfortunately for Charles and Diana, it was an arranged marriage because he was being pressured to find a suitable (read: aristocratic and virginal) bride. Unfortunately, Charles never really let go of his emotional attachment to Camilla.  Later it became an open secret among palace insiders that he had resumed his affair. Ironically, Diana and Charles were starting a new stage of their relationship post-divorce when she was killed. I believe they would have grown closer as friends in later years as they do in my book.

About the book:
IMAGINING DIANA begins on August 31, 1997 in a Paris hospital. As the world awaits news of Princess Diana’s fate following the paparazzi-fueled crash, Diana awakens from a coma to discover that she has survived the wreckage, but with her famous face—the most photographed in the world— forever changed. Based on actual events, what ensues is an elegant, riveting account of Diana’s storied past and imagined future as an icon, lover, and mother of a future king. On audio the book is introduced by the author, and narrated by Stina Nielsen.

Lisa Scottoline Interview

Lisa ScottolineTower Review: When and how did you become a writer? What is your background?

Lisa Scottoline: I began as a writer about ten years ago, when my daughter was just an infant. At the time I was a trial lawyer for a large law firm in Philadelphia, Dechert, Price & Rhoads, and my marriage ended at about the same time my daughter was born. As much as I loved being a lawyer (really), I found that my kid turned my head. I wanted to be able to stay home and raise her, which required me to find another way to make an income. At the time, John Grisham and other male lawyers were writing legal thrillers successfully, and I noticed that no women were. I had majored in English, in the contemporary American novel, at Penn, so I figured why not try? I also thought I could bring a new perspective to the genre as a woman. I think that law school was where I learned to write novels. As a lawyer, you need to sort through the facts, pick out those that are most important and will add to your argument, and then put them on paper in a succinct and persuasive way. Every word counts, and you are trying to create a perspective – a spin, if you will – in the readers’ mind. This is the same way I create a character. And, in order to keep up the pace of a novel, you need to make sure that each line adds to the story, and drives it forward. I write with the thought that every word counts. And every reader.

TR: How was your first novel received? What did that feel like?

Scottoline: Thank God, my first novel was very well received, and all of my novels have shared the same good fortune. My first book, EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT, was nominated for the Edgar Award, which is the most prestigious award given to mystery writers. Although my first book did not win, my second book, FINAL APPEAL, was nominated the next year, and did win. When the first good review of EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT came in, I made my editor read it over and over to make sure it was true. Then to be nominated for an award, seemed more than I could have ever hoped for. The whole writing experience has been a thrill for me and it gets better and better with each book.

TR: When you get fan mail now, what do most people seem to connect with. What most interests them about your characters?

Scottoline: I try very hard to write characters that are interesting, yet realistic. The thing that I hear the most is that people love my characters because they feel like they can relate to them. Once a reader makes a personal connection to a character, they are naturally more involved in the story. I like that my characters are not super people. They’re just like all of us.

