Scary’s Voices – Spotlight
“Linda Listens” by Augie Peterson
When you think about audio dramas, the first thing that might spring to mind is Orson Welles’ presentation of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938. Brimming with fear and tension, it’s a shining example of how effective stories can be using only auditory means. But what other audio dramas are out there? Did this style of storytelling die out with the advent of television?
I’m pleased to say that with the booming popularity of podcasts, audio dramas seem to be experiencing a renaissance. If you’ve yet to experience this form of entertainment, I highly recommend checking some out, such as this week’s spotlight “Linda Listens” written by Augie Peterson.
As a long-time listener to her podcast, The Short Stories of Augie Peterson, I was excited to hear Augie was releasing a new audio drama and was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of the entire storyline. Not only did she write this slow-burn horror tale, but she’s also the producer, editor, and primary voice actor.
Spanning six main episodes ranging in length from 5 to 15 minutes, plus a Halloween special, “Linda Listens” is like a podcast within a podcast. The main character, Linda, is a middle-aged woman trying to rediscover herself and heal her traumas a few years following the tragic deaths of her husband, daughter, and son. Acting on the suggestion of her therapist, Linda starts a podcast called “Linda Listens” where she hopes to provide advice to questions posed by her Twitter followers.
However, Linda soon finds out this podcasting thing might not be as easy as it appears. Some questions rip open emotional wounds, and then there’s her noisy neighbour, nicknamed “Mr. Metallica,” who begins blasting music while she’s trying to record. But Linda’s equipment seems to pick up more than just heavy metal. Could that be screaming in the background?
I really enjoyed “Linda Listens” which has a great balance of drama, comedy, and, of course, horror. As I mentioned, the story is a slow burn and doesn’t reach any frightening scenes until the last few episodes. But the scares are well worth the wait!
The earlier episodes are highly entertaining, as we get to know Linda better. And wow, is she a character! With a thick Long Island accent, jingly bracelets, and a potty-mouth she’s trying to work on, Linda is a hoot. There were quite a few times I giggled out loud and even moments that made me snort-laugh.
As well as presenting a tightly written script, Augie does a superb job bringing Linda to life. Besides the comedic points, there are convincingly real moments of pain and fear to a point sometimes I forgot Linda was only a fictional character.
If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, I highly recommend starting with the introductory episode “Linda Listens Teaser” before moving on to “Linda Listens Episode 1: Married With Children.” New episodes will be added every other week on The Short Stories of Augie Peterson, which is available wherever you listen to podcasts (links to all podcast platforms can be found HERE). (Transcripts are also available HERE.)
Scary’s Voices: Spotlight Interview
J.A. Sullivan talks to Augie Peterson
And, to give you even more insight into this audio drama, I’m pleased to present my interview with its talented creator, Augie Peterson.
J.A. Sullivan: With a background in theatre and written word, why did you choose to present the story of “Linda Listens” as an audio drama?
Augie Peterson: Honestly, I never considered making “Linda Listens” anything but an audio drama. I suppose it would make a really fun one act play, so I won’t discount that for the future. In the same vein, writing this show as an audio drama rather than publishing it as something more tangible, whether that’s a book or a short story, allows me to control how people perceive the character and setting. Thanks to audio, we know how Linda pronounces certain words, we can hear her laugh, we hear the desperation in her voice as she tells us about her trauma, and we get to be with her as she travels outside of her home even if it’s just to her neighbor’s house. I’m not sure I have the skills necessary to translate all of that into words, especially since as I recorded what I had previously written as the script, I changed a lot of the wording and even some plot points as I was recording each episode.
I think I mostly chose the audio drama format because I run a very low-budget operation. Every single song and sound effect you hear was either free in the creative commons or created by myself. I use audacity to edit everything I do and was gifted my blue yeti microphone for Christmas last year. On the budget I have, I use what I’ve gleaned over the last nearly 3 years of making my short stories into mini audio dramas to make this one its own little world and I think that offers me more of an opportunity to bring my story into the world than theater or written word might allow.
JAS: Linda is such a fantastic character. What was the inspiration behind her story? Any plans to bring her back for another series?
AP: Oh my, thank you so much for saying that! She’s a personal favorite of the characters I’ve created so far. I think part of why that’s true is because she’s an amalgamation of the friends and relatives I grew up around as a child on Long Island as well as a few of my favorite TV characters like Peggy from Married…With Children, Linda Belcher from Bob’s Burgers, and Theresa Caputo from Long Island Medium.
I grew up on Long Island for the first 12 years of my life, so I got a good smattering of what it meant to be an Islander. Of course, I’ve now spent more of my life away from the Island than on it and I don’t see my distant relatives much anymore, so Linda is a way to remember my roots. In a way, she also memorializes the strong women I’ve met in my life that don’t let anyone boss them around or tell them how to live life.
As for bringing her back for another series, she might make a guest appearance in a future show, but besides a small cameo, I think she’ll keep herself busy after the events of this show unfold.
JAS: Did you find writing and producing an audio drama to be more difficult than narrating your other short stories?
