BEYOND THE BOOTH with Elece Green
KW: Today, we meet Elece Green, who works as a producer in the audiobook publishing wing at Hachette Book Group. We’ll find out more about what an audiobook producer does, as well as the story behind her fabulous dresses, but first, I’m always interested in the path people take to get to where they are now. Let’s start from the beginning. Elece, what did you want to be when you grew up?
EG: I believe I had designs on “concert pianist” when I was 10 or 11.
KW: What did you study in school?
EG: I went to NYU for communications. I thought either Advertising or PR would be my path.
KW: Your first job and your worst job – go.
My first job (other than babysitting for $2.50/hr) was receptionist for a bloated misogynist insurance broker at 17 years old in Boulder, Colorado
My worst job: It’s a tie between:
“personal assistant” to Patricia Kennedy Lawford (yes, president John F. Kennedy’s younger sister who married Rat-Packer Peter Lawford) for 2 whole months while a student at NYU in 2002
Making pine “some assembly required” coat racks in a small factory in Boulder when I was 20.
KW: What was your first job in the audiobook industry?
EG: While I was still the executive assistant to the President of Penguin Young Readers back in 2005, I was helping to provide comments on audiobook talent auditions.
KW: What got you interested in audiobooks?
EG: Two things, really: Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved being read to. Even now, I love it when my husband reads to me. There’s just something magical about being told a story—I feel deeply connected to the sound of the words, and to my own imagination when I’m listening to someone read to me. And I think because I’m truly a slow reader (with what is likely a slight reading disability), the anxiety wrapped up in reading disappears when I am read to, and I’m only left with the pure joy of reading. When I made the connection that audiobooks were, at their essence, someone with wonderful voice talents reading a story, I knew they were meant for me and people like me.
The other is that I inherited my father’s ears; they stick straight out and capture sound so acutely, I’m certain I hear the world on a whole other level from other humans. I’ve always said that if I had to lose my sight or my hearing, I would choose sight. Sound, and the way it helps to tell a story (in film, television and radio) has always been a very powerful part of my life. The marriage of sound and story in some of the best audiobooks creates such a rich and layered experience, and it’s one of the joys of my life now to be able to craft really engaging stories using sound design.
KW: What is your job title now?
KW: Do you work from home or do you go into an office/studio, or both?
EG: Both. Some days, I wear my producer hat at my desk pushing titles through the production process (casting, scheduling recordings, building a team), and other days I’m in the studio with authors and actors.
KW: What was your first audiobook?
EG: The first audiobook I listened to (apart from the little 45” records of stories I loved as a little girl) was THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak, narrated by the incomparable Alan Corduner. It completely altered my reality, that production. Alan’s deliciously layered and heartbreaking performance took a massive tome I had been previously unable to tackle in hardcover form and made it an exhilarating, living, breathing experience. I now knew the magic that was possible in audiobooks. I knew then without a doubt in my mind that I had to be someone to help create this same kind of experience for listeners.
KW: What’s a significant or unexpected change that’s happened since you began working in the industry?
EG: Just how much the industry has expanded. I knew audiobooks had the potential for growth way back in 2008 when I began actively trying to break in, but I never imagined they would become the game changer they are today. It’s thrilling to see.
KW: What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
EG: Directing actors (and author-narrators) in the booth is a wonderful challenge. For me, if a book has been cast well, the actor is already in synch with the material, so it’s about creating a comfortable space for all of us (actor, engineer, and director) to do our best work, and then simply finely-tuning a moment here or there. I love being a part of that creation process.
(KW: I’d guess maybe getting to work with a few famous people, like the guy in this photo.)
KW: What’s the part of your job that you savor?
EG: Working on books that call for sound design is one of my absolute favorite things. While producing and recording a book, I hear elements very clearly in my imagination, and it’s such an exhilarating challenge to translate what I hear in my head into audio. So much fun.
KW: What is most stressful about your job?
EG: The sheer number of audiobooks we produce is astounding (even as the industry expands under the demand), so it’s a true test of my abilities to manage the workload.
KW: What gives you a sense of accomplishment?
EG: Casting a book perfectly.
(Which sometimes means you win an Audie Award!)
KW: Do you have a mentor or a hero in this industry?
EG: Jenna Lamia is, hands down, one of my top 3 heroes. She and Alan Corduner are why I fell in love with audiobooks. No one does “Southern 1950s coming-of-age” stories with more sheer natural ability, heartbreaking authenticity or charm than Jenna. It’s a professional goal of mine to work with her one day. I might be able to die happy after that.
KW: What are you working on right now?
EG: I’m knee-deep right now in a tremendous gothic horror (it’s “YA” but who’s counting?) from the dark and wonderful Dawn Kurtagich called TEETH IN THE MIST. It’s a beast, with multi-cast and full sound design, and I cannot wait for listeners to lose themselves in the frightening world Dawn has created.
KW: What’s your poison?
EG: Anyone who knows me knows that cheese is an Olympic sport for me—particularly the stinky oozy kind. (If the grid goes down, one of the first things I’ll do is steal a goat and hole up on some abandoned farmland, because life ain’t worth living if there ain’t any cheese.)
Bourbon runs a distant second.
KW: I love seeing your social media photos that showcase your collection of vintage dresses. How did your interest in vintage clothing start?
EG: I was actually giving your question about when the vintage thing began for me some real thought this past week, and I realize it was happening very early on—as early as 14, in fact, when I was the deeply proud owner of a bright green 1950s style swimming suit with ruching and halter neckline. I believe I knew vaguely that it was a vintage silhouette, but what I knew for certain is how sensational and classic and unique it made me feel. So, perhaps I’ve always just been following my fashion destiny. I began collecting true vintage clothing in earnest back in 2012—around the time I began my audio career with Hachette—and haven’t looked back. A friend of mine once remarked that it feels not so much that I’m collecting vintage pieces, as the pieces once actually belonged to me in another time, and are finding me again slowly but surely. And I love that concept—that perhaps my spirit might be from another time. I’ve never really felt all that comfortable in modern clothes anyway, so this foray into vintage has simply felt like a natural transition.
That’s a lot about the vintage thing. Whew!