Mary H. K. Choi, author of new romance Permanent Record, told us about her inspiration, the making of the audiobook, and what independent bookstores have meant to her.
By Mary H. K. Choi • Narrated by Vikas Adam
Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.
I knew my next book would be inspired by New York and the romantic ideals we have about what it means to live in a city where there’s so much ambition and potential. So I created a story that explores pressure and anxiety through the distortion lens of social media by adding an extremely successful celebrity as the love interest. I also wanted to talk honestly about depression, student-loan debt, credit-card debt and class issues through the challenges that the main character faces.
In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise listeners about your audiobook?
That we were lucky enough to get Vikas Adam, an award-winning narrator and classically-trained actor for the main character Pablo Neruda Rind. He’s in the Audio Narrator Hall of Fame!
Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?
Historically I’m not an avid audiobook listener only because as a writer I love to read the words at my own pace and highlight portions that resonate with me. That said, I listened to Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes on audiobook and it blew me away. It was such an immersive, transporting experience. I don’t read a ton of fantasy but this felt like such a delicious luxury to get story-time as an adult right before bed. Maybe I need to get into more audiobooks because I’m remembering it as such a joyous experience.
What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?
First of all, I love my local so much. It’s Books Are Magic in Brooklyn and they have the best taste. Emma Straub, the owner, is such a sparkly, soothing and utterly reassuring presence. There’s something about a bookstore owner who’s also a New York Times Bestselling novelist that makes me feel so understood and taken care of when I do events there. Beyond that though I’m so grateful to independent bookstores as a locus for booklovers and have so much gratitude to all the owners I’ve met in my short career as a novelist. I didn’t know about hand-selling. Or the huge impact a single employee’s suggestion can have on a title. There are so many friendly faces that I look forward to seeing at conferences like Cathy Berner at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston who always manages to make me weepy with her heartfelt support.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about the audiobook?
Oh, man. YES. I have so much admiration and appreciation for the narrators throughout this book. I’m sort of a nightmare in that all my sentences have a million clauses and my dialogue is so specific with so much slang and idiosyncratic phrasing. Plus, there’s four languages represented in Permanent Record. And a slew of proper nouns. I remember when they were recording my publisher sent me a massive list of words that they wanted pronunciations for and loads of them were very specific fashion designers with sneaker collaborations. They crushed it. I’m thrilled with how it turned out.