PILLOW TALK with Lauren Blakely, Joe Arden and Erin Mallon
#1 NY Times Bestselling Author Lauren Blakely’s newest audiobook with narrating pair Joe Arden and Erin Mallon, THE FEEL GOOD FACTOR just hit Audible for your listening pleasure and NOBODY DOES IT BETTER lands today!
That inked bad boy who's been flirting hard with me since he rode into town? Turns out he's my new housemate, which is one hell of a problem since our chemistry is so hot it should be illegal.
Cuddle up with Lauren, Joe and Erin in Romance Narrators new “Pillow Talk” Series where authors and narrators whisper sweet nothings into each other’s ears post-collaboration and get to know one another better.
Lauren: Erin, how much of a book do you truly read in advance? Do you read the other character's chapter before yours?
Erin: I do read the whole book before I go in, though I will admit that my read of the guy’s sections is much speedier than my own chapters. There’s always juicy stuff in those chapters that informs my performance though so it would be a mistake to skip them. Plus, with great writing I want to honor the author’s work and I just plain want to know everything that happens! LB - do you know that Joe and I call you LB? You cool with that nickname?
Lauren: Ha! I heard that from my sound editor too! What can I say? It’s always been a dream of mine to be known by my initials! Now, if you could just add Queen before them, pretty please?
Erin: Excellent. Queen LB, you're known for being an extremely prolific writer who doesn't believe in writer's block. Would you say that's accurate? How far out in advance do you have yourself scheduled to write? Do you map out your new ideas and set extreme deadlines for yourself?
Lauren: That’s true! I don’t believe in writer’s block for me. The world is full of stories. I’ll watch an episode of a TV show and think of an interesting twist, I’ll listen to a memoir and devise new potential backstories, I’ll hear a song and come up with an emotional arc. Stories are literally everywhere, and I also am not “precious” with the idea of writing. Sure, writing is an art, but it’s also a craft. You get up, you build the house, brick by brick. I mean, I think houses are made of brick :) I usually write six months in advance and I plan a year in advance, and then I drive my business manager crazy by changing my mind every day!
JOE: Queen LB, houses that don’t get blown down are made of bricks. You can make them out of straw and sticks too, but they just don’t hold up to wind in the same way. I learned that from a book.
Lauren: Ha, good to know! Joe, how do you NOT go stir crazy in that booth all day reading about FEELINGS? And tingles and kisses and yada yada yada?
Joe: Oh, I do. I go very, very crazy. Hahaha. No, I don’t mind talking about feelings. I like it actually. I appreciate the transparency of romance novels. Characters are very open and honest with their feelings. It’s brave; it’s powerful; it’s rare. I think the world would be a better place if we were all a little more forthright with our feelings. There’d be more sex, anyway. Erin, I know you to be a woman who wears many capes. Aside from being a narrator and a wonder Mom, you are a playwright too... I wondered if your time spent immersed in the world of romance literature has informed your own writing in any way. Do your plays have relationships or sexual content that is shaped by your time spent in this genre?
Erin: Thank you sir! It’s hard to say if narrating informs my playwriting or vice versa, but I have to think… yes? I think one of the reasons I love narrating rom coms so much (and why doing Best Laid Plans duet style was such a blast) is because the dialogue feels so snappy and immediate. In romances everyone wants something from someone, so it feels very active and juicy getting to play those scenes… much like in theater. Sex and love and romance do all come up in the plays I write, though I don’t think anyone would label them romances by any stretch. However, I do know I’m on track and following my true impulses as a writer when I feel a little bit naughty at my keyboard and have a voice in my head saying “No! Erin, you can’t say THAT!” Then I’m like… “Ok then, I’m GONNA!”
Joe: Lauren, did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you dream of being before this? Or if you weren't a writer, what would you be doing with your days??
Lauren: Truth be told, once upon a time I wanted to be an actor, and a Broadway star in particular. The only things holding me back were an inability to act, sing and dance. Fortunately, I learned after nine months of auditioning for off-off-Broadway shows and student films that acting was not my jam, and that I vastly prefer being in my own head than pretending to be someone else, so writing made all the sense in the world. And, yeah, I love it.
Erin: I think 9 months is actually pretty quick for figuring this sort of thing out! Good for you. Do I remember you saying that you were actually an acting agent’s assistant at one point too? That probably taught you a lot, yeah?
