Anne StuartRomance readers have enjoyed Anne Stuart’s books for years with many of her titles sitting on countless DIK shelves.  My own list of Stuart DIKs includes A Rose at Midnight, The Devil’s Waltz, and Ritual Sins.   More recently I’ve discovered yet another way to enjoy Anne Stuart’s writing by listening to her books in audio with Black Ice and Ruthless heading the list of my favorites in that format.

For those of us always wondering about the inner workings of the audiobook industry, I think you’ll find that Anne is uniquely qualified to talk with us today.  Not only does she understand much of what goes on behind the scenes, but she also appreciates what we, as audio listeners, want to hear.

To celebrate the ongoing audio release of Anne’s Rohan series, we are giving away two audiobook copies of Ruthless, the first in the series, courtesy of the author and AAR.  Place your name in the hat by commenting on this column by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Friday, February 11th.  Due to the cost of postage, the giveaway is open only to listeners in the U.S. and Canada.  We encourage multiple comments, but you will only be entered in the contest once.  If you review for another Web site or blog, please refrain from entering.  The winners will be notified by email on Saturday morning and you will have 24 hours to respond.  Another winner will be selected on Sunday morning if a winner has not responded.  Now, let’s talk with Anne!

Welcome Anne.  It’s so good to have you with us today.  Those of us at Speaking of Audiobooks enjoy your occasional comments and insights in the columns’ discussions and understand that you are in a distinctive position to talk with us today.  The romance community easily recognizes you as an author who writes romance with a truly unique flair but I imagine few know that you are a romance audiobook enthusiast as well.  When did your love affair with romance audiobooks begin?

I started with my own books, because I wanted to hear how they sounded (the second two Ice books) and then went on to books I’d already read and adored, like Georgette Heyer and Sunshine by Robin McKinley.  Then I started branching out.  What tipped me over into obsession was my sister’s unexpected death. I couldn’t sleep afterwards, so I went to bed listening to audio books, and I’ve been listening ever since.

I’ve discovered I love audio books because I can listen with a lot of my hypercritical self turned off.  Like all writers I grew up reading all the time.  But as the years went by I read less and less.  Now, with audio books, I can read and love it again, without looking for flaws.

I hate to tell you how many audio books I have.  374 from Audible alone, plus about another 25 from other sources.  Admittedly, a few are for my husband, who never used to read books or fiction but now listens on the treadmill (he had a heart attack the same year my sister died, which frankly was a hell of a year.  I needed my audio books!).  It does help that all my purchases are deductible.

Through your past comments at Speaking of Audiobooks, I know you are a fan of Georgette Heyer’s audiobooks.  What are some of your audio favorites by Heyer and others?

Some of my favorites aren’t as successful on audio, like The Reluctant Widow or Devil’s Cub (though it’s definitely worth listening to – it’s just that Vidal sounds like a thug).  The unabridged of Venetia, which is my favorite but also hard to find, is wonderful and makes me weep.  Convenient Marriage is divine.  The Talisman Ring (also hard to find) is wonderful and terribly funny.  The Quiet Gentleman, The Toll-Gate, oh, and my most beloved, Behold Here’s Poison.  I adore that book – love it so much I did homage to the hero in my Maggie Bennett series.    Really, even the less successful ones are a treat.  Heyer is one of my heroes.

I’ve been glomming Lisa Kleypas like mad.  Never thought I’d love her contemporaries but I do, and I’m devouring the old ones.  And Judith Ivory – be still my heart.  I think she’s just about up there with Laura Kinsale.  For paranormal I’ve been listening to Kelley Armstrong, Katie MacAllister, Jeaniene Frost, and Nalini Singh.  I’ve also loved hearing all of Linda Howard and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, even though I’d read most of them.

I’m a greedy pig when it comes to audio books – I can’t get enough.

Audiobook enthusiasts find all sorts of time to listen – when they are driving, doing housework, exercising, cooking.  Do you spend much time listening to audio?  Are there some activities that lend themselves well to audio listening in your life?

I can’t go to bed without my iPod and a good book.    I listen on the rare occasions that I clean (very rare), sometimes when I’m cooking, and most of the time when I’m sewing, though I save the less interesting ones for those times.  The ones I want to cherish I listen to when I go to sleep.