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Seabiscuit Author Interview

Horses

The following interview was conducted via phone just prior to the release of the movie SEABISCUIT, for XM radio. Journalist Laura Hillenbrand’s fame was sealed when her article on the legendary race horse won on the Eclipse Award for Magazine Writing, and led to her Random House book, which became the blockbuster movie starring Jeff Bridges. Her next book was UNBROKEN.
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JONATHAN LOWE: You wrote on occasion for Equus, a horse magazine. What in your background led to that, and what was your job there?
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LAURA HILLENBRAND: As a contributing editor. I’ve been a horse person all my life, actually. My parents had a farm next to a battlefield, and they had an agreement with people throughout the county that if someone had horses they couldn’t keep they’d end up at our farm. So my sister and I would ride them. I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome now, though, so I don’t keep a horse today, although I wish I could.
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LOWE: It’s a fascinating story-–Seabiscuit-–and I’m particularly impressed with your race descriptions. You consistently maintain the suspense.
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HILLENBRAND: Thank you.
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LOWE: How much of this suspense was inherent in the true story, and how much was due to your experience as a magazine reporter?
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HILLENBRAND: Most of it was the story itself. My focus might have been different than someone else because I’ve always been passionate about horse racing, and I even wanted to be a jockey for a while, until I learned how dangerous it is. I was fascinated with jockeys too, and I spoke to a huge number of them to get the feel of what it’s like to actually be in the race, and to get the reader up on the horse.
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LOWE: Into the saddle, so to speak.
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HILLENBRAND: Right.
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LOWE: What was it about Seabiscuit that captured America’s imagination back in the late 1930s?
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HILLENBRAND: I think Seabiscuit would have been a star in any generation because he was a great athlete and a captivating athlete. I think what enabled him to transcend sport and become a cultural icon was the Depression. He was a rags to riches horse, and was surrounded by men who were hard luck people, and this was something the American public could identify with. The whole country was down and out, and this was a horse that looked just like them! He was beat up, ugly, from the wrong side of the tracks, and he was very, very persistent. And I think that’s what got people passionately behind him. It is amazing to see the passion that people felt for this horse. . . of people weeping after his races, leaping the rails at the track and running after him. It was quite extraordinary.
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LOWE: The listener feels that too. That’s what is so amazing about this audiobook. But the horse was not large, and had crooked knees, so how could he be so fast?
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HILLENBRAND: (laughs) I think heart was a big part of the equation with this horse. He had an ugly gait, what they call an eggbeater gait. . . he would kinda stab out with one of his forelegs when he flung it forward, and his knees didn’t straighten all the way. He was a bit of a mess bio-mechanically, but he was a very hard horse to discourage, and he would try his heart out every time, and that was the main factor for him, I think.
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LOWE: Was Seabiscuit the fastest horse ever? What about Secretariat and others?
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HILLENBRAND: It’s impossible to compare great race horses of different generations, really, because the conditions are so much different. Horses today carry less weight, and the tracks are faster. The think I will say, comparatively speaking, is that of all the horses who ever lived, if it came down to a nose-to-nose fight down the home stretch, there is no horse I would pick over Seabiscuit.
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LOWE: The showdown between Seabiscuit and War Admiral, when the jockeys knew what the crowd watching did not, was stunning. There are really in tune with their horses. So do horses reject substitute jockeys sometimes? Do horses have to be familiar or connected emotionally with the rider to run their best?
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HILLENBRAND: I think jockeys are underrated in their role in the success of race horses. A lot of horses are comfortable under different jockeys, but there are horses who will really run only for one guy. And I think Red Pollard had much to do with Seabiscuit’s success. His early jockeys really did not get this horse, while Seabiscuit and Pollard were kindred souls. Seabiscuit was a very difficult horse to ride.
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LOWE: Horses really have personalities, like people, don’t they?
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HILLENBRAND: They are as complicated as people. They have complex emotional lives. They are not carbon copies, but have as broad a range of personalities as people. Some are as sweet as puppy dogs, and some are very high strung, that’s right.
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LOWE: Actor Campbell Scott, who is George C. Scott’s son, reads the audiobook version, and I think he made the right choice by not being overly dramatic with the text, but just telling it like a documentary. What did you think?
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HILLENBRAND: I think he did a wonderful job, and was the perfect choice for it, too. The feedback I’ve gotten, people just loved it. He used the right tone, and put just the right stress on all the words.

