Fans of Pat Conroy will soon learn that the author more than knows his way around the kitchen. He mixes his own secret blend of food and story and serves up the resulting mélange in his own voice on Recipes from My Life.
Publishers Weekly: Why was it important to you to release an audio edition of the book?
Pat Conroy: My wife [author Cassandra King] has introduced me to the world of audiobooks, and I've found that it's a world I like. She listens to a million novels a year when she drives, especially on trips to her family home in Alabama. I started out listening to hers, and now I can't leave to go anywhere in the car without her handing me something to take with me. It's a recreation of how stories have always been shared. There's nothing like the connection of human voice to human ear.
PW: Why did you want to narrate the audiobook?
PC: I didn't. I can hear my voice and the sound of it horrifies me. But to this day, when I walk around town, someone will tell me how the guy who read My Losing Season pronounced Beaufort, S.C., as "Bow-fert" instead of "Byu-fert." These things get around. In the end, I think my agent, Marly Rusoff, was the deciding factor. She made such a case for me reading it, I couldn't say no. She bullied me into it.
PW: Where did you record the book?
PC: We did it in New York City. I worked with two fabulous professionals in the studio there [producer Jacob Bronstein and director John McElroy], and it took less than a day to do the whole thing. They would say things like, "Can you read that line again, Pat? Your voice dropped a little." It was like trying out for a play. But they were great—I'd work with them a million times over.
PW: What was it like being in the studio?
PC: It wasn't strange for me to be in the studio. It was like doing NPR. Terry Gross has interviewed me at least 20 times, and I've never met her. She can ask the most embarrassing and revealing questions on air, and I don't even know what she looks like.
PW: What do you think listeners will take away from the book that readers won't?
PC: I was uncomfortable with doing any abridged versions of my stories for this. So what listeners are going to get is the full story as I wrote it and as I wanted to tell it.
PW: What was your favorite passage to read?
PC: I would say the story about my daughter's wedding. I still love that I cooked for her bridesmaids' lunch. I was slightly worried that she wouldn't like my telling that story, but it turned out fine. And Nathalie Dupree has already been in touch with me. She said, "I have read your story. I have decided to treat it as a loving tribute to me." And I assured her, "That's exactly how it was written, Natalie." All of these stories are special in their own way. Sandra and I, while we're cooking together, we tell the stories of our lives to each other. It's wonderful. I hope some of that great feeling comes through.
PW: What was it like to write such a different style of book?
PC: This book was a total joy. I've never written a book like that. It wasn't about a mother's death or a brother's suicide. It just brought me total joy.