Audiobooks.com Interview with Dani Shapiro, Author of Inheritance

Have you ever uncovered a secret about your family that changed the way you look at both your life and your family in general? This happened to Dani Shapiro, author of the bestselling memoirs Hourglass, Slow Motion, Devotion, and her latest, Inheritance.

We were lucky enough to interview Shapiro and pick her brain on the topics of audiobooks, memoirs, and her podcast Family Secrets.


Audiobooks.com: How do you prepare before narrating your own memoirs? 

Dani Shapiro: I try to put myself all the way into the book so I can be living, breathing, the book during the hours I’m narrating. It’s such an intimate experience to narrate my own memoirs, and I want to impart that same sense of immediacy and intimacy to the reader.


Audiobooks.com: What do readers gain from listening to Inheritance or your other memoirs that they might miss out on by reading the print versions?

Dani Shapiro: That intimacy I’m talking about – I think that’s very particular to great audiobooks. After all, we listen alone – often with ear buds in place, or alone in a car. We’re receiving the voice of the narrator in an unmediated way. What emotion is being conveyed through the voice? We talk a lot about “voice” when it comes to literature, but when we’re talking about an audiobook, we’re literally talking about a voice and all it can contain.


Audiobooks.com: How has uncovering the truth about your paternity shaped how you tell your own story?

Dani Shapiro: Oh, my goodness. How has it not? One of the most interesting aspects of uncovering the truth about my paternity is how, in a way, it was always hiding in plain sight in my creative process. My themes, as a novelist, always revolved around family secrets. As I write in Inheritance, I always knew there was a secret. What I didn’t know: the secret was me. And so I’ve always, always supplied narratives to my own story in an attempt to piece it together, to understand. But it wasn’t until I discovered that something as fundamental as my identity has been kept from me that I was able to hold it all, see it all, understand it all.


Audiobooks.com: Your podcast, Family Secrets, gives listeners the platform to share their personal stories about secrets they’ve kept and those that have, in turn, been kept from them. Why were you compelled to create this podcast, and how have other people’s stories influenced how you think about your own experiences with your family?

Dani Shapiro: The podcast grew organically out of having written Inheritance. After I finished the final draft of the book, I was on the phone one afternoon with a friend, an early reader – the great Buddhist mindfulness teacher Sylvia Boorstein – and reading Inheritance prompted Sylvia to tell me a riveting story of her own family secret. She’s a great storyteller, and as she was talking, I found myself wishing I was recording her. And then I had the thought: hey, what about a podcast? I had no idea what I was doing, at first. I had a lot of help. But what I quickly learned is that storytelling is storytelling. I absolutely love the form of Family Secrets. I love sitting down with my guests and guiding them through their stories – “holding” their stories is the way I think of it, by writing scripts that allow their stories to be their most coherent and powerful.


Audiobooks.com: How does recording a podcast differ from recording an audiobook? Did your experiences with narrating your own memoirs help with the process of creating your podcast?

Dani Shapiro: Recording the podcast is quite different from recording an audiobook, in that it’s a conversation. A highly-produced conversation, but nonetheless, it’s a dialogue. The one similarity is that I’m using my speaking voice – an instrument I had never really paid much attention to before. It turns out I have a good voice for this sort of thing – not something I’d ever considered.


Audiobooks.com: Since creating the podcast, have you enjoyed taking a step back from your writing or are you itching to get behind the keyboard again?

Dani Shapiro: Between touring for Inheritance and the podcast, I haven’t had much time for my own writing, and for right now, that’s okay. I’ll know when it no longer feels right. These have been huge changes in my creative life, and as I always tell my students, when you’re a writer, you are your own instrument. We have to be respectful of that instrument, and the way it changes over time.


Audiobooks.com: What can we expect from season 3 of Family Secrets?

Dani Shapiro: I’m almost finished recording season 3 which will launch in early February! We have some absolutely amazing guests this coming season. I feel like the stories keep deepening, evolving, and becoming more nuanced. Finding great guests is shockingly easy. ∎


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