Audiobook airwaves are all a-flutter with a spectrum of sweet-to-sizzling love stories for the month of February. Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward have dozens of individual NY Times best-selling romance titles between the two of them, and together they have co-authored nine novels and counting that have gone on to capture the ears of audiobook listeners with the voices of Sebastian York, Andi Arndt, and other top narrators. In celebration of their gal-mance and gal-mances everywhere, we got them to tell us (and romance writers looking to learn from their success), what they love about each other’s audiobooks. Take it away, ladies!
Vi Keeland: Just One Year is one of my very favorite audiobooks for so many reasons. It starts out as a light and fun story about a British college student coming to the United States to study abroad, but turns into a heartfelt story exploring why we sometimes need to travel far to find ourselves. One reason I loved the audio of Just One Year, and it might just be at the top of my list of reasons to listen to this book, is the hero’s sexy British accent. So, when I sat down to ask Penelope some questions, I was curious to know how she decided which narrator was the right fit for her character. Penelope, before you decided on casting, how many narrators did you listen to?
Penelope Ward: I actually listened to several! I had a pretty good idea whom I might want to cast as the hero, but I wanted to keep an open mind before finalizing my decision. I’d never written a British hero into my solo books before, so this was my opportunity to branch out and use a new-to-me narrator. I’d listened to Shane East several times before, so it felt comfortable casting him.
VK: How did you find narrators with a British accent to listen to?
PW: I knew a few because I’m an avid audio listener myself, but I also checked out Audible’s Accent on Love page. They list books with all different accents.
VK: Did you write the “British” into your book or give the narrator free rein to decide how to make the character sound like a true Brit?
PW: A bit of both, actually. I incorporated some British terms into the written book to give the narrators something to work with. But the narrator also had free rein to determine which words to play up with the accent more than others when speaking. If there are special notes about pronunciations, accents, or any other concerns, I make them known to the narrators when I send them the manuscript. However, since I’m privileged to work with very experienced talent, I pretty much let them do their thing with little guidance. They always message me if they have questions along the way.
PW: Okay Vi, now I have some questions for you! I recently listened to Inappropriate and loved it. It’s actually my favorite book of yours. One of the things I loved was the dual narration of Sebastian York and Andi Arndt. They just became Grant and Ireland, and their performances were amazing. Sebastian’s deep, sexy voice was perfect for the alpha CEO, and true to the typical Vi Keeland heroine, Ireland is strong, independent, and feisty, and Andi nails that side of her personality. Why did you choose dual narrators over a single narrator?
VK: I think dual narration allows listeners to connect to the individual characters more. It also provides a nice break of voice, which keeps the material feeling fresh. I’ve been dying to try duet narration, and I think Inappropriate would have also been perfect for that.
PW: What’s the difference between dual narration and duet narration?
VK: In duet narration the female reads all the female parts and the male reads all the male parts—they’re acting it out together. Whereas in dual narration, one person reads an entire chapter based on which point of view is being presented in the text, so that each narrator must read both the female and male roles at times. Lauren Blakely does a ton of amazing full-cast and duet narration audiobooks.
PW: I think you should definitely try that! Okay, here’s an unrelated question. If you could choose one actor to voice one of your characters in an audiobook, who would it be and why? You have no budget constraints!
VK: I think I’d have to pick Sam Elliott! I’m in love with his voice. It’s iconic and memorable, and his delivery is just so dry and on point with sarcasm. Same question for you…who would you dream cast?
PW: For a male, I would have to say Josh Duhamel. I was watching a movie with him once and couldn’t help but think how good his voice would be for an audiobook. For a female narrator, I would say Claire Danes. I recently listened to her narrate The Handmaid’s Tale.
VK: While we’re on the subject of iconic voices, do you ever give direction to your narrators using a famous actor or scene that you had in mind while writing dialogue? For example, if your character is saying “Could you be any more difficult?” you might suggest the narrator make it sound like Chandler from Friends?
PW: Not yet, but that’s a great way of helping give the proper direction for a performance. It’s a little more specific than a direction like “spoken with a Southern twang” or something like that!
Okay…one last question. Who’s your favorite author to co-write with when publishing audiobooks?
VK: I’ll get back to you on that one. 😉