Lauren: Yes, I worked at two talent agencies in New York City back in the mid-90s. We repped Jeff Donovan, Angela Bassett, Steve Buscemi, Michael Cerveris…
Erin: Ah! Michael Cerveris! Titanic the Musical! Hedwig and the Angry Inch!
Lauren: ... Marcus Lovett, Michael Rispoli and others. That was a blast! I’ve always loved working with actors, and admire their commitment and talent so much! I suppose it was inevitable that I’d become a casting director of sorts! (For my audiobooks!)
Erin: So, Joe. Let’s chat about THE FEEL GOOD FACTOR. Lauren has said she thinks you sound the hottest you’ve ever sounded in this one. Git it, fella! Were you feeling especially sexy the week we recorded this one? Were your vocal chords feeling feisty? How did you achieve such levels of yum in this one?
Joe: That’s all LB! She writes the sexy, I’m just a conduit. What I add to the mix: I like sex, and I love talking about it!
Erin: Holla! You may recall that Derek calls Perri kitten quite a bit in Feel Good Factor. I’d like to draw attention to the fact that Sir Arden made quite a stir on twitter recently when listeners learned that you are not a fan of cats. Any regrets? Care to revise your statement on felines in any way?
Joe: I regret nothing. I revise nothing. Here’s the only kind of cat I like:
Lauren: Erin, what was your favorite scene in The Feel Good Factor and why?
Erin: I really dug the way the chalkboard and the house itself almost became characters in the story. It made the atmosphere of the book super alive. Like when they were in the house together but not interacting, they could kind of feel each other through the walls, hear each other through the floorboards, sense each other in the air. I thought that was super sexy and kept things crackling throughout. I also liked seeing how terrible this stud of a man was at bowling.
Lauren: When you're in the booth, do you ever roll your eyes and think OMG THAT'S IN EVERY BOOK!
Erin: Oooh, what a dangerous question, Lauren! No, I don’t think I ever roll my eyes, but yes, there are things that come up in a LOT of books. Many common phrases and such. I recorded a bunch of YA books in rapid succession a few years ago and in every single one there was a chapter that ended with me saying “...and then everything went black.” Young ladies lose consciousness a lot in that genre! Lauren, you approach your audiobook projects like a creative, sky's-the-limit, joy-filled audio wizard! Seriously, you're always finding new, exciting ways to bring your books to listeners' ears. It's so dreamy. For your narrators and for your readers. So... thank you for that. What fuels your passion for audio? And do you take long walks with your dogs and just constantly dream up the next way you can delight hearts and blow minds?
Lauren: First and foremost, I’m an audiobook listener. That’s in part because my superpower is the ability to fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow. Which limits my reading-before-bed time! As such, I mostly consume books through audio, and I LOVE a great audiobook. My favorites are romance and interesting celebrity memoirs, like those from Patti Lupone, Rob Lowe and Trevor Noah. Beyond that, my great love, aside from my family and my dogs, is theater. I love musicals and I love getting lost in a show.
Erin: “MEEE TOOO!” I’m seeing Hamilton again next week for the second time, and I’m giddy just thinking about it. 8-year-old Erin got into theater after an obsession with Les Miz. Then teenager Erin lost her mind over Rent. Anyway. Please continue. Oh wait. Joe, you gotta chime in here. What play or musical got you hooked when you were a Baby Arden?
Joe: The first two musicals I ever saw were Phantom and Les Miz. My parents made me listen to the original Broadway cast recording BEFORE seeing the shows. They said, ‘there’s a lot to take in at the theatre. All your senses will be engaged. If you’re not familiar with the music and the story, you won’t be able to follow anything.’ I, of course, hated them for making me do this, but in retrospect, they were right. Then in high school I tried out for a play because my girlfriend was the stage manager and there was sword fighting in the show. The relationship ended shortly after closing, but my love for live performance has been growing ever since.
Lauren: 24601!!!!! I love Les Miz. I mean, really. What theater nerd doesn’t? I can completely suspend disbelief every time I’m at the theater...That’s where my love of producing audiobooks comes from -- my life-long passion for attending the theater. I’ve always admired actors and the craft of acting, and I’ve loved getting lost in the worlds they can create. So, dreaming up awesome new approaches to audiobooks stems, I suppose, from my love of theater….This is how I get to participate in the creation of it and I love doing that. And yes, having five dogs gives me lots of time to walk and dream up ideas! Joe, what do you most want an author to share with you about his or her book and what do you not want to hear or not need to know?
