Audiobooks and the Weirdness of Hearing Your Book Read

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One of the best things about being a writer is seeing your words in print. In some ways, audiobooks are an even more surreal experience. Yes, you’ve read your writing a million times, but it’s a different feeling.

Many authors have discussed the writing process. Like them, I am not exempt from thoughts that my writing may be no good, rewriting whole chapters, and deliberating every word or phrasing choice, only to finish the first draft and embark upon seemingly endless rounds of editing. Editing is painful. Editing is like cutting a vein open because you know that your writing is being picked apart, and it exposes every insecurity you may have about the craft– at least that’s what feels like for me. However, there is nothing so vulnerable as releasing to the public, and thus, editing is a necessary and beneficial process. Something worth immersing oneself in just as readily as the initial crafting of the story.

Then the sweet relief comes. It’s the moment when all is said and done: the writing, the editing, the proofing…

It’s the moment when you hold a copy of your book in your hands (either ebook, print, or both) and can say it’s been worth it. For me, I love to read the book as if it’s the first time and rediscover the characters as though they hadn’t been living rent-free in my head for months. It’s such a pleasure. Particularly with These Wicked Deeds. I found myself connecting dots that hadn’t been there before, at least not consciously. And I was able to take those threads with me into book 2, These Wicked Desires.

Then came the audiobook…

Audiobooks are yet another way to bring stories to life. Much like watching a television show or a good movie, you can see new life breathed into old friends depending on how the actor interpreted things. Part of making an audiobook is providing snippets of the book for the actors to read. You give them enough to understand the context and some background, but you still have to give them free rein to make the character their own. The audition process is an interesting one and I’ve been on both sides, but I think it’s harder that way.

Part of it was the weirdness of hearing my words read aloud. I finally understood the line in “Strumming My Pain (with His Fingers)” when Roberta Flack/ Lauryn Hill sing:

“…I felt all flushed with fever, embarrassed by the crowd
I felt he’d found my letters and read each one out loud…”

It felt super personal in a weird way the first few auditions I listened to. I don’t know why I felt awkward, maybe it was because writing is personal. Most authors put pieces of themselves into the story and character, and those word choices are very intentional. It’s a calculated impact of phrasing to express thoughts and emotions that in real life could be explained with one or two words and non-verbal communication. But you have to build that emotional attachment through words because you don’t have the reader being able to see the reaction as you do in your head. You have to paint the picture. With audiobooks, now it’s not just your words, it’s someone else adding the layers of nuance that they feel go into it.

I wanted to like all of the actors and their choices. It was interesting, once I got past the initial awkwardness to go back and listen to everyone. To hear their inflections and tone. To hear where they chose a whisper or growl versus something more upbeat. To hear seduction… and even when I knew I’d heard the right actors for Wes, Nikolai, and Isabella, I still second-guessed myself. Mr. Luxe was very helpful because he’d been living with these characters just as much as I had. I often bounce ideas off him or talk through characters and possible motivations. Heck, he’d probably say I talk about these characters like they are people who exist in the real world, because in the world I crafted for them, they are real.

Long story short, I found my actors. They are brilliant, they have good instincts, and they, somehow with minimal direction, have been able to bring my characters to life. Hearing them apply voices to the characters has made them seem even more tangible to me. Like I could reach out and touch any of them. To hear sadness and longing in Nikolai’s voice, or joy in Wes’s somehow made me better able to get into their heads. I felt their emotions in a more visceral way.

And I hope that listeners enjoy the audiobook too. There’s definitely an appeal, once I got past my awkwardness.

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