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    Tell Me Another One

    Diana Killian Icon

    One of the downsides of “being a writer” is how little time left there is for reading. Most of us started writing because we loved reading–we loved reading so much that we wanted to become part of the process. Either that or we were sick of not being able to find the kind of books we loved to read.

    I admit it was a little bit of both with me.

    To say that I love to read really doesn’t do justice to my addiction. I have bookshelves in every room of my house (okay, no, not in that room, but a magazine rack is pretty darned close). I could open my own little used book store and stock it with the boxes and boxes of books in the garage–and those are the books that need sorting. The ones I’m not totally sure I need to keep so they’re relegated to the dungeon along with the washing machine and the castle cat.

    But never mind my ineffective housekeeping or garage-keeping, what I planned to blog about today is my solution for having no time to read: audio books.

    I have a lengthy drive to and from the good old day job, and while it is a beautiful scenic drive–with lots of deer and maniac drivers to keep me interested and alert–I do feel that it is time wasted. Or rather, that it could be time better occupied, and since I can’t quite picture myself reciting my latest plot development into a little tape recorder, I do the next best thing, which is listen to other people’s plot developments.

    Not that audio books can replace real books–meaning I love the feel, the smell, the taste–okay, maybe not the taste, I’m not actually chewing the covers–well, maybe the really suspenseful ones–of books. I love new books. And old books. Dell mapbacks in particular. Vintage mystery. I love picture books and travel books and art books and…anyway, I see audio books as a supplement to paper books.

    What I like to do is try out books I might not otherwise sample. For some reason I’m more patient with a book when it’s being read aloud to me. I’m not sure why that is, why it seems like less “work” when someone else is turning the pages. Anyway, I’ve discovered a number of writers through audio books–Donald Westlake, Rex Stout, M.C. Beaton. I listened to The Da Vinci Code as an audio book (and enjoyed it hugely). I also listened to Elizabeth George’s A Traitor to Memory (and nearly ran the car off the road at that ridiculous ending).

    This morning I was listening to Steven Bochco’s Death by Hollywood and enjoying it very much. The drive flew by and it’s always instructive seeing how different writers handle different plot elements. Next week I’ve got Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey scheduled. See, I’m not merely amusing myself, I’m improving my mind and scoping out the competition.

    In audio books, the narrator/reader becomes vital. I have a number of tapes with Kathleen Turner reading Elizabeth Peter’s Vicky Bliss novels–I love Kathleen Turner’s voice, but unfortunately I cannot forget for even a moment that it’s Kathleen Turner reading these novels, and it messes with the suspension of my bridge of disbelief. If you know what I mean.

    On the whole I prefer the audio books where the reader just reads. I find the switching of voices distracting–although I did enjoy The Egyptologist–and the full-on dramatization is too much like a radio show. Not that I don’t enjoy radio shows, but it’s a bit different. Much of my listening to books time is spent analyzing what I’m listening to as well as enjoying it, so I don’t really want to hear people rapping on doors or shaking sheets of aluminum thunder. I want to consider the way the words are used, how they flow.

    What about you? Do you listen to audio books? Do you have favorites?

    13 Responses to “Tell Me Another One”

    1. A couple of things keep me from using audio books:
      (1) Their price offends me. There’s no way a downloaded audio book should cost MORE than a hardback. (And all the local library has is cassettes).
      (2) My drive to work is about two minutes. I’d walk if the damn dog didn’t keep trying to follow me.

      by JDRhoades on February 5th, 2007 at 8:06 am

    2. Awwww, JD, #2 was cute!

      I agree on number one. Plus–and maybe this sounds dumb–but I’m not an auditory person, never have been. I need to see and read the words myself in order to follow the story.

      by Laura on February 5th, 2007 at 8:09 am

    3. Diana

      I am like yourself, I am finding it harder and harder to find time to write let alone read with a 2 year old and a newborn at home, and I have an hour commute each way every day. I have also become an a fan of audio books. I have found that I like unabridged audiobooks instead of abridged ones (and whoever makes the 4 hour versions must just randomly yank out chunks of the book). I spend a lot of time on the road, many times in rural counties where radio reception is non existent (it’s not the end of the world BUT you can see it from there), so I usually finish an unabridged audio book in week or so.

      There’s some authors who I have to read in book form, and there’s some who I’ve never read but enjoy listening to such as Sue Grafton (I think lady reading those makes those audiobooks).

