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Jessie: In New Hampshire, where the birds are starting to sing.

IMG_0003On Friday I received an unexpected package in the mail. My son decided the weather was favorable and volunteered to walk to the post office. When he returned he was bearing a lumpy envelope from my publisher.

I ripped it open expecting dust jackets for my second Beryl and Edwina Mystery, Murder Flies the Coop. Instead, I found five copies of the audiobook of the first Beryl and Edwina Mystery, Murder in an English Village. I was stunned and thrilled. This is my first audiobook and the good people at Recorded Books entrusted the job  of bringing it to life in an audible format to the acclaimed actress and voice professional Barbara Rosenblat.

When my publisher informed me several months ago tha they had sold the audio rights to the book I was delighted. This was my first experience with an audiobook being made from my work and I was eager to expand my horizons. I also loved the idea of people who prefer to experience stories in this way having a chance to try my work.

But here’s the problem: as much as I am delighted that the audiobook exists and am so appreciative that such a lauded professional has been willing to apply her talents and skills to a version of my work that has been evaluated as a wonderful expression of the book, I can’t bring myself to listen to it. I put all five copies on a shelf in my office and they have been staring me down all weekend.

The thing is, I know exactly how Beryl and Edwina sound in my head. They are talkative and generous women and neither of them holds back about what is on their minds. When I write the books it feels almost like I am a court reproter taking down what the witnesses have to say rather than that I am the one generating the stories. I plot my books so I know I was involved but it still feels like channeling rather than creating. I can see these women and hear them so clearly that I have a bit of trouble remembering that we haven’t actually met on the physical plane. Which brings me to my reluctance to listen to the audio version.

The fact is, I am scared to do so. I am afraid that if I hear the way another artist interprets how they sound I won’t be able to hear my version anymore. I worry that the voices I have come to recognize and the companionship I have enjoyed when commiting their stories to paper will evaporate into the thin air if I permit another version of them into my consciousness.

I may be worrying for nothing but I have decided that I cannot risk it. I have determined that the only thing to do is to give away four of the copies and to let my husband listen to the fifth. Maybe my kids will do so too. I am delighted to provide it with pride of place on the shelves in my office that I have set aside for the varying versions of my work. And I am content to leave the listening to others.

So dear readers, tell me, what self-imposed restrictions do you create for yourself? Writers, do you worry about anything altering the way your characters sound in your head?

I am choosing a subscriber to my newsletter to win a copy of the audiobook. If you sign up before the February newsletter goes out next Sunday your name will go into the hat! Good luck and if you win, let me know how you like the way it turned out!

52 Thoughts

  1. That is interesting. It also happens to readers. You read the book and the characters appear. I do not like the way the movie pronounces the name Atreides in Dune. I pronounce it phonetically and the actors pronounce it as Atraydees. I don’t like that. When I started writing a book, one of the characters seem to be in their late thirties, early forties. That is too old. The character must be in their early/mid twenties. The versions war with each other. I ignore him, but he kind of persists at the wrong age.

    I imagine this must be like how the writer’s story is turned into a a visual version. The director. perhaps the producer, certainly the actor all have their version. I read a book after I had seen the movie. I was shocked. The only thing in common was the name of the book.

    The I Robot movie may be a good movie, but it was not what Isaac Asimov wrote.

    I as a reader don’t like the interpretations of a book turned into a movie. I have my ideas what the characters look and sound like. IF that were to happen to a character I wrote, I would be uncertain as to the audio interpretation of the characters I have created.

    For some unknown reason a bit character who is a rock musician has a British accent. It amuses me that the voice came out that way.

    Hearing an audio version may be like watching the visual version. I listened to audio of the DaVinci Code and another book by Dan Brown. The person chosen to do the audio was fantastic! I couldn’t wait to get into the car and listen to the book.

    I bought the audio version of a book I love, but couldn’t connect with the speaker. It was sad.

