Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 year ago

S1E14. : Mary Alice Monroe, with Cassandra Campbell and Dan Zitt

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

For audiobook month, Alice Monroe interviews audiobook narrators Cassandra Campbell and Dan Zitt.

Welcome to friends and fiction. five best selling authors and the stories Novelist Mary Kay Andrews, Kristen Harmel, Christie Woodson, Harvey Paddy, Callaghan Henry and Mary Alice Munro are five longtime friends with more than 80 published books to their credit In 2020 they created friends and fiction to provide author interviews and fascinating insider, talk about publishing and writing and to highlight independent bookstores. These friends discuss the books they have written the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Mhm France and fiction is sponsored by Mama Geraldine's bodacious Foods, the company that makes Mama Geraldine's cheese straws which come in six varieties and are the best selling cheese straws in the United States. Founded by former radio executive Cathy Cunningham and named for her mother. They have melt in your mouth cookies to delicious treats and a woman owned empire. Now that is something that friends and fiction can really get behind try them. You'll be so glad you did get 20% off on your online order at mama Geraldine's dot com with the Code Fab five snack on y'all. We'd also like to thank our other sponsor, page one books who offer a book subscription package that we love. The hand select books for you each month based on your preferences in their book knowledge. And because the reeds are being chosen by actual independent booksellers, you know, you're more than just an algorithm. The subscription package, which can run 36 or 12 months is a perfect gift for a book lover, even if that book lover is you. Page one books, the personal touch of an indie bookstore with the delight and surprise of an online subscription service curated just for you. First time subscribers. Get 10% off with the Code Fab five at page one books dot com. Welcome to the Friends and fiction podcast. This is the podcast arm of our Friends and Fiction live program. Every Wednesday night on facebook, you can also catch the show live on our Youtube channel. Hi, I'm mary Alice Munro and today we are entering the world of audio books, Reading a physical book and listening to the audiobook are two different paths to the great pleasure of enjoying a story. How are audiobooks made? How does the book get selected? You become an audio book and what's it like to narrate a book? I'm fortunate to have two of the leading figures in the world of audiobooks joining us on Friends and fiction today dan's, it is senior vice president of content production for the penguin, Random House Audio US and has spent his entire 25 year career in the audiobook industry, dan has been the creative catalyst for over 2000 audio productions, collaborating with best selling authors, notable celebrities and award winning narrators. 20 of his recordings have been nominated for Grammy Awards with former President Bill Clinton's autobiography, My Life, Carrie Fisher's, the Princess Diarist and Michelle Obama's memoir, becoming all, winning the award for best spoken word album, Congratulations. He is also the creator of Ahab talent.com, a casting website launched in 2015 and...

...currently leads a bicoastal production team that produces more than 1700 audio books a year Cassandra. Campbell is a prolific audiobook narrator, with more than 700 titles to date, winner of four audio boards and nominated for a dozen more Cassandra was a 2018 inductee in audibles inaugural Narrator Hall of Fame. She has consistently been an audiophile magazine best narrator, as well as a publisher's weekly best narrator of the year as an acting teacher. She spent five years as a faculty member of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and has performed in and directed dozens of plays at theaters across the country. I'm fortunate to have cassandra read my recent novels, the summer guests on ocean boulevard and the upcoming the Summer of Lost and Found. Thank you so much cassandra. Well, it's such a pleasure to welcome you both and to have this conversation with two giants in the industry. I respect so much. I love audio books. I can't tell you I'm plugged in all the time when I'm driving, when I'm walking on the beach and even when I'm cooking, I don't even know how many times I burnt dinner because I got caught up in an audio book. I think the key is that audio books are engaging and that's certainly an advantage of listening over reading when you're walking or driving and you don't have a book in your hand. There's so many advantages to audiobooks, but also because I've narrated my own books over the past decade, it's been an eye opening experience to appreciate oh my gosh, the tremendous amount of work and patient and talent involved in producing an audiobook. So I know our friends and fiction readers will enjoy learning to. So let's start at the beginning, Dan you've been in the industry for over 25 years. What is the job of an audiobook producer? And how did you get started? Wow. Um yeah, I'm kind of shocked that I'm first of all, thanks for having me on this podcast mary Alice, it's an honor to meet you, virtually. Uh but Yeah, I mean I started 25 years ago when this industry was in its infancy in some ways. Um My story is long, but I'll give you the abridged version because we were producing abridged audio books back then. I started as a 19 year old intern at Penguin Audio and I wanted to get into publishing because I was a writer, that's what I wanted to do for a living. And I remember my mother telling me, you know, you should probably have a backup job. So my backup job was trying to get a job in publishing. So, as a 19 year old intern at Penguin, I wanted to work in editorial and then they stuck me in audio books. And I was kind of knew I had listened to audio books as a kid, but it wasn't really on records, but it wasn't anything that I knew anything about at that time. And I kind of said, well why did you put me in audio books? And they said, well, on your resume, it said that you're a DJ. And I said, well, I'm not deejaying Ernest Hemingway, I'm not really sure how why you would put me in this. But what I soon realized almost immediately was that it was kind of the mix of two really great genres. It was books and films and the two things that I really loved. And at the end of that summer, I scored a job at Penguin audio while I was still in college and and the rest is history from there. And I stayed in audiobooks for 25 years. It sounds like you've found your passion. I did, I...

