Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tamora Pierce Audiobook Original Makes Publishing History

York Times best-selling author Tamora Pierce has teamed with Full Cast Audio to create a publishing first. Her new novel, "Melting Stones," will be released as an audiobook original one full year ahead of its print publication by Scholastic.

According to the Audio Publisher's Association, this is the first manuscript specifically tailored for audio with a guaranteed print release to follow. Full Cast Audio founder Bruce Coville adds: "To have an author of Tammy's stature, someone who has sold millions of books around the world, create a complete novel with the intent that it appear first as an audiobook, is unprecedented. It confirms the growing importance and mainstream acceptance of audiobooks."

"Melting Stones," by Pierce will debut on audio in October, produced by Full Cast Audio and distributed by Harcourt Trade Publishers.

The audiobook market continues to soar, reaching $871 million in sales in 2005, an increase of 4.7 percent from the previous year. Full Cast Audio, a small company in Syracuse, NY, is riding that wave and will produce four audio originals by Pierce, whose young-adult fantasy books featuring strong female characters have a loyal fan following.

Six of Pierce's books have landed on the New York Times Children's Chapter Books Best-Seller's list, with two, "Trickster's Queen" and "Lady Knight" reaching No. 1. Her books have also graced best-seller's lists in USA Today, Publisher's Weekly, Amazon.com and most notably, the Wall Street Journal's Fiction Best-Seller's list, which does not track children's books separately. Her books have garnered dozens of awards.

"People tend to be amazed that someone of Tammy's stature is willing to have her newest novel go to audio before the print version," Coville says. "They also tend to think it's really exciting."

"Melting Stones" is the eighth book Pierce has recorded with Full Cast Audio, a company unique in its format of using a full cast of actors for its unabridged recordings. Pierce, who wrote for radio theater in the 1980s, loves the full-cast format and pitched the idea for an audio original to Coville in 2003.

"I like creating a tapestry of voices," says Pierce, who also directed "Melting Stones." "It is a pleasure to hear those cascades of emotion, those cascades of sound, that orchestration of tension and feeling that a good audio company can give you. The voices, the sound drive what you see and shape it."

Those same voices also drove how Pierce wrote the novel. Pierce had been struggling to write "Melting Stones" in 2005, when she lugged her typewriter with her (she didn't use a laptop then) on a trip to Syracuse for a recording session for her novel "Street Magic." Then, she heard the voice of a young actress named Grace Kelly playing the role of Evvy in "Street Magic." Pierce fell in love with Kelly's voice, as well as the freshness and sassiness she brought to Evvy, slated to be the main character in "Melting Stones." Suddenly, everything about "Melting Stones" changed.

Pierce re-wrote "Melting Stones" from page one, re-casting the story from third person to first person, and tailoring Evvy expressly for Kelly's voice.

"It was like Grace was standing right by me talking into my ear and I just ripped right on through," she says. "She just crackles on the microphone. She owned Evvy."

Adds Coville: "Grace creates and embodies the character of Evvy. But again, it's a circular process, since Tammy actually wrote the text with Grace's voice in mind. She crafted it for Grace and Grace rose to the occasion."

Pierce constructed every sentence -- even down to single words -- with the voice actors in mind, editing and revising the book right through the final recording session. Any time an actor stumbled over a word, she changed it. The audio and print versions of the book will differ only in attributions such as "she said" and "he said" since those are omitted in the audio version. Coville, also a children' served as Pierce's editor.

"This is a terrific text, with great characters, a compelling situation and some of the most incredibly imaginative scenes Tammy has ever created," Coville says.

"Melting Stones" runs 8 hours, 30 minutes and retail editions will sell for $39.95 at bookstores, online retailers and wherever audiobooks are sold.

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