Welcome T.J. Klune and Michael Lesley, here to talk about the release of their new audiobook The Lightening-Struck Heart. See contest below to win one of ten copies of the Lightening-Struck Heart audiobook!
T.J. Klune Interviewed by Belen
Belen: First, I just want to get some fangirling squee out of the way and say just how much I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED The Lightning-Struck Heart! I didn’t think I could love it anymore, but then Michael Lesley did the narration and I fell even more in love with it. So thank you so much for this wonderful story!
Belen: This was a huge year for you, and next year is shaping up to be even bigger (Congratulations!!).
T.J.: Thank you! After the hiatus I took at the end of 2013 and through most of 2014, I really wanted to buckle down and get back into the swing of things. The Lightning-Struck Heart was the first thing I started after making the decision to continue writing again. Since then, I’ve written over a million words, and I don’t see myself slowing anytime soon.
Belen: Congratulations on The Lightning-Struck Heart having a 4.58 rating on Goodreads!
T.J.: It does? Wow, that’s awesome! I really don’t check those things, so I’m happy to hear it’s rated so highly. (Although, I don’t know what that says about people’s tastes in books =D).
Belen: When you first started writing TLSH did you think it was going to be as epic as it turned out to be?
T.J.: Honestly? No. I really didn’t set out to write something of that length, nor to have the adventure get as large as it did. And I didn’t really have any plans to continue it beyond the first book, if I even finished it. Lightning came at a time when I wanted to start writing again, but when I also needed to have something to laugh about.
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t always try to be a bastard and make my readers suffer the eternal affliction known as Wookie Cry Face.T.J. KluneThe first scene, the one in the cave with Lartin the Dark Leaf monologuing his plans for world domination, was essentially a writing exercise to me, to see if there was something in this story for me to continue with. There have been times I’ve gotten ideas for books, written the first scene and then stopped, because it wasn’t going anywhere. With Lightning, I started writing and then looked up to realize six hours had passed and I’d written twelve thousand words in one go. I thought I probably had something there.
And now with plans for a trilogy and a bunch of short stories, I think we’ll be seeing a lot of Verania for a long time to come.
T.J.: Contrary to popular belief, I don’t always try to be a bastard and make my readers suffer the eternal affliction known as Wookie Cry Face. It just happens sometimes. Okay, so it happens most of the time, but again, I don’t always mean for it too. Angst just for the sake of having it doesn’t really interest me. I learned my lesson with that in the initial BOATK book with the part were Julie McKenna comes back. It feels contrived when I look back on it now, and I try to avoid that if at all possible.
That being said, I can be a bastard and can admit to cackling maniacally when I get to parts that I know are going to give readers WCF. Case in point: the scene with Ryan and Sam atop Kevin’s tower? Yeah, that was planned almost as soon I knew I was going to continue with this book.
T.J.: There was, a bit, to Monty Python, and to The Princess Bride. These movies were definitive parts of my childhood, and the humor in them still gets to me today, even though it works on different levels than it did when I was ten.
Everything you hear in Lightning came from Michael without any direction from me.T.J. KluneBut I also wanted to write a messed up fairy-tale adventure for the Tumblr generation, which is why I chose to use modern language as opposed to “Prithee, young wastrel, and make haste as you put your member into my anus.” I’m never going to claim to be Tolkien or Pratchett, but I did want to put my own special snowflake stamp onto the fantasy genre.
Belen: Did you have much input in the creation of an audiobook?
T.J.: Most of the time. Dreamspinner will put a book up for auditions, and then will forward all auditions to me. I’ll listen to all of them before making a decision. Some, it’s obvious almost right away that the voice won’t work, but I try and listen to every audition all the way through. It’s getting to be quite the undertaking these days, given how the MM audiobook market is growing as it is, and I get dozens of auditions to listen through.
While I was listening to the auditions for this book, I couldn’t help but think that Michael would be perfect for Lightning, specifically when thinking about how he handled Sandy in the narration for Tell Me It’s Real. By the time I’d gotten through all the auditions, I’d found a couple narrators that worked, but still were missing that spark I was looking for. So I asked DSP to offer the audiobook to Michael Lesley without having to submit an audition. I trusted him that much with Lightning, knowing how talented he was. Thankfully, he accepted. He sent me a clip before he started into it to make sure he’d gotten the voices. To hear Gary for the first time without any notes or direction from me put the biggest smile on my face. Everything you hear in Lightning came from Michael without any direction from me. He’s that good. I couldn’t have asked for a better narrator.
T.J. Klune Social Media
Michael Lesley Interviewed by Belen
Belen: First, I’d just like to say congratulations on such a wonderful performance!
This audio is nearly twenty hours long, and has dozens of distinct character voices. This is, by far, your longest audio performance. What was your approach to this big of an undertaking?
I love trying new voices. Most of the time, I’m riding my bike and experimenting with an Italian accent or a Scottish or South African thing.Michael LesleyI’ll read a book for the first time on mic. About half of that content is good enough for the final product; much of it I have to go back and rerecord. This is frowned upon (and time consuming), but I really enjoy the spontaneity of a plot unfolding before me just as it will be unfolding before the listener. Particularly with someone like TJ who is full of surprises, I think these moments are captured better candid then when not. A lot of those characters were just immediate clicks, and some of them I had to go back and rerecord and rerecord. Justin and Randall took days to get where I wanted them. Gary and Tiggy were instantaneous.
Belen: What prompted you to choose the different accents? You have American, English, Scottish, and I think maybe a little Irish thrown in there too? Did you talk with TJ about what you wanted the different characters to sound like, or did you just go for it?
Michael: Okay, so here’s the thing. I’m an audiobook narrator because I just go around doing voices all the time. This is kinda weird, but it’s my thing. I love trying new voices. Most of the time, I’m riding my bike and experimenting with an Italian accent or a Scottish or South African thing. I’m sure I look insane. I also sing a bunch on my ol’ bicycle.
I do British accents all the time. I am wildly an Anglophile, but I’m usually too embarrassed to do them in an audiobook. Then TJ comes around with this fantasy story and there’s a kingdom that is so reminiscent of so much Anglo-lore that the feel of a British accent just fits. But it doesn’t have to be “British” it’s just “Veranian.” So I felt enabled to just go for it, and I’m glad I did because I was really into some of the characters I came up with. A Scottish dragon? Why the hell not?
Belen: What was your favorite scene (or scenes) to record?
Michael: Oh man, doing the Rystin Fan Club scene was awesome. There are so many women and I really wanted each one to have a unique personality. I just figured that would surprise the listener. Tina was soooooooo much fun to do and I really hope she has a resurgence in the future. And I wish I could be Mary’s friend.
Also, I loved the tavern scene because I was very squeamish about singing so I had to figure out a way to make it work. I love challenges. I spent hours figuring out how to make up a tune to “Cheesy dicks and candlesticks”. In case you are wondering, there are many different versions that may forever be entombed in their ProTools sarcophagus. I’m still not completely sure about the finished product, but at least it’s funny. Well, I mean, it makes me laugh.
This has been really great having you both answer my burning questions! Thanks so much to both TJ and Michael for taking their time to be with us. I really love this story and hope everyone checks it out!