...found my passion almost, you know, it's unusual because most people kind of hop around and don't start, especially then nobody started an audio books because the industry was so tiny and I kind of started their most people didn't even know what audio books were, It was kind of like, you mean for the blind and we're saying no people actually listen to these things. So, so that's where I started, you know, what is a producer's job? The short answer, there is a producer's job is to be the liaison between the author and the audio book process. Um and that's the best way to describe it. Uh we read our author's books, we talked to them about what they hear in their heads, which I think sometimes can be a scary thing, as we know, especially if you're working with some authors who here many things in their heads. Um but really our job is to help that author find the right voice for their books um and make great audiobook recordings and cassandra. You've been in the business for quite a while yourself and you tell everyone how you started performing audiobooks High. Yeah, mary Alice, again, thanks so much for having me too. It's such a thrill to be here with you and um I'm getting ready to record your book, so it's just the timing is perfect. Um so I got into doing audio books by accident too, as I think so many people who have been doing it for a while did um I was teaching at the high school for the Arts and a friend of mine who's an actor was starting to record audio books and I didn't know what they were. Um I had never listened to one or even I literally, so anyway, he got me an audition and I went to the library and I took out an audio book and I listened to it and I just thought, oh I could do that, that would be so fun because you know, to me it was like the perfect confluence of acting and reading and I have always been an avid reader. So I went in and I auditioned for what was then books on tape. Um this was 18 years ago and I read from a John Adams, the David McCullough John Adams biography because it was a great piece that read like fiction but was nonfiction and um and took place, you know, the story starts in New England and in walking through the snow and I just was like okay, that's the perfect thing for me. Um and I auditioned for Dan Musselman who was running what was then like a storefront operation, literally this front studio was in a storefront window and you had to stop when the trucks would pull up to make deliveries to the restaurant next door. Um but I fell in love with it just immediately and I just thought this is for me, this is like what I want to do. And so I I, you know, I pestered dan until he hired me and then I just couldn't get enough of it and and I really feel like it's the perfect marriage of what I love to do, which is I didn't know that dan hired you early on. Well not not, this was, yeah, this was so this was actually connected that first year was when books on tape got acquired by penguin audio. And so those worlds were soon to converge and build some real professional studios out here in Los Angeles. So I think, and I think we're known as Danny East and dan west and oh, that's amusing. Well not all books become audiobooks, so I'm curious and I think everyone is, how does the book get selected to become an audiobook dan? How does that happen? So things have changed dramatically, I think in the last 25 years, I mean, originally publishers were very selective of the books that were going on audio for a lot of different reasons. One was just simply because, you know, there wasn't a lot of shelf space, and we were producing cassettes 25 years...

...ago, uh and they were remarkably expensive To produce 25 years ago and they're still expensive to produce today. So I think that that was what it looked like 25 years ago now, the world of audio, you know, and I've started using this phrase a lot more in the last two years, it's not just audio books, but it's kind of, the world of audio entertainment Has finally hit the mainstream and the big time. So right now, you know, I think as you mentioned in my bio, you know, we're producing 1700 books a year, which is a great majority of the books that we produce a penguin random house, we're producing anything and everything that can be an audio book is now an audio book. And I think some things that traditionally we never would have looked at as potential audiobooks saying, you know, we can adapt this into something that someone can consume in the audio format. So, you know, now, um, I think we're looking at anything and everything we can get our hands on to produce an audio because we know people are just rapidly listening to audio, Finishing one and starting another if you're like me listening to two or 3 at a time. So everyone is a lot of nonfiction, lot of nonfiction. I mean every genre is being produced anything from diet books. I mean this past year we did an audio original um just about making sour dough right when the pandemic hit because it was so popular, it was really popular and it was you know, it's it's it's just like if there are opportunities to produce content in this format. I think publishers uh and now production companies all over the country are doing it all over the world. I didn't realize it was that that many books were being recorded these days because I'm an old timer and it was a big deal when my book was chosen to be an audio book. Yeah, it was it used to be very selective. I remember when I started a lot of the books we were doing were just like when I worked at penguin, I was working on Stephen King's books, I was working on some classics here and there. I worked on a version of the Grapes of Wrath with Dylan baker or the Odyssey with Ian Mckellen and you know, it was like big splashy stuff, but I do think it, you know, the audio books, the fact that we're producing so many audiobooks now also gives authors a lot more to talk about when they're out talking about their books and you're able to share the content a little differently. Um so all authors either if you're a first time author or someone who's been doing this for a long time has been writing books for a long time, you know, for the most part, everything is getting produced now. Well, it's interesting for me as a listener more than the author is, the voice is so important. And I imagine that's really critical for both the producer, the director and of course the married or so when you listen or you get a book and you know, you're going to produce it. How do you choose the narrator and I'll come I know only hear both sides of this. So from the production side, how do you have a voice in mind when you read a book? I think it's like anything, you know, you read a book and you're you know, you get to create all these characters in your head and then it's kind of like, okay, let me think about all the actors I know, and some actors maybe, I don't know that that I can maybe reach out to to see if they can actually do this. But traditionally it starts with the producer just sitting there reading the book, having some voice in its head in the producer's head and then talking to the author about what it is they here. And then, you know, there's a lot of different avenues you can go down for casting books. One is because we've been doing this for 25 years and we've got uh you know, 14 producers on staff With a wealth of experience, Dan Muslim, and being one of them, a lot of people who have been doing this for 20 years more than 15 years. So everyone has um actors that they're like, oh you should try this person. So some of its kind of...

