June is Audio Month, and author Becky Masterman joins the celebration with her thoughts on why listening to a story can be even better than reading one.

Everyone knows that the earliest form of storytelling took place around the fire at night—what is called the “oral tradition.” People recounted the legends of their culture so often they would remember every word, and sometimes add things that became part of the legend for later generations.

Despite the coming of writing, I think we’re still story listeners at heart. I have three older sisters, and on each of our birthdays our mother would tell the legend of our births. For me, my mother would always tell how she cried with unhappiness when she found out she was pregnant with me at age 40, but then my sisters went shopping for baby clothes and came back with everything pink. And how when I was born my 8-year-old sister said, “Now I have a baby of my very own.” I would laugh because I knew the story always ended with my being loved by my whole family.

“Despite the coming of writing, I think we’re still story listeners at heart.”

My husband and I, older and married only eight years ago, don’t have a lot of shared legends, and that makes me a little sad. Yet we do have stories we tell to each other. They are the novels we read. Fred may prefer Preston and Child and I may prefer Lisa Gardner, and that’s a good thing. By recounting the plots to each other while we’re getting ready to eat dinner, we can get twice the stories. 

Fred follows two books at once, one a hardcover that he reads in the late afternoon, and the other an audio version that he listens to when he takes his 3.5-mile walk every morning in the high desert north of Tucson, Arizona, where we live. As a longtime fan of audiobooks, he was impressed to hear that Judy Kaye, a Tony Award winner and the narrator of the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries, would be narrating my first novel, Rage Against the Dying.

When I had the incredible experience of attending one of the taping sessions for Rage Against the Dying, I heard for the first time my heroine’s voice, which had lived for years only in my head. Besides evoking the particular passion of Brigid Quinn, a retired FBI agent both toughened and traumatized by what she had witnessed during her career, Ms. Kaye had the ability to subtly change her accent so there were distinctions between Brigid, her husband Carlo DiForenza, an Italian philosophy professor who had lived much of his life in the U.S., and Max Coyote, a Native American. When I asked Ms. Kaye how she got Max’s voice so right, she said she had lived for a while in Phoenix, not far from me in Tucson.

What fortunate coincidences come together to create our legends.

But my favorite comment about the audio version of Rage Against the Dying came from Fred. He was there during all seven drafts of Rage, suffering through and often helping me with plot problems. Then he finally listened to the audio version, one disk a day, on his one-hour walk. He didn’t say anything while he was listening, but after nine days, when he had finished, he said, “It listens even better than it reads.”

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