Friday, 19 April 2013

Follow the yellow brick road...

In an occasional series of interviews between writers and the actors who record their books, narrator Lorelei King sits down with crime writer Chris Nickson to ask about his latest book – Emerald City – and what it was like hearing it in an audio version...

Q: Tell us a little bit about how Emerald City came about.

Write what you know is what people say, and for the first time in a novel, that's what I did. I lived in Seattle from 1986-2005, and I did work as a music journalist there - as well as running telemarketing operations, delivering newspapers and supervising newspaper carriers, which involved starting work at 2.30 am! But now, as a mystery writer, and someone who loves Seattle, even if I don't live there any more, it seemed time to take a look at the past, and also at the music. The style that became grunge developed in the Pacific Northwest; it was a groundswell that broke out, in large part, to some clever marketing from the Sub Pop label. But it coincided with Seattle being named American's most liveable city and so many people moving there. All of a sudden, after being depressed, Seattle was where everyone wanted to be. And a music journalist...not a professional investigator, but someone who can still ask questions and think.

Q: Was it strange writing from a woman’s point of view?

Until Creative Content suggested I rewrite the book with the main character as a woman, I'd never thought about it. But once I did, I liked the idea. It opened it up and moved beyond the stereotype, which I liked. It was definitely a challenge, and it involved changing every single interaction, because people will treat a woman differently, whether in what they say, body language, all sorts. It also affected the relationship Laura's involved in with Steve. In the end I'm happy it went this way. Someone who's reading the book said 'You write like a woman' (it was a woman who said it) and I take that as a great compliment.

Q: What is it like hearing your book in audio form?

It was a revelation, and opened it up in a way that had never happened on the page; it gave it an extra dimension. I enjoyed it far more than I'd expected, even though I knew what was going to happen. Hearing the voice I felt much more involved in it all. And the narration, the tone, the speed, was superb.

Q: What’s the best thing about hearing it in audio?

Much of what I said above. Really, it drew me in and made me aware that in many ways the book is a love letter to Seattle, which I hadn't realised before. I was actually sad when it ended. It gave me an entirely different perspective on the work, which is no bad thing for an author.

Q: What’s the worst thing?

Hearing little things I could have done better in the writing, a word repeated too soon, things like that. Just minor, thankfully.

Q: Is there anything you would change in the audio version of your book?

Honestly, no. It would have been nice to have some music in there, given the subject matter of the novel, but that was never likely to happen.

Q: What do you think of books in audio form generally?

Although one of my books has come out on audio before (The Broken Token), this is the first I've listened to all the way through. I've always been very much an advocate of the written word. This is going some way to changing my mind, however.

Emerald City, first in the Laura Barton Mystery trilogy, is available in eBook and audio book formats.

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