Author and Narrator Roundtable & Giveaway – Mary Kay Andrews and Kathleen McInerney discuss Ladies’ Night

For a final June is Audiobook Month hurrah, I am lucky enough to have the chance to host a roundtable discussion between author Mary Kay Andrews and Kathleen McInerney, the woman who has narrated her more recent audiobooks, including the new Ladies’ Night. Please see the end of the post for a giveaway.

Mary Kay Andrews

Mary Kay Andrews

Question for Mary Kay Andrews: Were you involved with the selection of Kathleen McInerney as your narrator? What were your initial reactions when you first heard her narration of your work?

MKA: The folks at Macmillan Audio found Kathleen and sent me an audio clip of her narration for approval, but that’s about all the involvement I had. Although I’m thrilled about the match-up. I was so happy when I first heard a clip—that we had a narrator who could do a carefully articulated Southern voice—sweet, but not syrupy. The number one complaint I hear from audio listeners is about the Southern accent—either it’s too pronounced, or deemed phony by real Southerners. Sometimes you just can’t win!


Kathleen McInerney

Question for Kathleen McInerney: How do you connect with MKA’s writing? Are you a fan?

Kathleen: I was not familiar with Mary Kay’s books before I narrated Spring Fever. Before I audition for a project, I like to do a little research on the author. Often with an understanding of the person comes an understanding of their writing. I immediately connected with Mary Kay as I, too, have a love for flea markets and DIY projects. The characters in Mary Kay’s books are so real- I know we all identify with at least one of them, usually the main character. The others are often just like people we know or wish we did. Discovering the characters is not unlike scavenging at a flea market- what may seem ordinary at first soon reveals itself to be something very special.

Question for Mary Kay Andrews: What do you admire about Kathleen’s interpretations of your writing?

MKA: All those different voices! She does Ben, she does Wyatt, the other women in the divorce group, even Rochelle, and she manages to give everybody a distinctly different sound.

Question for Kathleen McInerney: Are there any challenges or delights unique to recording MKA’s work?

Kathleen: There are many delights. I really love the characters and have a lot of fun diving in. Ladies’ Night was a great journey as Grace rediscovers her strengths and her self. I learned about redecorating and blogging. I ‘lived’ in that amazing house as Grace worked to renovate it. It was so fun to go to work and inhabit this world. I really didn’t want the book to end! The challenge is creating a performance that is worthy of the book.

Question for Mary Kay Andrews: What does Kathleen add to your work?

MKA: Kathleen’s voice is so pleasant, so nuanced, she manages to draw the listener into the story, but without any showy stuff that draws attention away from the plot.

Question for Kathleen McInerney: What do you do to prepare for an audiobook recording session? Is it important for you to connect emotionally with the material you are recording?

Kathleen: Well, the first thing I do is read the book. I write down all of the characters as they appear so I get an overview of the vocal demands (age, accents, etc). I try to identify certain qualities and what makes each character unique. With Mary Kay’s wonderfully descriptive writing, it’s easy to picture the complete person- I just need to find their voice. Then I go into the booth and try to bring the story to life. I think any actor would say that it’s very important to connect emotionally. If I can’t inhabit the life of each character, the listener won’t be able to really let go and get lost in the story.

Question for both: Have you communicated directly prior to this interview to prepare for a narration or to promote the titles you are both involved with?

MKA: We haven’t communicated directly, I don’t think. The audio folks might have asked me about a couple of pronunciation tips, but otherwise, Kathleen is a pro—I don’t think she needed any help from me.
Kathleen: Oh, well thank you Mary Kay! We’ve not met, but I do feel that I know Mary Kay through her books and her wonderful blog. It would certainly be great to meet in person.

Question for both: Describe the author/narrator relationship and when and how it works best.

MKA: I’d love to have more contact with my narrators, but it seems like whenever they’re doing their work, I’m on deadline trying to finish the next book. But I’d welcome any chance to interact—I think that would be lots of fun.
Kathleen: Discussing with the author their ideas about the characters or perhaps what drove them to write the story would be so interesting. Unfortunately, given deadlines, there is often not much time for anything but prepping and reading! I often meet an author long after the project has been completed. That is always a thrill!

I have one copy of the Ladies’ Night audiobook, as well as a packet of Ladies’ Night Margarita Mix (add water, and tequila if desired) to give away to one lucky listener. To enter, please fill out the form below by 11:59 pm Central on Tuesday, July 2nd.

