For 30+ years I wrote copy that I knew was going to be read out loud by someone else and for many of those years I knew I would have an audience that could number into the millions. As a television news writer and news producer I also knew someone else was going to read my words. I got used to hearing my copy read on the air. (Of course I secretly applauded how a good reporter or anchor man or woman could make even the words “coming up next” sound so great!)
You would think the prospect of having one of my fiction books turned into an audio book would be just like another day at the office.
When I got the notice that one of my novels, Shadows from the Past, was going to be turned into an audio book, I wasn’t certain which way to turn. My book on audio! More people would be able to share the experience of a visit to spooky Redfern Manor, which I fell in love with as I built it in my mind. But then I began to worry, what would it sound like? How would my writing sound? Was there something extra I should have done to make it better? How would my dialogue sound? So many questions… and again, I had spent years having my copy read. It should have been just like being at work in the old days. I wrote and someone read it out loud.
But this was different. I have been an audio fan for at least twenty years. My love affair with audio books began when I was making a road trip from Colorado to California and happened to make a road side stop at a travel store that carried audio books on tape. Seeing one of my favorite authors, Sue Grafton, and having never been able to find her very first book A is for Alibi, even in paperback, I picked it up. And with that simple decision my whole driving world changed. I never made another road trip for any distance without an audio book to listen to. go anywhere now without an audio book. In fact I now often finding myself reading both the book itself and listening to it again on audio or the other way around.
So the prospect of having my own book read was exciting and yet concerning. I knew how I enjoyed listening to other people’s works on audio. Would others enjoy hearing my story about the young artist going undercover to try to find out the truth about her best friend’s suicide and meeting Mack Warren, a man who could either be her dream come true or the killer? I’d written the book as a throwback to one of my other favorite authors – the great Phyllis Whitney, who often wrote about young women in peril in an exotic location. I chose the upper islands of Washington because I have always loved the area and because their remote location also added to the feeling of isolation for my heroine, Stacey Moreno.
The first task in getting my book out was to choose the narrator. I had three choices and while I liked them all, I found myself choosing the voice that I thought would sound most like my heroine Stacey – young, not completely certain, but with an exuberance that offered promise.
Then came step two, listening to the book on audio itself, and checking for small errors by the reader. Again, the idea of hearing my own words read back to me was more worrying than it should be. I knew what I wanted things to sound like. Again, I had spent years writing just with reading my words out loud in mind. But fiction is different. An story telling is different. But it is still just as exciting.
Just as I used to like hearing the story itself on the air and making certain the point of the story was being made, I find that is what I am looking for in the book reading too. The story is coming across. They are no longer my words. The story is taking us away to that other world into the heroine’s head, and that is where we want the reader to be. That is what I needed to worry about – letting the story carry the day, not whether they were just the right word or the right inflection. It is the story that takes us to Evergreen Island and Stacy who makes us care what happens to her.
Doing an audio book is quite different from my old type of writing, but the point is still the same – to get the point across to the listener or the reader. The story is what counts.