Interview with Lis Wiehl, Author of ‘Hunting The Unabomber’

If you’re a true crime aficionado, then you’ve definitely heard the story of the Unabomber. This case captivated the masses in the 90s, but there’s so much more to the story that Lis Wiehl, author of Hunting the Unabomber, has brought to light.

We got the chance to pick her brain about audiobooks, the recording process, and what inspired her to write about the Unabomber for her latest release. Keep reading to see what she had to say. What can readers gain from listening to the audiobook version of  Hunting the Unabomber that they might not necessarily get from reading the print version?

Lis Wiehl: Through my tone of voice, readers will get a heightened sense of drama and excitement on the hunt for this notorious domestic terrorist. As I read the pages I relived the hunt with the FBI agents, profilers, and all the other sources who made this book come alive. Reading the actual words I’d written was a very personal thing, and I think that personal experience comes through in an audiobook. If you listen closely, you can hear my smirk, chuckle, and sigh. You can’t read those expressions in the printed version. Was your initial plan to narrate your own book, or was this one of the roadblocks you met with COVID-19?

Lis Wiehl: It was absolutely my initial plan to narrate this book. Even as I was writing the book, I knew I wanted to narrate it. I had recorded most of the book before the COVID-19 shelter in place occurred. But, after shelter in place happened, it looked like we might have to hire a professional audio reader or actor who had a home studio, and who could record the book from scratch.

Fortunately, my amazing audio producer, Gabe Wicks, ultimately secured a safe studio where I could record the last installment of the audiobook. I am extremely grateful to the editorial team at Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins for sticking with me through COVID-19! How would you say this recording experience differed from narrating your other audiobooks?

Lis Wiehl: Other than the scare surrounding COVID-19, this recording was different because I was creating an important historical record by telling the story through people who had lived and experienced the events. I felt they were counting on me to get it right. I had only my voice to convey the tenor and tone of the whole operation. That was a big task! Did you ever consider narrating one of your fiction titles? Is this something you might do in the future?

Lis Wiehl: I’m not an actor. I’m not a professional audio reader. I read Hunting the Unabomber because this is nonfiction, and I thought my voice could convey raw emotion, changing tone, and personal connection in a way a professional reader might not. But I’ll leave reading my fiction titles, which require different voices for different characters, to the audio professionals. What made you decide to research the Unabomber for your latest release in the “Hunting” series?

Lis Wiehl: The Unabomber represents the longest domestic terrorist hunt in FBI history. That makes him a natural subject for me. For nearly two decades, the Unabomber terrorized a nation from a remote cabin in Montana. And Kaczynski was a mathematics wunderkind, going to Harvard at a young age, and even teaching at the college level, so he was a puzzle to figure out. I was fascinated to study the motivations behind his descent in to destruction. And the Unabomber is relevant today. What he did changed the way the FBI conducts its investigations even now. Are you currently working on anything new that you can share with us?

Lis Wiehl: I am deep on the hunt in my next installment of the Hunting series! The target of my hunt not only cost lives, but also endangered national security for years. Through interviews with key players involved in hunting my subject, I’m uncovering new mysteries, solving puzzles, and unlocking secrets that will make this book a thrilling ride!∎

New to Get your first book free, PLUS a bonus book from our VIP selection when you sign up for our one-month free trial. Digital audiobooks make audible stories come to life when you’re commuting, working out, cleaning, cooking, and more! Listening is easy with our top-rated free audiobook apps for iOS and Android, which let you download & listen to bestselling audiobooks on the go, wherever you are. Click here to get your free audiobooks! Interview with Sophie Kinsella, Author of The Shopaholic Series

Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic debuted in 2003 and since then has snowballed into an extremely popular and successful series that not only boasts 10 books in its line-up, but also has a movie adaptation of the first book starring Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Krysten Ritter, Joan Cusak, and John Lithgow – to name a few.

Now, Kinsella has released the 10th book in the series, Christmas Shopaholic, where Becky is faced with the daunting task of hosting the big family holiday celebration at her place. With every step she takes to make everything perfect she worries if she can really pull this off.

