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Author Spotlights

Adrienne Giordano

Join Adrienne Giordano and her pal, Khristine Hvam, an award-winning audiobook narrator, director, and producer, while they chat about everything from storytelling, self-doubt, the greatest gift she's ever received, and her in-studio experience narrating her own audiobook.

Adrienne Giordano is a USA Today bestselling author of over forty romantic suspense and mystery novels. She is a Jersey girl at heart but now lives in the Midwest with her ultimate supporter of a husband, sports-obsessed son, and Elliot, a snuggle-happy rescue. Having grown up near the ocean, Adrienne enjoys paddleboarding, a nice float in a kayak, and lounging on the beach with a good book. For more information on Adrienne’s books, please visit www.AdrienneGiordano.com. Adrienne can also be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AdrienneGiordanoAuthor, Twitter at http://twitter.com/AdriennGiordano and Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/AdrienneGiordano.

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Video Transcript

Good morning all. This is Adrienne Giordano coming to you from my home office. Thank you to Findaway for letting me do a little author Spotlight here to tell you about myself and my books. I am a USA Today best-selling author. I have over forty romantic suspense and mystery books. I like to genre hop. I find it fun. I am an audiobook lover and I am actually here today with my pal Khristine Hvam.
Kristine: Hello, hello.
Adrienne: Christine is an audiobook narrator, producer and director and she actually helped me with a recent project that we’ll get into in a bit, but welcome, Khristine.
Khristine: Thank you. Thanks for the invite. This is a lot of fun. Thanks to Findaway. I think people are really always interested in an author’s background. What made you decide to write. Of all things. When I think to sit down and put pen-to-paper or fingers to keyboard, I get anxiety just thinking about it so tell me about you and your background and how you got into writing. I’m supercurious.
Adrienne: We have another thing in common. We’re both Jersey girls, so I am a Jersey girl at heart. I live in the Chicago area now, but I’ve always had a love of storytelling. My dad was a tremendous storyteller. He wasn’t a writer, but he would sit at the kitchen table with me and just tell me these quirky stories that half the time they were true and half the time they were completely made up. I never knew if they were made up until he would say something completely ridiculous. He fought in the Korean War, and he was telling me about this terrible storm at sea. He was getting so into the detail and I can remember just sitting there mesmerized by the level of detail. He wasn’t a trained actor. He was a high school graduate. He was a boxer. He just had a way with story and he’s going through this story and I’m completely mesmerized by it. Then he said, “A whale jumped on deck and I punched him in the nose.” I sat there and was like, “What are you talking about? A whale?” And then he burst out laughing. So, I never knew with him where he was going or if it was even true. There were times he would tell a story and I would ask him if it was true. So, I think my love of storytelling comes from hearing in these wacky stories. I used to dream up different stories.
Khristine: How has that affected your writing process? Having such a history with storytelling and it sort of being passed down from generation to generation in your family, how do you use that in your process? What is your writing process?
Adrienne: I’m a plotter. I’m not a super strict plotter though. I like to have my beginning, my middle, and my ending. It’s sort of a roadmap for me. I like to know where I’m going. That being said, just yesterday—I’m in the last quarter, maybe writing the last six scenes of my current book—and the story took a hard left on me. What I was thinking the ending was going to be, I had a “hmmm” moment, and I just rolled with it. That kind of happens. I do like to do a ton of character development before I start. I actually have a character interview that I do. I interview all my characters before I start and it’s probably about twenty questions where I really try to get into what makes them tick. What are they afraid of? What are the things that they can’t live without? Then throughout the book, I use all of that against them.
Khristine: You’re like an evil genius. When an idea derails like that and all of a sudden you want to take it in a new direction, you were so easy about oh, we’re just going to change course and go this way. Is it from years of experience of writing that you’ve got that confidence to change direction, or do you think that’s just part of who you are as a storyteller to just kind of go with the flow and let the story take you?
Adrienne: I don’t know if it’s years of confidence because I think when you’re creative, and you know this from what you do, you constantly have a crisis of self-confidence. I think there’s always that little piece inside that makes you think “I can’t do this” and then somehow the book gets written and you go, “Oh, I did that!”. I think it’s part of wanting to make our readers or listeners happy. That’s my thing. Will this make my reader happy? I’ve had books where I’ve gotten halfway through it and scrapped the whole thing. If I don’t like it, my reader isn’t going to like it. I have to love the story myself. I think I’ve learned to follow my instincts a little. Like yesterday, I got this idea, and I stopped. I did two hours of research. I called some people that I knew could help me to make sure the direction I was going would work, and then I rolled with it. I don’t willy-nilly just go there. I try to back it up to make sure it’s feasible.
