#AudioTour “The Demon in Business Class” by Anthony Dobranski

Author: Anthony Dobranski

Narrator: Laura Petersen

Length: 18 hours 26 minutes

Publisher: Anthony Dobranski

Released: Aug. 19, 2020

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

She can speak all languages. He can smell evil intent.They’re enemies. They crave each other.Secret magic, international settings, a conspiracy plot, star-crossed lovers, and sharp writing The Demon in Business Class is a stunning debut novel spanning continents and genres.Zarabeth travels the world for a shady executive, laying the groundwork for global war.Gabriel offers a second chance to the criminals that a visionary leader sees in dreams.One rainy night in Scotland, they meet…Now, it’s complicated.There’s also the investigator, the witch, the playboy, the gangster, the cultist, the pre-school teacher, the two angels…And, the demon.Fans of Jeff VanderMeer and David Mitchell will love this stylish cross-genre novel. Gorgeously narrated by Laura Petersen, The Demon in Business Class is an international story of fantasy, intrigue, and love, on the uneasy ground where the human meets the divine.Your next read is now boarding, listen now!

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Anthony Dobranski is from and lives in Washington DC. His debut novel is The Demon in Business Class, a modern fantasy. He also designed and published Business Class Tarot, a modern Tarot deck inspired by his novel. He is finishing up his new science-fiction novel, The White Lake. He’s volunteered with many arts organizations, and now serves on the board of The Inner Loop, a Washington DC live-reading series and podcast. He loves to ski.

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Narrator Bio

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Laura Petersen is the youngest from a very large family. She matured like a nice cheap wine in Southern California where her family moved when she was in high school. Honing her acting chops in college in Orange County and in the school of hard knocks in Los Angeles, she eventually settled down with a handsome young man and married. Then promptly moved to North Carolina, and then again headed West to Oregon where she now lives with her husband, and two kids. She traveled extensively before becoming a suburban mom, traveling all over Europe and North America. She has also worked in almost every manner of job, from fast food service to bartending and from retail clothing to costume department PA, actress, short order cook, barista, auto repair, ballroom dancer, and independent film producer. Now, when she is not busy narrating, she uses her BA and MBA to homeschool her kids (thanks pandemic) and enjoys hanging with her quarantine pod for occasional game nights.

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Author Interview Banner
Q & A with author Anthony Dobranski

Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?

Not really. I’ve listened to literary and popular fiction, non-fiction, journalism, and spiritual works. They all worked well as audiobooks. I suppose an academic work with many footnotes would be challenging — if you wanted to stop reading the main text and read the footnotes — but if a history is a good read in print, I never stop to check the footnotes anyway.

Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

Yes and no. I work hard to write smooth prose and snappy dialogue, so I knew that The Demon in Business Class would be a great audiobook. What I never considered was how much work I was making for the narrator! Demon has eighty characters who have enough lines they have to sound distinctive, plus another sixty “extras” with one or two lines — in accents from a dozen countries and several regions of the US. I maybe should have considered how hard it would be. Happily, Laura Petersen did such a good job that it sounds completely natural. 

How did you select your narrator?

I chose Laura Petersen from her audition samples. She read beautifully, with real brio and confidence. My characters are businesspeople. Whatever they’re feeling, they front that everything is fine. She got that false bravado, and the stress beneath it, and ran with it! She’s also got a fantastic narrator’s voice, and her character voices were wonderful and expressive. I just knew she was the one, though I couldn’t know just how good a job she would do. It’s amazing work.

How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?

Laura Petersen and her producer John Warton did the research themselves, and they developed their own insights into the characters from reading and discussing the book. I had a small part in the process, as a proofer, checking for minor errors, between the initial recording and the final mastering. I also helped with some pronunciation here and there.

I was happy with my minor role, and I tried to be both useful and absent. Once I heard Laura’s audition — which blew me away! — it was her performance I wanted, not mine. She was doing the work. It’s really important to respect that.

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

Absolutely! The Demon in Business Class is a fantasy novel, but it’s set in the real world of the year 2008. The characters, despite their secret magic, are business travelers. It’s a life I lived and worked. I opened international offices in Europe and Asia-Pacific for the internet company AOL, and I’ve traveled a lot in the US as well. All the places in the novel are places I’ve lived or visited. I wanted Demon to be a realistic picture both of those places and of modern business life.

My model for this was Mikhail Bulgakov’s great novel, The Master and Margarita, which is about the Devil hosting a grand party in Stalin’s Soviet Union. It’s a fantasy, but it’s also a true portrayal of life under Stalin’s brutal reign — one of the few that survived to our day. I wanted to talk about business and globalization in the same honest way, even as I also told a fantastic story. I also think the realism helps make the story believable and enjoyable.

