Author: Caryn Larrinaga
Narrator: Jessica McEvoy
Length: 9 hours 54 minutes
Series: The Soul Searchers Mysteries, Book 1
Released: Aug. 1, 2017
Publisher: Twisted Tree Press
Genre: Supernatural Cozy Mystery
“Grief can change us… rewire our brains and shift the way we look at the world…” After returning home from her father’s funeral to find her boyfriend in bed with another woman, Mackenzie Clair is looking for a fresh start. She thinks she’ll find it in her favorite childhood vacation spot, but returning to Donn’s Hill awakens more than nostalgia. Mac regains a lost psychic ability to talk to the dead, and the poltergeist haunting her apartment is desperate to make her use that gift to find his killer. Aided by her new roommate – a spirited Tortoiseshell cat named Striker, and the ghost-hunting crew of the nationally televised show Soul Searchers, Mac struggles to learn how to use her powers. But she’d better get a handle on them fast, because someone in town is hiding a deadly secret. If Mac can’t somehow divine the truth, Donn’s Hill will never be the same.
Caryn Larrinaga is a self-described horror evangelist and paranormal junkie. Her debut supernatural mystery novel, DONN’S HILL, won the League of Utah Writers 2017 Silver Quill Award in the adult novel category and was a 2017 Dragon Award finalist. Her short fiction has won multiple honors and been featured in local and international anthologies. Watching scary movies through split fingers terrified Caryn as a child, and those nightmares inspire her to write now. She lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and their clowder of cats. Visit www.carynlarrinaga.com for free short stories and audiobooks. Between peddling video games and teaching yoga in her home state of Arizona, Jessica McEvoy attempts to conduct a career as a professional voice actress. This, however, is moderately undermined by the fact that she records in a dimly lit closet with her microphone balanced on a stack of old board games (Junior Scrabble and Powerpuff Girls Monopoly form a strong foundation), but she hopes that no one holds that against her. Though her main work consists of narrating audiobooks, her first dive into the voice world was through the NoSleep podcast after answering a post from the LibriVox forums. Having been raised on horror movies and scary stories, she was beyond excited to be able to work on the show. Many stories, tortured screams, deranged villains, and creepy little girl giggles later, Jessica hopes to work on the podcast for seasons and seasons to come.
I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Caryn Larrinaga. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
Q&A with Author Caryn Larrinaga
- Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
- I had so much fun working with Jessica as she adapted both of these novels into audiobooks! Luckily, I had already worked with her on a smaller project before, and I knew she would be the perfect Mackenzie from her reading of my novelette Hide and Seek and her amazing work on the NoSleep Podcast, so we skipped the audition part of the process. Once each of the novels were ready, I sent them to her to read and crossed my fingers she’d like them enough to want to perform them. (When looking for a great narrator like Jessica, there’s definitely a “She said YES!!” moment that involves much shrieking and jumping up and down.) We decided on a reasonable production schedule, then she started recording chapters and uploading them for me to approve. I love that I get to listen to it as she’s working, so we can make sure we’re both on the same page about personalities, accents, and cat-related awesomeness. Then we get to celebrate together once the book is finally live on Audible and iTunes, which is always super exciting!
- My favorite unexpected bonus about this process is that it happens while I’m working on the next book in the series, so I’m listening to my characters “talk” to me through Jessica’s performance, and that actually has a huge impact on my writing. Listening to her narrate Donn’s Shadow definitely helped me overcome a bit of writer’s block with the third book, and I’m so grateful!
- How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
- Jessica made it really easy to work very closely with her. She requested a pronunciation guide, and since even my own name can be tricky for some people, I sent over an audio recording of me saying the different character names and any other oddball words. For the first book, I even sent her an audio clip of me making Striker’s trademark “Brrrllll,” since that was based on the real Striker’s habit of trilling at us instead of meowing. 🙂
- Every once in a while, while listening to a chapter, I’d hear Jessica pronounce a word differently than I do (like “ylang ylang”). Before reaching out to ask her to change it, I’d look it up online… and pretty much every time, I’d learn that I’ve been saying something wrong for literally YEARS! So that’s another nice little bonus of working with a good narrator, haha.
- Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
- Absolutely! Mackenzie’s first encounter with a ghost is based on a friend of mine, who mentioned (far too casually for something this spooky) that ghosts who are “just passing through” will sometimes sit for a spell at the edge of her bed. In the night. In the dark. It doesn’t bother my friend, but it bothered the heck out of me, so I had to go home and start writing a story about it.