Occasionally I’ll listen when I drive, because that’s a wonderful time to be alone with a book.  But driving is also a great time for me to brainstorm, so I don’t want to waste that time with a less than brilliant book and I don’t want to hear a brilliant book because I’d rather be at home really concentrating.  I really need to remember to listen more often during the day – it would make the tedious tasks more enjoyable.  Hell, maybe I’ll clean the bedroom this afternoon so I can finish Archangel’s Kiss.

Oh yes – my house definitely benefits from a can’t-stop-listening audiobook!


RecklessRomance audio listeners were excited to hear that your entire Rohan series will soon be available in audio.  I see that the second in the series, Reckless, is scheduled for release today and Breathless is scheduled for later this month on the 21st.  As an author, were you influential in getting the Rohan series produced in audio?

Absolutely.  I begged and pleaded.  Here’s the deal.  Audible automatically takes a number of books from Harlequin and Mira and they take what’s given.  The audio rights aren’t part of the standard contract, and we did a special amendment for the Ice books.  My agent decided to keep the audio rights from then on, and then we had to convince someone to take them.  I think Lauren Abramo, our fabulous rights director, worked on the deal for several months (with me bugging her constantly).  I was so excited when the deal finally went through.  Originally they bought the Rohan books, including the upcoming one, and then she suggested they take Fire and Ice as well, and they agreed.

Oddly enough, they didn’t want the paranormals I’m writing under a different name.  They said they weren’t having much luck with paranormals, which surprises me.  Paranormals seem very strong in audio.

Lauren said Audible is very big on being completist – if something is missing from a series they like to get all of the books.  Plus they’re responsive to reader requests (I haven’t seen that but maybe I’ve been asking for the moon, like Laura Kinsale and Loretta Chase).

As I downloaded Ruthless, I saw that Tantor pulled out the big guns by hiring narrator Susan Ericksen.  Many know her from J.D. Robb’s In Death series.  As the author, did you have any say on the choice of narrator?

No choice at all.  I asked Lauren to keep me updated but someone at AAR found out the details of the narrators before I did.  I was thrilled with Susan, really afraid it would be someone I was less than fond of.

When I read Ruthless in print last year, I had a certain voice playing in my head for Viscount Rohan.  I must admit that Ms. Erickson’s performance of Rohan was far superior to the one in my head.  Her delivery and timing of his lines as he interacted with Elinor rounded out his dark character even more.  I love it when a narrator makes a book I enjoyed in print even better in audio.  Do you have a particular voice in mind when you hear one of your books for the first time?  What is your reaction to hearing your words in audio?

Ah, she has Rohan down perfectly.  I’ve been listening and swooning.  When I listen to my own stuff I can usually get right into them – it’s like someone telling me a familiar and beloved story.  I do automatically revise – I’ll listen and want to rephrase stuff, but then, I do that with other people’s books as well.

Some narrators get accents wrong or pronounce a name incorrectly, but I can usually get over that as long as they’ve got the characters right.  Oh, and an interesting note – narrators will quite often throw in a wrong word that’s similar to the word that was written.  They’re reading so smoothly that they gloss over something, like they’ll say “exasperate” instead of “exacerbate” and “disseminate” instead of “dissimulate.”  At first I thought I’d made a typo in the original that I hadn’t caught, but now I realize the narrator is on a nice smooth roll and her eyes just glided over the word.

Jenny Crusie hates hearing her stuff on audio, which is a shame, because some of hers is so good (I adore Faking It).  I gather a lot of writers don’t want to hear their work.

For me, it gets my brain, particularly my going-to-sleep brain, into the story-telling state of mind.  As I go to sleep listening to a book I get immersed in story-telling, and it increases my productivity (at least, I tell myself that).

Fire and IceIn the audio community we often see series released out of order.  Your Ice Series is a perfect example with the first in the series, Black Ice, released third in audio and the third in the series, Ice Blue, released first in audio.  Can you help us understand this process?

