God, so I love audio books. I love them with a fierce passion, and it’s probably easy enough to understand. I assume everyone who reads this is either a reader or a writer and a reader. We all started out loving books. Nancy Drew, horse books, ballet books, Cherry Ames, our grandmother’s Harlequins. It doesn’t matter what, we loved them.
I had a pretty awful childhood, with an alcoholic father and a raging mother, and books kept me alive. I would go in my room and read, anything and everything, usually with a box of oatmeal cookies under my bed to nibble on. The YA room at the Princeton Public Library (not the new one, the old one in a house from the 1700s) was my save haven. It’s really hard to communicate just how much I loved it there, loved those books.
It continued, of course. I read MISTRESS OF MELLYN by Victoria Holt when it first came out, and my life was changed. I became a writer then, whether I knew it or not. In fact, a writer of gothics, which I am to this day, no matter what form the books take. Look hard enough and you’ll see gothic elements.
I gave up my day job when I was 23, moved to Vermont to write gothics, mainly because there weren’t enough to read. Nowadays business-savvy writers know that means the market is drying up, but that was in the old days, and I spent that first winter alone in my family’s vacation house in Vermont and wrote my first book. And sold it. All the while reading everything I can, ordering books from the back pages of books that I loved (people actually used to do that). I got pretty desperate, living in such isolation.
But the more I wrote, the harder it became to read. I worked so hard at my craft that I became increasingly impatient with the occasional clumsy phrase or mixed point of view. It got to the point where there were only a few writers I could read, like Loretta Chase and Laura Kinsale, and I lost what had enriched me and sustained me for most of my life.
A couple of my old Harlequins came out as abridged audio books, and I listened to one and shuddered. I tried a later one, and while not quite as bad, it still was a far cry from enchanting. I’m not sure what turned me around. First, some of the ICE books, which were my absolute favorite, came out on MP3 and I could listen on my iPod. And then I saw my favorite Georgette Heyer mystery, BEHOLD HERE’S POISON, was available on iTunes. I downloaded that, and became obsessed.
Because listening to books makes me able to turn off the overly critical mind, the competitive mind, the jealous mind, and simply enjoy. I listened to favorite books, and then started branching out into books I hadn’t read in print first. Right now I have 465 audio books in my Audible account, and probably another 25 I downloaded from CDs. I’m hooked. But more importantly, I got the joy of reading back. I glom audio books the way most people glom paperbacks, and a huge, gaping hole in my life is filled again.
Some people hate to listen to books — Jenny Crusie can’t stand to be read to. Some haven’t tried it. For others, holding onto the book is important (they also don’t like e-readers for the same reason). But for me, my iPod is now my best friend (and I keep buying more iPods to fill them with audio books).
This all is in honor of ON THIN ICE, which was an Amazon exclusive (meaning you couldn’t buy a physical book of it, though we’re working on that). It’s been recorded by the divine Xe Sands, who did a brilliant job on the previous ICE book, FIRE AND ICE, and it comes out today at Audible and on Amazon, among other places. And I can’t wait. The book was a labor of love, and having an audio version of it was the best reward.
Go listen to a sample, either of this, or of one of your favorite books available on audio (Audible.com has them). And see if you might not get hooked too.