For most of my life people have been telling me I’m inordinately fond of the sound of my own voice. Well, it turns out a few other people like it too. Chuck Wendig had me do a book trailer, John Hornor Jacobs has borrowed my pipes a couple of times, I’ve recorded a mess of my short fiction, and now I’ll be reading the audio book for my debut novel, PENANCE.
(A hat tip here to the folks at AudioGo, who are producing the audio book, for giving a first-timer a shot, and to Emlyn Rees, my editor at Exhibit A, for going to bat for me when I told him that reading the book is something I’d very much like to do. Going to bat, Emlyn, that’s an American thing, has to do with baseball.)
Now, though, I gotta deliver.
See, I like doing voice work. I like the challenge of bringing a story to life by reading it out loud. I’d like to do more of it. But that ain’t gonna happen if I gum this up. Not to mention PENANCE is my book It’s my first book. So I really don’t want to fuck it up.
But I haven’t been a big audio book consumer over the years. Long car trips a couple of times. I still remember the time I was driving the family down to squat at the joint my parents used to rent for the winter in Florida. My Dad did a fair bit of driving in those days and was an audio book fan. We had compatible tastes and he’d just finished Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith. He knew I’d have some long late-night stretches when the kids were asleep and I could finally shut off that damn Raffi tape, so he lent me the cassettes. It was a great production of a great story. (It’s not like nobody’s heard of Martin Cruz Smith or his Arkady Renko novels, but they’re a few years back now, maybe something some of you newer or younger readers haven’t read. I heartily endorse them. In fact, I just finished Stallion Gate, another Smith novel, this one centered around the final weeks of the Manhattan Project in New Mexico that was also tremendous – so a write to check out if you haven’t yet.)
Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, I’m driving to Florida and listening to Polar Star. Now remember, I’m kinda old, so this thing was on a mess of cassette tapes. It’s asshole dark thirty AM somewhere in the bowels of southern Georgia and the story is rocketing along to its climax. The tape ends, one more tape to go. And it’s not there. I even pull over to look for it, and I never pulled over. You can ask my kids. As a parent, I was usually a pretty tolerant, easy going guy. But stick me in a minivan with three young kids and 1,200 miles to cover and I changed. Maybe it was just the daunting task. Maybe it was a side effect of my standard travel diet – Diet Dr. Pepper, Hershey’s Minatures and No-Doz. Stopping was not on my agenda. You need to go to the bathroom? Really? You can take a leak when I need gas, kid. So pulling over, that was a big deal. But I did. I pulled over, woke up the kids and ransacked the van. The tape wasn’t there.
We finally get to my parents’ joint and the first thing my old man does is wiggle that last tape at me with a nasty little smile on his face and say “Looking for this?” Dad didn’t let his evil streak off the leash often, but when he did he knew how to stick it in and break it off.
Anyway, the point is I understand how good an audio book can be. And I’m looking for some help here. Are you and audio book fan? What makes one work for you? Or not work? How much “acting” do you expect – how much differentiation between characters’s voices and such?
Finally, what’s one of your favorites – especially in the thriller genre. I’m listening to several as I prep for my taping, and I’m looking to learn from the best.
So drop your tips and favorites in the comments box. To reward you, I’ll pick two comments at random and send the lucky ducks signed ARCs of PENANCE.