The following is an interview with audio drama creator Julie Hoverson, who is best known for her award-winning series, 19 Nocturne Boulevard. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Hoverson about her love of the audio drama medium, the creative process involved in the production of an episode, and the details on her upcoming series, Fatal Girl.
This interview was conducted on June 25, 2012.
Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: As a creator, writer, and producer of audio dramas, what is it about the medium that you feel appeals most to you and to listeners?
Julie Hoverson: For me, I’m basically a big, old showoff. And, audio drama is a medium that I can put together entirely myself, from start to finish, without having to wait on anyone else getting off their butts.
To most producers, audio also presents a great storytelling alternative to moviemaking; it is MUCH simpler (and cheaper) to put together a great audio piece than a crappy short film. And, your friend, Bob, who sounds JUST like Shatner but weighs 500 pounds, can play Kirk perfectly.
For listeners, though, the advantage audio has over video is that you can listen anywhere – working out, at work, driving – and not risk serious bodily injury. The rise of the iPod culture, and the voracity of the audience, has been a huge boon for us amateur audio dramatists.
BD: Many of your episodes focus on the horror, sci-fi, and fantasy genres. What drew you to these genres, and do you foresee yourself remaining faithful to these audiences?
JH: I love the endless possibilities for stories once you remove the rule “must make sense in current reality.” I write pretty much whatever it occurs to me to write, when I sit down to do it. I’m lucky that I’ve found an audience who is willing to take whatever I dish out – each individual may not like everything I produce, but they know me well enough to come back for the next story, since it will likely be completely different.
Far more important than genre tags, though, is character. The cleverest situation, the niftiest monster, does not make a compelling story. It is the people who are experiencing the story and, by extrapolation, the people who are the listeners are experiencing the story through that engage and compel. I have been told by many that it’s my characters and their dialogue that makes every story I write worth listening to – again, regardless of genre.
BD: Your most popular series, 19 Nocturne Boulevard, is an anthology series which has been awarded the 2008 and 2009 Mark Time Awards for Best Science Fiction Audio Production of the Year. In addition, it has launched its own spin-off serial. For our readers who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series?
JH: Also just announced – I just won a 2011 Gold Ogle Award [counterpart to the Mark Time, but for fantasy/horror].
19 Nocturne Boulevard is a classic anthology series. The majority of episodes stand alone and can be listened to in simple (roughly) half hour bites. There are some “sub-series” episodes within 19 Nocturne as well – “B&B Investigations,” “The Lovecraft 5,” “The Deadeye Kid,” etc. – where certain characters that began as a one-shot story just sort of “took off” and inspired me to write more about them – though I do make every effort to ensure that each episode stands alone as a story of its own.
BD: Producing audio dramas can be a long and involved process, often requiring a very talented creative team. How would you describe the creative process for your shows, and how long does it generally take to go from concept to air date?
JH: Team? Someone has a team? Actually, I can’t quite say that any more. For the vast majority of my shows so far, though, the bulk of the work has all been on me – I wrote, cast, produced, and sound edited (basically did everything except some of the acting).
Now, I have a few lackeys – um – volunteers who help me out with some of the sound editing basics (Suzanne, Kim, Reynaud, Rhys, Lothar, Tony, etc.) and are working up to taking on more of the heavy lifting as they become more comfortable with it. I still do all the writing, since that’s my main focus – I’m a writer that learned to produce, not a producer that learned to write.
A general rule of thumb we “in the industry” go by is “1 minute of air time = 1 hour of sweat.” Can be easier or harder, but that’s a good, rough idea.
For me, though, it’s hard to tell, since I’m constantly multitasking – at the same time as I’m working on editing up the sound for one episode, I may also be plotting and writing 3-4 more, listening through tons of music for future stories, and sending a variety of upcoming scripts out to actors. I usually try to have all the voices for an episode in the can a month or more in advance, and have the next six months worth of scripts written at any given time.
BD: Is it possible for fans of your shows to become more involved, and how should they go about doing so?