We were able to catch up with Kinsella recently to ask her a few questions about her latest release and what she sees on the horizon for both Becky and the Shopaholic series. What do you look for in an ideal audiobook narrator?

Sophie Kinsella: I love to hear characterful voices. When I write, my books are all first person and so the voice is very clearly in my head. I love it when an audiobook narrator taps into the narrative voice I have had in my head when writing. What do readers gain from listening to the audiobook that they miss out on if they just read the print version?

Sophie Kinsella: When I read books that I like, I often whip through them very quickly, and think afterwards that I’ve missed some of the subtlety and wit of the writing. With audiobooks you have the opportunity to luxuriate in the writing. In Christmas Shopaholic, Becky’s family has long-standing holiday traditions. Does your family have any similar, fun traditions that you’ve kept up over the years?

Sophie Kinsella: We play a brilliant game where you have to put on hats and gloves and scarves and eat a chocolate bar with a knife and fork. We also read ‘Twas the night before Christmas every Christmas Eve before we put out mince pies and sherry by the fire for Father Christmas to find. Becky is tasked with hosting the holiday festivities and chaos ensues. Did you draw on your own personal experiences with hosting family over the holidays? And if chaos ensues, how do you deal with it?

Sophie Kinsella: I don’t know what you mean – there is never any chaos when I host Christmas… Seriously, I think it’s easy to panic over Christmas arrangements but I’m lucky that we as a family are all quite forgiving of each other – and a box of candy and a small glass of sherry will always smooth things over! In this installment of the Shopaholic series, in typical Becky-fashion, she strives to host the perfect holiday get-together and get everyone the perfect gifts. What do you think it is about Becky that causes your readers to have such a soft spot for her?

Sophie Kinsella: It absolutely thrills me that Becky has such an enduring appeal. I think she feels real to a lot of my readers – she certainly feels real to me! She has grown and matured over the years, even though she is the same Becky and still gets into trouble. And although she has flaws, she also has many qualities which are inspiring – her optimism, her good-heartedness, her ingenious solutions to problems, and her relationships with her family and friends. She always tries her best, even if her best usually backfires. And more personally from your own perspective, what is it about Becky and her story that makes you want to keep returning to it again and again?

Sophie Kinsella: I love Becky like no other character! She’s the only heroine I’ve created that I keep returning to. I just love writing in her voice and seeing the world through her eyes. She’s so optimistic and can-do and has her own special logic. Where do you see Becky and her family in 10 years?

Sophie Kinsella: I’m sure Becky will have given up shopping and she and Luke will be a sensible ordinary couple… or not!∎

New to Get your first book free, PLUS a bonus book from our VIP selection when you sign up for our one-month free trial. Digital audiobooks make audible stories come to life when you’re commuting, working out, cleaning, cooking, and more! Listening is easy with our top-rated free audiobook apps for iOS and Android, which let you download & listen to bestselling audiobooks on the go, wherever you are. Click here to get your free audiobooks! Interview with Andrea Emmes, Audiobook Narrator

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind-the-scenes while narrating an audiobook, take a listen to our interview with audiobook narrator, Andrea Emmes, where she chats about her favorite titles, how she gets into character, and sheds some light on the audiobook recording process. Let’s start out with how you got into narrating audiobooks.

Andrea: That’s a good question. I’ve been a performer for most of my professional life, actress or dancer. In 2006, I actually was in a bad accident in a stage show I was in and ended up getting a pain disorder, so I had to regroup and find something else to do. So, I went back to college, got a degree in video game design and art design and was a Game Designer at Disney Interactive for a couple years, but then got laid off.

I was like, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?” It’s so hard to find another job, especially with my pain disorder. I don’t even remember how exactly I was looking and my husband went, “Well, why don’t you look into audiobooks?” Because he listens to audiobooks all the time. “Oh my god, that’s a great idea.” because I have my voice over equipment and my mic—I still had all my equipment, so I started researching it and I found an article on ACX that Sean Allen Pratt, who is a coach and a narrator, wrote, reached out to him, and kind of started from there. Very cool. So, when it comes to recording audiobooks, what is your process for getting into character?