Listen anywhere…

Sophie Chen Keller Interview

Sophie Chen Keller

In this story for readers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and A Man Called Ove, when all seems lost, you need to find what matters most. Walter Lavender Jr. is a master of finding. A wearer of high-tops. A maker of croissants. A son keeping vigil, twelve years counting. But he wouldn’t be able to tell you. Silenced by his motor speech disorder, Walter’s life gets lonely. Fortunately, he has The Lavenders—his mother’s enchanted dessert shop, where marzipan dragons breathe actual fire. He also has a knack for tracking down any missing thing—except for his lost father. So when the Book at the root of the bakery’s magic vanishes, Walter, accompanied by his overweight golden retriever, journeys through New York City to find it—along the way encountering an unforgettable cast of lost souls. Steeped in nostalgic wonder, The Luster of Lost Things explores the depths of our capacity for kindness and our ability to heal. A lyrical meditation on why we become lost and how we are found, from the bright, broken heart of a boy who knows where to look for everyone but himself.
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JL, Tower Review) What gave you the idea to write this book?
Sophie Chen Keller) Some of my earliest memories are of my mom reading out loud to me from the books we’d check out from the library in stacks of twenty or thirty at a time—books that would whisk me off to magical places, by authors like EB White and Roald Dahl. I wanted my debut novel to be a grown-up version of those childhood classics—a tale that was warm and wondrous and pure, yet at the same time layered with meaning and observations on what it is to live, to be human. I wanted to take people back to that lost time, when the world was bright and brimming with possibility, because as we get it older, it becomes easier to forget that it can still be that way. There are times when we all could use that breath of fresh air—that reminder of the goodness that lives in us, and in the people around us. The specific idea of a boy who looks for lost things came to me later, in the summer of 2014. I came across a “Lost” flyer posted at a campsite, for a missing camera that contained sentimental family photos. I started wondering whether the lost camera had been returned, and about all the other things that people lost. What did it say about them? What were they really looking for when they looked for something like a lost camera? As I wondered if anyone responded to “Lost” flyers like that one, I had my first idea of who Walter would be—a boy who answered “Lost” flyers, finding the things that people had lost and were so desperately looking for.
TR) How does food figure into your conception?
SCK) I spend a lot of time eating food, thinking about the food I’m going to eat next and watching people on TV prepare food that I can then imagine eating. I like exploring different foods—I’m the one holding up the line at the gelato shop or the bakery, inquiring about every item in the display and hemming and hawing over which one to choose. So really, I couldn’t resist writing about food.
TR) A real sweet tooth! And Walter?
SCK) In the book, the main character, Walter Lavender Jr. struggles to find a place to belong because of the motor speech disorder that renders him virtually speechless, trapping him inside his own head. Food, desserts especially, have a way of bringing people together, and of transporting them back to a time and place where they felt like they belonged. One bite, one whiff of warm chocolate chip cookie, and you’re transported decades back to Grandma’s kitchen as she’s pulling a baking sheet out of the oven. At The Lavenders, the magical bakery run by Walter’s mother, Walter is able to experience the sense of belonging and connection that he longs for. The Lavenders is what my ultimate dream bakery would look like, comprised of my favorite elements from various bakeries I’ve been to—the whimsical touches of a California chocolatier, the home-spun coziness of a German bäckerei, the classic brass elegance of a French patisserie, the sugary brightness of a closet-sized Manhattan bakery.
TR) So inviting, and imaginative.
SCR) You’d step in, order, and be transported to anywhere in the world you wished—the bourbon peach pie would take you to the South, the maple walnut whoopie pies to New England, the mango napoleon to Thailand, the sticky toffee pudding to England, the rose macaron to France, the green matcha croissant to Japan. And now…I’m hungry!
TR) What is your favorite dessert recipe?
SCK) Rainbow cupcake cones! On the surface, they look like that hot-weather staple from childhood…but once you dig in, you’re in for a delightful surprise. These “ice-cream cones” are actually cupcakes baked inside ice-cream cones and frosted to look like scoops of ice cream. Whimsical, delicious and easy to make, I love them most of all because they capture the magic of being a kid, in a fresh, unexpected way—kind of like The Luster of Lost Things itself. To get the recipe, download The Luster of Lost Things custom book club kit from Putnam’s Facebook page, here: http://bit.ly/2eRCBSH.
TR) Have you found your writing voice, and what’s next for you?
SCK) When my parents and I first immigrated to the US from China, I didn’t know a word of English. I remember starting school and not being able to understand what anyone was saying to me. I couldn’t communicate my thoughts or even my basic needs—being thirsty, hungry, tired. I wound up crying in the bathroom at lunchtime from the loneliness and frustration. But as Walter does in his journey, through my journey, I ended up discovering something unexpected: my writing voice. To help me learn English, my mom would spend hours reading out loud to me every night, and that was the beginning of my love for books—those bedtime stories that taught me English and kept me company when I felt alone. Soon enough, I started writing stories of my own while continuing to read anything I could get my hands on—books of all genres, books on the craft of writing, short stories. My first short story was published when I was 15, in Glimmer Train. A decade later, I started writing The Luster of Lost Things. Now, I’m working on a second novel, and am already very excited about it!
TR) Kirby Heyborne is your talented narrator for the audiobook. He narrated a Murakami book recently, plus romance from Karen Kingsbury, and children’s books like “Terrific,” which was terrific. What did you think?
SCK) Kirby Heyborne is phenomenal. His voice is the epitome of timeless magic, all golden warmth and nuanced emotion. I felt like I was sitting in front of a crackling fire—with a giant hot chocolate, of course—being regaled by a master storyteller. His range is incredible, and that’s another reason I’m so excited he’s narrating the book. As Walter searches for the one lost object that will save The Lavenders, he encounters people who are a familiar and distinctive part of New York City, including food vendors, can collectors and train conductors. These characters are the beating heart of the story, and Kirby imbues each of them with that unique spark as he brings them to life. I am deeply grateful for the love and care that he and the Penguin Random House Audio team put into bringing The Luster of Lost Things to audiobook.

Never Judge a Narrator by their Cover

Horror movies

Lorna Raver is a film and stage actress who also has a career as an audiobook narrator. She records for many publishers, her next to be about the public school system titled “These Schools Belong to You and Me.” Her longtime companion was the late great Yuri Rasovsky, the Grammy winning radio drama icon. Lorna starred in a horror movie DRAG ME TO HELL, directed by Sam Raimi (very much out of character for her…she’s a sweet lady, whom I met at the Audie awards in LA.)

JONATHAN LOWE: Which came first for you–stage acting or voice acting?

