Denise Kahn Bio:
My very first memory of life was the sound of my mother’s glorious voice singing to me, most likely a Brahms lullaby, and I’m convinced that is why music always has a delicious way of creeping into my writing and becomes one of the most important elements.
I spent twenty years in Europe because of my father, who was with the U.S. Diplomatic Corps, and my mother who was an opera singer. I worked mainly as a simultaneous interpreter and translator, as I am a linguist and speak several languages, five of which are fluent. I also worked in the travel/airline and music industries and I have incorporated some of my adventures in Travel Tales, my short travel stories series. Because of my exposure to people of different nations my writing includes many foreign settings and cultures.
I write about romance, suspense and thrillers in different genres: Contemporary, historical and military. I demand of myself to be accurate in my research and to produce the best work possible. I hope that my books are entertaining, perhaps enlightening and informative. I want my readers to enjoy the time we spend ‘together’ and for my characters to be just as alive as they are to me, even when the last page is turned.
In addition to fiction I have published Travel Tales, short adventure stories from different places around the globe.
I am a proud mother of a gallant Marine who served in Iraq, and among the members of our household you will find Louie the cat (aka King Louie XIX), so named because of his clawing love of Louis XV and XVI furniture, and surely thinks he must have been a fearless Marine in one of his former lives.
“Isabel Allende, Paulo Coelho, Denise Kahn. What do they have in common? They are great writers and storytellers with a touch of mysticism. Each one of these authors has a specialty or unique ingredient that puts them in a class of their own. Ms. Kahn’s writing is fluid and elegant. Split-Second Lifetime, like House of Spirits and The Alchemist, is bound to become a classic.”
Split-Second Lifetime is an International Bestseller in ten countries.
iTunes has ranked Peace of Music #1 in their TOP BOOKS.
You are both a writer and professional narrator. Sometimes writers will narrate their own books, but you are the first person I’ve come across who is a writer of numerous books as well as a professional narrator of other people’s books. Which came first? Narration or publishing books?
The writing came first, then the audiobooks.
How did you come to do each of your arts?
Writing: I actually didn’t like writing and found it boring -— my parents used to do my compositions in school! Years later I finally figured out that when I wrote what I liked and what I found interesting it was actually wonderful and fun! At some point in my life I was going through a difficult time and started thinking about this story in my head. One night I sat down and starting writing it. Hours, and many pages later, when the first rays of sun started winking through my window, I realized I had been at it all night. I not only had been bitten by the writing bug, it became the best therapy possible.
Narration: I’ve always wanted to do something with my voice. At first I wanted to dub movies into other languages, or foreign films into English. Then I wanted to become a singer, as my mother was. At some point I worked on a ship as a cruise director and made announcements in several languages (think life vests, evacuation drills and the Love Boat). I also worked as a simultaneous interpreter—again a microphone in front of my face. I made announcements for an international airline at a major airport, where one day one of the passengers, a former prime minister for Greece, invited me to make announcements in three languages for the Athens Olympics. As much as I would have loved to, I graciously declined as my son was in a war zone in Iraq. Also, Nana Mouskouri, a very famous international singer, heard me make announcements in different languages at the airport and came over to talk to me. She asked me if I sang. I said I was a diva in the shower and in the car. She ‘insisted’ I do something with ‘my beautiful voice and with my perfect accents’—such a lovely person and what a compliment! She was the kick in the derrière that made me take the plunge into what I had always wanted to do -— audiobook narration.
You have led a fascinating life, growing up in Europe, the daughter of a U.S. diplomat and a professional opera singer. How has that background helped your writing and/or your narration?
My very first memory of life was the sound of my mother’s glorious voice singing to me, most likely a Brahms lullaby, and I’m convinced that is why music always has a delicious way of creeping into my writing and becomes one of the most important elements, the glue that holds the story together. I find that music is almost synonymous with being in a state of trance, and that is how I become when I write. I get very focused, and live the scenes with my characters. As each mise en scène blooms, music envelopes my mind with a melisma, a tune with words that don’t pertain to any language and are just made up.