...word of mouth and just the knowledge you have from doing this for so long. Then there's the kind of approach of picking up the phone and calling some agencies and saying, hey, I'm casting this book and this is this very specific thing I'm looking for. Do you have anyone that you think would be good for this book? And then of course there is and we'll probably talk a little bit about this later, but the fact that we finally, we build a casting platform because we were trying to find more actors, I mean, people like Cassandra are very busy now because the audio industry has changed so dramatically over there. So all of the narrator's that started 20 years ago, reading books are much busier. I mean, I know some actors who are working, who have called and they said, well I'm booked through august this year, so, so, you know, I think there's all these different ways of hosting, finding actors and then potentially hosting auditions if you want, we've done that as well. There's a lot of different ways to find the right actor, but I think producers really spend a lot of time trying to pinpoint exactly what the author is looking for. Well, it's the voice, right? And speaking of the right voice, I'm cassandra when I heard you, I was actually um listening to where the crowd dancing and I felt which is Delia Owens book and I fell in love with it and I wanted I said I want cassandra, Campbell, please. So you're such a notable narrator. So on the other side of the coin and you have so many options. Do they send you sort of like an actress scripts books to look at? How do you select an audiobook? So, um you know, in the beginning I didn't it wasn't there was no question of me having a choice of what books I was going to narrate. And what's always been interesting to me is how adept the producers and directors are in terms of casting the right narrator for the right project, which I think is always based on two things. One is just kind of like your voice, the quality of your voice, but the other is your skill set, you know and what you what your set of experiences and strengths are and that that's not just like you know, what accents can you do well, but but kind of like where do you um where your interests lie? Like what are your intellectual strengths? And you know, for me, like a book like The Craw Dads came kind of that was a book that I think for Penguin, Random House was a little bit of a sleeper. Nobody expected that it was gonna be this huge bestseller, like for it's still on the bestseller list I think both for audio and in the, you know, the hard copy. Um and but but my skills in terms of reading books that have kind of a southern bent is that my mom grew up in this out and so I I don't belong to that, but I know it you know, it's very familiar to me both, you know, culturally in terms of accents and just in terms of place. Um but I I think also that I have enough distance from it that I'm not, I can I have a perspective on it that I think sometimes is helpful um in narrating because I'm not immersed in it, but I can see it clearly. Which for a book like Craw Dads which is all about that, you know that perspective in that view of the world. Um And I, you know that book was so immersive, it was just like such an immersive experience that to get to record. It was so thrilling. Um well you mentioned about the books different interests, do you have a favorite genre? My favorite genre is you know, good great characters and good writing. I I really, I I say that sincerely because I love all different kinds of books and one of the things that um recording audiobooks has allowed me to do is expand my sense of...

...of genre, right? I recently recorded a piece of science fiction that was fascinating and um not a genre that I normally would have been drawn to, but really well written and just like powerhouse characters. So it's really that you know um I love books that take place in the south and I love books that take place in italy because I lived there for a while and I speak italian so you know and people kind of like you know go to me for those two particular um types of books. But really, you know, I one of the things that my narrator friends and I talk about is how recording books allows you to take vacations in your mind to places that you've never imagined going and um that's really part of the fun of it, you know, you just never know where you're going to be like this week, I'm going to be on ocean boulevard and I can see it like I haven't been there, but I can see it really clearly in my mind's eye, what that that how what the little cottage looks like and yeah, yeah, well that means thank you very much enjoy. Well one question, that one question that I hear a lot and I am in such an avid audio book reader and listener, what do you call listener readers? What's the difference between reading a book from pages and listening to a book? Some people say, you know, is it cheating if I listen to the Book Club? Book an audio book? So I looked it up and according to David Willingham, who is a leading researcher of reading comprehension, he argues the biggest difference between the two mediums is a matter of engagement. He says that reading is something you do, we're listening is something that happens to you. And so I'm curious, dan, let's start with you. What do you think the difference for the reader is between reading a physical book at an audio book? Well, I think the real difference is it's almost like seeing a film and you know, the idea that, you know, you I've read many books and then when I finished them listen to the audio book and had a completely different experience with them. And I think that's because maybe the choices that the actor made were not what I was hearing, but they're also very compelling. So I think, you know, I don't think the two things need to be independent of each other. And I think more and more uh, listeners are, well, I think a lot of listeners, our readers and that's why they listen, but they just have maybe a little bit less time to kind of actively sit with a book. I would say that the great thing about audio books is that You can do it while you're doing other things and it's that is the real major difference between the two, at least to me. I mean, the idea that I can ride my bike for 10 miles and listen to, you know, a couple hours of a book or garden or you know, do anything active and still consume more books than I normally would be able to just sitting and reading. And some of the new research that's come out about how people actually listen to audio is really interesting because what people have said in surveys is like there are a lot of people that are now just sitting at home in a quiet room listening, which is was shocking to us. Like we never really, ever thought that was the case. We always thought people were actively doing something else while they were listening and then we found out that people are listening the same way they're reading. So, you know, I think they are interchangeable. I just think it depends on the kind of experience you're looking for and to some extent, you know, if you look and I've talked to many listeners, if you look at a list of audiobooks and you say, oh, cassandra, Campbell read this, you may not have any interest in that book, but you may pick it up because cassandra and I think that and I think that's you know, it just it shows what...

