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A Conversation with Wendy Corsi Staub

Sounding Off on Audio: Interviews with Listeners About Their Love of Audiobooks

A Conversation with Wendy Corsi Staub

We kick off our "Sounding Off on Audio" feature with New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub, who answered our questions about her audiobook preferences --- and filled us in on her nifty Waterproof iPod Shuffle so she can listen to books as she swims. Many thanks to Wendy for taking time out of her busy schedule to help us launch this exciting new feature. (Click on the covers below if you would like to listen to a sample of the audiobook.)

Question: How long have you been listening to audiobooks?

Wendy Corsi Staub: I started about two years ago. At that point, I was writing more books per year than I was reading. With two kids and constant back-to-back deadlines and a million other things going on, I just never had time to sit down with a book anymore.

Q: What made you start listening?

WCS: To be honest, it was one of those email offers --- maybe Groupon --- to try Audible. It was June, and I hadn’t planted my garden yet because I was on a tight deadline. Then it hit me: Hey, maybe I can plant my garden and read a book at the same time!

Q: You recently mentioned that you have a Waterfi Waterproof iPod Shuffle for listening while swimming. Tell us about that.

WCS: I’ve had back problems --- occupational hazard --- and joined a gym with an indoor pool last fall so that I could keep up my lap swimming year-round as physical therapy. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I spotted a swimmer in the next lane clipping a little iPod to his suit and putting in earbuds. I went straight home and googled. Sure enough, there’s a waterproof Shuffle, the Waterfi. I ordered one immediately, and two days later, I was in the pool hearing “Chapter One…”

Q: When and where do you listen besides when in the pool?

WCS: Typically, I’ll plug in when I have a long stretch of household chores to do --- cleaning out a closet, refinishing my son’s bedroom furniture, that kind of thing. I don’t like to do it when I only have five or 10 minutes here and there to start dinner or fold laundry or whatever because I find that I drag out the task because I want to keep listening. Of course, it’s great on a commuter train or plane, or in the car on long solo drives. I don't drive far enough on a daily basis since I work from home. I can't listen in fits and starts. I don't turn on an audiobook unless I have time to read a chapter, which is about a half hour, give or take. And I try to stop at chapter breaks (including when I'm swimming) because it's hard to pick up mid-scene with an audiobook. You can't glance back a few paragraphs as a refresher. 

Q: What kinds of books do you like to listen to best?

WCS: I love Laurie Notaro’s books on audio; they’re hilarious essay collections. However, those aren’t something you want to listen to in a public place because you can’t help but laugh maniacally, and people might assume you’re a nutcase. (Although, if you want a train seat all to yourself…)

Q; What, besides your waterproof iPod, do you use to listen to audiobooks?

WCS: Until the waterproof Shuffle came along, I listened on my iPhone.

Q: Are the books that you listen to different from the kinds of print and eBooks you read?

WCS: Yes, because a lot of what I read is nonfiction for my research. Right now, for example, I’m writing the second book in my Mundy’s Landing suspense trilogy for HarperCollins, and it’s challenging because it has a historic crime that unfolds within the contemporary thriller. So I’m immersed in history books and early 20th-century police procedural. Not only would those books not transfer well to audio, because they’re not necessarily a smooth, linear narration, I tend to read and reread, mark pages, skip around looking for what I need, or take notes. That’s not something that works in audio.

Q: Where do you buy/borrow audiobooks from?

WCS: I buy them from iBooks or Audible, and I borrow from our library. Our library's digital collection is pretty limited so I've only done CDs from there so far, although I expect that to change.

Q: Do you share your audiobooks with anyone?

WCS: I can’t get my husband interested --- he reads a couple of books a week, but the old-fashioned way. But my older son, who’s away at college majoring in English/Creative Writing, recently started swimming laps, and when I told him about my new reading/swimming routine, he said he wanted to borrow my Shuffle when he’s home on break to try it out at the gym.  

Q: Do you listen with anyone else, or is it a solo experience?

WCS: Totally solo --- that’s one of the pleasures of regular reading, so it’s no different with an audiobook!

Q: What percentage of your reading is done via audiobooks?

WCS: At this point, about half. 

Q: Do you have favorite narrators? If so, tell us about them.

WCS: The narrator of Laurie Notaro’s books has a fabulous dry delivery --- it’s almost like listening to great standup comedy. And I’ve run across one whose character voices drove me crazy --- not good crazy, just way over the top. But the author is a household name and personal acquaintance, so I can’t name the book.

Q: What are some of the most memorable books that you’ve listened to and why?

WCS: Fittingly, I read my way through a good chunk of Harlan Coben’s SIX YEARS on the way to and from the World Mystery Convention, Bouchercon, in Albany last year! And when my boys were young, long before books could be downloaded, I bought my beloved Little House series on CD so that we could listen to the books on a three-week road trip through the Great Plains, where we were visiting some of the Little House historic sites where Laura Ingalls Wilder had lived. The boys tuned out, but my husband became a fan!

Q: Your own novels are available on audio. Tell us what it’s like to be an author listening to your work.

WCS: Is it bad that I haven’t listened to my own books on audio? I keep thinking I should, but there are so many other books out there to read, and my time is so precious. Besides, I never reread my books once they’re published. I’d find too many things I wanted to change and would be helpless. You can revise forever. That would be frustrating!

Q: What is the last audiobook you listened to? Tell us about it.

WCS: Right now, I’m breaking my cardinal rule about not reading suspense fiction while I’m writing it. I’m in the middle of Harlan Coben’s MISSING YOU, which I bought when it came out in print a few months back and never found the time to read this summer. I couldn’t resist!