After getting a taste of the winning combination of author Julie James and narrator Karen White with Penguin’s release of Just the Sexiest Man Alive in 2010, romance audio fans have been begging for more from this talented team. After all, Julie’s A Lot Like Love won the Best Contemporary Romance award in AAR’s 2012 Annual Reader Poll and Something About You won that same award in 2011. And since Karen’s narration of Just the Sexiest Man Alive, she has been praised throughout the romance audio community for her performances.
Tantor Audio delighted those same fans by releasing Something About You this past June followed by A Lot Like Love in August. About That Night releases today and we decided that’s reason for a celebration. Three Julie James hits released in audio format in less than three months! I don’t think there’s a better way to celebrate than a giveaway of all three!
We are giving away one set of MP3 CDs that includes Something About You, A Lot Like Love, and About That Night, courtesy of Tantor Audio. Place your name in the hat by commenting on this column by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, September 20th. 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 have access to free review copies due to reviewing for another Web site or blog, please refrain from entering. 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. The set of audiobooks will be mailed to the winner the following week.
Of course, no such celebration is complete without talking to the author who made it all possible and the narrator who now brings it to life out loud. And while I first experienced Julie James’ tales in print format (with complete delight I might add), I discovered Karen White through her performance of Just the Sexiest Man Alive. Julie and Karen are one of my favorite pairings in romance audio and I’m honored to talk with both today.
Talking with Julie James
Welcome Julie, to Speaking of Audiobooks! Romance audio enthusiasts are thrilled to call you an audiobook author with multiple titles.
Thanks so much for having me here! I’m thrilled to be an audiobook author with multiple titles.
Five of your romances feature at least one attorney and I must say that the legal side looks very realistic to me, especially compared to a number of other similar romances. I do know the reason for this, but I believe many of our listeners may not know. What is your legal background?
I’m a lawyer—I practiced at a large firm in Chicago for several years before leaving to write full-time. I specialized in employment discrimination litigation (sexual harassment, race and gender discrimination), which just so happens to be the same type of law practiced by the heroines in my first two books. With my third book, Something About You (SAY), I branched out into criminal law and begin to feature main characters who are federal prosecutors.
Prior to the release of Just the Sexiest Man Alive (JTSMA) in 2010, were you familiar with fictional audiobooks?
Actually . . . not at all. Just the Sexiest Man Alive was the first audiobook I ever listened to, and I had no idea what to expect. I remember being a little nervous, wondering what the narrator would sound like and whether she would be able to capture my author voice. Fortunately, I was really impressed by Karen White’s narration.
We like to think we wished your FBI/US Attorney series into audio. We wanted more Julie James audiobooks after that first taste of Just the Sexiest Man Alive. We publically wished for more of your titles numerous times here at Speaking of Audiobooks as well as our Romance Audiobooks Goodreads group. We even hoped for narrator Karen White. Can you share the steps that led to the release of the FBI/US Attorney series after Penguin’s single release of JTSMA?
First let me say how appreciative I am that you guys demanded more audiobooks! I’m with you—I’d been hoping for more audio releases myself. As you mentioned, Just the Sexiest Man Alive was released in audio by Penguin. The book was well-received by audiobook fans, and I hoped Penguin would subsequently release more of my books in that format. I asked (ahem, several times) if that was in cards and for whatever reason, it wasn’t. Never really got an answer why . . . maybe the JTSMA audiobook didn’t sell as well as they’d hoped? No clue.
Then, just this past May, I got word that Tantor wanted to buy the audio rights to Something About You. I was thrilled! I asked if we could get Karen White (who’d narrated JTSMA), and since Tantor had worked with Karen on other books they were able to accommodate my request.
The SAY audiobook came out on June 29th, and, candidly, I promoted it pretty hard. (I really wanted it to do well so that there would be more audiobooks.) Ten days after the release, I got the news that Tantor wanted to buy the rights to the other two books in the FBI/US Attorney series. Needless to say, that was a happy day.
While I was involved in all that wishing, I read Something About You, A Lot Like Love, and About That Night upon their release. But I didn’t realize they were part of a series until Tantor announced the release of the FBI/US Attorney series. Did I miss something along the way? Or was the series (and its name) a later decision on your part?