How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?

I like writing! So that helps. We all get sidetracked — especially this year, with the pandemic upending everything. It’s important to remember that any one derailment is not the end of all effort. It also helps to keep a pro attitude: if I want this to be my job, do my job.

If there’s a strong negativity, it’s usually a way of not admitting, or not being clear about, a problem with what I’m working on. So, step back, and find the problem. It can require radical moves. I threw out the first 400 pages I wrote of Demon! I had a good story, but the voice of the book was smothering the voices of the characters. I started over, writing from inside their heads and not mine, and it worked.

Appreciating the big picture helps. I’m at the start of my career, but I’ve already had incredible experiences engaging other writers, creatives, and readers. If I keep going, I will have more. That’s a powerful incentive.

Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?

I’ve always enjoyed audiobooks, even back in the days of buying them on disc. I loved Matt Dillon’s narration of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, and the great audio-drama version of Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But it was a very occasional pleasure, like once a year.

After The Demon in Business Class was recorded and I stopped getting new chapters from Laura Petersen, I missed them so! She had made me a bigger fan of the medium. So now I listen to one or two a month.

Print is a way to store and transmit words, but writing is really a medium of sound. From the earliest days of poetry, words are chosen as much for their sounds as their meaning. Audiobooks are a great convenience, giving us more reading time in busy lives, but they are delightful too. They put us back in touch with the roots of story and literature.

Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?

There’s quite a few! I’m a big fan of Laura Petersen’s version. Here are two:

In Chapter 19, Zarabeth goes to Pittsburgh to see her mother, from whom she’s been estranged for years. It’s a sad part of the book, but Laura’s reading made me cry!

Chapter 31 is a long dark night that starts in a private jet to Las Vegas, and ends in a cult ritual that summons a supernatural being — but, the wrong one. It’s wild and freaky on the page, but Laura’s read gave me chills from the first listen, and still does.

What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?

You know, I get it. The printed book has signified literacy and education for 500 years. People take pride in their personal libraries. You can still get books with leather covers and gold-leaf. A book is a powerful symbol, and a beautiful thing.

I say to those people — What do writers do, when they publish their books? They do live readings at bookstores!

Even the greatest writers still care about how it sounds. So do readers. When people read something the like, they read it aloud to other people!

Audiobooks put you in touch with that again. It’s a live reading from a gifted narrator, luxurious and powerful. It’s a leather and gold-leaf edition for your ears.

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?

The Demon in Business Class and my next two books — one finishing up, one in early planning — are all stand-alones. What I like about stand-alones is that they force me to try new things. I still have my style, but I need to build from scratch each time. Of course, there’s only so much time I get with my characters, and only so far I can take them. There’s also a commercial downside, since once a reader finishes a stand-alone, that’s it, there’s no book two to sell them!

I imagine it’s fun to develop characters over several different adventures in a series, and to find out more details about a really well-crafted story world. The disadvantage is that they can get repetitive; or, that the new story has to be bigger and splashier, which makes the rest feel like leftovers. Some series stay consistent. Some jump the shark.

Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?

Oh, I would love that! It hasn’t happened yet. Usually it’s the reverse. Dreams are a big artistic inspiration for me. I’ve paid close attention to my dreams since college, and I use elements from them in my work. There’s one dream scene in The Demon in Business Class that’s just as I dreamt it — it fit perfectly with the character’s anxieties at that point in the novel!

The novel I’m working on, The White Lake, began as an especially vivid dream. Despite the many changes I had to make to turn it into a plotted story, I’ve tried to respect that inspiration by making it bold and surreal whenever possible.

What’s next for you?

I’m finishing up my new novel, The White Lake. It’s an Earth-based science-fiction, set in a future Budapest destroyed in a war, where the toxic waste has become its own very valuable industry. It came to me in a dream, and it’s become a wild tale of Old World decadence, artificial intelligence, and sports media — a cross between The Grand Budapest Hotel and Rollerball. It will make for one heck of an audiobook, I promise!

I’m also very honored to have joined the board of The Inner Loop, a Washington DC literary group that’s been doing monthly live readings for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry writers for the last five years. It’s my first chance to be a literary citizen, not just a writer, and that’s inspiring. I recently did a 10-minute podcast for them, talking about writing in quarantine, with a writing prompt and a flash fiction story. Check it out at https://soundcloud.com/theinnerlooplit/inversion-with-anthony-dobranski

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