Andrea: Ou, that’s a good question. It’s so interesting because when you’re doing a book you’re every character, right? Right!

Andrea: So, we have to flip flop back and forth constantly kind of like Sybil, if you know that movie reference? I might’ve dated myself.

I do a lot of prep work beforehand. I have this whole spreadsheet where, as I’m reading the book, I write down all the characters—information about them, their quirks, their age, certain vocal qualities or accents that are listed in the book, or other attitude attributes. So, I have them kind of locked in at least there, so I have an idea of who everyone is before I actually go into the recording studio. Because it’s kind of a constant switch back and forth, sometimes there’s a lot of stopping and I have to go back to my spreadsheet, take a moment, “Oh yeah, that’s right, where we are in the scene,” until you finally get into the flow of being able to switch back and forth.

A lot of times it’s just a matter of, “Okay, I’ve got this one character who is quirky, but she’s a little bit jealous of the main character because she wants that guy or whatever.” Then, I try to just say, “Where would I find that emotion?” Or, I’ll actually have this list of character references to say, “Maybe it’s Rachel McAdams from Mean Girls that I’ll kind of pull that attitude from.” Or Reese Witherspoon from Legally Blonde if I’m looking for something that’s really bubbly and positive. That’s very cool and on our end, when you listen to it, it just sounds like a natural flow from character to character. Sometimes you don’t think about what goes into it.

Andrea: Yeah, and that’s the hard part. To me, it’s slow, and sometimes it’s a matter of the editing part. Sometimes like, “Oh, wait,” I have to stop, pause a second because I went out of voice. Sometimes it’s easy to blend the voice from one to the other when you’re going back and forth [between] accents. If I’m speaking in an Irish accent and then the next character is Texan I might leak that Irish into the Texan. I’m like, “Okay, hold on a second,” Let me pause, say a little sentence to get myself back into it and then dive right back in and then make sure that the edit is nice and clean. Of course, the professional editors clean all that stuff and make it really pretty. Yeah, it’s an art and a science. Yeah, it sounds like it! What are some of your favorite titles that you’ve narrated so far?

Andrea: That’s a good question and there’s many, but if I had to narrow it down to a couple…I’m very much into the geeky stuff, having been a Game Designer in my previous life, if you will, before I got into audiobooks. I was also big into comic books, so one of the books I did not too long ago was The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin, which is this amazing book where you’ve got the strong female character, MG, who is a comic book artist, but she also ends up becoming a consultant for the police to help find this vigilante who’s going around and causing all kinds of havoc. It’s a really great, funny, light-hearted, but yet action-packed book. That was super fun!

I also has a really good time doing Max Einstein: The Genius Experiment by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, which is for middle graders. That was such an awesome book because you’ve got Maxine Einstein, or Max, who’s a 12 year-old genius and she ends up working with a whole bunch of other kid geniuses from all over the world. They’re doing good deeds around the world and helping…I’m trying not to give away the book…doing a lot of great things for the world using their genius, which is in different areas. Of course, there’s an evil villainy guy that’s trying to muck everything up. It’s just a really great book for kids, I think, and hope it’s inspiring, not only for them to read more, but to get into science and be excited about doing things for their community or their world or trying to make the world a better place. So, I think that’s probably one of my favorites.

I guess, lastly, this is kind of on the flip side of this. I also really like Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano, which is a historical, clean, Christian novel. It’s just a beautiful love story back in the 1800s that’s very funny and whimsical and also very light, but romantic. For sure! It sounds like you’ve done a variety of things.

Andrea: Yeah, which is nice because it kind of changes up things. Not too long ago I did a LitRPG and then I’m back to doing another Christian romance and then back to doing a mystery or a non-fiction book. That’s exciting for me because it keeps things from getting too monotonous. Yeah, exactly. Something new each time.

Andrea: Yeah, yeah! I guess this is kind of a related question. If you could narrate any book, which would you choose?