    I think you are right not to listen. 🙂 The author’s muse vs actor’s interpretation having it out in a duel to see who claims the portrayal as the character. If I read a book after I see a movie, the movie version stays in my head.

    I would say, let others compare the difference between the written and spoken characters. Someday, you could “take a peek” at someone els’s interpretation of your characters.

    1. I think the difference between screen and novel is probably similar to the one between audio and print versions. That said, it is a problem I would be eager to take on:)

      Perhaps someday I will “take a peek”but I think I will need a few more of the books to be completed before I do!

  2. Jessie, I listened to the audiobook of my first two Country Store Mysteries. It hasn’t affected how the characters speak to me as I write them, but I was astonished at the drama the narrator put into her reading, nothing like how I had heard the voice when I typed the words. Still, she was consistent and, like you, I am delighted that my readers have more options with that series.

    1. I am not at all surprised we have a different take on this, Edith. I always find the varieation in ways writers take things on and develop a process to be fascinating.

  3. Since I’m a visual not aural person, I don’t listen to audiobooks, but as a reader/viewer, I have had the problem when books have gone to TV. I was only able to watch part of one Inspector Lynley episode because the actor was so far off from my mental image.

    Follow your instinct, Jessie. You know yourself best.

  4. So glad to hear about the audio version, Jessie. I know dozens of Seniors who will embrace your series now that it’s in listening form. I hope you’ll consider donating one or two of the shelved copies to the library of a local senior community. Also your writing is so descriptive, action-packed, and historically well researched, I’m secretly hoping Hallmark will pick it up as new titles unfold. No pressure, just sayin’ 🙂

  5. All of my Witch City mysteries are on audio, Jesse–read by Claire Cooney who pronouces words differently than my Salem-born protagonist Lee would, but that’s okay. I’ve never listened to one of the books all the way through, just enough to realize that Claire has a pleasant voice. I’ve kept one of each, donated others to libraries or for fund-raisers at a writer’s group. The covers are very good on all of the audios, and they seem to be selling okay. Don’t worry about it. This was the publisher’s choice of presentation and the stories themselves will outweigh any quibbling over how the girls should sound in any given listener’s mind–including yours!

    1. Thanks, Carol for your words of wisdom. The revviews of the audio version are very positive about the narrator. From what I’ve read listeners are likely to find it Barbara Rosenblat’s interpretation be great fun.

      1. I’ve listened to a lot of Barbara Rosenblatt’s narration, and for the most part, she does a great job. (I’ve only had one real quibble with her take on a character in one book.) But I agree, don’t listen if there’s any danger of messing up your own “vision” (what’s an auditory equivalent of that word?) of your characters.

        That said, Recorded Books does a great job with audio books! Congratulations!

  6. I can’t listen to mine either, and it isn’t just the main characters. I heard just a bit of one scene and a character I pictured as my age (70) sounded about a hundred and on his last legs. That said, I do listen to audiobooks all the time in the car and Barbara Rosenblatt is the best there is. You hit the jackpot on narrators. Congrats.

    1. I am worried about the minor voices too, Kathy. Especially the ones without a great deal of page time but that I love to write about. And thanks for the feedback on Barbara Rosenblat! I was astonsished and grateful that she consented to take on the job! She has had such a distinguished career and a tremendously loyal fan base. I feel blessed indeed!

  7. So happy to hear “Murder in an English Village” is on audio book. I cannot wait to hear Beryl and Edwina kibitzing. Great for pairing up with the book so I can continue the story while I’m driving. I do feel your anticipation however. Having written a few stage plays that were produced, the experience of attending a cold reading was devastating. My characters were my friends, my family. They lived in my head. They lived in my heart. To hear and see them come alive on stage in a manner in which I never intended was torture. I felt as though I was listening to and watching strangers move around on that stage. With a play, there is no way to watch but through the eyes of the director and the actors, like a movie version of a book. I can’t wait to purchase a copy of your audio book. I know I will enjoy it as much as I do your other works.

  8. I’m with you! A number of my books are out in audio format, and I’ve never listened to one of them. I’m particularly afraid to try the County Cork mysteries, because there are Irish accents involved (more than one, if done right–town, rural, educated, not so much, and so on. And I don’t want to know if Maura has a Boston accent!) But I do try to give one of each of my author copies to my local library.

    1. I think tha is part of it, Sheila! I just don’t want to know how the gardener Simpkins sounds or if Prudence is as unpleasant as I imagine her. I just can’t do it!

  9. I can’t think of any self imposed restrictions I have for myself.

    I can definitely understand your anxiety about listening to the audio version of your book. I’m an avid audiobook listener and the narrator’s voice can make or break a book for sure. But I think you should try and listen. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results. If you just can’t bring yourself to do it, I’d be more than happy to do it for you and give my honest review of it. ( :

    Congratulations on the audiobook version. The audiobook community is huge, and your book should get even more exposure.

    1. Audio books have such a huge following! I am delighted to know that as an avid reader you are also an avid audiobook listener! I was not sure how much cross-over there might be!

      1. I still read – physical and electronic books – and listen to audio books in the car.

  10. I’m the same way when books become movies. I was disappointed in the movie “One for the Money”. As much as I love Katherine Heigl and think she’s a fantastic actress, she wasn’t who I pictured playing Stephanie Plum. And the guy who played Ranger wasn’t AT ALL what I pictured. This is why I’m usually very hesitant to see the movie, especially in a series that I love. It’s hard to go back to unseeing those characters.

    1. I didn’t like the guy they cast as Joe either — blue eyes? Noooooo. I did think Debbie Reynolds was wonderful as Grandma Mazur but she wasn’t in it enough.

  11. I know how strong those characters are in you, Jessie, and I’ve always marveled that. I saw someone on Facebook call Barbara Rosenblat the Meryl Streep of the audiobook world and that she did a great job on your books.

  12. I haven’t listened to any of the audiobooks of the Maine Clambake Mysteries, for the same reason, and also because I worry it will make me so self-conscious I won’t be able to write at all.

    1. Barb, I hadn’t even considered the self-conscious part! Yikes! Now that you mention it I can understand how that could be really detrimental to the writign process!

  13. I’m delighted that your book have been made into audio. I have trouble with regular print now and having an audio version makes it so much easier for me to enjoy the books I love. Can hardly wait to get the audio from the library. Barbara Rosenblat is amazing. One of my favorite narrators.

    1. One other suggestion for your audio copies. Donate 1 to your local library. Spread the joy.

  14. For our 5 hour ride from Brooklyn up to Cape Cod last summer we took a couple of audio books out of the library. It was definitely better then trying to find a new radio station every hour or so. Having someone read to us was a new experience. A rather enjoyable one. I’m sure we’ll enjoy your book on disc if I’m your winner.

  15. I recently attempted to listen to an audiobook of a series that I loved. I was enjoying it until I realized the voice actor was not going to give one character, who is definitely Scottish, any accent at all. At first I thought I could ignore it, but there were too many instances of the character saying ‘wee’ ‘bonny’ and ‘aye’ with a definite American accent that in the end I couldn’t concentrate. I think I might stick to reading your books. 🙂

    1. Wow! That sounds like a mismatch! What I understand about the audiobook of Murder in an English Village is that Barbara Rosenblat did a great job of switching between Beryl’s American accent and Edwina”s English one. I really appreciate that!

  16. I definitely understand your mixed feelings about listening to your audiobook. I think everyone, either consciously or unconsciously has an idea of what a character sounds like when they read a book, and it can be a shock if an audiobook doesn’t nail it. I have been happy with almost every audiobook I have listened to, but a couple have been doozies and left me wondering who was in the casting department!

  17. I completely understand. Some books I have read, I’ve tried listening to an audio version, and it was horrible because it wasn’t how I viewed the characters at all.