      One of the things I have done before has been to listen to a book which I have read. I have done this to examine the book as a writer to see how things are made to work and compare it to “reading it.”

      As far as purchasing audiobooks, one of the other options is to rent them. One of the best things going is Cracker Barrel restaurant rents audio books and the neat thing is you can return the book to any Cracker Barrel.

      Like yourself, I could also start a used bookstore with all of the books as well.

      Rick M

      by Rick on February 5th, 2007 at 10:27 am

    4. J.D., you’re right about the expense. It’s prohibitive. I was initially shocked, but then I discovered USED audio books. That solved the problem for me.

      I envy you your two minute walk.

      by Diana Killian on February 5th, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    5. Hey, Laura, but what does that really mean? You still must have a sense of the flow and rhythm of words, right? Or do you not read your stuff aloud? I admit, I only read aloud when I hit a phrase or sentence that doesn’t seem to flow. The reading aloud seems to nail what isn’t working.

      by Diana Killian on February 5th, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    6. Rick, a two year old AND a newborn?! Yikes. No wonder you’re having trouble finding time to write.

      You’re right, certain books almost work better read aloud. I find this to be true of M.C. Beaton’s AGATHA BEATON series. I think I’ve come to associate the lady who reads the book with Agatha’s voice. Donald Westlake was my favorite discovery through audio books. Somehow I never could get around to reading him, but once I’d listened to a couple of his books, I was hooked. That man is a genius with words.

      by Diana Killian on February 5th, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    7. When I was having to have a lot of eye surgery a few years ago, I tried audio books because I couldn’t read. I guess I’m a more visual than auditory person because I could not concentrate on the book to save my life. My mind continually wandered and I had to rewind and rewind and rewind. I finally just gave up. And became very familiar with my library’s large print section. :)

      by Tori Lennox on February 5th, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    8. Diana,

      I ALWAYS read my stuff out loud. It is a huge help with any scene, particulary diaglogue.

      I just have a hard time grasping stuff when it’s read TO me. I know my own story, so I can visualize while I read. But to listen to someone else read to me…my mind starts wandering. Focus issues I guess.

      by Laura on February 5th, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    9. I’ve never tried audio books, mostly because I don’t have a long commute, I imagine. I’ll have to try one on a road trip.

      by Sara on February 5th, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    10. We (as a family) listen to audio books on long road trips. Our absolute favorite (though it doesn’t quite count as a book, but stories) is Jay O’Callahan’s Little Heroes. It is the absolute best in true oral tradition storytelling. You MUST find a copy and listen to it. Even though they are marketed for kids, Michael and I will still listen to them on road trips when we’re all alone and seventy-two, I’m sure.

      Our library has a great collection of “audiobooks.” We sat in the parking lot of our hotel in Charleston and finished listening to “No More Dead Dogs” by ???blank, sorry. And I really do love all the Harry Potter’s on audiobook AND the Lemony Snickett series when read by Tim Curry - perfection.

      I’ve called Michael on his cell and, more than once, found he was in the driveway, listening to the end of a Terry Pratchett while I slaved to keep dinner warm for him. The nerve!

      I haven’t broken ground into adult audios - I guess with kiddies in the car near anytime it’s a long enough drive to make listening worth it, my choices have been limited. But I did teach myself passable Italian in the car - but that’s another day’s post.

      by Heidi Vornbrock Roosa on February 5th, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    11. Hey, Tori, I read a PW article a few months ago about the joys of the Large Print section. Maybe that’s a topic for another blog–two of the Poetic Death books went into large print, but I never quite know how to promote them (or if it’s even necessary to promote them–maybe LP has its own built-in audience).

      by Diana Killian on February 6th, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    12. Hey, Sara, maybe audio books would work for doing really boring tasks like…I don’t know. Anything related to housework would qualify for me.

      I’ve thought about using them on the nights I have trouble falling to sleep, but if I liked the book, I’d end up listening all night. Plus it might transfer to my driving habits. :roll:

      by Diana Killian on February 6th, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    13. Heidi, I kind of like the idea of listening to kid’s books–sounds very relaxing. I’d thought about listening to the HP books when they came out, but they were so unbelievably expensive (tying into JD’s point) that I gave up on the idea. I bet I could find them used now at a decent price.

      by Diana Killian on February 6th, 2007 at 5:55 pm

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