Between the Sheets with Joe Arden
Romance Narrators: Tell us about the name Arden. Shakespeare used it to name a forest in one of his plays. In Hebrew, it's used to mean "a place of solitude and great beauty." In the audiobook world it is the last name of a beloved Romance narrator. How did you come to go by it?
Joe: My pseudonym is just my “stripper name”. It’s the first pet I had growing up and the street I grew up on. I had a springer spaniel we named Joe after a family relative that played major league baseball and I grew up on Arden Boulevard. But I like the Hebrew Shakespeare forest. Can I say it came from that instead?!
Romance Narrators: Great minds! Our pal Muffy Newtown got her name the same way. You recently hosted a fun romp on Aural Fixation Live, along with narrator Maxine Mitchell. For those who missed it, give us the skinny. We hear there were theatrical puppets??
Joe: Aural Fixation is an incredible online community of audiobook authors, narrators and fans. This was the second time I’ve been asked to do a live chat, and Maxine and I wanted to do something special to celebrate our first duet-style collaboration. So we put our heads together, drank a bottle of wine, and decided to do classic romance scene reenactments from movies. In lieu of actors, we may have used action figures, stuffed animals and dog toys. But if you really want to find out, join the group and check it out. It’s in their online archives!
Romance Narrators: (Running to the Aural Fixation archives as we speak.) You and Maxine also just released a duet style narration for CD Reiss' The Edge Series.
Joe: That’s right RN! That’s the series we were celebrating with the AF Live!
Romance Narrators: There is much talk amongst listeners as to their favorite way to listen (dual vs. duet narration). As a narrator, how do you enjoy the process of recording duet vs. dual?
Joe: First let me say that CD Reiss is an incredible writer and I was honored to be asked to voice her hero in this series. She approaches relationships, sexuality, and self-identity with such depth, darkness and fearlessness that it’s a treat and a challenge to narrate.
As far the age-old debate between duet and dual narration, I will say this: the actor in me prefers duet; the storyteller prefers dual.
When working duet-style, the dialogue crackles and the scenes are immediate and visceral, just like you’d find on stage. However, when working dual-style, the collaboration happens before the record session and then the storytelling happens alone. So you get this fascinating, synthesized interpretation of characters.
They both have merit and I am excited to continue to collaborate in both formats.
I also like to mix in a little solo work, you know what I mean?
Romance Narrators: We hear ya, friend. You are on quite a tear lately with the great Lauren Blakely! You're unbreaking people's hearts with Unbreak My Heart, and you're about to unzip their zips with Unzipped. Also, word on the street is you have even MORE planned together? Tell us about working on Lauren's books and maybe tease us with tidbits of what's coming next?
Joe: Lauren is a very hands-on author. She has a strong sense of the style and tone for her works and she does a great job of articulating that to the narrators. She trusts us; she shares all the details of her worlds with us; and then she sets us loose on the text.
UNBREAK MY HEART was my first collaboration with her and it was a story and a character that hit very close to home for me. I don’t like to share details of my private life, but I will say that Andrew was a character that resonated very strongly with me.
I worked on that title with Erin Mallon and she’s just great. Lauren must agree because Erin and I will be teaming up on several titles for LB later this year and into 2019.
I don’t want to give away too much, but there will be fire fighters, characters spilling their hearts over text messages and cracking dialogue!!
Romance Narrators: Sounds delicious! Shifting gears for a moment… it seems something is up with narrators and their love of dogs. Between our interviews with Sarah, Julie, Tracy, Caroline and now you, it's starting to feel like digging canines is a prerequisite for being in the audio industry. What can you tell us about your pup?
Joe: I can tell you I love her unconditionally and she has unwittingly made me a more tolerant and patient person.
I like lots of dogs, but my heart and my energy goes primarily to the pitbull community. They are a breed of dog that has just been terribly mistreated and as a result, their reputation has suffered. I have found them to be fiercely loyal, incredibly intelligent and adorably lovable creatures. I think cities that have bans on “aggressive dogs” have taken a cowardly, lazy approach to civil society and have done more to alienate and endanger those dogs than they have ‘protected their citizens’.
When I have time I foster pitties looking for their forever homes and make sure to go on extra long walks with my girl.
Romance Narrators: You were quite the fancy fella this year at the Audies with a whole bunch of medals around your neck. Congrats on all the recognition! That has to feel good, yeah?
Joe: Can I tell you what feels the best, actually?? Hearing from fans from all over the world. When I get a tweet from Puerto Rico or a review from Australia, I am just so blown away. It’s so easy in our line of work to forget that there is an audience. We sit in our tiny rooms and talk to ourselves for hours, so getting that feedback from the outside, knowing that our storytelling is reaching a wide audience, that is the best feeling.
Awards are nice, too.
Romance Narrators: Speaking of the Audies, last year saw a lot of love for CAKE by J. Bengtsson, which you co-narrated with Andi Arndt. Why do you think that particular book resonated so strongly with listeners?
Joe: Young love, rockstars and honest dialogue… what more could you want??
Romance Narrators: You've often been vocal about women's empowerment. Go on, get even more vocal. As a man in this wild world, what do you feel like you can be doing to support and encourage more respect for women?
Joe: I went to an event my freshman year of college called “Take Back The Night”. The evening included fearless and gut-wrenching testimonials of sexual assault, domestic violence and psychological abuse. After listening to these stories; acknowledging these voices and their journeys, we all lit candles and marched through the campus at night as a symbolic declaration that these women want to feel empowered. And honestly, they don’t want special treatment, they are simply asking that they live in a society where they feel SAFE walking alone at night.
When I went home that night, I couldn’t shake two thoughts: 1) that seems like such a simple request, and a request frankly, I have never had to think about in my life; and 2) in order to realize that change there have to be more vocal advocates LIKE ME, namely men.
So here I am with a voice and a platform and I want to use that platform to tell women they NEVER have to apologize for demanding to be treated with respect. And I am here to tell men to start listening to women and demanding more of each other.
Cultural norms are not an excuse for bad behavior.
No means no and we all understand that.
Gentlemen, let’s hold each other accountable and push our society toward equality, respect and mind-blowing consensual sex!
Romance Narrators: Hell yeah, sir! On the rare occasions that Joe Arden is not in his booth making people's aural dreams come true, what can he be found doing?
Joe: I love to cook. I love to hike. I play competitive soccer and baseball. I love a good outdoor concert and an aged Kentucky bourbon. This is answer is starting to feel like a dating profile response…
Romance Narrators: Don’t worry, we’d definitely swipe right! What other exciting audiobook projects do you have on the horizon?
Joe: I have some very exciting collaborations on the horizon with Meghan March and Carrie Ann Ryan.
Meghan’s SIN TRILOGY actually just made the NYTimes Bestseller list!
We will be spending some time in the bayou and at a Colorado tattoo shop, so follow those ladies and check out my Audible page for downloads and preorders today!
Romance Narrators: Fantastic. Where can people keep up with you online?
Joe: I am on Twitter @TheRealJoeArden
Otherwise, you can find me in your earbuds!
Links to people mentioned in interview:
Consider donating to one of my favorite pitbull rescue organizations: bullyproject.nyc
This is another one I love: dogsplayingforlife.com
You can learn more about and donate to Take Back the Night here: takebackthenight.org