When I discovered that Tantor was set to release Jennifer Ashley’s The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie on March 26th, I enthusiastically shared the news far and wide. Published in 2009, it’s a favorite among romance readers winning Best Romance of 2009 in AAR’s Annual Reader Poll and ranking #10 in AAR’s 2010 Top 100 Romance Poll. In print, we were mesmerized by hero Ian Mackenzie and, in audio, we hope to move the entire experience up a notch by actually hearing him interact in his matter-of-fact manner as he determinedly pursues Beth.
Today, we are celebrating the release of this much loved book with a giveaway and interviews with both author Jennifer Ashley and narrator Angela Dawe.
We are giving away FIVE MP3 CD copies of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie courtesy of Tantor Audio. Place your name in the hat by commenting on this column by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, March 22nd. Due to the cost of postage, the giveaway is open only to listeners in the U.S. and Canada. We encourage multiple comments in our discussion, but you will only be entered in the contest once. If you review for another Web site or blog, please don’t enter. The winner will be notified by email on Friday morning and will have 24 hours to respond. Another winner will be selected on Saturday morning if the winner has not responded. Audiobooks will be mailed to the winners upon release of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie.
Talking with Jennifer Ashley
Welcome Jennifer to Speaking of Audiobooks. We are so pleased to have you with us today. Your first audiobook was released less than two years ago so I imagine the entire audio experience still feels rather new. How did it all begin for you? Were you familiar with romance audiobooks?
I’ve listened to audiobooks off and on for a while now–love them for traveling! Most of the audiobook experience is out of the hands of the author. We (or the publisher) let audiobook producers know that the rights to our novels are available, and then the audiobook house makes an offer (or doesn’t). That offer can go through an author’s agent or through the publisher, depending on who holds the rights. Sometimes audio rights are sold by the publisher before the print book is published, resulting in a simultaneous print and audio release; sometimes the audio rights are not sold at all.
After the contracts are signed, the audiobook house makes the audiobook–however they do it! I usually only see (or hear, rather) the finished product. I always hope for a great narrator!
I see you have four books available in audio format at this time. What were your thoughts when you heard your first book in audio?
Actually, there are five: Four Jennifer Ashleys–the three Immortals books and Pride Mates (Shifters Book 1). The fifth: Tantor did a nice production of the Hexed anthology, for which I contributed a story set in my Stormwalker world, which I write as Allyson James. It was so much fun to hear the Stormwalker characters come to life! That’s less of a romance universe, more urban fantasy, and it has a diverse cast. Fun!
It was a very cool experience to hear my first book in audio. The words sound very different when read back to you! I do love hearing the characters come to life. Most narrators are good at catching the nuances of each of them.
There were shouts of joy from romance listeners when we discovered that The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie was slated for release in audio format. I’m sure you are aware that it is a vastly popular book among romance readers. Ian Mackenzie is a most unusual hero – a mix of those strengths we love to see in our heroes combined with a form of autism. Can you tell us about this form of autism that makes his life so challenging?
Thanks! As most readers correctly guessed, Ian Mackenzie has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is considered high-functioning autism. My research showed that many people with Asperger’s do fine in life, while others are at the more challenged end of the scale. Also, AS people exhibit a variety of traits, so one AS person is not going to be exactly like another. I never stated what Ian has in the book, because, of course, autism and AS weren’t recognized until the twentieth century.
Writing Ian was a challenge, but not as much as everyone might think. I did a lot of research–best was talking to or reading blogs of people with AS. Then I simply put myself into Ian’s shoes. I share some of Ian’s traits–for example, I hate crowds and will avoid them as much as possible. Making small talk is always hard for me too. I sympathize with Ian about things like that, and, like him, wonder why we’re expected to do it!
The biggest challenge in writing Ian was his dialog. In most books characters respond easily to each other–statement, response, response to that response, and so on. Ian, however, speaks in non sequiturs. You might say you enjoyed going to a museum, he’d answer that it’s cold outside. To him it is a perfectly logical answer–he’d gone through steps to get to the conclusion that it was cold outside without showing you the intervening steps.
So, for example, I’d come up with a natural response to one of Beth’s lines of dialog, then I’d have to stop and think–no, what would Ian say to this. It’s important to do that for all characters, of course, but with Ian, there was no letting the words flow unchecked! I went over every scene he was in about a dozen times, making tweak after tweak.
What inspired you to write a hero with Asperger’s syndrome?
When Ian Mackenzie walked into my head, I knew he was “mad,” but I wasn’t sure in what way. I watched him for a while, trying to figure out what would best fit him. I knew he had autism pretty quickly, but that it was high-functioning. The more I learned about Asperger’s the more I knew that’s what fit Ian.
The development of Ian was a meld of my character and my research, but Ian’s personality was always loud and clear to me (the whole Mackenzie family is like that). Ian was a fairly well-formed character from the moment he sprang into my brain, and I had to wait around to find out more about him before I started writing (and then I abandoned four drafts of his book before I got going on the final one). Ian always has to do things his own way.
I’m certain society was largely uninformed about psychological and developmental disorders in 1881. Your descriptions of his treatments are certainly chilling and added to the formation of Ian’s character as an adult. How did you approach writing about such a disorder in this historical context?
