Great Historical Audiobooks From Author-Historian Laurel A. Rockefeller @laurelworlds

audiobooks to download

If you’re looking for great historical audiobooks to download, don’t miss this in-depth interview with author-historian Laurel A. Rockefeller whose Legendary Women of World History (LWWH) Series is changing the way we think about women in history.

What was it like hearing your books narrated as an audiobook?
The first time I heard Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni at each stage of the production process I literally cried tears of joy as I never have in my entire life. I really did not understand in my heart how good this book was until I heard Mr. Richard Mann’s voice artistry. It took a long time for me to realize “Yes I wrote that” because it is so beautiful. The combination of my words/research with his voice is truly dazzling.

What was the most rewarding part of the production process? Was there anything surprising?
Believe it or not the editorial on the finished book was very rewarding for me. Editorial took me about 25 hours on Boudicca (run time is 50 minutes). It started with the artistic first pass listening to Mr. Mann’s performance which brought tears of joy in my eyes for its beauty, tears of sorrow at the sad parts, and laughter at the subtle British humour. Then of course I ran my verbatim check where I listened to the book against the printed text for deviations. There I had to decide where to correct the text to match Mr. Mann’s narration, where to request he re-record to match the text, and where the sentence needed to be re-written and re-recorded.

This was work and really should have been a chore — except it was not — which really is surprising. It was a deeply collaborative process and one that helped me see Mr. Mann as the person he is. We talked through the changes and why and really connected as professionals. It was fantastic! I am so thrilled at the results and that Mr. Mann has chosen to continue to narrate the next book in the LWWH Series for me.

What would you tell someone who has never tried listening to an audiobook?
Listen to the audio samples of every audiobook that seems interesting in terms of subject matter and/or story. If you love the narrator’s voice, you will really enjoy the audio edition. A well narrated book is a beautiful piece of artistry that layers with the words in the book. Richard Mann explains this well at when he talks about speech and its role in our lives.

Why are audiobooks a good alternative to print or e-books?
Obviously for the differently abled like myself, audiobooks open up a whole new world of literature and learning. They allow us to learn, grow, and experience literature no matter what our physical abilities or limitations are. I prefer to sit back in my chair and close my eyes when listening to audiobooks, to remove the distraction of sight and let the content of the book wash over me like a nourishing gentle rain. You do not need special or expensive technology to listen to them; I listen on my home computer. They can go anywhere and be played on a dazzling array of different kinds of devices. I find them very convenient.

More than that though, they add that extra dimension of the narrator’s voice and artistry to the text, especially when narrated by experienced actors and voice artists.

The key for audio books is for the narrator and author to complement each other well stylistically. When a poor match is made, audio can be a terrible medium for reading. But when the match is perfect, the results are pure magic — as they are when Mr. Mann narrates my books.

Do you outline your books or wing it? Describe your process.
So far my audiobooks are all from my Legendary Women of World History Series. These are creative non-fiction biographies for young readers and family audiences focusing on women from across history whose lives still touch ours today.

Creative non-fiction history has very specific standards: everything in these books must be verifiable by primary and reliable secondary sources along with supportive social science research and archaeological finds. So of course, the first step is for me to locate all that data and record sources used into the “suggested reading” list which appears in the digital and print editions and are taken out in the audio edition script.

Once I have my sources, I organize the material. On my latest audio book“Catherine de Valois” (on Audible in June 2015) I constructed a timeline to help me sort through the complexities of 15th century France, England, and Wales. This becomes a sort of “outline” if you will dictated by history.

Finally I start writing the biography itself. I prefer to use a prologue-main book- epilogue structure. The prologue and epilogue introduce the biography and tie up loose ends to the story rather than plunging straight into that person’s life. It also allows me to create a secondary historical arc that I think readers really enjoy.

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

Non-fiction, creative non-fiction history, historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy are the main genres with dozens of sub-genres applying to my books. As to why, well that depends on the book series. The Peers of Beinan Series is my science fiction/fantasy series exploring social issues. Focusing on mostly adolescent and young adult characters, the series explores the gamut of human experience and several hot-button political issues from the safe distance of a space-faring medieval monarchy in another galaxy. It’s a series lavish in world building, science, and applied science that opens up the imagination and takes you to a world that is both extremely different from ours yet also facing the same challenges that we do. Because the math, science, and social science are all accurate, the characters, environment, and stories are extremely believable and relatable. You come to really care about these characters and learn from their experiences.

American stories is all about expressing the American Experience — from socio-political analysis to intriguing historical fiction stories. American Stories is an expression of my passion for history and my concern for the lives of everyday Americans.

With Legendary Women of World History Series, the purpose is to improve history literacy while offering positive role models. As creative non-fiction, LWWH biographies present university-level historical research in a fun and accessible format that sounds spectacular in audio books. They bring the story back into history, entertaining while they educate while sticking to what we know about these women’s lives using primary and reliable secondary sources and supplementary social science research. That is very important to me because I love history and I feel great disappointment in the so-called role models offered to young people today. We can and must do better. This series is my way of offering wonderful historical alternatives to the fallen heros, scantily-clad “musicians,” and reality celebrities that too many of us aspire to be like.

