Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy with TJ Klune’s signature “quirk and charm” (PW) about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with. We spoke with author TJ Klune about the inspiration for Under the Whispering Door, his favorite nonfiction audiobooks, and more!
“TJ Klune has the unmatched ability to make my heart go all warm and gooey like a chocolate chip cookie.”Amber, Quail Ridge Books
Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.
I’d always had an idea of doing something involving the afterlife, or what happens when we die. In my earliest planning of the book, I wanted to focus on the bureaucracy of death. However, someone came along and did it first, and infinitely better than I ever could in the form of the TV show, The Good Place. I shelved the idea for a little while to let it cook to see if I could come up with something different.
Inspiration struck when I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens for the first time. But instead of a man alive being shown the error of his ways, I wondered what it would look like if a man like Ebenezer Scrooge died, and had to look back on his selfish life without the power to do much to change anything, given he was a ghost.
I also wanted to focus on the idea of grief, but instead of grieving for others, would it be possible to grieve for yourself, the chances wasted, opportunities missed? Grief is a strange animal in that no two people experience it the same way, and yet we’ve all felt it at one point or another. Our personal beliefs and actions shape how we grieve, but there is still something universal about the feeling.
Wallace—the main character—is not a good man when he’s first introduced. But the journey he goes on after his death is a transformative one, and leads him to ask an important question: what does it mean to be a good person? I’m curious about this answer because if you asked ten people, you’d probably get ten different responses. The book is an exploration of life, death, grief, and doing good simply because it’s the right thing to do, rather than for recognition or accolades.
In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise Libro.fm listeners about your audiobook?
The narrator, Kirt Graves, has narrated quite a few of my books. The first book of mine he narrated—Wolfsong back in 2016—was the first audiobook he’d ever done, and I was blown away by his talent, so much so that bringing him on to do Under the Whispering Door was an easy decision.
Also, for eagle-eyed (-eared?) listeners, you might even get a few Easter Eggs for the Wolfsong series.
Have you listened to your own audiobook? What struck you about the narration?
I have a hard time listening to my audiobooks. It feels strange hearing my own words read out loud, and tends to make me a little squirmy for some reason. That being said, I have listened to a few sections just to get a feel for Kirt‘s narration, and he knocked it out of the park. His Wallace is absolutely wonderful. I can’t wait for audio listeners to get to hear his hard work.
Are you an audiobook listener? What are some of your favorite audiobooks?
I prefer reading a book as opposed to listening, but when I do listen to an audiobook, chances are it’s going to be non-fiction. Mark Deakin’s narration of David Grann’s The Lost City of Z is one of my favorites, and I’ve listened to it more than a few times. I also loved Scott Brick’s narration of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, and the work Mr. Brick did on Larson’s Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.
Another audio I enjoyed was Rabia Chaudry reading her book, Adnan’s Story. I’ve listened to Rabia Chaudry for years on podcasts, and her narration of her own book is the best she’s ever been.
What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?
Indie bookstores and booksellers have been some of my biggest advocates. I am humbled by their continuous support in handselling my work. They are as excited about books as I am, and I couldn’t ask for a better group of people in my corner. In the current climate we live in, indie stores need our support now more than ever, and it’s my pleasure to do whatever I can to steer people to them.
“In the current climate we live in, indie stores need our support now more than ever, and it’s my pleasure to do whatever I can to steer people to them.”author TJ Klune