Joe: I am merely a vessel for the author’s story. If I’m doing my job right, that story is front and center and I’m somewhere in the background. So, I welcome anything an author likes to share. A character’s dreams; fears. His favorite food; his hobbies. Anything that gives me insights into how that character ticks. All that said… if an author has done their job well, then I don’t need to know any of this, because it should all be there in the text already. Lauren, I think you write men pretty well. What I mean by that is you get their sensibilities and you write male dialogue believably. Do you have brothers or friends who you draw inspiration from?? Are there people in your real life that inspire your male leads?
Lauren: My husband is extremely funny and he considers himself the comedian-in-residence, so I’d have to say he’s probably quite inspiring especially when it comes to dialogue.
Erin: OMG, my husband takes credit for my writing too. What punks!
Lauren: Men! Sheesh! But hey, I’ll happily snag his best bits! I’ve been known to send myself notes when he says something particularly amusing, so I can save it to use. Then again, I’ve been doing this my whole life. Many moons ago, when I was a reporter, a PR guy made a joke about hummus being so good that he wanted to take a bath in it, so I held onto that comment for ages until I could finally use it in Unzipped, which Joe narrated, though that was Andi’s line. Alas, I digress. Thank you for the compliment! My other “trick” for approaching writing guys is I tend to let myself be a little more loose if you will. I call that writing style “Lauren unleashed.” :)
Joe: Getting a little personal here... Erin, do you have any book boyfriends from the titles you've worked on?? What do you look for in a man (or did you look for/or found in your husband)? And do you ever see any of those characters in the books you've narrated?
Erin: I know I should know this by now, but as my male co-narrator, aren't YOU one of my book boyfriends? Or are we talking about male characters in books? I think we're talking about characters in books. This may be a bit of a copout, but they're kind of all my boyfriends for the time I'm working on the book, yeah? And, this feels a little risky to talk about, but I was actually thinking the other day that narrating so much romance might actually make my expectations for romance a little bit too high in real life sometimes. I think one of the sexiest things a man can bring to a relationship is being a good listener and man, these book dudes tend to be awesome at listening to their partners! Don't get me wrong, my husband is too, but I may wish I was as endlessly fascinating to him as the characters I narrate seem to be to their beloveds:)
Joe: I’m sorry. What were you saying? I tuned out there for a minute. Also, fun bonus question... has any male narrator's performance made you like a character even more??
Erin: I loved what Teddy Hamilton did with Sam in Amy Daws’ NEXT IN LINE. He was already a charming sweet, funny guy on the page, but then hearing him through Teddy’s performance did make me love him even more. Also, during that process I started spotting “sexy gingers” everywhere I went. It was funny!
Joe: Cool. I was fishing for a compliment here, but yeah, no, totally cool. Teddy sounds aaaaawwwwweeeeesssssoooommmmmeeeeee….
Erin: I considered complimenting you, but you neglected to tell me I am fascinating a moment ago, so I retaliated by withholding love from you. It was juvenile. I’m sorry. You know you’re my favorite and every time I get to narrate with you my aural dreams come true. You tore things up as Derek in The Feel Good Factor. And Noah in Birthday Suit may be my spirit animal. Alright Joe, brace yourself. I’m about to be very shallow for a moment. You braced? Cool. Here I go. You, like many of your male narrator comrades keep your beautiful face private. However, you did recently treat folks to a view of the back of your head in a lovely, artsy photo. Newsflash: Curls! You’re a curly bird! Your precious head is covered in luscious curls! Do I have an actual question about this? I guess not. I suppose I just wanted to bring our collective attention to this fact. Well, ok. Here’s one. As a curly-haired gal who often straightens, any tips for your fellow-curly-haired brethren? Products? Regimens?
Joe: Hahaha. It’s true! Here are my tips for fellow mop tops: 1) don’t wash it every day, but definitely condition it every day. 2) the only product I put in my hair for 10 years was John Frieda’s Frizz-Ease. Now I only use Hask Placenta. 3) If you find a stylist who can manage your curls, you treasure that person and never let them go. Immediately start looking at the housing market in that city because you can never leave that town now!
Erin: Dare I say Joe feels a bit romantical towards his hairdresser? Lucky stylist! Alright, time to wrap things up. I mean, once someone busts out the Hask Placenta, there’s not much else to say, amirite? Thanks for chatting with me, friends! Everybody go listen to The Feel Good Factor!