Audiobook Interview With YA Author @pjsharon

Please welcome PJ Sharon to my blog today. PJ is the award winning author of several contemporary young adult novels, including Heaven Is For Heroes, On Thin Ice, and Savage Cinderella, winner of the 2013 HOLT Medallion Award and the 2013 (NERFA) National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award. She is excitedly working on The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, a YA Dystopian trilogy. Waning Moon, Book One in the trilogy, was a finalist in the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Awards and the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence. Book Two, Western Desert released in June of 2013.

HIFH_audiobookcover (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)

What was it like hearing your books narrated as an audiobook?

I cried! It was surreal. I know it sounds strange, but it was like seeing my book made into a movie. Okay…maybe not quite that cool…but close. The narrator, a young actress name Erin Mallon did a phenomenal job making all the character voices unique and real. She did Jordie and Coop justice in my mind, and that’s what makes audiobooks so special.

What was the most rewarding part of the production process? Was there anything surprising?

ACX, the company I used, was surprisingly easy to work with. They were quick, professional, and made the process painless. Working with the production team at Brick Shop Audiobooks and my narrator, Erin Mallon, was a very positive experience. I would definitely use them again for other projects.

What would you tell someone who has never tried listening to an audiobook? Why are audiobooks a good alternative to print or e-books?

Audiobooks are perfect for those hands free activities where you’d rather be curled up reading a good book but duty calls. Housework, exercise, waiting in long lines, or even on the morning commute, audiobooks are a great way for avid readers to still get their “story fix” and not have to be static. The new technology requires no CD player or special equipment. MP3 downloads make it easy to listen from your iPod, phone, or other digital devices.

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 used to be a pantser—the kind of writer who could just sit down and write a story with no outline. But after my first few books, I realized the benefit of plotting out at least the turning points so I didn’t get too off track or write myself into a corner. Plotting also saves me a lot of editing time on the back end. These days, I spend a lot more time preparing before I sit down to write a novel. I do character grids and personality profiles so I fully understand my character’s goals, motivations, conflicts, fears, and what ultimate story question needs to be answered. Plotting for me is about recognizing story structure and having a clear path from one turning point to the next. I don’t outline every chapter since, for me at least, that would ruin the magic of having the story unfold organically.

What genre(s) do you write in? Why?

I write young adult fiction about teens in crisis who are dealing with gritty subject matter. I had a tumultuous youth myself, so I had many experiences from which to draw. In Heaven is for Heroes, my main character, Jordie, loses her brother in the war in Iraq and fears that he may have committed suicide. I had a brother who was in the Marines and who committed suicide, so I could relate to the loss of a sibling, the unanswerable questions, and the search for a truth that could change everything for the family left behind.
I’ve written about death, teen pregnancy, eating disorders, rape, abuse, and family secrets. I could be running out of experiences to write about, but I don’t think there is anything teens go through that I couldn’t relate to on some level. Having come through it all and having a positive, healthy attitude about life is a miracle I’d like to share with teen readers who feel all alone in their struggles and who feel like life will never get better. My stories have positive messages of hope and promises of healing even under the direst of circumstances.

How much research was involved in writing your books? How did you go about it?

Research is different for each book. Sometimes it requires contacting/interviewing people who have experience with what I’m writing. For Heaven is for Heroes, I interviewed a young Marine who had served in Iraq and had been wounded in combat. I had experience as a Physical Therapist Assistant for many years so I drew on that experience when writing rehab scenes for Alex, (Jordie’s love interest and her brother’s best friend). When it comes to general information, researching locations, or fleshing out details, Google is an author’s best friend. I’ve used Google Maps extensively when researching places I’ve never been. It’s the closest thing to being there and so much cheaper than a plane ticket.

How much of you is in the books you write? In what ways?

That is such an interesting and difficult question to answer. Every writer puts their heart and soul into their stories. You can’t really separate yourself completely from the characters you write about. Your own voice, experiences, and thoughts shine through. At the same time, the character’s themselves develop a personality and story of their own. I see my characters as individuals who come to me with a problem and I have to help them resolve it by telling their story and leading them to their hopefully ever after. I draw on my own experiences, but my characters are not me. In some ways, it’s like having a do-over. I ask questions like what if this one thing had been different or this one person had come into my life at that time. How would it have changed the outcome of that experience? Then the story evolves and it’s not about me. It’s a fascinating process.

