Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Five Questions with ROTTERS and SCOWLER author Daniel Kraus

June is Audio Book Month – take a minute to enter our giveaway!

Listening Library is thrilled to talk horror, audio, and inspiration with Daniel Kraus, the author of two highly-acclaimed novels—both available on audio from Listening Library and recommended for YA listeners 14 and up. (As we like to say, “Listen with the Lights On!”) He is also an editor at the American Library Association and has a brand new YA Lit column called Booklandia, so be sure to check it out! Daniel’s audiobook ROTTERS, read by Kirby Heyborne, was the winner of the 2012 Odyssey Award, given by the American Library Association to the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults in the United States. Lucky for listeners, and thanks to the SYNC program, ROTTERS is available for FREE download from June 27 – July 3.. And his latest audiobook, SCOWLER, also read by Kirby Heyborne, is available now at your local library or wherever books are sold. After Daniel’s Q&A, step into the recording studio with narrator Kirby in this great video.

Q: What is special or unique about the horror genre?  Why do you gravitate toward writing horror stories and what do you think this genre gives to teens?

A: With the possible exception or romance/erotica, it’s the one genre that tries to elicit a specific emotional, and even physical, response. I think the attraction for this kind of visceral thrill is strongest when you’re a teen. It’s the age when kids decide it’d be fun to drive too fast or jump off a cliff into a reservoir or experiment with drugs or whatever. It’s no wonder that teens want to experience some of these transformational thrills in their literature too.
Some of us get addicted to that thrill of pushing past safe boundaries and we never stop, and that’s how you end up with writers like me.

Q: In all of your books, you seem fascinated by small towns in the Midwest – and yet you live in a big city.  What draws you to this setting?

A: There is plenty to be scared of in the city. But for me, the endless stretches of nothing in the Midwest are what’s scariest. It’s almost like being in outer space. No one can hear you if you scream. No one can reach in time to save you. You could run, but the distances are great and you probably won’t make it. The isolation of the country can do strange things to people, but you’d never know it when you zoom by some farm house doing 80 on the interstate.

Q: Have you ever read your work aloud as part of your writing process? Have your audiobooks affected how you think about how writing sounds? (Or do you ever hear narrator Kirby Heyborne’s voice in your head?!)

A: In my case, I think it’s best that I *don’t* think about the audiobook process when I write. If I did, it might make me worry “How in the hell is Kirby going to do *this*?” Case in point is Scowler’s voice in SCOWLER, which basically looks like this on the page: “Tk-tk, hr’wo-gep-gep-gep.” Of course, to write dialogue like that you have to have some sense of what it sounds like, and I communicated that to Kirby once he was ready to record the audio, and I think it helped.

Q: We include your titles on our
Guys Listen website and we constantly hear from librarians and teachers that your books and audios have been perfect to place in the hands (or headphones!) of their male patrons and students, many of whom are considered reluctant readers. What do you think are the biggest challenges in helping guys discover stories that speak to them and encourage a love of reading? How does it make you feel to know you have the ability to reach this audience? 

A: It’s difficult to answer this based on my personal experience because I always loved to read. What fostered that love, however, availability. I never read the books that were put in front of me at school, which I think turned reading into an act that felt a little daring and subversive. I’d go wander the adult stacks looking for the most unsettling stuff, or pick something off my sister’s shelves that boys weren’t “supposed” to read, or snoop around in my parents’ room until I found something even more illicit. The hunt was almost as exciting as the reading. Once you frame it this way, the reluctance slips away. This isn’t unique to boys, but it’s certainly a way to present the idea of reading to them.

Q: We also include your titles on our Kids & Bullying: Audiobooks for Conversation website, as your books not only tell gripping and unique tales but they also confront important topics from bullying and abuse to poverty. Do you set out to tell a story that addresses specific issues that you feel are important and/or underrepresented in teen literature?

A: Never, never, never. Setting out to tackle a particular “issue” would be death to my writing. I’d feel like I was merely plugging a curricular hole. Tell a story, as deeply and richly and honestly as you can, and real issues will present themselves. Then you’ll fight through them. That’s what a writer does.

And don’t forget to enter our Audiobook Giveaway!

Reflections on an Odyssey (a guest post)

It’s been almost five months since the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced in Seattle. Excitement has died down for many people, and committees are already working on choosing next year’s winners. For me, the past months have been relatively easy compared to last year, when I was a member of the 2013 Odyssey Committee.
The Odyssey Award is Excellence in Audio Book Production presented by the American Library Association.  Find out more here.

To be honest, I’m not really sure how I got on the committee, which chooses the best in audiobook production for children or teens. I first served on the ALSC Membership Committee, then applied to be on any of the media award committees. I didn’t have any specific audiobook “history” other than being a listener, as many of us librarians are. When I met my fellow committee members and learned of their backgrounds, I definitely felt like a newbie, but I don’t think it mattered all that much. I was prepared to do my share of the work, to listen to their comments, and to soak up as much of this experience as I could.

Things started off slowly for us. We didn’t get a lot of submissions until late summer, and when it rained, it poured. When all was said and done, our committee of nine received more than 500 audiobooks. Some were disqualified right away because they weren’t published in the correct timeframe or for the appropriate audience. Most of the committee work was done online; we only met in person at Annual and then at Midwinter, when we chose the winners.

One of the most difficult aspects of being on the Odyssey Committee (aside from the amount of listening time involved), in my opinion, was separating the story from the audiobook production. The Odyssey Award is not based on the book’s popularity or its content. More so, the committee is focused on “technical and aesthetic aspects, including the effective use of narration as well as music and sound effects when they are incorporated into the production.”* We listened closely to the narrator(s), of course, but we were also listening for mispronunciations, muffled sounds, coughs, throat sounds, as well as music and sound effects. If accents were used, were they authentic? How are characters distinguished from one another? Were narrators consistent? Did read-alongs follow the text presented in the book? These are just some of the questions we had to ask ourselves while listening and re-listening to audios. Had I just been listening as a non-committee member, my primary concern would probably be whether I liked the story and its narrators—quite a bit simpler than being on the committee. 

Rotters is the 2012 Odyssey Award Winner, which I recently reviewed.  You can win a copy of the audio book by entering the Rafflecopter drawing below.
Just to refresh your memories, the committee chose The Fault in Our Stars as the 2013 Odyssey award winner, with honors going to Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, Ghost Knight, and Monstrous Beauty.
If you’re going to ALA in Chicago, don’t miss the 2013 Odyssey Award and Presentation at 3:30 p.m. Monday, July 1at McCormick Place Convention Center Room S106b. Last year, attendees received a free autographed audiobook of the winning titles and were treated to some awesome performances. I’ll be there, so please stop by and say hi!
Dana Folkerts, Youth Services Librarian, Thomas Ford Memorial Library, Western Springs, IL
June is Audio Book Month.  Enter to win some audio books!