Judith Arnold is here today to answer a few questions about the audiobook edition of Safe Harbor. An award-winning, USA Today bestselling author, Judith writes romance, women’s fiction and (coming soon!) mysteries, with more than ninety published novels to her name. Married and a mother of two, Judith lives near Boston, Massachusetts.
What was it like hearing your book narrated as an audiobook?
It was wonderful—because I had a wonderful voice artist narrating it. I auditioned more than two dozen voice artists, but as soon as I heard Tom Dheere’s voice, I knew he’d be perfect. He read the book just as I would have read it (although his voice sounds better than mine!) He added the right inflections and intonations. Safe Harbor came alive in a beautiful way, thanks to his narration.
What was the most rewarding part of the production process? Was there anything surprising?
The most rewarding part was sending the Safe Harbor manuscript to Tom and knowing he had to do all the hard work.
What would you tell someone who has never tried listening to an audiobook? Why are audiobooks a good alternative to print or e-books?
The practical answer is that audiobooks are perfect for those times when you want to immerse yourself in a story but your eyes are otherwise occupied. The Incredible Indie Authors “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign is an obvious example; people are a lot safer if, instead of texting while they drive, they keep their eyes on the road and listen to an audiobook. Audiobooks are handy if you’re exercising, doing housework—any activity in which you can’t actually read words off a page.
That’s the practical answer. The emotional answer is that listening to an audiobook is like being a child again, all bundled up in bed or cuddled on someone’s lap, while someone reads a story to you. I learned to read when I was four years old, but I still loved being read to by my grandparents, my parents and my sister. When I was older and went to sleep-away summer camp, the counselors would read stories to us, one chapter at a time, after lights-out. I loved reading to my sons when they were young. Being read to is comforting, entertaining…just wonderful.
There is a lot of writing involved before authors get to the point where their books are ready to be produced as audiobook. Here are a few questions about the writing process:
Do you outline your books or wing it? Describe your process.
I’m a “pantser,” which means I write by the seat of my pants. Before I start a new book, I get to know my characters very well, and I establish what their destination will be, what their goals are and what stands between them and those goals. Then I set them loose and see what happens. Sometimes they lead me down dead ends. Most of the time, though, they carry the book for me. It’s almost as if I’m channeling them. They’re simply using me to tell their story.
This is not the most organized, rational strategy for writing novels. When a character teaches me something new—something I hadn’t originally imagined being in my book—I often have to go back and set things up differently in the preceding chapters. But this technique works for me, so I don’t mess with it.
What genre(s) do you write in? Why?
I got my start as a novelist writing contemporary romance, and I seem to have a knack for it, so I’ve stuck with it. More recently, I’ve written a number of women’s fiction novels. Like romances, women’s fiction is about a heroine’s journey. I’m a woman, and I’m writing about the things that matter to me: family, love, friendship, work. How to make sense of the world. How to find joy and contentment.
Most recently, I’ve started writing mysteries. My first mystery, Still Kicking, will be released by Bell Bridge Books early in 2014, with a second mystery in the series temporarily scheduled for late 2014. In a sense, my mysteries are also women’s fiction, since the amateur detective is a woman—a school teacher, a mother, and a recreational soccer player. The mysteries are humorous, and I’ve had a lot of fun writing them. They’ve been a nice change of pace for me. A third mystery in the series is underway.
How much research was involved in writing your books? How did you go about it?
Because I write contemporary fiction, I don’t have to do much historical research. I do have to look things up, though, and thank heavens for the internet! In the old days, I used to have to trek to the library to find out how a nail gun works or what year a David Bowie song was released. Now I can just go to Google and find out what I need to know.
How much of you is in the books you write? In what ways?
Most of my heroines share certain traits with me. They’re smart and verbal. They have senses of humor, even—sometimes especially—when they’re facing huge challenges or deep sorrow. They aren’t spectacularly pretty, but they keep themselves in shape and do the best they can with what they’ve got. They’re often fashion-challenged. They aren’t quitters. If the going gets tough, they get tougher.
I think my voice also comes through in the books I write. I have written laugh-out-loud comedies and serious dramas, yet whether a book is funny or emotionally dark, my voice—the words I choose, the way I put sentences together, the images I include—doesn’t change much from book to book. One of my most famous books, Barefoot in the Grass, deals with a heroine who has lost a breast to cancer and is trying to reclaim her life. It’s a very serious subject, yet when it was originally published, my editor insisted it was a comedy. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but the heroine has the same sense of humor, resourcefulness and optimism all my heroines—and I—possess.
What is your latest audiobook about? Who is the narrator?
Safe Harbor is an intense, emotional story spanning fifteen years. Kip Stroud and Shelly Ballard meet as children; their parents both own summer houses on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island. Kip and Shelly spend every summer together until, the summer they’re fifteen, a tragedy strikes Shelly’s family and she vanishes from Kip’s life. Years later, Kip suffers his own tragedy and returns to Block Island to heal. There he discovers that Shelly, too, has returned to the island. They turn to each other in friendship and need, and they’re forced to figure out whether two souls deeply scarred by love can heal and build a life together. When it was originally released, Safe Harbor was a finalist for RWA’s RITA ® Award.
As I mentioned above, the audiobook edition of Safe Harbor is narrated by Tom Dheere. Tom and I filmed a video about the making of the Safe Harbor audiobook. You can view it here. Buy it on:
Tell us about your hero or heroine in this book. Give us one of his/her strengths and one of his/her weaknesses.
Shelly’s greatest strength is that she’s a survivor. The disastrous behavior of Shelly’s father destroys her family, but she refuses to let his bad choices destroy her. She rebuilds her life, finding a safe harbor on Block Island. Her greatest weakness is her inability to forgive her father. Kip comes from a solid, happy family, but his life is shattered when the woman he loves dies. He cannot stop grieving…until he returns to Block Island and finds his own safe harbor, a place to heal and a woman whose abiding friendship can help him to reclaim his life. His greatest strengths are loyalty and responsibility, both to the memory of his late wife and to his good friend Shelly. His greatest weakness is his refusal to fight for what he needs if that fight might hurt someone he loves.
What other audiobooks have you written?
Safe Harbor is the only audiobook I have independently produced. My publisher, Bell Bridge Books, has released an audiobook of my women’s fiction comedy, Goodbye to All That, which is narrated by a fabulous voice artist, Bari Biern.
Buy it on Audible
Judith’s books are also available in print and e-book editions. For more about Judith Arnold, please visit her website and sign up for her newsletter. You can also connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.
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