Andrea: Something, I think, geeky. I mean, I love the YA genre a lot. I feel like that’s my jam. I feel I can really get into the snarky angst place that they live in and I just love how things are just worked out in a different way, especially if you do something that’s paranormal because I love the paranormal kind of stuff.

I did a LitRPG series, which is wonderful, but really, honestly, when it boils down to it I just want a really good story. If a really good story happens to be a cozy mystery I’m all over it. For sure, yeah. Okay, coming down to a few of the end questions. What’s something about the audiobook production process that listeners might find surprising?

Andrea: That listeners might find surprising? How much I belch during recording, but that never gets in. You know, and that’s actually a true statement.

It’s very tedious. You start the prep where you get the book and then you should read it and go through it, make all your notes and make sure you, especially if there’s a bunch of words you don’t know how to say, make sure you look them up and you have that for reference, check with the author or publisher if you have any questions.

Then, the recording process—you’re sitting in front of this computer screen and you have your editing software. I use Studio One recording program. I don’t just go in there and record and don’t have to worry about any of the editing stuff when I’m doing home studio working from home, so I have to be sort of Engineer, Director and Audiobook Narrator, so it’s a long process.

There’s a lot of mistakes, there’s belching, sometimes there might be cursing if you mess up that is is all wonderfully edited out. Yeah, I guess that’s really it is just it’s a longer process.

It’s not just get up to the mic and read because there’s a lot of acting you have to put forth or making sure like, “Oh no,” like I said before, “what was that voice again? Let me stop.” Especially if I’m doing a series and I’m like, “Oh, Jack was in book one, but he didn’t show up again until book three. What was his voice again?” Then I have to go back to my archives and find out what was his voice.

Or a lot of times, like in Max Einstein, I had 12 different accents I had to learn, so I had to spend a lot of time with Kenyan, Swahili, Chinese, Irish, Mumbai, and Texan…I’m telling you, there was a whole bunch. Taking the time before I even get into the booth to do and listen and study all I can to do the best that I can for that accent. It’s a lot, a lot of work that goes into it. It’s fun! It sounds super fun and it’s like you said, “an art and a science.” It’s not like rolling up to a microphone.

Andrea: Yeah, I mean, those moments are awesome. If you go into a studio and they have everybody over there at the publishing office and all you have to do is just perform, it actually is a lot more freeing, but when you’re in the studio yourself at home sometimes it’s hard to focus. You have to really work to not over micro-manage yourself, so you can stay in the moment and be the moment. Like, “Ah, man. There was a weird gurgle my stomach did. Let me stop, go back, delete that, and start over.” That seems like quite the process, but it turns out well, so that’s good.

Andrea: It does! It’s amazing to me to know an eight hour book might take 20 hours in the studio to record. When you hear it all done, especially once the editors and the proofers have all tightened things up, the end result is like, “Ah, man, that’s awesome and fulfilling!” Exactly, so cool to hear the end product all shiny. Okay, then finally, do you have any other projects on-the-go that you can tell us about?

Andrea: Sure, well, I just mentioned another Christian book. I’m doing the Amish of Pontotoc series by Amy Lillard. I just recorded books one and two, A Home for Hannah and A Love for Leah. Not sure when those are coming out because I just finished them.

I’m excited about that and on the docket, Max Einstein, book two is coming out…Oh, oh, oh, you know what, talk about geeky stuff sort of, The Hashtag Hunt, by Kristina Seek. I’m super excited about that. Actually, I start that in two weeks, which is about this character who is trying to win $10,000 to help her with her business by doing this contest called The Hashtag Hunt. She ends up getting these text messages saying, “I need you to find a hottie in the wild.” There’s a bunch of rules she has to do and in doing so, she ends up on this grand adventure that’s kind of out there and crazy and there’s a little love involved. Super fun! I can’t wait to start that. Super cool. It sounds like a good listen.

Andrea: I hope so! It was a great read because I’ve already prepped the book. Yeah, that sounds amazing. Okay, well that’s all the questions I have. You went into great detail and I’m very excited to listen to anything upcoming from you!

Andrea: Thank you! I appreciate the time to chat.

Click here to check out titles narrated by Andrea →

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