Jon Papernick’s first novel, Who by Fire, Who by Blood, has been referred to as a “fast-paced thriller,” and “smart, relentless, impossible to put down.” The audiobook, narrated by John Greenman, is such a sharp, hairpin-turning work of literary delight that we asked Jon if he’d not only indulge our few questions, but offer us up another audio story for you.
He was, John graciously recorded it, and we’re pleased to offer up My Darling Sweetheart Baby, a short story by Jon Papernick, narrated by John Greenman. Enjoy it, then read below to discover what else Jon’s up to.
Miette Elm:Did you have any reservations about allowing Who By Fire, Who By Blood to be made into an audiobook? What were they? How did narrator John Greenman’s voicing of the text match up to what you had in your head?
Jon Papernick: I had no reservations at all about turning Who by Fire, Why by Blood into an audio book. I think John did a wonderful job and he was really willing to work at getting all of the Hebrew/Yiddish pronunciation correct.
ME: The novel works quite well when read aloud– there’s something cinematic to the narrative voice, and a natural cadence to the sentence structure. Do you read aloud when writing?
JP: Yes, I do read aloud when I’m writing, and I always tell my students that it is important to constantly read your work out loud. I think Robert Frost once said “The ear is the only true reader,” and I think that is absolutely true. Not reading your work aloud is somewhat like writing sheet music without actually playing it out loud. Prose should be as musical as poetry, and of course human speech at its truest is poetry.
ME: Do you listen to many audiobooks? If so, what else do you do while listening? Driving? Knitting? Ay titles you’d like to recommend as exceptional?
JP: I used to listen to a lot of audio books when my kids were first born. I would listen in the car as it was driving them back and forth, and while I was preparing dinner, and while I was folding laundry. Sometimes I would download them onto my iPod and go for long walks listening to novels. I really think that John Greenman did a wonderful job reading The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain, which is probably the funniest book ever written. Listening to that book made me really excited to work with John. I also think that the audiobooks for Middlesex By Jeffery Eugenides, Tree of Smoke by Dennis Johnson and Lush Life Richard Price were superlative.
ME: We seem to be in somewhat of a golden age of strong Jewish heroes and anti-heroes in North American fiction. Who else is writing gripping, bitingly real fiction like this that would work well as an audiobook?
JP: I just met with a young writer named Ilan Mochari whose novel Zinsky the Obscure is coming out this fall. I think that would make a wonderful audio book.
ME: You’ve also taught fiction writing at a number of colleges and universities. How does teaching the craft shape your own craft, and vice versa?
JP: First of all, I really enjoy teaching, and I wonder whether I could be a writer at all if I was simply locked up in a garret somewhere with a pen and paper. I think there is a certain symbiotic relationship between me and my students, and I often articulate my inner thoughts clearly to them before I actually integrate them into my own writing. Teaching really helps center me as a writer, and I am constantly reminded that writing is a craft that needs to be practiced regularly.
ME: What are you working on next?
JP: I’m currently working on a novel and am about to undertake a major rewriting of it. The novel is called the Sunday Synagogue Softball League. I recently sent my agent the first 68,000 words, and he had some very helpful comments about major structural changes that I need to consider in order for the story to really come alive. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, and I’m just trying to find the right headspace to get started. I’m also working on a third collection of short stories entitled Gallery of the Disappeared Men.
Who by Fire, Who by Blood is available from Iambik as an audiobook for only $6.99. Bestselling author Jennifer Haigh calls it a thinking man’s thriller — smart, relentless, impossible to put down.
We couldn’t agree more. Why not listen to the first chapter and see if it hooks you?