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: 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!
Grace’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.
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.