What is your latest audiobook about?

Heaven is for Heroes is a contemporary New Adult/YA romance that deals with the tragedies of war, overcoming loss, and the determination of one seventeen year old girl to find the truth. Filled with moments of poignant reality, hard lessons, and the angst and sexual tension of first love, the book combines family drama and the relationship between childhood sweethearts, Jordie Dunn and Alex Cooper. Because the focus of the story is the tenuous romance with the underlying plot of a family’s search for peace in time of war, HIFH will appeal to adult readers as well as older young adults.

Set in a fictitious Connecticut lake town, the story has the feel of hometown USA and is one that anyone questioning the value of war and the cost to the families of lost and wounded soldiers can relate to. Heaven is for Heroes takes you through one family’s loss and the recovery of a soldier dealing with both the emotional and physical ravages of war. Although Jordie is only seventeen, she has spent most of her teenage life studying martial arts and yoga—her Grandfather’s solution to keeping her from following in her brother’s destructive footsteps. When Alex Cooper, her brother’s best friend and the guy she’s been crushing on since the ninth grade, returns home wounded and determined to blame himself for her brother’s death, Jordie uses her experience and pushes the boundaries of convention in her attempt to help him recover. As the two work to uncover the truth about what happened to her brother, the two find that the truth isn’t the only thing they want.

Who is the narrator?

Erin Mallon did the narration for this audiobook and did a fantastic job. She captures the emotions just right and her voice is spot on in conveying Jordie’s determination as she struggles to make sense of her brother’s death and break through the walls that Coop has built around his heart. I especially loved how she portrayed Jordie’s grandfather, Brig. She nailed his gruffness, even as we got to hear the soft spot he had for Jordie. Like I said, I cried buckets.

Audio buy links:


Tell us about your hero or heroine in this book. Give us one of his/her strengths and one of his/her weaknesses.
Jordie Dunn is a determined seventeen year-old girl. Her doggedness in searching for the truth about what happened to her brother pushes everyone’s buttons, but she never gives up. I admire that quality in a person and she has it in spades. That same determination is used to help Coop in his recovery. She pushes him to be the best that he can be and she doesn’t let him give up on himself—which for me is the mark of a true friend. She is a heroine I think everyone can admire and root for. As far as weaknesses go, I think she takes on too much responsibility. She allows the weight of other people’s problems to pull her down and that can cause a lot of unnecessary pain. There’s a lot to be said for letting go and not trying to control everything.

Alex Cooper (Coop), is a serious nineteen year-old dealing with the loss of his leg and the guilt of feeling responsible for his best friend’s death after a mission goes wrong in Iraq. He has no memory of the incident and has no way to prove his innocence so he is resigned to taking the fall for what happened. Understandably, his fatal flaw/weakness here is his resignation. He has basically given up—until Jordie gets a hold of him. His strength, and what makes him such an appealing hero for me is his sense of honor. He is willing to accept responsibility for a terrible wrong in order to protect the memory of his best friend. He’s an honorable guy with a stubborn streak of his own which makes the battle of wills between him and Jordie a very fun ride.

What other audiobooks have you written?

Heaven is for Heroes is currently my only audiobook. The way I did it, sharing a fifty/fifty split with the producers, it can be an expensive proposition and I haven’t recouped my cost as yet. But as soon as I do, rest assured, I plan to produce more audiobooks.

For more about PJ, visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Stop by Stacy’s audiobook page to browse her audiobook reads for adults, teens and children, and visit her Audiobook Corner for links to narrator and author interviews.

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  1. Thanks so much for having me today, Stacy. I’ll be sure to check back later to respond to any comments or questions.

  2. Paula, this is exciting. Thank you Stacy for inviting Paula. The interview is informative, fascinating, and inspiring.I can’t wait to listen to your “Heaven is For Hero’s” audio book. We will be ordering it to take on our upcoming adventure. Wishing you the best and thanks for the in-depth process.

Stacy Juba