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A Conversation with Willetta Heising

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

A Conversation with Willetta Heising

Next up in our new "Sounding Off on Audio" series is Willetta Heising, author of DETECTING WOMEN and DETECTING MEN, award-winning reader's guides for series mysteries. No stranger to the world of audiobooks, Willetta has been listening for more than 20 years. Less surprising is her preference for crime fiction, and here she shares some of her favorite reads, er...listens. (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?

Willetta Heising: At least 20 years.

Q: What made you start listening?

WH: I started listening while walking and then added audiobooks in the car. These days, I never get in the car without an audiobook.

Q: When and where do you listen?

WH: Mostly in the car, and sometimes in my living room, if I'm near the end of a book and can't wait for the next time behind the wheel.

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

WH: Crime fiction. Mostly series.

Q: What do you use to listen to audiobooks?

WH: I use a CD player in the car and Bose Wave in the living room.

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

WH: Yes and no. Despite my crime fiction addiction, I cannot read James Patterson in print. There's something about those short sentences and three-page chapters that make my head hurt. Thankfully, none of that matters with audio, so I never miss the latest appearance of Detectives Alex Cross or Michael Bennett. While they are great companions for a long trip, I don't recommend Alex Cross for night driving. That audio experience is better left to daylight hours!

Q: Where do you buy/borrow audiobooks from?

WH: All my audiobooks come from libraries.

Q: Do you share your audiobooks with anyone?

WH: I often preach about the joys of audiobook listening, especially my favorite narrators.

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

WH: Strictly solo.

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

WH: 25 to 30%. That's more than 500 audiobooks in the last 15 years.

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

WH: I am very particular about audiobook narrators. If an author is new to me, the first question I always ask is "Who's the reader?" Since 1999, I've listened to 200 titles read by my Fab Four --- George Guidall, Richard Ferrone, Ron McLarty and the late Frank Muller --- 101 of those by George Guidall. I've also enjoyed at least a dozen titles from each of the following: Mark Hammer, Jonathan Marosz, Richard Poe, Barbara Rosenblat, Tom Stechschulte and Jeff Woodman.

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

WH: Two very different series come immediately to mind when I think of memorable listening experiences. In fact, I've been known to wait however long it takes for my library to order the audiobook, so that I can savor the experience. With a print book from a favorite series, there is the risk of gobbling up the latest installment in a single sitting. But listening forces me to slow down.

If you've not yet discovered Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series, I urge you to read the first two titles in print (MAISIE DOBBS and BIRDS OF A FEATHER). Then switch immediately to audio, starting with the third in the series, PARDONABLE LIES, and let Orlagh Cassidy beam you back to WWI-era London. I have told the author that I cry at least once in every book, but be forewarned about Book Seven (THE MAPPING OF LOVE AND DEATH). I was caught completely off guard in Chapter One, and had to pull over because my eyes were flooded with tears. You'll be haunted by this story.

On the other hand, listening to Jim Frangione read Spencer Quinn's Chet and Bernie books is like taking a road trip with your best friend from high school, who owns the coolest dog in the neighborhood. Never mind that the dog tells the story. It works! But you'll have to ignore the driver in the next car who wonders why you're laughing your way down the highway.

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

WH: BY ITS COVER, Book 23 in Donna Leon's series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, involves the theft of rare book pages from a Venetian library. David Colacci's reading seems just right for the refined Brunetti, and who doesn't love a good bibliomystery?