I spent twenty years in Europe because of my father, who was with the U.S. State Department, and my mother who was an opera singer, so I was exposed to people of different nations, cultures and languages. I worked as a simultaneous interpreter and translator as I am a linguist and speak several languages, five of which are fluent. I also worked in the travel/airline and music industries. This exposure contributed to my writing stories with very international backdrops and characters. I have incorporated some of my adventures in Travel Tales, my short travel stories series. My parents also led fascinating lives, and ‘Peace of Music’ (book 1 of The Music Trilogy) is what I call a fictionalized memoir. I originally started writing it for my son, so he could have the story of his ancestral family. It became a novel (much more fun that way) as I could take a few liberties, such as the scenes in China’s 13th century Song (what else?) Dynasty.
How do you prepare to record your audiobooks?
I read the book, get a feel for the characters -— really get to know them, as if they are my friends (the good, the bad and the ugly) -— as I will ‘become’ each one, and do my utmost to give them the voice the author imagined in his/her mind. If I’m narrating one of my own, I’m a huge step ahead as I already know them so well.
How do you go about organizing the writing of your books?
I usually have most of the story in my mind, especially the beginning and the end. Then I just ‘fill it in.’ However, I demand of myself that the facts be absolutely correct. I spend a great majority of the time in researching even the smallest detail, either in other books or with living history -— people who have lived through these times and facts. My hope is that my books are entertaining, enlightening and somewhat educational -— we learn so much from books! If I contribute even just a little I am grateful.
You write various genres of books, including novels, novellas, a music trilogy, and travel books. Do you have a favorite? What inspires you to write this disparate range of genres?
My inspiration comes from life -— the people I have met, the places I have been, and the adventures I have been on -— whether it was a quick trip to the corner store or an impromptu flight on the Concorde. As far as genres I like them all, but my favorite is always the one I’m working on. I also write screenplays, which I find most fun. At the moment one of my books Hot Air is being optioned to be made into a movie (fingers crossed).
What of the books you have performed have stood out most to you throughout your performing career?
I’ve recorded 50 audiobooks, a combination of my own and other authors’. I love recording, especially when foreign accents are involved. The one that was difficult to get through was Warrior Music, one of my own books and the third book in the Music Trilogy, as I relived many moments of when my son was in the war zones of Iraq. I couldn’t tell you how many times I started to choke up and had to stop recording. Thankfully my ‘little boy’ came back from his tours unhurt, and of course at some point I put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) as I wanted to honor him and all the amazing and gallant Veterans.
You narrate a number of fairy tales from around the world (Grimm’s, Czech, Filipino). How did they differ from each other, and what commonalities did they have?
They don’t differ too much, other than they ‘take place’ in different countries around the globe, which of course with my background I find wonderful. I am actually doing a huge collection of 417 tales from around the world, which include Indian, Turkish, Native American, Greek, Japanese, etc. The stories all seem to be phantasmagorical, with magic and fairies, kings and queens, romance and nasty characters.
What narrators have inspired you in your recording career?
Barbara Rosenblat and Roy Dotrice. I have great respect for their talent, not only as a narrators but as actors. Their range of voices and characters is amazingly versatile and truly unique. They have so perfected their art!
What authors have inspired your writing?
James Michener: He always wrote about different places/countries and characters from around the world. Reminded me of my own wanderlust, and I could relate to many of the places and protagonists he wrote about.
Jean de la Fontaine: A wonderful French poet and fabulist. I especially love his powerful and wise one-liners. Many French writers, like Victor Hugo and Gustave Flaubert, followed in his footsteps because of his writing.
Mildred Wirt Benson (aka Carolyn Keene) started my love for reading as a young girl with her Nancy Drew series. She was also the first woman to receive a Master’s Degree in journalism and wrote until she was 96! She was fiercely independent, loved to travel and became a pilot in her sixties—and we share the same birthday.
Vicki, thank you so much for this interview. It has been a privilege and a pleasure, and I am honored to be featured among such amazing company. Thank you for all you do. You are an inspiration.
To learn more about Denise, visit the following sites:
F-A-F-Y.com is a service Denise started for authors and narrators to promote their work, and for listeners to enjoy free audiobooks.
Denise’s Audible page