Khristine: What do you do outside of writing? It sounds to me, if I’m hearing correctly, so much of your life’s about storytelling, so much of your day is spent in service of the story that you’re writing, in service of the readers that are reading, so do you have other creative outlets or physical outlets or spiritual outlets that you do that help you round out the creative process?
Adrienne: Yes. I am huge on getting fresh air. There’s something about being out in nature. I’m looking out my window as I’m saying this. There is something about getting my little Elliot, my 85 lbs. shepherd mix, I put him on a leash and we get out and go for some air and take a walk. Or in the summer, I love to paddleboard.
Khristine: Oh, wow.
Adrienne: I grew up on the Jersey Shore, so I have a deep love of the ocean and the beach, and there is something about salt air. It’s my happy place. Unfortunately, I live in Chicago where we have a giant lake, but it’s a freshwater lake, so I don’t even get the salt air. I live near a river so I’ll get my kayak out or my paddleboard and I’ll just get out. There’s something about water for me that gets all the creative juices flowing. And then with covid, I actually learned how to refinish furniture.
Khristine: Get out of town.
Adrienne: I needed an outlet. I was terrified to go outside! I have a girlfriend—I actually used her dogs in my Lucie Rizzo series. She loves to refinish furniture. She taught me how to refinish furniture, so I’m redoing my bedroom set as we speak.
Khristine: You don’t stop. You’re like a powerhouse over there.
Adrienne: I’m a constant learner. I love to learn new things. I may be good at some of them. I don’t know if I’m going to be good at refinishing furniture. I’m okay at it. I have a couple of pieces around the house that I’ve done. I had one last week that I threw out because I completely botched it. It helps with the creative part of me.
Khristine: Where you can just be calm and do an activity over and over again. Like the rowing in the kayak and the standing in the finishing. You’re almost in a meditative state and you can just let all the creativity flow. That’s so smart. I’ll probably use that in my own creative process too. Which brings me to my next question, which is audio because my jam is all about the audio version of your fabulous story. I know you had mentioned earlier that we worked together and you had written a book, Into the Fire, that you were incredibly passionate about. You came to me looking for a narrator and you told me that you wanted to be the narrator for this particular book. Can you tell me what was so important to you that you read the audio? What did you learn in the process of putting that audiobook together with me? And, in the process of coaching you through it and directing you through it, how was the process and the learning of audiobooks different and similar to writing? What did you love about it and what did you hate about it?
Adrienne: I have some independently published books, so I had hired audiobook narrators before for different projects. This particular book, as you know, but I’ll tell all the listeners. A lot of authors talk about the book of their heart or their baby. This book in particular had a very personal meaning to me. My cousin Mary Jo is listed as my co-author on the book. Growing up, she was my person. She was 20 years older than I was. If I needed help or advice, she was the one who I went to. She was fiercely independent at a time when women, you know, that wasn’t really quite what women were supposed to be. She took care of herself. She never got married because the right man never came along for her. So, she said, “You know what? I’m good.” She was a schoolteacher. She was tremendous. She passed away about five years ago from pancreatic cancer, and during her last days, I was sitting with her. We were just chatting. She was having all these talks with everybody. So, she calls me in for her talk with me and tells me how she always wanted to be a writer. She was an English teacher and for years she had helped me with my own writing. I was gobsmacked. She sent me to her bedside table and there was a blue folder in there that had all notes on a story she’d been working on. I couldn’t believe the research. It had—I’m dating myself— but it had microfiche files.
Khristine: Oh my goodness.
Adrienne: Newspaper articles and magazines and handwritten notes. She’d gone to the library and made photocopies from books about a hotel fire in Puerto Rico. At the time it was the largest hotel fire. Over a hundred people died, so it was quite a tragedy. For whatever reason, she was fascinated with this fire. She wanted to do a retrospective, and I said, “I don’t know anything about doing a retrospective, but I could use your notes and do a fiction story.” She said that would be great. I was totally overwhelmed. What a gift to give someone. It took me five years to write that book. It was five years last July that she passed. The book sat because I had other commitments. I had other contracts for books that needed to be written. I was emotionally not ready to do that book yet. I finally had a break in my schedule and I thought, this is it. This is Mary Jo, from beyond, telling me it’s time. I had to get over my fear and my anxiety because, you know, her name was going on it. I was like, what if I blow this? I pulled it out, and I started writing. I decided I wanted to do an audio version. My husband one day said, “If this is so important to you, why hire a narrator? Why don’t you do it?” I said, “What do I know about being an audiobook narrator?” I know authors of nonfiction do it all the time, but nonfiction and fiction are two totally different beasts. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I could do it. Again, I’m a lifelong learner and I thought, well, what if I hired a voice coach or a narrating coach to help me? Which is how I found Khristine Hvam.
Khristine: And that’s how we met.
