Ears on the Odyssey

Interview: Debra Skiver Cardillo

Debra Skiver Cardillo is one half of Live Oak Media,  a small but mighty audio outfit that carefully selects 20 new titles each year. As Sarah notes,  Live Oak is unique because of their process is quality over quantity. This formula produces some truly special and award winning listens from the first Odyssey-Award winning book, Jazz (2008), to Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken in 2010, to H.O.R.S.E: A Game of Basketball and Imagination in 2015. Enjoy Debra’s insights into her life’s work and passion!

How did you get started in audiobooks and find your niche in audios for youth?

Arnie had a background as a teacher turned sound engineer and eventually went to work at Listening Library. I had been working in children’s books for years in New York when we met. When the opportunity arose to purchase Live Oak Media in 1997 it seemed like a match made in heaven, both personally and professionally.

What do you wish librarians/ reviewers knew about creating audiobooks?
How much time we put into pre-and-post-production.  A 5-minute recording of a picture book can take weeks, months, involving casting, direction of narration, editing of voice track, creation of original music, selection of sound effects to accompany reading and music, and hours of combining all components and mixing the volume of each so that they become a wonderful blend. A readalong is not just another audiobook. Words and text in picture books or early readers are picture dependent, and our readalongs are produced to be listened to with the book. We approach our productions with two purposes in mind: to help children learn to read and develop language skills; and to make the reading experience fun!

How do you choose which titles would make successful audiobooks?
My editorial background and Arnie’s production background help us decide which books have a story and illustrations that beg to be heard.  Because of the time we put into our productions and being a small publisher, we have to be fairly selective of the books we produce. A selection of recordings that are especially important to us are the ones in our Live Oak Music Maker series. A cool and innovative imprint that we developed when we first acquired Live Oak Media in the late 90s, the Music Makers are recordings of picture books that have strong musical components and which weave together the words, the art and the music to create an altogether new and meaningful reading and listening experience.  JAZZ, which won the inaugural Odyssey Award, was one of our early Music Makers.

Can you describe the process of selecting a narrator to match your book?
Much like in other kinds of productions like film or TV, we cast the narrator, carefully choosing the appropriate voice, or voices, to embody the diverse facets of the individual characters in the book.  We try to choose the type of narrator who will best represent the story in a way that lends authenticity and believability to the story and audio production

As an audiobook producer, what is your relationship to the author?
We may have a close relationship with an author because we’ve produced a number of their books or have had them narrate their own books,  or we may not have any relationship at all with the author apart from producing a recording of his/her books. It definitely varies.

Why are you so talented and lovely?!!? Thank you ! PS: Where do you keep your Grammys???!!
If we’re talented it’s because of our backgrounds and many years of experience in the book and audio industry.  But mostly because we care about what we do. We put our hearts and souls into our audio productions and we treat each one like it’s special.  As for where we keep our Grammy’s, we won’t tell… (but I’ve attached a photo of them ☺)


Live Oak Media’s awards 


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