I joke that the FBI/US Attorney is the series I never realized I was writing until two books in. When I wrote the first book, Something About You, which featured an FBI agent hero and an assistant U.S. attorney heroine, I assumed it would be a stand-alone, like my prior two books. But when I sat down to write the book after that, A Lot Like Love, which also had an FBI agent hero, I realized there was no point in inventing another Chicago FBI office, that I could just use the same one I’d created in Something About You. So those two books became linked.
Then, when writing A Lot Like Love, there was a supporting character (the heroine’s brother) who was so interesting that I knew he would be the hero in my next book. That was the moment, really, when the “series” was born. When that third book, About That Night, came out, I gave the series an official name and added a series page to my website.
One thing I would like to note: I call these books a “series” in the sense that they are set in a shared world and some characters make appearances in later books. However, the books can easily be read as standalones, so readers should feel free to jump in wherever they like.
Since your most recent print title (April 2012), About That Night, is releasing today in audio, let’s talk about its plot and characters. Can you give us an overview and any particular thoughts you have on this particular release?
The hero is Kyle Rhodes, the twin brother of the heroine in A Lot Like Love, and he is a convicted felon. And yep, he really committed the crime—he’s a computer genius and he hacked into Twitter and shut down the site for 48 hours after his supermodel girlfriend broke up with him via a tweet and posted photos of her cheating on him with a Hollywood actor.
I knew the moment Kyle walked onto the page in his orange prison jumpsuit that he was going to get his own book. I loved the idea of this smoking-hot computer genius who goes to prison for shutting down Twitter of all things, and—oh—did I mention he’s also a billionaire heir?
About That Night picks up just when Kyle has been released from prison, and he wants to get his life back in order. He’s in for a surprise, however, when the U.S. Attorney’s office needs his help in a case involving a murdered prison inmate and the prosecutor assigned to the case, Rylann Pierce, is a woman from Kyle’s past. Kyle and Rylann have to work together, and are as attracted to each other as they were when they first met nine years ago, but they try to fight that attraction since he’s an ex-con and she’s an assistant U.S. attorney.
Is there a fourth FBI/US Attorney book in the works?
Yes, my next book, Love Irresistibly, is part of the series and will be out April 2nd.
Is there any indication at this time that it will also be released in audio? Possibly simultaneously released with the print version?
I haven’t heard anything yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed! I would love to see the series continue on in audio.
We’ll continue wishing away! And not only for Love Irresistibly but also for one of your earlier titles, Practice Makes Perfect (my personal favorite). Thanks Julie, for sharing with us today.
An Inside Look with Karen White
Welcome Karen! It’s been 18 months since I first interviewed you here at Speaking of Audiobooks and our listeners were excitedly talking about Julie’s Just the Sexiest Man Alive (JTSMA) at the time. Was that your first romance narration? Has the percentage of romance narrations compared to your overall titles increased?
JTSMA was my first romance narration! At that point I had only worked for Random House/Books-on-Tape and Tantor and neither had really jumped on the romance bandwagon. It was the first title I recorded at Deyan Audio (an audiobook production house here in Los Angeles) and it was for Penguin Audio. And, yes, the ratio of romance to other genres does seem to be increasing for me, which I think has to do with a shift in the industry. Publishers must be taking note that y’all are loyal listeners and are publishing more and more of them.
Well, we certainly love hearing that!
I’m sure you know that we have been wishing out loud for more Julie James audiobooks since the release of JTSMA. We were so pleased that Tantor chose you to continue performing her books. You are now the sound of Julie James to my ears.
We hear (and see proof) that once Tantor chooses to publish an audiobook (series), the whole process moves quickly. After Tantor picked up the FBI/US Attorney series, were you were contacted about the narration shortly thereafter? What was the time frame before recording actually began and how long did it take to record the entire series?
Well, first of all, I am proud to say that Julie actually requested me for the series. We kept in touch after JTSMA and I’d actually already read Something About You (SAY) for pleasure when it first came out. But I’m hoping her request had something to do with my performance on JTSMA, too!
This series came together faster than usual, I think, because the three books were already in print. I actually adjusted my schedule a bit (including crossing fingers that I didn’t get put on a trial as I ironically had jury duty scheduled in the middle) because I so wanted to be able to do them. I found out about SAY on May 14; I recorded it the last week of May and it released June 29. Then I got an email July 10 that they were doing #s 2 & 3. I had A Lot Like Love (ALLL) recorded by July 24 (it released August 27) and About That Night (ATN) on August 3, and it seems to be out now! So, it was a whirlwind process.
