L. A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack, Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary Jacky Faber, Ship’s Boy. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. From Listen and Live Audio, Inc. 2008.
What do we know about Louis A. Meyer and Bloody Jack? “I took the voice of the captain straight from John Cleese’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” • • • • • • • •
Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1942. Raised on Army bases on East Coast & Germany. Attended high school in Pennsylvania and Florida. Earned B.A. in English Literature from University of Florida in 1964. Married college sweetheart, Annetje Lawrence in 1966. Enrolled in graduate art classes at Columbia University in 1970. Published two children’s books before 1973. Earned MFA in Painting from Boston University’s MFA Program in 1973.
• Hitchhiked through American southwest and Mexico. • Joined Navy during Vietnam War. • Promoted to officer after four months. • Assigned to Mediterranean Fleet. • Saw no active combat during tour of duty. • Travelled to Italy, France, Spain and Malta. • Worked as floor sweep, social worker, high school teacher, artist and writer. • Inspired to write Bloody Jack by listening to Celtic folk songs about women disguising themselves as men to follow lovers to war or sea. • Lives with Annetje in Corea, Maine, running Clair de Loon Gallery in Bar Harbor, where they sell his and their sons’ artwork. • Has written eight Jacky Faber novels.
With award-winning narrator Kellgren at the helm, the result is pure magic. She creates authentic character voices, switching effortlessly among Mary's Cockney, the melodic Irish lilt of sailor Liam, the educated American voice of schoolmaster Tilden, the chillingly sinister, leering tone of Jacob Sloat and many other voices without missing a beat. Her acting is also first-rate: her tone of pride as Mary boasts of her achievements, her tenderness as she speaks of Jaimy, the boy she secretly falls in love with, and the sheer terror in her voice during scenes of violence and danger will have listeners on the edge of their seats. (Publishers Weekly)
Hearing Voices: Author, Character and Narrator in Audiobooks An audiobook club in a box Sponsored by the California Center for the Book firstname.lastname@example.org
Awards for Bloody Jack Odyssey Honor Award; Audie Award Winner; YALSA's Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults List; Booklist's Starred Review; Publishers Weekly's Starred Review; Booklist's Editors’ Choice; Foreword Magazine Audiobook of the Year
What do we think about the Bloody Jack audiobook? 1. Bloody Jack has been compared to literary classics Treasure Island, Great Expectations, Huckleberry Finn and Harry Potter. What does it have in common with these books? What qualities make a classic?
L.A. Meyer says he imagined Scout from To Kill a Mocking Bird as he created Jacky Faber. He sees their emotional responses as similar. What does he mean by this? How is Jacky like Scout? What are Jacky’s relevant traits or choices?
Jacky believes she is more likely to survive as a boy. What do female readers make of this? What about male readers? Does a gender-based survival story appeal equally to boys and girls, men and women? Why or why not?
Listen to Jacky decide to pretend she’s a boy, Track 2, Chapter 5, from 4.29 to 6.00. (Line begins: “It’s easier being a boy, I reflects…”)
Some producers use a multi-layered soundscape in their audiobooks. Other than sea-faring music at its start and end, Bloody Jack relies only on narrator Katherine Kellgren’s voice to set the stage. If you were the producer, would you make the same choices? What kind of soundscape might enhance this audiobook? Is Kellgren’s voice enough to evoke the setting and characters?
Listen to Kellgren’s accent as she acts out Jacky and then Mac in Track 1, Chapter 3, from 32.35 to 34.07. (Line begins: “Hearts of stone is all we gots around here…”)
Listen to Kellgren voice men on the boat harassing Jacky, in Track 4, Chapter 19, from 50.14 to 51.12. (Line begins: “I want little Jacky at any boat I’m ever set at…”)
Some characters in the audiobook are almost comic book-like in their exaggerated characteristics. Which characters are voiced this way? How and why? Should they be more well-rounded, or does the audiobook gain something from using these stock characters? To what extent is Jacky herself multi-dimensional?
Meyer is an accomplished painter. Do you see a connection between his painterly eye and his written descriptions?
Listen to Meyer’s description of the Caribbean, in Track 4, Chapter 19, from 43.51 to 44.52. (Line begins: “We’ve been in the Caribbean for three months now, and the sea is such a color of that I can’t believe my eyes…”)
Bloody Jack is comic, even on some gritty plot points. Did you ever laugh out loud? What did you find funny? Did your enjoyment of the audiobook come mainly from the way it is written, or the way it is performed? Did Kellgren seem to “get” Meyer’s tone? Did she get Jacky’s tone?
Jacky grows on board the HMS Dolphin. How does she grow? Why do you think Meyer emphasizes this development? Does she do it alone or with help? Why does this matter?
Jacky’s reading skills help her survive, from the streets of London to the dock of the HMS Dolphin. What does her reading tell us about Jacky as a character?
Listen to Jacky announce her reading skills to the ship’s captain, in Track 2, Chapter 6, from 12.15 to 14.30. (Line begins: “Sir, I can read!...”)
10. Meyer does a lot of research for his audiobooks, looking for “authentic sea chanteys and ballads from centuries gone by.” Kellgren consulted her singing coach, asking exactly what key a drunken Scotsman might sing in. How important is accuracy in historical fiction? Do details like these in the audiobook contribute to your “willing suspension of disbelief”?
Listen to Jacky sing one of one of these old songs, in Track 8, Chapter 41, from 8.03 to 8.32. (Line begins: “There is a ship, and she sails the sea…”)
DISCUSSION MATERIALS BY SHELLEY BLANTON-STROUD & CAROL CALNERO AT WHAT’S YOUR POINT? WORKPLACE WRITING CONSULTANTS, LLC