How much research was involved in writing your books? How did you go about it?
I am a research fanatic and perfectionist — so a great deal! Every detail of my books across the board must comply with primary and reliable secondary historical sources, scientific discoveries, archaeological finds, and so forth. Even with the more imaginative facets of the Peers of Beinan Series, I am working from a strong factual foundation. I daresay the time spent on each book is 75% research, 15% writing, and 10% editing/rewriting until it is absolutely perfect and flows effortlessly when you read it aloud.

How much of you is in the books you write? In what ways?
More than I want to admit most of the time! I think it is inevitable that a book, especially an audiobook, flows out of the author’s life experience and personality. I notice a recurring theme of “the Sight” across my books which most of my psychic characters struggle with — as I have as a psychic empath across my own life.

Even Boudicca and her daughters struggle with it despite living in a society where the Sight is considered a normal facet of religious experience. The Iceni in particular were especially religiously devout; it is no coincidence at all that the Roman attacks against the druids and against the Iceni occurred so close together! So when you see Boudicca praying and you see her daughters really struggling with these premonitions of Roman atrocities against the Britons, you are experiencing a little of what I’ve lived with all my life.

Delving into the Peers of Beinan Series you see even more of who I am reflected. For example, I love English country dancing and books by Jane Austin. So of course there is a Beinarian version of English country dancing in book two, “The Ghosts of the Past.”

On a deeper level, you see my optimistic outlook on life in the books — all of them across the board. There’s always hope in my books, no matter how bad things get. There’s also usually music somewhere in my books. I started out as a singer-songwriter using music to cope with some very serious things growing up. It is almost inevitable that several of my books have characters singing!

What is your latest audiobook about? Who is the narrator?
Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni opens the Legendary Women of World History Series. Released on Audible on the 9th of September 2014 (same day as Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards released his audio book), Boudicca tells the true story of Britain’s greatest heroines and one of the most courageous women in the ancient western world. It is the only audio book about Boudicca’s life. Because it is creative non-fiction, it sticks to just the facts and therefore is 50 minutes long in audio edition.

British voice artist Richard Mann narrates Boudicca in one of the finest performances I have ever experienced in my life! The first time I heard the book for the editorial pass I literally cried tears of joy at his artistry while also crying during the sad parts and laughing at the sly British humour in the book. Mr. Mann is absolutely amazing and I am so honoured that he is currently narrating “Catherine de Valois” for release in June this year. There really is no finer voice in the English languages. The narration and characterizations are dynamic, warm, inviting, and chilling at points. Mr. Mann often plays the villain in the Christmas pantomimes at the Elgiva Theatre in Chesham, Buckinghamshire every year. That comes through vividly in his performances of the Romans. You cannot help but to feel emotionally invested in this book once you hear it!

You can find the audio edition of Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni

Tell us about your hero or heroine in this book. Give us one of his/her strengths and one of his/her weaknesses.
Boudicca was one of the ancient world’s most courageous women. Historians disagree about her early life and her origins; the only thing they can agree upon is that Boudicca was not Iceni. For obvious issues of cosanguation, noble Celts across Europe always married outside of their tribe. I therefore decided to make Boudicca born of the Aedui tribe near the Seine, a Gallic tribe that was initially treated with great respect by Rome only to lose their freedom later.

In Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni, Boudicca is a runaway slave of royal Aedui blood. Crossing the channel from Calais she makes her way to Camulodunum (the fortress of Camulos, the British god of war) which is now the Roman capital of Britannia. There she meets King Prasutagus of the Iceni and eventually marries him. Boudicca co-ruled as Prasutagus’ equal. Together they had two daughters. Then the Romans murdered Prasutagus, setting in motion the events we know her best for.

Boudicca was bright, charismatic, and religiously devout. She believed so deeply in the morality of her fight for freedom and to preserve British culture and values that she allowed herself to be lured into the trap set for her by Governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus, the same military trap, I must add, that the Confederate States of America lured the United States of America into at the 1861 Battle of Bull Run — almost exactly 1800 years later!

Boudicca’s heart was in the right place. Morally she was on the right side. She believed that the goddesses and gods would fight for her. Because of this, it never occurred to her that she with her enormous army of eighty thousand could lose against the comparatively small Roman force. It was ultimately a loss the world has never recovered from, the day more than 90% of the population disappeared from history.

What other audiobooks have you written?
I am pleased to announce that Catherine de Valois, my biography of Henry V’s queen consort is currently in production for release on Audible in June 2015. I am so thrilled that Mr. Richard Mann has chosen to narrate this book because it’s a dynamic and dramatic look at one of England’s most fascinating queens. You will hear Mr. Mann sing on this book — in Latin! So please watch Audible and take a listen! It will be a rollercoaster ride you will never forget!

For more information about Laurel A. Rockefeller, please visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or follow her on Pinterest.

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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