We noticed a change in your voicing of the hero in the first book of the series, Something About You. Brenda commented on it during her dual review with Carrie here at Speaking of Audiobooks:
I was struck by White’s very successful effort to deepen her male voice for Jack. It was the first time I heard her do so to this extent and I thought it very effective – he had a scrumptious voice.
Have you made changes in the performance of your male characters? Although I had no problem differentiating your heroes from heroines in your past romance narrations, I must agree with Brenda. I noticed a difference in SAY – one that is easier to catch (and one I appreciate as I usually multi-task when listening).
Well, after the big narrator pow-wow you hosted at Speaking of Audiobooks, I decided to take a few more risks with my characterizations. In Something About You, Jack Pallas has some really dark elements in his past. He’s “tall, dark and scowling”. Julie described his voice as “low and smooth as velvet”. Other words that stood out to me were “solitary”, “detached”, “kind of guy to avoid in dark alleys” and especially her description of him as a “stalking panther”. Besides the deeper tone, I kept his voice controlled and even in tempo. He did lighten up over the course of the book, as Cameron and he challenged each other to open up, but even when his sense of humor came out he stayed relatively subdued. He even jokes about his scowling reputation when he reappears in the other two books.
I’m currently listening to A Lot Like Love and I have to say that I remember Jack Pallas from SAY just by hearing him speak. You hit a homerun there.
Narrating an entire series surely has its challenges. What goes into your preparation?
For me, the challenge in doing a series is really the heroines. Of course we all have our “hero voices” that we’re most comfortable with, but when we are cast, it’s with the author’s and/or the main character’s voice in mind. So it makes sense that the heroine’s voice would be closest to our own. When there’s a series, you can’t simply use your own voice, especially if the heroines reappear in each other’s stories. So, what I try to do is work from a part of my voice (including pitch, tempo, energy, etc.). All of Julie’s heroines have her trademark “not quite sarcastic” sense of humor, which I, too share. For Cameron Lynde in Something About You though, the descriptions “smoky, feminine voice” and “driven and focused” all led me to a deeper, no nonsense sound. Jordan Rhodes of A Lot Like Love was also serious about the wine business but physically she was very different. Julie compares her to Grace Kelly and that led me to lighten her a bit. Her voice is higher and more feminine and playful. Then Rylann Pierce of About That Night had a “sexy, throaty voice” that was “slightly husky”. On top of that, she’s a “law geek” and very Type A about her career plan. My voice for her was mid-range, direct, and more in the back of the throat. What was great about the FBI/US Attorney series was that I was able to read ahead and know what was coming! Cameron and Jordan both reappear in ATN so I had to make sure I kept them all straight, and Kyle Rhodes (the hero in ATN, is Jordan’s brother, so he was heavily featured in ALLL).
What are you working on at this time? Are there any future projects you can share with us?
At the moment I am working on several non-fiction books (including one for Tantor about Louisa May Alcott’s mother called Marmee and Louisa by Eve LaPlante). I have a few mystery themed romances coming, Dangerous Affairs by Diana Miller for Brilliance and Don’t Cry and Don’t Say a Word by Beverly Barton for Audible. I enjoy Barton’s books because they’re set in the south (where I’m from originally) and thankfully these two aren’t quite as scary/gory as the last series of hers I recorded. No nightmares so far. And in October I will be recording a tongue-in-cheek vampire book for Harper called A Girl’s Guide to Vampires by Katie MacAlister. And I sure hope that I get to do the 3rd in the Animal Attraction series by Jill Shalvis. Have to know what happens to that hunk, Adam!
We’re hoping you narrate that third Animal Attraction book as well. Talk about performing animals effectively – you have it down!
Thanks Karen for talking with us today. We always enjoy visiting with you!
Helping us celebrate the release of the FBI/US Attorney series, Karen is also running a giveaway at her site, Home Cooked Books, of two of the three books in the series – A Lot Like Love and About That Night. Drop by and double your chances of winning these two titles!
Photography credit goes to Colette Blonigan for Karen White’s photo.
I’m announcing news for the Speaking of Audiobooks column and other audio tidbits on Twitter – look for SpeakingofAudio (Lea Hensley).
For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.
– Lea Hensley