Today I am so pleased to welcome Traveling Joey (and his human sidekick, reader Steve Leonard) who did an interview for us with Felice Stevens and Kale Williams. Joey and Steve loved The Coincidence and asked to interview the author and narrator. Please join me in giving the whole gang a big welcome!
After I read (and loved) ‘The Coincidence’ I was very happy for the opportunity to interview Felice Stevens & Kale Williams.
Felice: There’s a secondary story in ‘The Coincidence’ that you explain in your Author Note at the beginning of the book (Coby’s great-aunt’s brother being taken by the Nazis and the entire family – and village – fleeing). Personally, I loved it and the way you wove it into the story was seamless, but considering this is a male/male romance book, did you have any qualms about including a ‘history lesson’? What has the response been?
Thank you for the compliment! I didn’t think of it as a history lesson. When I first set out to write The Coincidence, I hadn’t intended to write this personal of a book. It was a story I’d grown up with that my mother told us often. But, as so often happens, the characters take over and this was their story to tell. I could no more change it than I could any other part. Is it a harsh reality? Absolutely, especially with the rise of anti-Semitism in the world today, I have had zero negative response to it. People have emailed me with their own personal family histories from the Holocaust and I’ve been incredibly moved. To me it proves just how much romance can touch all of us.
Felice: Like many of your stories, ‘The Coincidence’ features an elderly character. Oftentimes in movies and on television older characters seem only to be for comic relief – telling dirty jokes or throwing out rude comments. Your characters depart wisdom and I find that refreshing. How important is it for you to emphasize family in your books?
Family always plays a very large part of my books. One of my most loved characters —Drew’s grandmother Esther from A Walk through Fire, which Kale also narrated—is based in large part on my mother. Many of my elderly women characters are. She was a great lady and lived through so much in her life. She taught me a lot about people. Every book I write will usually have secondary character to help guide the main characters. Gently of course. Tante Fay, in The Coincidence, is similar to Esther and Ethel in Memories of the Heart. Strong women who place family above everything.
Felice: With audiobooks gaining in popularity, do you ever write with a specific narrator in mind?
Not usually, no. Except for The Coincidence, I knew I wanted Kale. I wrote it hearing his voice in my head.
Felice: Following up on the previous question: Knowing you’ll be putting a book into audio, do you find yourself using less dialogue tags when you write so the conversation will flow more naturally when spoken, or do you instruct/allow your narrator to drop them as he records?
Well, a narrator can’t deviate more than 10% from the original book, so I can’t instruct him to drop dialogue tags. Part of the craft of writing is learning not to rely on dialogue tags and I try not to. Each character should have his own, unique voice that should be distinct enough without the need of a dialogue tag. That was one of the first things I learned in one of my writing courses.
Felice: Now that you’ve retired, what is your typical day look like? Do you write on the weekends?
I still wake up early—anywhere from 5:30-7:00 am at the latest. I check my emails, chat with my early bird friends and go on social media to post in my reader group. If I don’t take my early morning walk with my daughter or have an early morning Pilates class, I get to work and write throughout the whole day. I’ll stop for a quick lunch of peanut butter toast or cottage cheese and fruit, go to the gym, then back to writing until around 5:30-6pm. I do write on weekends I get up early and my husband works every other Saturday so if I have no plans, I can spend the day writing.
Felice: What’s up next for you?
I am putting together revisions on the next book in my Rock Bottom Series. Book one which just released is Broken Silence. Book two is Imitation of Life and is Benny and Gino’s story. It’s going to my beta readers and the off to the editor.
Kale: Same question I asked Felice, what is your typical day like, and do you record on weekends?
With an 11-month-old, every day is a little bit different! But if there were a “typical” day, it’s probably something like this: share parenting duties and alternately get ready for the day (with my narrator-SO) until the sitter arrives. Work until the babysitter leaves. Play with my daughter, feed her, put her to bed. Eat dinner and collapse in exhaustion. Lather, rinse, repeat. As a freelancer, I don’t really abide by the traditional “weekend”. We will take days off when we please (which honestly has only been a couple days a month this busy year so far). Sometimes they fall on a weekend, sometimes not.
Kale: Having to be still in a recording booth for hours a day, how often do you take breaks? And what do you do for exercise?
Since I share a booth with my partner, we alternate throughout the day. Sometimes it’s an hour on/hour off kind of deal. Other times it’s 3-4 hours at a stretch (with a water refill/bathroom break approximately every hour). And all combinations in between. Days with a babysitter involve other work in between (prepping the next book, invoicing clients, communicating with authors and publishers, etc.), and non-babysitter days involve childcare on “breaks”. And the business stuff happens after the baby goes to bed. We are in the process of setting up a second booth this summer, so once that happens it will give us more flexibility and independence in our recording schedules.
In terms of exercise, I get some good cardio work with all the heart palpitations I experience whenever I narrate a good sex scene. I wish that were enough! Living in NYC helps a lot because I walk everywhere, so that definitely helps me avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Chasing a speed-crawler who is on the verge of walking helps too. I also play tennis regularly with a friend in the neighborhood, and now that the weather is nice hopefully that will happen a few times a week.