...a different experience maybe buying a book is um on audio and and also how people listen, but it's you know, I would say that the two things are not completely independent of each other and I think people are listening and reading at the same time, or reading and listening to the same content to piggyback on that is a statement that we've heard a lot of our readers on friends and fiction make. And I know it was true for me that during the pandemic, people said I can't read physically, it was something about attention. I don't know whether it was fear as a as a factor in there, but I know I have always loved audiobooks, but even in my own case I listened to audio books almost exclusively back in the beginning of all this pandemic. Um I also want to say that anyone listens to audiobooks knows the narrator makes a huge difference as you just said. And listeners often comment that they will listen to a book like you said, because cassandra, Campbell read it or they fell in love with the voice and I know it as a writer when we talk about voice, we talk about we can read the pages and the words and we know it's a specific author, but as dan just said, listeners follow their favorite voices, cassandra. Can you talk about that a little bit? Yeah. You know, it's it's really interesting and flattering and wonderful to hear that. Um I don't experience that directly because I work at home or you know before the pandemic at penguin random house. Um And so I don't really um experience that in a you know every once in a while people will send me a note or I'll get like you know a tweet um but but I'm isolated from that in a way but I also um I love that that is happening and it I did get a note from someone once that really really moved me and it was this woman who worked in a factory in florida who said I um I need these books and I listened to your voice all day long while I'm working and thank you so much for making my job easier and I just was so moved by that. Um But I have experienced in the sense that like I did I took a driving trip with Michelle Obama listening to her book and I think one of the things that makes listening um different from reading and and really more engaging in some ways is that you have that person as a companion in your ear. You know I took and my driving trip with Michelle Obama who is like just the most most natural narrator. I mean she's but it really was like when I used to drive my son to school I would listen you know back and forth, I would be listening to Michelle Obama and and she's such a personable narrator that you really feel like you're a part of the conversation and actually just a good point. Yeah, I just read this really great. I was listening to an interview with Andres Boys, the writer who wrote House of Sand and fog and he talks about writing and the writing process and he says that the book isn't finished, that the person who finishes the book is the reader, and I think that's doubly true in listening, that I think that the product of an audio book has a different life when somebody listens to it and that if that kind of like it makes the experience of the audiobook hold when somebody actually like listens to it and and and there's a life to that, and that's what that engagement, you know, that's a big part of what that engagement is, I think, is that there's just like, you know, this other relationship that is off the page between whoever's listening to me and...

...that person, which I just love it. Also just just just add to that. I mean, I think cassandra said something really smart and there's there's an intimacy to listening to an audiobook that I think you may not get occasionally from books. I mean that breeding is a very intimate experience, right? You're there usually alone reading and but having someone in your ear telling you a story goes back to when we were Children for most of us, right? There's something about that experience that is familiar to you when you started and you know when you live and she's right, cassandra, when you listen to Mrs Obama narrated her book, you know, it feels like she's sitting right next to you telling you this story and there's something to that. I think when you're when you're actually listening as opposed to reading it off the page, there's that immediacy that you get when someone, especially when someone is talking about a memoir, you know, I think we're talking about voices, but when I listen to um we said Michelle Obama or Barack Obama's or the even Matthew McConaughey's um the actor, the celebrity reading his own memoir there is that this is my life kind of feeling about it, that you are so much more engaged when you listen to it. Um and dan, I just have to ask you've been um in the business for long thomas we talked about but you've recorded multiple presidents and their wives including Michelle Obama. Can you talk about that experience with those voices? Because that had to be somewhat daunting to say to the President, I'd like to record you. Well, I mean luckily I didn't have to ask them to record their own books. Um I'll tell you what's daunting about those experiences and you know, when I first recorded uh the President was President Clinton for his book My Life. And I said I tell people all the time that that experience changed me as a producer forever, because I kind of felt fearless after that. And the reason I say that was there's nothing more intimidating than pressing a button on the other side of the glass and telling the former leader of the free world that they did something wrong. Uh oh my gosh, I can't imagine. Yeah, it is, it was the scariest moment of my career. Um kind of having to tell President Clinton at the time, because it was my first experience, and I was only 25 or 26 years old, so, you know, a little little green um you know, that maybe he made a mistake on a word. Um but you know, I think it's you always when you're sitting in the room with President Clinton or President Bush or mrs Obama, you're always kind of pinching yourself and and just trying, you know, I remember the first time Mrs Obama started reading her book, the first thing I did was I leaned over to my co producer scott Krystle and I said this is unbelievable. Mr Obama is reading to us, you know, like this is our job and this is unbelievable and outside of just being great human beings and really good people. Their stories are just so compelling and the way that they tell their stories. I mean when when you're in the room with With authors many times, it's your feeling everything that they're feeling as they're reading it to you and it goes back to the intimacy of the whole experience. But yeah, it's very intimidating. I think it's less intimidating now than it was 20 years ago, for sure. But there is there is a thrill to sitting across from someone who billions of people would like to meet for only five minutes and getting to spend time with them telling their story, telling their story and what I always told, what I always like. This...

