AudioFile: You’ve made a commitment over the last few years to produce your titles in audio format. Why did you decide to make that project such a priority?
Kristen Ashley: I think it’s important for authors to offer their work to readers in as many formats as possible. Not only do readers have their favorite ways of consuming a book, a goodly number of them cross over from print to digital to audio, and they need to fit reading into busy daily lives. In return, as writers, we need to give them as many options available to do that. Until Audible approached me to start producing my work in audio, it was a project I couldn’t fathom taking on, on my own. It seemed mammoth and thus unattainable. So when they approached, I jumped at the chance, and it’s been awesome!
AF: Tell us about your latest audio-only project. How did the idea come about? What excited you about it? Did anything about the project surprise you or change the way you think about your writing?
KA: Audible is in the final throes of producing all my back library titles in print, so these releases are still ongoing.
However, they also approached me about doing an Audible Original. I have to say I was hesitant at first. I like to be inclusive of all my readers and so out-of-the-ordinary exclusives are tough to manage. That said, it’s heartening that some readers who’ve never tried audio are on board to give my Audible Original COMPLICATED a shot! And I love working with the team at Audible. They’ve come up with some fun ways to help promote the book, including giving me pictures of the narrators while they were performing that I could share, which, not being close to their studios, is something I haven’t been able to be a part of, so it was really cool for me to see those, and I think my readers feel more a part of the process as well.
As for doing this original work with Audible changing the way I think about writing, it hasn’t. I have a pretty highly-tuned process that (I hope!) works across platforms. The good news is that it seems to have worked so far. And this is definitely a case of, if it works, don’t fix it!
AF: What qualities do you think are most important in your narrators? Was there one of your books that was particularly difficult to cast, and why?
KA: I have to feel the narrator personifies (as best they can) the character as she or he sounds in my head. Most of my books are first person and therefore those voices are very strong. I also listen to a number of clips when selecting narrators and find those with ranges between books are important, mostly because my novels normally have a large cast of characters so range is crucial.
I’ve never had a book difficult to cast. Audible has a fantastic troop of narrators. However, I did have a beautiful moment when I first heard the narration of my book FOR YOU, the first in The ’Burg series. The narrator, Liz Thompson, sounded so much like my heroine, February Owens, that I was instantly brought to tears. I don’t tend to listen to my audiobooks all the way through because, no matter how carefully we cast, I have a difficulty reconciling this. But Liz was utter perfection!
AF: What comments do you get from your readers about your audiobooks? Any fan favorites?
KA: I was delighted how thoroughly my audio readers embraced my books in that format. I didn’t know what to expect but I didn’t expect them to be so excited about them that they couldn’t wait for the next (and the next and the next). With my independent titles as they’re being released, we have to carefully arrange schedules in hopes that we can release in all formats on the same date so as not to disappoint my avid audio fans!
The books all have their supporters but I’d say Susannah Jones’s work in my Rock Chick series and Tillie Hooper’s work in my Fantasyland series are the most popular. Susannah had a great number of beloved characters to give to readers, and she did beautifully. I get compliments for Susannah all the time. Tillie had to take on a fantasy world with completely made-up place names, and one book had an entirely made-up language! My readers marvel at how well she did with those. I know it was a lot of work for her but she nailed it!
AF: Which of your audiobooks would you recommend listeners start with?
KA: It really depends on what genres they like to read/listen to. But I always say start with my Rock Chicks. I do a lot of crossing over between series, and that’s my flagship series, so it all starts there. If a reader/listener is into paranormal or fantasy, I’d definitely recommend the Fantasyland series. A challenge for Tillie that she rose to beautifully.
Thank you for having me at AudioFile Magazine! Happy listening and rock on!
Many thanks to Kristen Ashley for taking time from writing to share her audiobook love with us, and don’t miss COMPLICATED. You’re in for a roller-coaster romance ride with unforgettable narrators. Read the full review of COMPLICATED here.