JH: I can always use help, actors, or donations. Anyone is welcome to drop me an e-mail (email@example.com), or join our forum at www.audiodramatalk.com, or even like the show on Facebook. I try very hard to respond to every question/comment, since I hate absentee producers.
BD: All of your shows, including Bingo the Birthday Clown and The Deadeye Kid, contain original content. Have you ever considered adapting a previously published book, film, or other concept into an audio drama format?
JH: Actually, a number of the 19 Nocturne episodes have been adapted (from public domain stories, or with author’s permission, etc.) – most notably I do a lot of material from the works of H.P. Lovecraft (The Dunwich Horror, The Thing on the Doorstep, Within the Walls of Eryx, my sub-series “The Lovecraft 5”, etc.), and a ton of Saki stories, as well as Wilde (The Canterville Ghost), Hodgson (A Tropical Horror), Glaspell (A Jury of Her Peers), Leiber (Bread Overhead), Sheckley (The Leech), and Borges (Dis Belief, from the story “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”). I find that this format (audio drama) is a great opportunity to hone my skills at adaptation.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek,” would you care to geek out with us about your favorite audio dramas, films, comics, or books?
JH: Audio dramas – who doesn’t love zombies? The main zombpocalypse series I adore is We’re Alive, but I also have a deep, dark fond spot for 1:18 Migration (which is creepy as heck). I would love Edict Zero (distant future space colony setting, but mostly X-Files-y investigation) even if I weren’t a major character in it, and Tales of the Extraordinary (20s-style irreverent pulp adventure) is constantly hilarious. More recently, I’ve also fallen in love with Keeg’s Quest (skyrim fanfic comedy), Eddie K (misadventures of a lounge singer), This Thing of Ours (mafia tales), and The Katniss Chronicles (fan adaptation of . . . you guessed it).
It’s hard to pick just a few, though, since there are so many great shows out here – Warp’d Space (colony ship sci-fi from my own protégé, Kimberly Poole), Tamlynn PI (detective noir with a fey twist from Gypsy Audio), just about any epic piece from Brokensea audio, and on and on and on . . .
Comics – I’m old school, and stopped having time to read comics a long time back, but I still have my Red Sonjas, my Vampirellas, my Rima the Jungle Girls, and my Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew.
Films – one of my favorite films ever is The Blood of Heroes with Rutger Hauer (Mad Max-type world sports movie), but I also love things as odd and disparate as Big Trouble in Little China, Slashers, Ravenous, Mystery Men, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Dark City, Cabin in the Woods, City of Lost Children, Saimin, G.P. 506, Deadful Melody, and Metropolis.
BD: I recently learned that you have an anime/manga-style series in the works called Fatal Girl. Can you give us the inside scoop on this or any other upcoming projects?
JH: Fatal Girl has two episodes out so far, and while I’m working “in the style of” anime/manga, I’m also working to make it accessible to people who don’t know anything about (or who actively dislike) anime (or what they perceive to be anime). I have an overarching plotline of five seasons of six 1-hour episodes (one season each year) . . . which will probably kill me . . .
The premise is a standard one: two kick-a– girls, Chiyoko (mystic powers) and Alice (swordswoman), fight demons, with the help of Ken (“the Zander”) and Hyde (the rich, obsessive antihero). It is a dark, mature storyline, which sometimes veers into nasty territory, but I feel like I handle it with a light enough touch that it won’t gross anyone out too badly.
So far, people have been very enthused about Fatal Girl – anime fans have been willing to overlook some of my technical errors, while non-anime fans have admitted to “watching the movie in their heads.”
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to fans who may be interested in creating their own audio dramas?
JH: Network with us experienced types. Learn everything you can to improve what you’re doing (be it writing, acting, sound, etc.). Pace yourself, don’t get too ambitious on day one and burn out.
Most important, though – be prepared to do everything yourself. I have seen more promising shows fall apart and vanish due to inter-group issues, or sound editors who get overwhelmed (sound IS the most time-consuming part of the process) and go into hiding.
As long as you always have yourself to fall back on, you can’t be left completely high and dry.
BD: What is the best way for fans to find more information about 19 Nocturne Boulevard and your other series?