...is your you know, this is a historical document like in 100 years. Great, great grandkids are going to be listening to these books and not just their books, but you know, all of the auto content that's out there. So it's, you know, I mean, we take great pride in the work we do with every author. Um and you know, you kind of, as I said, you just kind of pinch yourself when you're sitting on the other side of the glass. Well, speaking of pinching though, have you ever had to tell a celebrity author or any author? No, your voice isn't quite right for the job, you know? It's interesting. Yeah, I I've always sided. And this is an interesting thing because it's changed in this industry over the years. I remember working with a publisher who used to audition every author for the books that they wanted to read. And and a lot of time that had to do with fiction, right? Memoir is a different animal. I mean, there's nothing like listening and I produce Matthew McConaughey's audio too, but there's nothing like listening to Matthew read that book. It's just, you know, I mean, he's another person I can listen to read the phone book. I literally like seek out car commercials because I like listening to him and he calms me. Uh but you know, in that conversation with authors, I think there were many publishers who thought it was a really smart to do, just have them audition for everything. And like when I started producing books, I said, you know, I don't think that's the right option. I think the right thing to do with authors is to say, okay, you want to read this book before you commit to this, let me audition some actors and let me put those auditions in front of you and listen to those auditions and let me know whether or not you still think you want to do this and believe it or not, there are a lot of authors who decide after they hear an audition from someone like cassandra, they would say, you know what this is, I'm never going to sound that good, you know, so like I'm going to take a step back, I think I have to tell you from my own experience, I've read a number of my books, but when I wrote this summer guests, which I think cassandra was our first together, um I had accents, there are a lot of men, you know the german spanish and I said this is out of my league, I need a professional and cassandra read that book but also with the Children's book um I have a middle grade coming up and I thought oh I can read the middle grade. But again I listened, I sat and listened to the professionals and I realized there's a whole unique world of Children's book narration, you know, getting that voice right is particularly difficult. And I think cassandra, I know you also do Children's books. So what's it like santa to approach a novel like the summer guests that has male females and accents and then Children's books? Yeah, I mean it's part of the fun um is yeah, is to get to play all these different characters and different um you know genders and Children and people from, you know, you have there's obviously some brits in these books. Um I love to do that kind of work. I love to the opportunity to do accents. Um I do think that you have to be like super culturally sensitive um in terms of doing that and representing people well, not playing, you know, um stereotypes. Um but you know, I don't really approach Children's literature different from adult fiction. Um except to say that I think every book has its own kind of tonality. And I always start with that, like what's the tone of the book? What's the story? Who are we talking to? Who's you know, who's...

...the ear of the book? Um And so those things are the considerations in how you're gonna pitch it, you know, your cadence is how you're just like how you approach the world of it. Somebody said once I forget who it was, that the human voice has more range than any instrument that's ever been created. And I always think about that in terms of recording audio, that like, you need to use some other part of your range depending on what you're reading and um, you know, so maybe you'll pitch it a little bit differently, read a little bit faster a little bit slower. You know, if it's a book about science, you're going to have a totally different tonal approach than a book that is written for Children. Um, and that again, is what really interests me is like, you know, as many different authors as there are as many different stories as there are, there is a different approach that's needed, a different tone. And of course, you know, I have my vocal patterns like everyone else does. And I think that's what the producers recognize in casting a particular person is like, oh yeah, this person is going to bring that particular, you know, that sauce to the story. Um so let's use them for this. Um but then once I get my hands on, I'm like, okay, what do I hear in my head before I even start reading? Like when I'm preparing the book, I hear it in my head here, the voice of the story. And then i i it's really like, just that leap of faith when you get into stew the studio to trust that what comes out of your mouth is going to be is going to serve that story. You know, speaking of different voices, is it a trend or is it just that I'm noticing there seemed to be more multiple cast recordings, You know, you know, it seems to be in Children's books and an adult books. So what's going on? Is that a new trend? You know, I think it is, I think it's I think it's I don't think it's a new trend because I think, you know, I produced World War Z maybe 16 years ago or something, the original version and it had, you know, 30 voices on it. I mean, I feel like it's been it's been around for a long time, but I feel like there have been more opportunities to cast more voices these days. And part of that's just because we're producing everything right? So, if you're producing a graphic novel, it's something that you that just fits having multiple voices. But You know, the book that I'm really excited about right now that we just produces 400 souls by Dr. candy and it's 87 Different Voices. It is different which by the way, pales in comparison to what kelly, Dilday and cassandra, I believe you were part of uh everyone was on it, Lincoln in the bardo, which I think was 166 voices by George Saunders. So it's it's a trend. I would say that, you know, some of these recordings do get a little bit more attention than sometimes single voice, but like, I do think when you produce books and I always tell my producers this, like, when you're producing books with many, many narrators, there's a lot of room for error there. You know, like our job as producers is to keep the listener engaged. And when you're casting 25 Voices for a book, if there's one person who's miscast, you will pull the listener out of that, that listening experience and if you're driving and for what we're say, your gardening and you have to stop for one second and today, who is that? That was not a great experience right there and you've ruined the listening experience. So, you know, there are more challenging, but they're certainly it's certainly pretty trendy now to have a lot of narrators. I noticed that, so it's not just my imagination and it's interesting. I enjoy it. But you you talk about the producing is that also directing? Or do you, what's the role...

