Audio Q&A: Darynda Jones & Lorelei King

The author and narrator are uniquely positioned to discuss a book, since they spend more time with and pay closer attention to the material than almost anyone. Here, Darynda Jones (l.), author of Fifth Grave Past the Light, and Lorelei King, who narrates the audiobook, as well as Jones’s other four Charley Davidson series titles and her “Darklight Trilogy,” discuss the ins and outs of writing and narrating. In the new release, grim reaper and paranormal PI Charley has to contend with the son of Satan moving in next door and her own apartment filling up with the recently departed.


Are you ever envious of Charley’s supernatural powers? Which of her superpowers do you most wish you possessed?

Not so much envious as just a general sense of, “How cool would it be to have that ability?” Then I think about all the responsibility that would go along with it. Your life would no longer be your own. Then I think, “Who cares? That would rock!” I would absolutely love to be able to tell when someone is lying or to be able to sense a person’s emotions. But eventually Charley is going to come into the ability that I would love to have the most. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what it is without giving away a major plot point. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought it up.

As an audiobook narrator, I am aware of the huge responsibility I have to the writer when I voice their characters. Is it hard to hear someone else’s interpretation of your work?

Not for me personally. I am always amazed at things you pick up on that I didn’t pay much attention to, at how you interpret something and give a scene a different life, a unique twist. At first it made me hyperaware of how salient the role of interpretation is. Now I just find it fascinating.

What does the future look like for Charley Davidson?

Chaos. Madness. Upheaval. You know, the usual, but I will say that readers can expect some very significant, life-altering twists very soon. Fifth Grave introduces us to one of those at the very end, and there are more on the way. But she will always be what she is: wisecracking, lovable, horridly flawed. That won’t ever change.

I’ve noticed you really engage with your fans on Twitter and Facebook. How important do you think it is for writers to be involved in social media?

In today’s world, very. I’m not saying you have to spend hours a day on social sites, but even just a post a day will help build an audience and connect with it. That being said, I probably do it for more sentimental reasons. I am so appreciative that people want to read something I’ve written. People spend their money and their valuable time wading though thousands of words I’ve thrown onto a piece of paper. And sometimes they like it! It’s humbling and surreal and I am so very grateful for every reader I have. I think offering a quick thank you to my readers is the least I can do.


What kind of preparation is involved in recording an audiobook?

I read the book through once, making a cast list and a words-to-be-looked-up-for-pronunciation list as I go—things like medical terms and place names. I might ask the author how a name is pronounced. I think I asked you about a couple of names when we recorded First Grave on the Right. I might go on YouTube to see if I can find a clip of someone saying it. If it’s a company name, I call them up to see how they answer the phone. If it’s a city, I’ll phone the Chamber of Commerce. And I’ve been known to email complete strangers asking how to pronounce their names. People are usually fantastically helpful.

I do very little marking up of the script itself, unless there’s a particularly tricky passage where the word stress isn’t obvious. If there’s a “stage direction” (for example, “he said angrily”), I’ll circle that adverb so I see it before I say the line. I’ll do anything to avoid stopping the recording! With a series book, I’ll also dig out my old cast lists to make sure the voice is consistent for any returning characters.

You have such a talent for showing the listener the different characters by creating different voices for each and sticking to them throughout. How do you come up with the voices and how do you keep them all straight?

I have a pretty solid background in radio drama and animation, which has stood me in good stead when coming up with voices for audiobooks. The author will often give you clues as to the kind of voice a character should have, which is great. If there are no clues, I use my imagination—and my ears are always on alert. If a friend or acquaintance has an unusual or quirky voice, they’re bound to turn up in one of my readings sooner or later! I never tell them, of course, because I’ve usually…um…heightened their quirk. Keeping the voices straight is surprisingly easy, but I can always refer to my cast list if I get stuck, as it will have brief notes on the voices I’ve chosen for characters.

I was floored when I first heard your voice for Lorelei, my protagonist in the “Darklight Trilogy.” You sound so young! How do you go from that sexy, husky voice that is all Charley Davidson to a youthful teen? It’s brilliant!

Oh, I’m so relieved you said that! Charley’s voice is very close to my own, but I worry about Lorelei (my name-baby!), as it’s been a while since I was in high school. I do tighten my throat to make the voice a bit higher, but really I think it’s about trying to convey the spirit of being that age rather than trying to reproduce a strictly accurate teenage sound.

Do you have to do many takes while recording an audiobook, or is it more of a one-sitting kind of gig? I get so tongue-tied, I can’t imagine narrating a whole book.

Happily, I’m reasonably fluent, so we don’t have to stop too often. I read ahead; my eyes and brain are always a couple of lines ahead of what my mouth is saying, so I know what’s coming up. If I stumble, I do the retake immediately. The biggest challenge is keeping the energy up for a full day’s recording and for several days in a row! You have to sound as fresh at 5 p.m. as you did at 10 a.m. and as enthusiastic on Thursday as you did on Monday.