I think that’s part of Mira/Harlequin’s deal with Audible.  I imagine Audible wanted more romantic suspense and Mira simply sent them the most recent.  I had had no idea they were going back to do the first two, and I was thrilled when they suddenly appeared on Audible.  At first I hadn’t realized we’d kept the rights for Fire and Ice.  I gather Audible really tries to be responsive about things like this, but things fall through the cracks.  The Karen Robards Banning Sisters trilogy came out backwards as well.  I think they grab something that sounds interesting and then go back to get the rest of the series.

Speaking of Fire and Ice, audio romance enthusiasts were thrilled to see it released in MP3/CD format on January 31st,  yet we didn’t see its release at Audible until February 24th.  As the author, do you know if Audible will pick up one of your audiobooks released in MP3/CD format and do you know why those of us who listen to digital audiobooks must endure the wait?

I asked Lauren about that – she says Audible is Tantor’s main market (even though they sell direct to consumer and to libraries) and that most books will go to them, but it can take them a while to get them up on the site.  Fire and Ice just went up, and while Reckless is coming out March 7th I expect it’ll take a week or so to get to Audible. Tantor works very quickly, BTW.  We made the deal in November, I think, and was told the first would probably be out in January.  Much faster than publishing.

Still sitting on my audiobook shelf are a number in cassette tape format including two of your older titles in abridged format, The Widow and Shadows at Sunset.  I find the short abridgements a challenge (these both fit that description with 2-3 hours in length) but I must ask, how do you feel as the author when listening to these shortened versions?  Do you have any say on the abridged script?

No say in the abridged script.  I tried to listen but they drove me crazy.  With The Widow the main love scene was shifted and a huge section was missing.  As for Shadows at Sunset, I lost the entire subplot, which was one of the best parts of the book, so I can’t really listen to them.

When I started The Widow I was reminded that I really liked the book – it was one of those that sort of disappeared once I wrote it.  But then parts started going missing and I had to turn it off, thoroughly bummed.

As a long time Anne Stuart fan, there are many of your older print titles that sit on my keeper shelf.  In the past, a number of our listeners (including me) have wished out loud for the audio release of your older titles.  Do you know if any of your older books will be released in audio format?  Do you have any influence over that process?

None of the older books are scheduled.  I have to get some of the OOP books available on Amazon (my agent is working on it) and then we might see some action.  I think it will depend on how these books do.  My agent knows I’m desperate for any audio sales, so she’ll be pushing Tantor for more, and if these do well they ought to go for it.  Wouldn’t it be fun to have stuff like Nightfall or To Love a Dark Lord be on audio?  Be still my heart.

Amazon owns Audible now, so there should be better synergy between the Kindle books and Audible, but then again, Amazon is so huge one department might not know what the other is doing.  Bottom line is always profit.  I’ve seen audio rights go for $250, for $3,000, and for $40,000.  With the 40k advances (not for me, alas) it must mean they’re making good money off the books, which is encouraging.

What do you suggest for those who are thinking about listening to their first audiobook or increasing their audio listening?

Audible is the way to go, and an MP3 player rather than a clunky cassette or cd player.  One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is Amazon’s occasional promotions.  For people who like audio books and want to get into them more, Amazon has had deals where if you sign up for the basic package of Audible for one year (something like $14 a month for one book with a year commitment) you get $100 off selected technology, like an iPod touch or a Nano (or even a Kindle).  It’s a great way to get started if you know you’re going to want at least 12 books.  I told my niece and she signed up, got a new Nano and gave her old one to her mother, who listens to audio books as she gardens.

The great thing about audio books is that it’s bringing new readers in and old readers back.  A lot of people (women in particular) have to multi-task so much that they don’t have enough time to read.  This gives it back to them.  And my husband was only a sporadic reader and now he’s loving it. Which delights me.  Because professional considerations aside, there’s nothing more wonderful than getting people caught up in the lure of a good story.

Thanks to Anne for talking with us today.  She’ll be checking in to answer your questions so fire away!  Remember, to enter for your chance to win, comment to this post by Sunday, March 13th at 11:59 p.m. eastern time.

See you later this month when we talk about April Releases.

Enjoy your listening!

–       Lea Hensley

Note – a number of the Georgette Heyer audiobooks referenced above may be available in other formats or with a different narrator.

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