Kale: Felice has been know to, on occasion (LOL), write scenes that tug at the heart. Have you ever found yourself getting too emotional when narrating a scene? And if so, what do you do to get past that?
Absolutely! In preparing to record, I have to get inside the heads of all these characters, so when they go through some harrowing or deeply emotional times, I feel them deeply as well. And to a certain extent I think that helps the narration. Clearly not if it takes me to the point of bawling and blubbering. If it gets in the way of telling the story clearly then I have to stop and compose myself. I don’t usually take a long break because I don’t want to fully dissociate from the moment until I’ve gone through to the next chapter or section break. At that point I may take a walk or tag out of the booth for a bit.
Kale: In a recent interview you mentioned how it was fun telling stories where you got to play every character. Are there certain voices that are easier to do, and how do you determine which character gets what kind of voice?
Oh it’s a blast to be a kind of one-man-show in the booth. And every book is a little different in terms of character creation. Some authors are very specific when drawing the characters, and some stories lend themselves to more details (i.e., specific accents, regional dialects, character types, etc.). Others are more barebones or the characters are more homogeneous, so I’ve got to draw on more of my choices in order to differentiate them. Regardless, I always start with what the author gives me. And most of the time I have a pretty good idea of what those characters sound like in my head.
I think the closer a character is to myself, the easier the voice will be probably. And generally speaking, the clearer the character is drawn, the easier it is for me to slip in and out of that voice, because I have such a vivid picture in my mind as to who they are. The connection is more to the dominant character traits than any abstract voice description. As hard as I try, I’m not going to sound like an old grandmother, or a five-year-old girl, but if I can channel the wisdom and patience, or the innocent excitement that is inherent in those characters, they’ll come through to the reader.
Kale: If you could narrate any book, what would it be? And, is there any book you wish you’d been asked to narrate?
What a great question! And such a hard one. I’d love to narrate something like a classic Dickens, his writing is so rich. But frankly I would much rather listen to a legitimate Brit do that, since it’s so quintessentially British. And I can think of a dozen other books that I love but would either be so poorly cast as its narrator or I love the narrators I’ve heard on these books already and think they’re perfect. At this point, the most flattering thing I can think of is having an author come to me and say, “I wrote this with you in mind to narrate the audio.” It’s a truly humbling thing, and I take each book I narrate as a serious act of faith and trust in the artistic collaboration between author and narrator.
Nice guys always finish last, and Coby Epstein is sick and tired of being last. After his boyfriend dumps him, Coby vows to take it slow and not jump into another relationship, no matter what his ninety-five-year-old great aunt says. When Coby sees his ex has moved on, he goes on a series of disastrous first dates and swears off men, determined to be alone. His best friend disagrees and finds the “perfect man” for him online and arranges a date. The only problem? Coby has no idea what she’s done.
Since childhood, Eli Kaplan has been his father’s greatest disappointment, a fact he’s reminded of at every opportunity. For years, he’s struggled with the knowledge that dating women doesn’t work for him. A late-night confession to his brother changes everything and Eli realizes, maybe, just maybe, he can come out, find himself, and find love. Eli takes the plunge and creates a profile on a dating website, not knowing what to expect. One night he chats with an intriguing man, and despite his nervousness, they arrange to meet for coffee. No big deal. They’ll probably never see each other again.
On the day of their first date, nothing could surprise Coby and Eli more than to discover that they live in the same apartment building, on the same floor. In a city of eight million people, coincidences don’t get crazier than that. But as the two men begin to weave their lives together with cautious optimism and hope for a future, they find an even greater thread holding their families together—one born from the ashes of a final solution that couldn’t destroy their ancestors’ courage, leaving scars that remain almost a century later. Past lives torn apart can be pieced together by a future no one could have ever imagined, where love is more than fate or coincidence. It’s meant to be.
Buy link: Amazon
Felice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. She believes that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending around the corner, Her characters have to work for it, however. Like life in NYC, nothing comes easy and that includes love.
Felice has written over twenty books in the gay romance genre. Her books been translated into German, French and Italian. Her novel. One Call Away, part of her Soulmates series, was mentioned in Buzzfeed as one of the best “Out for You” gay romances of 2017.
Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. She recently retired from the practice law and now daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there are bound to be a few bumps along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.
Kale Williams is a NYC-based narrator specializing in romance books of all stripes. In addition to reading The Coincidence, he has narrated the Man Up and Through Hell and Back series for Felice Stevens, and he has also been the voice of authors such as Josh Lanyon, S.C. Wynne, Morgan Brice, Tara Lain, Christina Lee, Riley Hart, Robert Winter, and Sara York. He has worked with major publishers such as Simon & Schuster, Audible Studios, Tantor, and Dreamspinner Press. In addition to narrating over 100 audiobooks, he has been seen and heard on film, television, video games, and stages in New York City and across the country. When not in the booth, you can find him buried in genealogy research, out exploring our National Parks, and raising an amazing daughter alongside his partner, also an audiobook narrator.