    On the other hand, I can never read a Flavia de Luce mystery because I love the audio versions so much, and reading one just wouldn’t be the same. I must stick to the audios. And I’m dreading running out of the Sue Grafton books that the original narrator did because I love how she brings Kinsey to life. So it definitely works both ways, and as a reader I’ve been on both sides.

    1. I can definitely imagine sticking with one form of storytelling or another for a series. And I can imagine that it would be hard to have the narrator switch part way through. It would be akin to having another author continue an established series after the original author passed away.

  18. I can’t blame you for being wary of a different “voice.” Tuck them away and give them away. Keep one! Some people may not be able to read your books so won’t have a preconceived idea of the correct sound. They will enjoy your audio versions of your books most definitely. Having read your first in the series, I am amazed at the voice you found in the story-both the historical language and the accent. You did a great job. I also read your New Hampshire number 1 so am familiar with that matter of fact tone as well.
    Personally, my kids don’t know I am writing and only two of my close friends do. If I sell, won’t that be a hoot! Not sure how I would break the news!

    1. Thanks, Doris! I love Berly and Edwina and am really not sure where they came from. But I am delighted they chose to appear. And great good luck to you with yur own work! It is such fun to share good news once there is some available!

  19. Congrats on your new audiobook! Barbara Rosenblat is a great narrator. I can understand your worry about the voices being different than you’ve always heard them. This is why I do not watch the movie version of books I love. The actors are never who I pictured while reading.

    1. Thank, Jana! I am really grateful for such an accomplished and beloved narrator! I think I shall have to pick up someone else’s book that she has done and listen to that. I understand she did at least one of the Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody books. I expect I would love to listen to that!

  20. I don’t blame you for not wanting to listen to your own books if you think it might affect your own idea of your characters. I love audio books and one of my favorite series usually has the same reader. But once in a while there is someone else. Oh, the pain! it just isn’t the same. Since I haven’t read this book yet, I would love to have a chance to listen to it. Also, I learned way back when I was teenager (in the Dark Ages) to never go see a movie of a book I have read. I have a very vivid visual imagination and don’t want it changed by someone else’s vision. I so much “see” a book as I’m reading it that when someone asks me if I’ve seen the movie, I have a hard time remembering I seldom go to the movies!

    Congrats on expanding your reach to book lovers.

  21. My experience with audio books is 50/50 – half delighted with the experience (Trevor Noah’s book – OMG good) and the other half, JUST NO. Voices are so intimate and personal, even more than appearance. I absolutely understand your feelings, Jessie. Let that audiobook sit on the shelf and just enjoy Beryl and Edwina in your own way.

  22. Oh, I hadn’t thought about it from the author’s perspective, but I should have. Listening to someone’s audio interpretation of your writing might indeed be risky. I recently listened to an audio version of a book in a series of which this book was #20 something. I had read all the previous books in the series and had a pretty good idea of how I thought one of the lead characters sounded. Whoa! The audio version gave a rough voiced version of the man that didn’t fit in the least with my idea of the character. I had to quit listening and will not try that series in audio with that narrator again. I’m rather hesitant to listen to any long-time series on audio. So, listening to your own writing when the voices originated in your head. Well, I’d say you are wise to let others do the listening. Jessie. And, I have Murder in an English Village and this series on my TBR list. So looking forward to it. You’ve also given me an idea for my reading blog.

  23. I only listened to one audio book, and the narrator was so annoying that I stopped. It took me several chapters of the novel to get that voice out of my head. Although I like the Hallmark Mystery Movies, a lot of the characters don’t look the way they do in the books. How do authors deal with having a movie or TV series that change their characters?

    1. I think they realize film is another way of telling stories and that they really don’t have the same priorities or norms. If an author can’t make peace with that the differences between them will likely be hard to swallow.

  24. How exciting that another section of book lovers will now be able to “read” your book! I am not an audio book lover, but having just learned I need eye surgery I may resort to them. I did listen to the McCall-Smith Africa series on audio years ago and even now when I read a new book in that series and it gets to the end where it says, Africa, Africa….etc. I hear the audio reader’s voice.

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