One of the most anticipated books of the summer is here with the release of Evvie Drake Starts Over, written by Linda Holmes and narrated by Julia Whelan. Linda and Julia are dear friends, and they’ve teamed up to bring listeners audiobook magic in this hopeful new romance.
Both the writing a novel and the narrating of an audiobook come with their own unique challenges. Linda and Julia ended up being the perfect team to bring a beautiful story to life.
Linda: Honestly, I wanted to write the kind of book I love to read. And I wanted to give it all the touches I like a book I’m reading to have. I love the part of Maine where the book is set, and I really wanted to tell a story set there. I’ve always been interested in complicated emotional situations, and I got interested in the idea of imperfect grief, which is why I wound up writing about a widow who doesn’t miss her husband. And I got interested in athletes who suddenly lose their skills after reading a couple of stories about guys that’s happened to. All these elements ultimately worked together, even though they all started as different puzzle pieces.
Julia: I had read an early draft of the book about two years ago, but I hadn’t read it since it had gone through the editorial process. So my prep was mainly acquainting myself with what had changed and thinking about how best to bring these characters, and specifically Evvie and Dean, to life as they both “start over.” Also – and this is both a pleasure and a challenge with all the authors I know personally – I thought about the best way to inhabit Linda’s own, brilliant narrative voice without unconsciously adopting her actual voice. This is more difficult than it might seem. What can I say? I’m an actor.
Julia also filled us in on some of her favorite lines from Evvie Drake Starts Over.
Julia: It’s one of those books where there’s some cutting/hilarious/wise nugget on every single page. So I’ll pick the first one that comes to mind: Evvie is explaining how everyone in her hometown thought her late husband was perfect, that he was a unicorn. Dean asks her why they moved home after college, why he wouldn’t take that unicorn-status and go conquer the world. And she answers: “Because anywhere else, he’d just be a nice-looking horse.” That kills me. Oh, my other favorite, if I may be a little cryptic: “Buuuuuuuh.”
Linda Holmes is a podcast host, so it may come as a surprise that she’s not narrating her own book, but she insists that Julia was always supposed to be the voice of this audiobook.
Linda: My audiobook is narrated by a dear friend, Julia Whelan. Even though my voice is familiar from podcasts and radio, I never wanted anyone but Julia to do it…in the end, especially with fiction, it’s such an art. It has so much acting in it, which isn’t my field at all. I’m so lucky to have gotten to essentially choose the narrator myself…I went out to LA to be present when they recorded, actually. I was afraid it would make me self-conscious, but somehow I mostly found it really wonderful and encouraging. It’s so good to experience your words in a completely new way — it helps you hear them differently.
Julia: Linda came out to LA to be in the studio while I was recording. We’ve been friends for a few years, but we’ve been fans of the other’s work for much longer. So long in fact that Linda remembers when I was doing television and I remember her early TV recaps; a time long before I was narrating audiobooks and she was writing a novel. So, while the respect runs deep, I still can’t imagine anything more masochistic than sitting in a recording studio for three days watching someone else read your baby. But she was a champ! And we’re somehow still friends. So I think the best part of the whole experience is that, by virtue of her being there, we had the ability to look at each other and shake our heads and marvel at the journey. “How did we get here”? Life, man. What a trip.
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