To celebrate today’s launch of Any Other Name, the second in the Split Worlds series, Emma Newman gives us an insight into what life as a narrator is like, but specifically what it’s like for an author to narrate his or her own characters. With praise for Between Two Thorns recently coming from The Guardian describing Emma as “J. K. Rowling meets Georgette Heyer”, we’re even more excited than normal for this fantastic release.
Not only that, but Emma is running a competition to win the audio book of Any Other Name, details here:http://www.enewman.co.uk/
Happy book birthday, Emma!
Audio books, authors and readers – oh my!
I’ve been narrating audio books for a few years now and it’s something I enjoy immensely. Narrating a book is like climbing inside it; I feel I’ve really understood and explored a novel I’ve narrated on a much deeper level than one I’ve just enjoyed as a reader.
As a narrator, I feel just as responsible for a listener’s enjoyment of an audio book as the author – which is an odd thing to feel, especially as I’m an author too. If my performance is poor it could be a barrier to someone consuming the story so I do my best to deliver the narrative at the correct pace and in such a way as to stay interesting (i.e. no monotonous drone!) as well as delivering information in the correct way. Sentences can have their meanings altered just by a change in inflection and it’s my role to ensure my own interpretation isn’t contrary to what the author intends – something I, of course, have to guess from what I read.
Audio books don’t just change the medium of story delivery
When a person listens to an audiobook, they’re letting a third person into the relationship: writer, narrator and listener, rather than just writer and reader.
If you think about when you read a book, the character’s voices as well as the narration emerge from your consumption of the text. When a narrator gets involved everything changes; you hear what has emerged from the text for them first. I interpret how I think the characters would speak and deliver their words accordingly, thus having an influence on how a listener may feel about that character. Of course, that isn’t nearly as powerful as watching a film or TV adaptation that’s been through many, many people before reaching the screen, but it’s a factor nonetheless.
The hope is that the narrator enriches the experience, or at the very least, doesn’t get in the way!
Then I signed the Split Worlds deal with Angry Robot
After I’d calmed down a little (and asked Lee if he really had said what I thought he did) one of the first things I asked about was the audio book version. Specifically; would I be able to do it?
Brilliance Audio produces Angry Robot’s audio books and there was no guarantee they’d want me to narrate – they have lots of professional narrators to pick from. However, much to my delight, they listened to samples of my audio work online and offered the narration to me.
It’s different when it’s your own
I’ve narrated a collection of my own short stories before, for Iambik Audio, so it wasn’t the first time I’d narrated my own work, but working on the Split Worlds audio books was a whole new experience. For one thing I was in a studio working with a sound engineer and director. Such a joy! No more hours of editing and re-recording errors in my home office! However, I went from recording in half hour bursts to 5-6 hour stretches a day over a week or so and that demanded some stamina.
The other difference is that in a studio you wear headphones that play your own voice to you as you read. That is weird. You quickly get used to it, but your attention and concentration is split between producing verbal output and analysing aural input at the same time. With each line you’re focused on the best delivery and a beat later thinking “did that sound right?” so you get very tired by the end of the day. I do still love it though. There’s a joy in intense and deep concentration (can you tell I’m an introvert?) that the work provides in spades.
The thing about being the narrator and the author of the work is that the internal editor gets louder. I have many author friends who tell me they sometimes edit on the fly when performing readings at events – well, the urge to do that has to be squashed in the recording studio as your reading has to be text perfect. No matter how many times you edit your book, you’ll always find something to worry about when you next read it – and all the doubts and fears about how it will be received increase tenfold when you’re recording it! However, the good thing is that it catches those tiny typos that might have missed the proof reader’s eye if the book hasn’t gone to press yet.
The best thing about narrating the Split Worlds novels
When I wrote Between Two Thorns and Any Other Name (the first two novels in the series and the ones I’ve recorded to date), I spent a lot of time with those characters in my head. They’re still there actually, I’ve no idea when they’ll decide to leave. Anyway, I know what they sound like. As a narrator I don’t have to make as best a guess as I can – all I have to do is do my best to convey what is already in my head. The intonation, the inflection, the pause as a character struggles to say the right thing is all there already.
Being the author and the narrator means that relationship goes back from three to two people. It’s just me and you, surviving in the Split Worlds, and I like that. I hope you do too.