...of a director in an audio book for both of you? It can be, and I have some producers on staff are really skilled directors, cassandra, you're friendly with kelly, build a it was on staff, he was just one of the best directors you can work with in this industry. Um you know, we're gonna jump into second thought. She is an amazing director, I think, you know, we're kind of unique as a publisher because we still really believe in the value of directors um in a studio. And you know, it's, it's kind of the equivalent of like I always say, you wouldn't just hand a camera to a bunch of actors and say make a movie. Um, you know, although it's happened I think, you know, having a director in the session to help support an actor in this process is really important. And that's everything from reading the book sometimes talking to the author about what their intention is. And then, especially if you're doing nonfiction in many ways like lists of pronunciations. Um, but then the active experience of sitting in a room directing someone with a different point of view and kind of discussing how they should position a character or seen or something like that. I think at the end of the day, you end up with much better recording, uh then you would, in some cases, if it's just an accurate home. Now, that's not to say that you can't get really good recordings. I mean someone like cassandra who is smart is prepared, it knows exactly what has to happen in order to get a really good listening experience out of it. You know, it can work, but we still really support the idea of having a director there to work with an actor, work with the producer, work with an author and that kind of conversation really does enhance the performance at the end of the day. Well let's give a nod to the tech side as well. I know I've worked with some incredible technical there behind the glass and if you, for those of you out in the listening world who don't know your tongue is a muscle and it's, it gets tired too at its slips and you make mistakes or there's that rustling of paper or a body sound that sometimes emerges and the technician they're called holes. And that means it's a spot where he or she could drop in some information. So the narrator doesn't have to read the entire passage, but maybe only a portion of a sentence. I've always had great relationships and I'm so grateful to the tech people, cassandra. You must have had some really interesting experiences both with different tech people. And I'm curious what do you think as a narrator makes for that smooth read without the bumps and holes? What do you think makes for a great read or great listen. Yes. So when I first started doing audio books, I couldn't get my hands on enough narration because it was really the library market for books on tape. And so I started directing in addition to narrating. I was so passionate about the whole process of making an audiobook. And so I got to know it really from both sides of the glass. And you know, narrators with the support of a director really can't elevate a performance. I think it's a good director can come in and really help you shape your your performance there. There your first directors are your first listeners. Um and and you know, I love the collaboration of having someone there. Um but as a result of that, when I started recording on my own, I knew how to wear both hats, I knew how to direct. And so I could hear those things right? And and and and B as in a sense, my own engineer, which doesn't mean that I don't count on like the great, a great editor also and editors don't really get enough credit, but a great editor. Um Ted scott, who edited Lincoln in the...

...bardo um genius. Editor knows how to create. Um you know, to close the seams or open the seams when to leave in a breath, when to take a breath out. All of those things are really an important part of a performance and add to that feeling of seamlessness. You know, I know there are some studios that take a lot of the breaths out and I think like, okay, you're that's a little bit of like choking a performance because, you know, for actors, the performances all on the breath, you know, the breath, like if there's a a you know, a tense moment or a moment of surprise, there's a breath sometimes, that really adds something to that. Um and so a good, you know, producer director editor team will help you help support the narrator's performance and give it that seamlessness and take out like the stomach noises. I never knew that my stomach made so much noise before I started doing stomach. Really? Okay, so what's your go to food or a drink? To help your stomach when it's starting to make the noise? Yeah, so I avoid um eating dairy when during the week when I'm recording, I just I don't have any. Um I got into big trouble one day when I 18 wa and the keen wa just it's I guess it's like, you know, fibrous enough that digesting it makes a lot of noise and I couldn't like the recording, I was actually in new york, and I had to finish the recording because I was flying out the next day and we had to stop and stop and stop because my stomach was so loud, um so I don't eat candy for sure. Um you know, Mhm you just, you kind of, that's when you appreciate the good tech guy who consists, here's a whole, we'll just put it, Yeah, but if it's in the middle of a sentence, they can't fix that. So you, you know, that's something that we're courting at home now. I know like, okay, you made a stomach noise, you've got to go back and the part of the reason I know that too is because it will come back as a pickup, you'll have to clean it up later. Um if you if you don't fix it in the moment and we always want to fix it in the moment as much as possible because that to um you know, keeps your in a, you're in a place when you're recording a story, you're like in the mind of the story, you're immersed in the books, you're seeing the images and pick ups are great, but you're never quite as in the moment, you know, if you're skilled, you can you can repeat it in this with the same cadence, in the same vocal placement, but it's never gonna be and only a really, really picky listener, we'll hear the difference, but I can hear it. So yeah, I go back for those as often as I can. All right. Do you have a either for both of you, do you have a favorite experience or favorite book that you've recorded are All My Babies? It's hard, it's hard, it's hard, It's hard to to say um that there's one book that, you know, really, especially over 25 years, I'm sure if you got somebody who's been doing this for two years, they'd be like, it's that one, it's a great book. You know, I mean, I've had such a unique experiences. Whether it's, I would say my first kind of real multicast book Recording World War Z with like 40 different actors of all different types of people to obviously recording President Obama, mrs Obama, those experiences um really resonate with me. I mean, look, as far as my books go, I certainly don't have a favorite. I have favorites that I listened to that are not mine a lot. And you know, one of them, I think I mentioned to you an email which is where Stars are Scattered, which is like one of my favorite books of the last two years on audio about Somali...

Somali immigrants, Somali refugees in a camp. And that book got me through quarantine at the beginning of this pandemic. I mean, it's literally put my entire life in perspective for me in a three hour audio, I think it was three hours. It's a beautiful book. It really is a beautiful book. Beautiful book. So that's when I would thank you cassandra. Do you have a favorite project Aside from my books? You know, I I have to go with Dan on this one and say it's it's I've been doing it for 18 years and and it changes every six months because um and sometimes it's not even a favorite book per se, but it's a favorite character, a character that just either kicked your, you know kicked in the pants or you couldn't get out of your head or made you laugh out loud, you know? Um I think working on Lincoln in the bardo, even though I played a very small part was uh really magical experience because I listened to it actually listened to it twice because it's all of my narrator colleagues and some celebrities, but like it's just like a feast of narrators and different voices. And especially at the beginning, The way that George Saunders wrote it is that there's just all these voices that are basically saying similar things and they and they pop out at you and it's like this great celebration of the human voice like and and different ideas and thought models and I just loved it. And um so it really is hard to say, you know, different things resonate with you at different times. Like reading right? You love it for a while, but then something else replaces it. Um I did get to do this polish book. This was years ago called a long, long time ago and essentially true. That took place in Poland between it went back and forth and time between the Second World War and the end of communism. And it was really, it was something I didn't know about. So it just was like transported by it. Um wow, I love that line that you said, it's a celebration of the human voice, which is actually sort of a definition of audio books in a way, stories in the human voice. And I do want to go back to something dan, you said early in this discussion about how more and more people are listening and part of what they're listening to. Also our podcasts like this one and there everything audio is booming. So I'm curious, they're both listening mediums. How do podcasts and audiobooks intersect in the marketplace? Right. I don't know that. You know, it's interesting. I would say now and I may have answered this question differently a year ago, but I would say now what I said earlier, which is that we're all kind of living in the world of audio entertainment now and it's not just books and podcasts or it's just like people are listening to everything. So how they intersect is I think that, you know, people are just getting used to listening more and I think that's where they intersect. So people that are listening to podcasts that maybe never listen to an audiobook before are now crossing over and listening to audio books and people that were listening to audiobooks for years are crossing over to podcast. So, you know, I usually use my parents as a good kind of gauge for what's going on in the world. They're like, they were, you know, audiobook listeners and lately there listening to podcasts and then I talked to, you know, my sister who is younger than me and I'm like what? She doesn't listen to a lot of audio books and now she's like, I listen to the podcast, but you know, I heard about an audiobook on a podcast and now I'm listening to the audiobook, so I feel like it's all kind of crossing over, especially because...

...audiobooks generally now and podcasts and everything is based on something out like another is sometimes other forms of media. There's podcast about movies, you know, there are audio books and I should have mentioned this before when we were talking about some of our favorites, but like, you know, we produced um Angels in America last year, which if you haven't heard it, it's like transformative in so many ways, it's taking a piece of theater that's so important and creating an audio project out of it. And it's, you know, Tony Kushner said, you know, it's not the play, but it's pretty darn close to, like, let's try to complement for someone who, you know, worked out, but like, I think, you know, it's all audio entertainment now, and I think all of these things can work hand in hand with each other, and I think it's it's really just about people listening more and and that excites me, that should excite all of us. And especially authors, I'm final question, and this is one that I'm sure both of you have something to say, People often approach you, I'm sure, and I want to narrate a book, I'd like to be a narrator. So what do you advise these people about you actually said earlier, dan, that there's a need for narrators, but what do you say to someone who says I'd like to be an audio book narrator? I would start by, you know, making sure that they listen to audiobooks. It's the first thing that I tell anyone who is an actor or non actor that's interested in in reading. Um and then I would say really, really it's hard. This is hard. What cassandra does is really hard and it may sound easy because she's so good at it. But this is one of the hardest things you can do. It's hard for actors to do this. So if you just want to I mean, I have to say it's hard for authors to do it. I get the materials, I have a whole new respect for what does. Yeah, I mean, it's it's very hard. So I would start with just making sure that they know that. But then I would seek out, you know, resources, there's a ton of resources out there. The Audio Publishers Association is a really great place to start and just kind of like figuring out if this is something you wanted to pursue, how you could pursue it. But all starting with the idea that like you should listen to a lot of audio books by people like cassandra or january LaVoy or people that are really experienced narrators and get a sense of what it takes to do this and then, you know, kind of wade into the water is a little bit, I think, I think there's a lot, I've met so many people over the years, like well, you know, I reached my Children and they love it. I'm like you could be the worst reader on the planet, but your kids are never going to tell you that my daughter tells me all the time, I'm terrible at narrating, I have to laugh, that's the same thing with an author and my mother loves the book, cassandra cassandra. You must get asked a lot too. Yeah, I get approached with this question a lot and um you know this isn't my anecdote, but I think it's just like a great story. If you if you want to be an audio book narrator, go to your bookshelf, pick a book at random, spend six hours reading it out loud to no one and if you still at the end of that time, I think that you're good at it or you want to engage in it, then do those other things and look up the audio Publishers Association and and find out and start listening. But the it's arduous. Um I'm a pretty fluid reader I can go for, you know, which means I can go for a certain period of time without making mistakes, but it's exhausting. It's it's it's you know, if if doing a voice over for a commercial is a sprint. Reading an audio book as an ultra marathon, it is you know,...

...you're spending six hours a day in the studio reading out loud and not just reading out loud, but because you have to be like, what what we call like being in the words, you have to be in the story. You know, if it's going to be an immersive experience for the listener, it starts with being an immersive experience for the narrator, which requires just a tremendous amount of focus and concentration. And so, um if you think, you know, which is different, your kids fall asleep eventually. And you know, even even if you're still reading when they close their eyes, like that's, you know, worst case scenario an hour. But you're you know, for the long haul. So yeah, well, I can't imagine anyone falling asleep while you're reading cassandra. So thank you both for joining me today. This brings us to the end of our podcast. You brought our listeners behind the scenes of audio books and on a personal note, cassandra again, thank you for reading my books and whether you're, whether y'all read a book on paper or you enjoy listening to the book, experiencing new worlds, contemplating new ideas, reading now, that's what matters. And if you haven't listened to many audiobooks, I encourage you to try and at the end of this podcast, I've included excerpts from audiobooks, cassandra. Campbell reading on ocean boulevard and dance. Its recommendation when stars are scattered. So you've been listening to cassandra, Campbell and dan's it. I hope you'll join us for all our podcast where we offer weekly friends and fiction life facebook shows and also additional fascinating interviews such as today about the world of books. Happy reading. Goodbye. Thank you for tuning in, Join us every week on Facebook or YouTube where our live show airs every Wednesday night at seven p.m. eastern time. And please subscribe to our podcast and follow us on instagram. We're so glad you're here. Yeah, wow. The low country, also known as the low Country is, as the name implies, a low lying area along the south Carolina atlantic coast. This area is rich with unique culture, geography, architecture, economy, cuisine and stories. The low country was spread out far below as she soared in the sky, linear rutledge side and placed her fingertips on the plains. Cool window, her eyes tracing the twisting creeks and winding rivers that snaked through the seemingly Impenetrable greenery of the salt marsh. From her vantage point the rivers looked like great arteries and all the myriad creeks were veins. Salt water coursed through them like a bloodstream. The tides were the low countries pumping heart as the plane descended, bringing the landscape closer and closer. Lenny a felt that saltwater thrumming in her own veins as it did for all who called the low country home, her connection to the landscape and its crown jewel charleston was as vital as an umbilical cord. She should be happy returning to her home, her family, her friends. Instead, she felt demoralized, a failure both professionally and personally. Two years earlier, linear had headed west into a great show of independence. She'd won out over hundreds of applicants for a job with an environmental startup company in san Francisco. To add to her status. She was accompanied by her new beau defying her parents and convinced she was in love only to lose her job and be dumped by her boyfriend. She wasn't sure which...

...she was more embarrassed about losing her job or losing her boyfriend or just returning home with her tail between her legs. Linear had visited only three times during her two years away, twice for christmas and once for the wedding of a friend. She liked san Francisco. The great city by the pacific was a thriving, beautiful, intellectually stimulating place. But she'd been homesick for the atlantic ocean for the slower pace of charleston with its Southern culture, its rich history, the narrow cobblestone streets she knew by heart, the weather washed pastel colors of the old south, the clip clop of horse carriages and the smell of jasmine surprising you as you walked past a walled garden and the food barbecue and sweet tea collards and shrimp. Her empty stomach growled at the thought. Her ex boyfriend, john Peterson had accompanied her home each time. A southern boy himself. He'd spent his summers on isle of palms and was always glad to join her and visit his childhood friends and of course his mother, Emmy baker, she was her aunt, Sarah's best friend and neighbor linear. And john used to laugh that their relationship had seemed almost incestuous, but john was always antsy to head back to the west Coast. That's where he had made his home and planned to stay. They'd still been deep in the throes of romance when attending the charleston wedding the previous summer Lanier had watched the bride walked down the aisle, then looked up at john dreamily her first clue should have been that. He wasn't looking back at her for me. The first years are lost. Okay, okay, now in a place as crowded as this I'm afraid will never be found. I don't see her husband. Oh yeah, come on, it's getting late. We should go back home. We stay off the main roads to try and avoid trouble. Harry hasn't. Right now we are right smack dab in the middle of a three block and Hassan and I live in block A two. Let's just say it's not a good idea to be cut in another block all along. That's how a group of kids install our shoes and pants last week. As soon as we get back to a to a breathe a sigh of relief in our block, everyone knows me and my brother. No one will bother us working with Hassan sometimes takes a while, he stops to greet every neighbor we meet, get up an accent salam Alaikum. If he sees someone pushing a wheelbarrow, he likes to help out, he says hello to the donkeys pulling carts, he collects fruit to hand out to all the neighborhood goats. By the time we get home it's nearly nighttime. Fatima doesn't like us to walk around when it's dark. Hassan and I live here. Fatima lives right across the path. She's kind of like our foster mom, She watches over us to make sure we are okay. Alhamdulillah. There you are. I was starting to get worried.

Come here my heart. Thus Fatima's nickname for Hassan, the way his hair grows in and makes his face look like a heart. The nickname makes sense because Fatima really loves Hassan you to Omar, my big boy. Okay. She really loves both of us. We don't have any food to eat tonight. So Hassan and I go right to bed. Hassan and I sleep in our own tent after all. Fatima is not our real mom, so we are still assigned different tents. Hassan doesn't sleep very well and I don't either. I usually tell the stories about our home in Somalia to help us both fall asleep, but I still wake up with nightmares Dad, judging by the sounds all around us. I'm not the only one with bad dreams, Manera, no Amman. Stop.

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