Adrienne: I loved the whole process. I think what I found was it is way harder than people would imagine. Especially because this book has a lot of characters, so the voice intonations—when you have three men in a room—how do you make them all sound different? It’s exhausting work, but it’s so much fun. So much fun.
Khristine: It is a lot of fun. I agree. You get to be all the players in the play.
Adrienne: We were working remotely, but when we went into the studio—
Khristine: Oh, that’s a good question because as a writer, you know, I’m assuming because I don’t do it, it’s very solitary work. Right? You’re alone a lot, but you know we’re working together with you and I are in the studio with an engineer. It’s a much more collaborative space, and you have to be in that space—with all these people watching—vulnerable and trusting. It can be really intimidating. As the person on the other side of the glass with you, I was so incredibly blown away by how willing you were to take a risk and be vulnerable. And follow direction and change direction. You know, as far as students go, you are right there at the top of the list with incredible students. I mean, you really took everything to heart and made it work for you and came out with, what I think, is a pretty successful audiobook.
Adrienne: Thank you. It goes back to that trust factor. You and I kind of hit it off right from the get-go. We had a lot in common. We saw the process in a similar way. We were both just talking about this. We’re both doers. We had a plan. And you’re the expert on this. You’ve won awards so you know what you’re doing. That’s where the trust factor comes in and having that trust let me sort of just become the characters. It was a lot of fun learning to become these characters. As the author, it helps because I know these characters so well. I know what they sound like in my head so it was just a matter of conveying that to the listener.
Khristine: Well, I think you did a bang-up job, sister. It was such a point of pride to work together. Thanks for the opportunity.
Adrienne: Thank you for being such a phenomenal director. That’s what was fun is we took it from the coaching to the directing and just having—for all the listeners out there—what would happen is I would go into the studio every day. Khristine is out east and I’m in the Midwest. She found a studio near my home and I just showed up for work one morning. There was a terrific engineer in Jeremy, who was young enough to be both of our sons. The whole thing was just amazing because the studio was in this one-hundred-year-old building that was just so cool. The first day, I walked in and I opened the door and I got hit with this smell of marijuana. I immediately texted Khristine. There was a couch in there and a couple of chairs and all the instruments hanging on the wall. I could envision musicians sitting around writing songs and smoking weed.
Khristine: I don’t even remember what I said to you, but I can imagine being like “Oh, no. My client is going to freak out.”
Adrienne: I just thought, totally using this in a book one day.
Khristine: That’s the beautiful thing about you. Your creative process is really using the things around you in your life to create story. Of course that’s what you would think.
Adrienne: It was great fun, and they took great care of us. It’s interesting because I got to see the technical sides of it too. We’d be rolling along and in the middle of a scene and I’m locked into my character and then we get a pop. You can explain what a pop is because I still don’t get it.
Khristine: During any recording session there’s going to be extraneous noise, and sometimes there’s internal electronic noise. We some trouble with electronic noise in our session. You’d be in the middle of an emotive scene and you’d have to stop for a noise. I think that’s the biggest hurdle in the studio space as a narrator or any kind of performer. You’re in this emotive space and you have to be able to hit pause, stay in that moment and just pick it right back up and not let it deter you. And for someone so new to the experience, I can only imagine how frustrating it is because I’m used to it. I’ve been doing it for over a decade and I still get frustrated and annoyed and sometimes have to take a break. So, being so new to the experience, you handled it like a pro.
Adrienne: It was great fun. I would love to do it again one day. It was really a tremendous life experience and to be able to do it with that particular project was amazing. Everybody around me was phenomenal.
Khristine: It really came together.
Adrienne: I’m so proud of that project. Good stuff, Khristine Hvam.
Khristine: Right back at ya, sis.
Adrienne: I should actually tell the listeners you helped me with my Lucie Rizzo mystery series as well.
Khristine: That’s right.
Adrienne: That’s what’s so awesome about this relationship. After Khristine helped me with the voice coaching and we decided I would narrate Into the Fire, I hired her production company to help me with my Lucie Rizzo mystery series, which is kind of a fun, quirky dog walker mystery series. I hired Khristine’s company to produce that for me. Khristine didn’t narrate it for me. Kelsey Navarro narrated it.
Khristine: Yes, she did. She did a wonderful job.
Adrienne: She did. She really brought Lucie to life. It was fun.
Khristine: It was fun for me too. It’s always fun to put on different hats and work in different aspects of the career space. Get out of the booth a little. Do something different.
Adrienne: It’s sort of like a cleansing of the palate. That’s how I feel about the genre-hopping. Even working on the audiobook. It was a different creative outlet that kind of just let me clear my mind.
Khristine: Congratulations on all your success. I’m really happy for you.
Adrienne: Thank you. Alright, so we will wrap this up. Thank you for hanging out with my pal Khristine and I. I hope you have an awesome rest of your day.