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Black Venus by James MacManus – Author Interview

James MacManus’s newest book, Black Venus, focuses on the poet Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval, the Haitian cabaret performer who was his lover and inspired some of his poetry. This is just the sort of historical fiction I enjoy and I’m really looking forward to getting to read it. In the mean time, I have this interview with MacManus to share:

Q: What inspired you to write a novel about Charles Baudelaire?

A: The enduring mystery of his relationship with his mistress and muse Jeanne Duval. From my schooldays on I have been intrigued by Baudelaire’s long attachment to a woman who ruined him, yet inspired him to write great poetry.

Q:  If you could ask Baudelaire one question what would it be?

A: Did you really love your Black Venus, your mistress and muse Jeanne Duval?

Q:    If people could learn on thing from Baudelaire’s poetry what would it be?

A: That  those who feel tormented by their own frailties and despair of life in a wicked and world can find redemption in love and a passion for artistic beauty

Q:     Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside?

A: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote. A romantic comedy set in New York of the 1950s .It was a time when that city was at its dazzling best as indeed was Capote’s witty, frothy writing. I  would have insisted on meeting Audrey Hepburn of course because the book and film have sort of merged in our cultural consciousness

Q:     What are you working on next?

A: That’s a secret.

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Interview with Bernard Cornwell, author of 1356

Bernard Cornwell has been a force in historical fiction since the 1980s with the release of Sharpe’s Eagle, the first in his series about a British soldier during the Napoleonic War. Since then he’s written around fifty historical novels. His most recent is 1356, a novel of the battle of Poitiers. Cornwell stopped by to answer a few of my questions about his prolific writing career.

DevourerofBooks: Can you give us the one sentence synopsis of 1356?

Bernard Cornwell: 1356 is an historical novel postulating a series of unlikely events that culminated in the battle of Poitiers which took place, unsurprisingly, in 1356.

Dob: Why the Hundred Years War, and the Battle of Poitiers in particular?

BC: I wrote a trilogy set in the Hundred Years War and 1356 is really the fourth book of that trilogy!  I was born and raised in England (but have spent most of my adult life in the States), and the English tend to define their history by the long rivalry with France. The most famous battles of English and British history are all against the French; Hastings, Crecy, Agincourt, Trafalgar and Waterloo, yet Poitiers was just as decisive and in some ways more astonishing than Agincourt, but strangely it is a little known event.  It’s also a magnificent story, how a small English army is trapped by the French King, how they attempt to surrender, have their terms rejected and so are forced to fight and, in so doing, win a crushing victory which ends with the French King in English captivity.  Fact, they tell me, is stranger than fiction, and Poitiers stretches credulity, but it’s all true and is, as well, a terrific story!

DoB: What is it that drew you to historical fiction as an author? Have you always been interested in this genre?

BC: We write first for ourselves, and so we write what we want to read. From a child I loved historical fiction and so when I gave up my proper job (I was a television producer with the BBC) I naturally wrote what I wanted to read. Initially that was the Sharpe series about a British rifleman fighting against Napoleon, which was a rip-off of the Hornblower books, but the repertoire has expanded since those early days.

DoB; After approximately 50 books, how do you continue to find new topics to write about?

BC: The difficulty is not finding new topics, but winnowing down the vast number of possibilities that history offers. I have enough ideas to keep me going for at least another hundred years, but tobacco, whiskey and other joys will ensure that I won’t last that long.  The ancient classical aphorism is right, ars longa, vita brevis, and I’m not saying what I do is ‘art’, but it certainly takes a long time and life is, indeed, short. A book takes, roughly, six months to write and while I used to write two a year I have given up one of those to appear on stage in a summer-stock theatre each year. So one idea a year?  Out of all history? Out of the long centuries of conflict and drama and passion and cruelty and disappointment and ecstasy? There’s no shortage of topics!

DoB: What books are you reading right now, or what books are on the top of your to be read pile?

BC: I’m reading Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, who wrote the magnificent Will in the World, which is one of the best books about Shakespeare. Swerve is about the rediscovery of Lucretius’s poem de Natura Rerum and its effect on Renaissance thinking, which sounds fairly dry, but Stephen Greenblatt is incapable of writing a dull book. It’s a book about the birth of modern thinking, and it’s terrific!  I’m also reading Sam Willis’s In the Hour of Victory, which is a fascinating redaction of the dispatches sent to the Admiralty by Royal Navy commanders during the Napoleonic Wars (shades of Hornblower).  Next on the list, and much anticipated, is Stuart MacBride’s Birthdays for the Dead. I’m a huge fan of police procedurals and love Stuart’s books (Scottish noir). His series beginning with Cold Granite is, for me, a must-read!

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