LORNA RAVER: I started as a stage actor and stage acting will always be closest to my heart. I love inhabiting another life. I love the discipline of stage work, the challenge of re-creating night after night while keeping it fresh, the interaction with other actors – and with the audience, the exercise of all your skills – mental, spiritual and physical. My first experience with voice acting came about when I was hired to do a play for Yuri Rasovsky’s prestigious National Radio Theatre in Chicago. As is the case with most stage actors who do audio drama, I had a ball! Learning how to convey vocally what one might express physically on stage was very exciting, and there’s no better teacher for that than Yuri.

Q: What are the difficulties and similarities involved?

A: Discovering the emotional resonance of your character and the play as a whole is not significantly different from stage acting, but the techniques required of the actor are different. For example, you may have an emotionally intense scene with another actor but because of a necessary mic set-up, you may not be able to make eye contact with that actor – you must convey all the interaction with your voice. You really learn how to listen! And you really learn how to mean what you say and say what you mean! Of course, voice acting broadens your casting opportunities, too. If you can realistically sound like an old person or a child, you can be hired to play one, even though you may be neither.

Q: I can’t think of any narrators who haven’t acted on stage or on TV at the very least, although I’m sure there must be some. What must a TV or film actor learn in order to make the transition to voice acting, given that he or she can’t be seen?

A: Audiobook narration, to me, is not as closely related to stage acting as is audio drama. Fiction narration certainly requires the ability to “act” the characters in the book and to honor the arc of the narrative, but audiobooks present other challenges different from stage, TV or film acting. Technically, there is the simple fact that you are restricted in movement for long stretches of time. You’re sitting in a booth and you need to be always aware of mic position. Audiobook narration can be grueling and requires mental and vocal stamina. It is incredibly focused work. I am blessed with vocal stamina so that after hours of recording, it is rarely my voice that goes, it is my brain!

Q: What about creating multiple character voices?

A: When it comes to creating different voices for different characters, I don’t feel that I have a good vocabulary for describing that process technically. It’s related to the same process one would use creating a character for stage, film or TV, except that an audiobook may require a dozen different characters not of the narrator’s age, gender or race, all of which need to be distinct, identifiable and consistent. Listening to and practicing voices and accents are useful, but you also need to apply them appropriately. If you really want a tutorial on how to broaden your “voice library,” go out for an evening with Barbara Rosenblat. She studies the sound of everyone she encounters from the cab driver to the waiter to the lady eating at the next table!

Q: What a great suggestion! Have interviewed her. She’s fantastic. Now, was it easier for you to transition to film acting than it might be for someone doing the reverse, do you think?

A: I didn’t really transition from audio to film since, while I had done audio drama before I worked in film, it was only after I had done a substantial amount of stage and TV and some film work that I began narrating audio books. However, the difficulty of audiobook narration is often underrated by those who haven’t done it. On more than one occasion while working on a film or TV show, I’ve had other actors tell me that they tried narrating audiobooks and it was just too hard! Episodic TV requires stamina, but the work flow is so different. You shoot a scene then break then shoot again then break and so on rather than spend an hour or more at a time in the booth recording.

Q: What types of audiobooks do you most enjoy narrating?

A: All types. I like the diversity of narrating both fiction and non-fiction. I think fiction is much more demanding and having the occasional non-fiction break is refreshing to me.

Q: Full cast must be a lot of fun, working with Yuri. I only met him once, after he produced one of my novels. Radio drama is the only acting I’ve tried myself, as solo narration is beyond me. As a medium, it is very time consuming and therefore rare. Any favorites there?

A: The kick you get from acting in audio drama is closest to the kick from working on stage! Yuri is such a skilled audio director, and always gets wonderful actors for his productions, so I’m ready to go whenever he has something he thinks I’m right for. I had a chance to do some “audio noir” or channel my inner Barbara Stanwyck! in his Hollywood Theatre of the Ear production of BLACK MASK AUDIO MAGAZINE for Blackstone Audio, and also had a good time playing a Brit in his Audie Award winning production of THE SHERLOCK HOLMES THEATRE, also for Blackstone Audio.

Q: In non-fiction, I see you’ve recently narrated CHEAP–The High Cost of Discount Culture. What was the research like?

A: My main goals in non-fiction narration are clarity and conveying the “mood” of the book. The research involved in preparing for a non-fiction read is often much more extensive and time-consuming than for fiction. For example, I read two books on ancient Egypt for Tantor: TEMPLES, TOMBS & HIEROGLYPHS and RED LAND, BLACK LAND both by Barbara Mertz, and which involved major research. It is of invaluable assistance when the author is available for consultation, as was the case with those two books, but you don’t always have an author contact. One thing I really like about non-fiction narration is that I learn so much – especially about topics I would not necessarily be drawn to otherwise.

Furman

Lorna Raver has narrated both Cujo by Stephen King and an audiobook about Mother Teresa.

Lorna Raver: