A Conversation between Grace Callaway, #1 National Bestselling Regency Author of “Her Husband’s Harlot” and audiobook narrator Erin Mallon

her husband's harlot

Erin: What was the experience of listening to the Her Husband’s Harlot audio for the first time? This is your first title to be released as an audiobook, right?

Grace: I got tingles all over! It is a very special experience to hear one’s work performed … to literally have life breathed into the words. I have to confess that not only was this my first title to be released in audio format, but also the first audio book I’ve listened to. Given that Her Husband’s Harlot is an erotic Regency romance, I wasn’t sure how the work would come across read aloud. But after I got over blushing at the steamy scenes (gee, did I really write that?), I was truly impressed at how your performance evoked a spectrum of emotional responses, from titillating to humorous to heart-warming.

To return the question, when you first read the book, which scene came alive for you the most? Which one did you think would be the most challenging to perform? And which came to you most readily?

Erin:  The opening scene hooked me in immediately! I love when writers trust themselves and their readers enough to forgo a lot of exposition upfront and instead dive right into juicy conflict, so I was excited to find that on the first page we were already wandering the halls of a brothel with Helena in hot pursuit of her husband.  That opening chapter has so many rich layers for a narrator to explore.  I mean, a disguised woman trapped in a dark closet with her new husband who doesn’t recognize her while they watch a bawdy threesome who don’t realize they’re being watched?  Does it get any more fun than that?

There are several times in HHH when a character chooses to disguise his/her voice.  This was definitely a challenge! I wanted to honor these moments of the story while staying certain that the listener was always hip to the charade (and clear on who was speaking).  This meant keeping the core components of the voices consistent in those situations and yet altering them just enough to convincingly dupe the other characters in the scene.  The moments where Nicholas’s anger and shame cause him to slip into his native accent created similar challenges.

Chris and Rob, the amazing guys who run Brick Shop Audiobooks have the sharpest ears around, so they kept me on track and let me know if I’d missed the mark and needed a do-over.

As for which scenes came easiest, I have to say any and all between Marianne and Helena.  Marianne was such a treat to play!  I found her character to be equal parts love and disdain, and the opposite of Helena in so many ways, that switching between the two roles became a fun little roller coaster ride for me.

Did the characters sound the way you “heard” them in your head while writing them? Were there any surprises?

Grace: I was amazed at how you got the nuances of all the characters. The heroine and hero were exactly how I heard them in my head. No real surprises … which I think was a good thing!

Given that there are quite a few characters in the story, I was also impressed by how unique they all sounded . What was your process for figuring out how you would perform a character?

Erin MallonErin: I find constraints can be a great boost to creativity.  Knowing I only have my voice to work with teaches me to be very specific and intentional with the choices I make.  Though, even without the physicality I rely on in stage work, there are many avenues to explore in creating character in audio books.  There’s pitch, gender, rhythm, dialect, and most importantly the abundance of clues great writers such as yourself give to us narrators.

For central characters like Helena and Nicholas I wanted to create voices that sat easily in my vocal range but even more importantly, voices that were easy on the listeners’ ears.  After all, they’ll be listening to them for a solid 12 hours and 14 minutes!  Once I had the main characters established, I had a great deal of fun figuring out the supporting cast, though the choices were always sparked by the writing itself.  For example, when I was investigating Paul Fines I picked up on a haughty yet lovable air he seems to carry with every word he says, so I felt I could take his voice to more dramatic places and still keep him grounded.

There’s a lot of freedom and fun in the confines of that tiny booth!

You mentioned that the HHH audiobook somehow helped you in writing your next book (this made me very happy to hear). Can you explain what you meant by that?

Grace: I was working through a scene in Her Wanton Wager (the next installment of the Mayfair in Mayhem series) and felt that something in the heroine Percy’s reaction did not ring true. I happened to be reviewing the audio of Her Husband’s Harlot at the same time, and hearing your performance of Percy (a secondary character in that novel) brought home to me one of the traits that I love best about her: her playfulness and the way she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Hearing Percy’s “voice” inspired me to take the scene in a different direction—one that ultimately proved so much fun to write and was authentic to her personality. So thank you!

And from the point of view of a narrator, what draws you to a script? What aspect of a written piece inspires your best performance?

Erin: I think what draws me to want to hang out with friends is the same thing that draws me to want to narrate a book.  Do I want to spend time with these people?  Do I enjoy their company?  Do I want to learn more about them?  For me, falling in love with the characters is a prerequisite to doing great work.  We narrators spend hours (sometimes days) alone in a dark little room, and thanks to the company of your fascinating characters, my days spent working on Her Husband’s Harlot were happy days indeed!

009_rtGrace’s Bio: Grace Callaway writes steamy historical romances set in the Regency and Victorian eras. Her debut manuscript, Her Husband’s Harlot, was a 2010 Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® Finalist and a #1 National Regency Bestseller.

Outside of writing, she holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan and practices clinical psychology in a medical setting. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family and has a passion for hiking, cooking, and all things BBC.

Buy: Her Husband’s Harlot (Mayhem in Mayfair #1) [ebook], [audiobook]

GIVEAWAY: 1 copy of Grace’s e-book is up for grabs! Open to all. Enter by leaving a comment – why do you love audiobooks? Last day to enter is Dec 23rd, 2012.

15 Perfect Gift Ideas for Your Book Lover

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Don’t know what to get the book lover in your life this year? Try this guide on for size:

  1. Book Journals. Think of it as a A Book Lover’s Diary or as Goodreads.com for her purse.
  2. Bed Lamps. You know one of the best things about hotels? Their double wall lamps. These babies shed just enough light to illuminate her side of the bed (or yours) without disturbing the other person in the room. Want to read until 4AM to finish that epic novel – no problem!
  3. Book Lights. The LightWedge Original Book Light looks seriously cool. It will illuminate the page she’s reading and nothing else. I want to get me one of these!
  4. Romantic Times Magazine Subscription. Romantic Times Book Reviews is a magazine dedicated to serving romance readers and dishes up 200+ reviews an issue.
  5. Reading Club Paraphernalia. If she’s in a reading club you definitely want to get her a Reading Group Journal. Buying her the books from the club would also be a terrific gift!
  6. Book Magnifiers. Books don’t always come in large print so it’s nice to have a Handheld Magnifier to zoom in on the text.
  7. Bookends. Those Harlequins and category novels don’t hold themselves up you know. A cute set of bookends would go a long way to organizing that TBR pile. Kikkerland Leaning Ladies Bookends might be nice or these executive frame bookends which you can personalize.
  8. Book Stands and Holders. They come in many shapes, sizes and functions. Are you looking for a Paperback Caddy, Book Clip, or an All in One Bookholder, Bookstand and Bookmark?
  9. Blankets. Reading is fabulous when snuggling with a Blanket. A new fuzzy and warm blanket to read under would not be unappreciated.
  10. Audio Books. Another great gift idea is an audio romance book. There are several titles available from big name authors. Check out: 8 Sandpiper Way by Debbie Macomber, Birthright by Nora Roberts, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, or Lover Avenged by J.D. Ward.
  11. Ebook Reading Devices. Does she love to read ebooks? Choose from Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s e-Reader, or B&N’s Nook.
  12. Hot Beverages. A steaming cup of Ghirardelli Chocolate Premium Hot Cocoa or Bigelow Cinnamon Stick Tea is sure to make anyone merry.
  13. Boxed Book Sets. There are a ton of box sets out there, do you know what she’s looking for or what she likes? Try a Nora Roberts box gift set: Sign of Seven Trilogy Box Set, or In The Garden Box Set, or Key Trilogy Box Set.
  14. Bathtub Caddies. If she loves to read in the bathtub you need to get her a Bathtub Caddy with a book holder in it! She’ll love it!
  15. Laptop Table. If you’re waiting on an electronic reading device an Adjustable Laptop Table with Cooler is the next best thing. It will make reading ebooks easier and cooler!

Edit: Bonus Gift Ideas!

  1. Bookstore Gift Cards. Give books through gift cards and ease your book lover’s budget guilt. Even if they use an Amazon Gift Cards for something other than books, you’re getting them exactly what they want.
  2. Bookmarks. Something like Book Darts, which are plentiful, cheap, and pretty would suffice. I’m also a huge fan of Magnetic Page Markers. Love them a lot because the heavy weight of the magnet opens the book to the page easily and without fuss. Great stocking stuffers!

Photo Credits: We Heart It

Applauding the Romance Publishers

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by Susan Sigler, guest blogger

I’d like to take a moment to applaud the following publishers. Not only do they publish the greatest books ever, but they offer wonderful discounts, sponsor contests, most keep up blogs, and many have Yahoo groups. It goes without saying, authors work extremely hard to bring us beautiful stories with their imaginative plots, but credit should be given to those behind the scenes to publish the author’s vision. So without further ado, here are ten publishing sites I visit regularly. I hope many of you will visit, and it’s my wish you will win their contests or find new authors that peak your interest.

Publisher #1 St. Martin’s Press

http://us.macmillan.com/SMP.aspx

2 of their authors- Sherrilyn Kenyon and Cherry Adair.

Publisher #2 Samhain Publishing, Ltd.

http://samhainpublishing.com/index.php

Samhain has monthly ebook and print contests.

Publisher #3 Sourcebooks, Inc.

http://www.sourcebooks.com/

Sourcebooks has special offers and great discounts, beautiful Jane Austen E-cards to send to friends and family. They also have authors Amelia Grey, Carolyn Brown, and others.

Publisher #4 Ravenous Romance has a free short story, discounted books and audio books. Two of their many authors- Isabel Roman and Cecilia Tan.

http://www.ravenousromance.com/

Publisher #5 Harlequin has publishers like Mills & Boon, Harlequin, Silhouette, MIRA, and Steeple Hill. Harlequin offers Free Book Fridays and gave us 16 free books to celebrate Harlequin’s 60th anniversary, aren’t they divine?

http://www.eharlequin.com/

Publisher #6 Loose-Id is an erotic romance e-publisher With authors like Cheryl Dragon, Marie Harte, Ann Lory and Moira Rogers, is it any wonder we love them.

http://www.loose-id.com/

Publisher #7 Kensington Publishing Corp. they have contests. Listen to these authors: Delta Dupree, Heather Graham, Devyn Quinn, Lynsay Sands, and Sasha White.

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/

Publisher #8 Ellora’s Cave has free short story reads and authors like Jaci Burton, Tracy Cooper-Posey, and Marie Treanor.

http://www.ellorascave.com/

Publisher #9 The Wild Rose Press has free reads and the author J.L. Wilson.

http://www.thewildrosepress.com/

Publisher #10 Hachette Book Group (HBG) has approximately 9 publishing groups with links to contests you can enter. One of the authors they publish for is Jennifer Haymore, remember A Hint of Wicked? If you enjoyed it, thank HBG.

http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/

This is not a comprehensive list it’s a summary, there are many other publishers I’m not familiar with and therefore didn’t mention. Please note, due to limited space and time constraints, I did not name the many hundreds upon hundreds of authors they publish. I simply made reference to my favorites, and the ones I believe you’d recognize upon reading.

If you can enlighten me with other publishers, by all means tell me. I’d love to hear about them.

Between the Sheets with Rebecca Rogers, Narrator of Maestro’s Butterfly

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Between the Sheets is a play on words, not only referring to sex and the bedsheets but also to the pages of a book. This section of the blog is dedicated to going beyond the printed page to learn more about the industry, the parts usually forgotten by the time the product hits the shelves. Today’s special guest is Rebecca Rogers, the narrator of The Maestro’s Butterfly, to talk about audio books… and more specifically erotica audio books.

How did you get started in book narration?

My family and I own a Renaissance Festival in Washington State. One of our vendors asked me if I had ever thought about recording audio books. I told her that it was a dream of mine. She happened to be one of the cover artists for a local audio book company and was able to get me an audition!

What was the first book you narrated?

My first book was Bound To Die by Brian Lutterman.

What’s your favorite part about narrating?

bedsheetsI love performing and storytelling. Making a story come alive is like magic!

In your opinion, what is the hardest aspect of the whole narration process?

The most challenging aspect for me is doing the author justice. Not having direct contact with most authors, I have to use my best judgment when developing a character’s voice.

Did you feel strange narrating erotica?

No, I didn’t feel strange at all! It was new territory for me, admittedly, but I had a lot of fun with it. I also wanted to sound genuine. It was a challenge that quite often had me laughing!

What do you do to prep for a new narration?

Research is vital. Most importantly I need to KNOW the characters. I try to nail it the first take to minimize corrections. In order to do this I need to know my pronunciations, know when a character has an accent and be familiar with the setting.

Tell us about the narrating process after prep!

Most recently my process has been relatively solitary. I come to the studio with my water and apple slices having prepared several chapters for recording. I act as my own engineer, punching and rolling when I make a mistake. When my session is done I load my files onto a hard drive for my engineer. Once the engineer has listened and we’ve made any corrections we call it a wrap!

I really enjoyed your rendition of Maestro’s Butterfly, how did you decide on the character voices?

Thank you! Maestro’s Butterfly was especially fun for me. Vampires have intrigued me for many years. I pulled some inspiration from Anne Rice’s vampire Lestat who was also French and had a vicious side. I also enjoyed playing with lead characters who were so diametrically opposed to each other; strong/male/foreign/exotic vs. lost/feminine/naive/southern. Such fun!

Besides Maestro’s Butterfly what other books have you done, either for Ravenous Romance or other publishers?

For Ravenous Romance I have read The Brotherhood: To Slay or to Lay by Elizabeth Miette, Haunted Seduction by Morgan James and Destiny’s Jewel by Rachel Kenley. With Blackstone Audio I have read Nancy Drew Girl Detective: Framed by Carolyn Keene, Nancy Drew Girl Detective: Dressed to Steal by Carolyn Keene, The Shiloh Renewal by Joan Leslie Woodruff, Foul Play by Tori Carrington, and many others.

And finally, why should people listen to audio books?

Audio books offer another level on which authors can reach their readers. Audio books are an exciting way to “hear” your favorite characters come to life. They bring you closer to the work.

Thank you so much Rebecca! It’s been a pleasure to listen and to talk with you!

Photo Credits: Frederic della Faille