I read quite a bit about perceptions of madness in the late Victorian period, including the procedure to get someone declared mad. It wasn’t as easy as you might think to get a commission to rule madness–they were well aware that people might try to game the system (nothing ever changes)–for example, a family might try to get an inheritance by having an elderly family member declared insane.
There was a long interview with the candidate, and the entire committee had to agree that he or she was truly mad. The committee’s decision could be reversed later if evidence came to light that the person wasn’t mad after all.
I saw in my research that asylums really did try to be kind and help people (of course, the richer the patients, the more they tried to help). The ideas on how to cure them seem a bit barbaric now, but who knows how people in one hundred years will view what we do? While I’m sure there were doctors, like Ian’s, who simply wanted to show off, get funding, and be talked about, others really did try to help. But psychiatry was in its infancy at the time (William James and Freud would come later), and considered a branch of philosophy. There was a lot of trial and error, some of which caught poor Ian.
As the first in the Highland Pleasure series, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie was released in 2009. I see that the print release of the fourth book of the series, The Duke’s Perfect Wife, is scheduled for April 3rd. Can you tell us about it?
I’m thrilled that The Duke’s Perfect Wife is around the corner.
The Duke’s Perfect Wife is the story of the oldest Mackenzie brother, Hart, who was so overly protective of Ian in Ian’s book. Hart has a lot of baggage, he is confronted by the woman who jilted him in the past (Eleanor Ramsay), and she of course, starts to drive him crazy. We see what made Hart the way he is, what happened to him over the years, how Ian’s new happiness has affected Hart, and Hart’s path to love. I have always had a great fondness for Hart Mackenzie. The misunderstood always tug at my heart.
There is much of Ian in Duke’s Perfect Wife. Hart and Ian have always shared a special bond, which I wanted to show in Hart’s story.
It is not, however, the last book in the Mackenzies series. I will be writing stories about Daniel, Cameron Mackenzie’s son, and the brothers of Ainsley, the heroine of The Many Sins of Lord Cameron. Elliot McBride is first up, and I’m already falling in love with him. :-)
It is my understand that as of now, the other books in the Highland Pleasure series are not scheduled for production in audio. I’m sure many other romance listeners join me in hoping we see them in our personal listening libraries soon!
I’m not sure the status of the other Mackenzies books in audio. Perhaps if Madness of Lord Ian does well, the others will follow. Readers, if you want them, tell the audio book makers!! They want to know.
Thanks so much for the interview! I’m excited for the audio release of Madness of Lord Ian.
Now an Inside Look with Angela Dawe
With this, our sixth giveaway at Speaking of Audiobooks, Angela Dawe has narrated two of the featured titles – Nalini Singh’s Slave to Sensation and now The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie.
Welcome Angela! We have great respect for romance narrators here at Speaking of Audiobooks as we understand the considerable amount of acting skill it takes to pull off a successful audiobook. Can you tell us about your acting/narrating background?
I’ve been acting since I was a child, doing community theater all through childhood and high school, then professional theater after college. I’ve done everything from Shakespeare to Shepard, which has given me a great range of experience to bring to the world of audiobooks, since the genres are so varied. Currently I’m employed by The Second City, a world-renowned comedy theater based in Chicago. As far as narrating audiobooks, I’ve had the pleasure of doing that for nearly three years, and in that time I’ve done dozens of titles, including a lot of romance novels! My favorite titles span a wide range of genres, from Young Adult to historical fiction to, of course, romance.
In looking over your past romance narrations, I see many paranormal and contemporary titles. It looks as though you have narrated few if any historical romances. What did you find different about narrating a historical romance?
I love the details in historical romances – the little things that were different in another time period. Also, the heightened language is really fun; sometimes I wish we still talked like that!
Ian Mackenzie is most definitely a complex hero. He touches the reader with his outright maleness as well as his autistic nature, which makes him both an outspoken and truly vulnerable character. How did you prepare for your performance of Ian?
I really wanted Ian to have a softness about him, despite his description as being hard in every way physically. His autistic nature made him so vulnerable, and the way he cared for Beth showed such a tenderness, I wanted to make sure that tenderness shone through in the characterization. For that reason, I made his voice a little on the soft side. I hope that that vulnerability shows in the way I performed him.
Did you find performing his character particularly challenging?
I didn’t. A character like Ian, whose behavior is so broad and who’s drawn with such broad strokes, really speaks for himself. I just tried to play him as humanly as possible, and let his actions do a lot of the talking.
Although I just reread The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie last week in preparation for this column, I’m anxiously awaiting the audio version. As a personal favorite in print, I plan on it being gold in audio.
I hope you’re right! I had fun recording this one, and I can see why it’s such a favorite. Ian is a truly memorable character, and so is Beth, for that matter. It was a pleasure playing such an intelligent, spunky heroine, to say nothing of the fun of portraying Ian.
Do you have any projects in the works that you can share with us?
I’m currently working on a romance called Highland Vowby Hannah Howell, which takes place in 15th century Scotland. Playing Lord Ian and his brothers warmed me up for the Scottish brogue, which is one of the most lyrical and fun accents to do. I hope listeners enjoy my take on the Scottish accent!
Thanks to both Jennifer and Angela for this inside look at the writing and performance of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. They will both be stopping by if you wish to comment or ask a question.
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Enjoy your listening!
– Lea Hensley