- Mac’s additional encounters with poltergeists and other paranormal entities were also based on a few real-life events, like an experience my mother had with some kitchen chairs that moved on their own (six of them, all at the same time).
- I get freaked out pretty easily and I like to let myself lean into those fears and write them down, especially when they take me to weird or scary places in my mind. But in real life, I’m a huge scaredy cat. Let’s just say Mackenzie is much, much braver than I am!
- What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
- Wow, is this something people say? Everyone starts out listening to stories before reading them. If there’s someone out there shaming audiobook listeners, the first thing I’d say is, “Stop it.” Because if they don’t like it, that’s fine, but there’s no wrong way to enjoy a good story. It’s like how everyone has their own learning style; we all have our own leisure style, too. Don’t be ashamed if you prefer one format over another. Whether you prefer to experience good stories via ebooks, paperbacks, books, movies, games, or whatever… just enjoy it! And then do all the content creators a favor and leave reviews. 🙂
- Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?
- Striker visits me in my dreams all the time, which I’m sure is because I miss her. Not long after she passed away, we fostered and adopted some special-needs kitties, one of whom passed away after only a couple of years with us. The pair of them show up in my dreams together, always snuggling and cleaning each other.
- None of my other named characters have really shown up in my dreams. But many of the monsters I write about definitely appeared in my nightmares before making it onto the page, like the monsters in the corners of the ceiling that I wrote into my story “Watchers’ Warning.”
- How do you select the names of your characters?
- I put a lot of thought into naming my characters, especially for Donn’s Hill and Donn’s Shadow. Mackenzie is named after my favorite character on a TV show called “The Newsroom,” and I thought that if I was the kind of person who wanted kids (I am not), I’d name a daughter after her. Instead, I named a character after her. 🙂 Her last name, Clair, comes from the fact that she’s a clairvoyant. Mackenzie’s handsome landlord, Graham Thomas, is named after one of my favorite fictional men and the man who created him: Thomas Harris’ Will Graham.
- I’ll usually look up common names from the year a character was born, or names that represent their heritage. Then, to make sure I’m not reusing the same name over and over (my placeholder for characters who identify as female tends to be “Megan” and I have no idea why), I check them against a spreadsheet I keep of every character name I’ve used and where I used it. Yep, I’m one of those people who (rightly) thinks spreadsheets are fun.
- Who is your favorite character to write?
- In the Soul Searchers mysteries, I love writing the characters who antagonize Mac. For some reason, creating moments where they get under her skin is incredibly fun. I also love writing Kit, because our personalities are really similar but I do a better job acting polite than she does. I like living vicariously through Kit and just saying whatever I want, doing what I think is best, and fighting for the people I love regardless of the consequences.
- What is your writing Kryptonite?
- Books and video games. If I’m on a deadline, feeling stressed, or–let’s face it–just awake and at home, it’s soooo tempting to spend the entire afternoon living in someone else’s imaginary universe instead of working on my own. I have to work hard to keep myself on task some days, but I try to find a balance between working and relaxing.
- Do you write listening to music?
- Most of the time, yes. I like to listen to Delerium’s Poem album on repeat so it sort of fades into the background, filling up the part of my brain that wants music without distracting the part of my brain that needs to imagine things and think of the right words to describe them. If I need to set a specific mood or get into the mind of a particular character, I’ll switch it up. Emotional scenes with Graham get written to ‘90s alternative rock, for example. But when I need to write a scary scene, like Mac attempting to summon a spirit, I have to turn the music off.
- What’s next for you?
- Right now, I’m working on the third and final book in the Soul Searchers Mysteries. It’s bittersweet to be wrapping up Mac’s story, but I’m excited for her to get to solve her personal mysteries on top of yet another murder (poor girl – she’s such a body magnet!). Apart from that, I’m also working on a standalone horror novel that pulls from my Basque heritage. We have some deliciously terrifying folklore and it’s so much fun to explore the dark things that scared my ancestors. I also have three short stories coming out in a few different anthologies this year, and hopefully more to come! Definitely subscribe to my newsletter at www.carynlarrinaga.com — you’ll get a free ebook, plus you’ll stay in the loop about everything I have coming up!
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