BEHIND THE SCENES with Paper Radio's Jessie Borrelle and Jon Tjhia.

How did the idea for Paper Radio come about? WHY bring printed work to life via audio

JB: Well, I suppose, to dust off a well-worn metaphor, "desperation is the mother of invention". We observed a lack of representation for producers in the independent publishing scene, and for writers creating content that mirrored the unique perspective of the cultures in New Zealand and Australia. Something we wanted wasn't there, and, like the great Hanson Crockett Gregory, father of the donut, we figured we'd best bring it into the world

JT: This may seem obvious, but like many people we're attracted to things that sound interesting, active and beautiful. We're aware of what sound and music can bring to words, of the romance of being read to, of the lure of a good story spoken aloud; these are what drew us to radio in the first place. We have strong opinions on how things should and could sound, and with my background in music, were excited to put some of those ideas to work

How do you select the texts you work with? What makes for a Perfect Paper Radio Story

JB: Paper Radio is populated by perfectionists, so quantifying, let alone settling on a perfect story for the show, is a kind of Shangri-La, or in more dull terms, it's an ever-evolving process. We're allergic to literary stereotyping, something we think is all too common in the more established Australasian publishing industry

We have an editorial advisory committee composed of people who have a knack for finding interesting writers, and we both graze the literary scene ourselves often, hunting for material that will translate well into sound. Most of the fiction work we've produced so far has been commissioned by us because the author has a sensibility that we think distills the distinct identity of the antipodes, while retaining an accessible universality

Failing that, we throw a dart at our submissions inbox, blindfolded

Each story is meticulously sound designed to contribute to the overall listening experience. How do you work out the sound each time? And is the music original

JT: It's a long, involved and frankly quite arduous process. The sound of Paper Radio is obviously a big part of what defines us, and we've literally spent weeks of sleepless nights aiming to perfect that. Practically, this means our scripts become covered in notes - ideas to be tested, conceptual in/consistencies to exploit, literal sounds to include or avoid - before any sounds are added to the bare speaking voice

Beyond that, it's really a case of trying incredibly hard to create what feels like a natural dialogue between words and the imagination of the listener. What could this or that sound like? How should this story make us feel at this point? And what if we do the opposite - what opportunities are there for us to play with the text? The last thing we want to do is produce radio drama or straight documentary in traditional ways; there are people far better at those things than us. What we ask of our sound is that it contribute significantly to storytelling. It has to extend and sharpen the words in a way that rewards close attention. And yes, I make all the music for the episodes I work on, from scratch

Listening to more literary, abstract-er work requires a different kind of focus than does news or 'straight' information-based storytelling. If you could choose an ideal listening environment for your listeners, where would it be

JB: An empty swimming pool, a rose garden, a library, a tepee, a parking garage, an unmade bed - wherever a listener can afford the opportunity to be uninterrupted. The stories are subtle and the sound a complex companion, so the most rewarding environments we find are the ones with the least distractions..

JT: And, of course, a pair of really comfortable headphones

The aesthetic of PR's website and distinct illustrations per piece seem as much a part of the effort as the audio works. What's the thinking behind this

JB: Paper Radio podcasts are produced as a kind of digital 7", we think of them as self-contained (microscopic) universes, and so augmenting the MP3 with "album artwork" anchors the podcast, both to our website and to the world of applications like iTunes, where the illustration complements the audio

JT: It's an experience, just like eating a Snickers isn't just about the chocolate bar. The first thing you see is the wrapper; it's what allows you to locate and identify the gooey stuff inside. Same for websites

Me and Run Like a Dream is a fantastic blend of an ironic/humorous morality tale about tolerance/diversity, and a slightly creepy inter-species love story. What do you hope listeners take from it? Have you heard from anyone who was offended by this most unusual horse/woman betrothal

JB: Thank you. We loved this story for its candid execution of a complex set of ideas analogous to, as you mentioned, tolerance and diversity. We don't see it as so much of a morality tale, but rather a well-crafted analysis of social relations and cultural expectations

There's been no backlash we're aware of, unless people are suffering in silence. We'd be curious to see how well it was received in equestrian circles..

What's down the pike for Paper Radio? Besides submitting a story to the Third Coast ShortDocs Challenge, that is. (Ha! That's just a little joke there. But of course we hope you will.

JB: Ha! We'd like to develop our AM channel - The Cosmic Frequency was a good litmus for where we'd like to drive Paper Radio to in the future

We would like to press a small edition of vinyl; that would be dreamy. Ideally, though, we'll somehow make our project financially sustainable, so we can reward the faith that all of our contributors have in the project, and publish more variety of content, more frequently

JT: We hope we can involve more people in our project soon. And aside from continuing to strive for something fancier and smarter than we've yet done, we're working on a piece for a live performance opportunity we've been presented with. Finally, we've really enjoyed being able to share our stories on the actual radio recently; so we hope that when we're producing more episodes, we'll also be able to develop a regular outlet for them on air.