Author & Narrator Q&A: Bedside Manners by Heather Frimmer, read by Randye Kaye
– Tell us a bit about yourselves!
Heather: I am a radiologist specializing in breast imaging. I review mammograms, x-rays and CT scans and perform breast biopsies. When I’m not in a dark room interpreting films, you’ll find me reading or writing. In addition to novels, I also write book reviews on Books, INK and on my own blog. I live in Connecticut with my husband, two sons, and brand new baby, a golden doodle puppy named Leo.
Randye: I am an actor by trade.... and that is a career that uses absolutely everything you've done, and do, in your life. So my experience as singer, radio broadcaster, author, speaker, improv actress, teacher, director, voice talent, wife, mom, and now “Grammy” to 3 toddlers....it all fits in.
– What is your new book about?
Heather: In Bedside Manners, a mother-daughter story, Joyce Novak, the mother, must abandon her caregiver role and become the patient after an unexpected breast cancer diagnosis throws her into a tailspin. Her daughter, Marnie, just completed medical school and is looking forward to her surgical internship and upcoming wedding. But when one of her patients dies, she must learn to strike a balance between doctor and daughter.
– What inspires you to write?
Heather: I look for inspiration everywhere: patient interactions, stories I hear from friends, and things I read in the newspaper or online. Joyce’s story was inspired by the thousands of breast cancer patients I’ve had the honor of caring for. I used my observations to make Joyce’s journey as authentic and emotionally resonant as possible. Many of Marnie’s experiences during medical training are based on things either I or my friends encountered on the wards.
– What is your writing process?
Heather: I wish I could be a planner, but I can’t imagine outlining a story before I’ve gotten to know my characters. I start writing with a kernel of an idea and a rough idea of the first few scenes. As the characters become more real and the story starts to gel, I’m able to outline a few chapters ahead.
While I have a lovely writing nook at home, most of my writing happens at bookstores or coffee shops. A constant supply of caffeine and a little background noise help me focus and be more productive.
– When you aren't writing, what are you reading?
Heather: I am an avid, bordering on obsessive reader, often tallying more than 100 books per year. I will read anything if it comes with a recommendation from someone I trust, but I lean towards women’s fiction, historical fiction and psychological thrillers. Recent favorites include After the End by Clare Mackintosh, Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok and Her Daughter’s Mother by Daniela Petrova.
On audio, I prefer listening to memoir and narrative non-fiction about social science and medicine. Inheritanceby Dani Shapiro, Maid by Stephanie Land and Becoming by Michelle Obama are ones I recently enjoyed.
– How did you prepare to narrate this audiobook?
Randye: First of all, you read the book to get a feel for the characters...same as if doing a play, except you play them all! What do they look Like? Who might they sound like? ( to me, subtle is usually better....so a character has a personality flavor, rather than a weird voice). In this case, the story was told from 2 points of view, even though all via the narrator’s voice. Then, you get to work, keeping track as you go of medical terms, characters etc. and you get into the story, step back and let the characters (and the author) tell it.
– Tell us about your interaction with each other?
Heather: Randye and I found each other on a website connecting authors with narrators, but soon learned we have many friends in common. Coincidentally, we both had tickets to see a local production of Cabaret on the same night and ended up meeting in person. It was truly meant to be. Randye is a talented voice artist and the consummate professional. During the audiobook production, we corresponded often about pronunciation, consistency and interpretation. Her talent and dedication really brought Bedside Manners to life in a beautiful way.
Randye: Heather and I met online, through a website connecting authors and narrators. Turns out we live in the same area and even we’re going to see the same play that night! As Marnie’s grandma might say, it was B’shert (meant to be). Heather was great to work with. Best-case scenario for a narrator: you run a few questions by the author, and a sample file, and after approval they just step back and let you do your job. This worked out great!
– What was one challenge in writing this book?
Heather: Writing a novel was one of the most challenging things I’ve done in my life, much more difficult in many ways than surviving medical school and residency. Developing plot and characters, ramping up tension and drama in every scene and crafting a satisfying ending all took hours of grueling work and lots of sweat and tears.
– What was one challenge in narrating this book?
Randye: Same as if I were a reader… [SPOILER ALERT] wanting Joyce to tell her family sooner!
– What was one fun thing about writing this book?
Heather: Despite the difficulty and moments of frustration, writing Bedside Manners also had many moments of joy and reward. There’s nothing like holding a book you’ve written in your hands. Also, connecting with readers who’ve been touched by my story is particularly sweet and special.
– When you aren’t narrating what are you listening to?
Randye: Broadway musicals… audiobooks from the classics (if narrated well) to modern fiction and nonfiction. I love to learn and to hear stories. I am proud to be part of the community of narrators that extend listeners’ opportunities to do both, by providing stories, information and new perspectives from the comfort of their cars, or during the activities where the listening adds to the experience. It sure extends the list of “books read”!