AP: Yes, definitely. This was the first “big project” I’ve taken on from a sound design standpoint since my “Choose Your Own Adventure Halloween Special” from November of 2018. For the first time since starting my podcast, I didn’t rely on music to cover the bits I wasn’t sure how to edit in “Linda Listens.” It’s not all perfect, but I wanted it to sound as if someone who has never made a podcast before was recording one for the first time. Ironically, the show is heavily edited because, as I mentioned before, I would change up some of the lines as I recorded them. I’m hoping that fact wasn’t entirely obvious as the show went on.
For my short stories, usually, I could just find a spooky song and lay it over the narration. I did that for a while until I started hearing what others were doing with their shows. It truly pays to hear what others in your genre are doing with audio and how they incorporate their sounds. There’s no shame in thinking something is extremely cool and wanting to learn for yourself how to make that your really cool thing too. NoSleep, The Grey Rooms, The Black Tapes, Unwell, and several other audio fictions opened my eyes, well…my ears really, to the possibilities of sound design. I wanted that so badly to be the kind of content I made so I decided to do it.
I took some baby steps towards making that kind of content as practice in my short stories, but it didn’t come to a head until I made “Linda Listens.” You can even hear the progression of my work in my short story episodes as I got closer to the release of “Linda Listens,” especially in my story “My Boy” narrated by my good friend Remy of the Remy Trails podcast.
JAS: Of the other short stories you’ve recorded for the podcast, which is your favourite?
AP: By far my favorite episode is the one I mentioned earlier, my “Choose Your Own Adventure Halloween Special” from November 2018. It was a monster to edit and make it work the way I wanted it to. There was about a month’s worth of work put into that one story and it all happened as I was releasing the anniversary edition of my collection of short stories, Night Vision. At the time, my house was also without power and my husband and I were living at my in-laws’ house. We were uprooted, uncomfortable, and I was overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion. (I think that was what sparked my idea to take a 3-month hiatus every year for the sake of my own mental health).
Aside from the chaos surrounding its creation, it’s the episode I’m most proud of. It’s two separate stories that split off from a similar starting point. One involves a party, the other involves a hayride, and they both happen on Halloween night. I believe it has 6 endings total, in half of them you survive the night, in the other half, you’re not so lucky.
The script itself is something like 20,000 words and I’ve even considered publishing it as a novella, but that’s a future project I’ve shelved in lieu of new shiny things like this audio drama!
JAS: On top of the audio content you also provide written transcripts of all your episodes. What prompted you to start that?
AP: I do! I started doing that around episode 80 of my show. I hope to retroactively transcribe the episodes before that someday as well. “Linda Listens” itself is entirely transcribed, as well as the Patreon-only minisodes.
I started doing it after I came across several articles and accounts on Twitter that praised the good name of transcribed audio fiction. I heard that it made things more accessible for those, like myself, who have a hard time processing audio as well as for those who are hard of hearing. Podcasting as a genre essentially erases half of their potential fan base if they don’t include transcripts or hide them behind a paywall because it then only caters to those who can hear what they’ve made.
Personally, I always assumed captions on TV and transcripts were just for deaf folks that can’t hear at all, but I soon learned that there isn’t a black and white definition to being hard of hearing. It’s not a situation where you can either hear everything or absolutely nothing. There is a whole spectrum of hearing loss and other disorders that might mean whoever is dealing with them can’t hear or comprehend the podcast you’ve created. These then create a need for a more interactive element to podcasting which is the transcript. I believe everyone deserves to enjoy podcasts and that is why I decided to transcribe mine.
JAS: What podcasters inspired you to start your own?
AP: It’s actually funny going back in my memory and thinking of this question because the podcasts that inspired me to start my own weren’t even in the same genre. I decided to become a writer as a last-ditch resort to give my life some meaning and ended up meeting the bustling community of writers and podcasters on Twitter. My first friends were Heather from Nature Vs. Narcissism, Kevin from Mirths n’ Monsters, and Briski from Turn of Phrases. None of these podcasts are similar to each other or in the same genre as mine, but they showed me that podcasting is a diverse field that anyone with an idea can join, so I did! I took the leap of faith in February 2017 and never looked back. They all encouraged me to chase dreams I didn’t know I had and for that, I’m incredibly thankful.
JAS: If you were to give one bit of advice to someone just starting a podcast, what would it be?
AP: Understand now, before you start, that if you love what you’re doing, you will never stop learning how to make it better and that’s a good thing! Practice truly makes perfect, so don’t beat yourself up if your first episode doesn’t magically sail to the top of the iTunes charts the day after it’s published. Do the stuff that makes you happy, don’t focus on the reviews, and don’t be afraid to brag about the things you’re making! No one will know about the stuff you’re doing unless someone tells them about it. When you first start out, that someone is you!
JAS: I’d sincerely like to thank Augie Peterson for taking the time to speak with me. I hope you enjoyed this interview, and if you would like to know more about this podcaster and her works, feel free to connect with her on the following social medial platforms:
Augie Peterson is a published author of horror, podcaster, filmmaker, and occasional voice actor.
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan