I really loved the audiobook recording process. It felt like a mashup of my former day-job, which I still love (TV producer/director) and my current day-job (author – yay!).
So in between the four daily recording sessions of the GILDED CAGE audiobook, reader Avita Jay and producer Leo Whetter kindly let me ask them some questions about how they approach their job! Here are a few highlights…
VJ: Avita, how do you approach a book?
AJ: I don’t read it like I would normally. I make little notes: this character will be stuffy; this character will be snide. Little things that will help me as I’m recording it, to know what defines each character, what energy they have. I don’t start of straight away labelling the characters. I get a couple of chapters out of the way then I have a handle on what the world of the book is, and what each of the characters is meant to signify. And then you can start making decisions to give someone a certain kind of voice. Often you get two-thirds of the way through the book and you find out they’ve got an accent, or a quality that hasn’t yet been expressed, so you sometimes go back and change them.
VJ: Leo, what’s the role of the producer in all this?
LW: Something very similar to the reader [ie. narrator], though I’m not making any of those judgement decisions. I tend not to meet the reader until the morning of the recording. So there are some things you have to do on the fly, and trust the reader. You’re basically second-guessing everything, looking out for any pitfalls, looking at any pronunciations. The first day it was great having you in, Vic, because with Fantasy books it’s often difficult if you have no idea how things are pronounced. A whole new world is created.
VJ: What was your response to GILDED CAGE?
AJ: Having lots of characters is great, really fun, but especially having characters where they’ve got different distinctive voices, with reasons to have different, distinctive voices is really nice. If you have loads of people living in the same village, who’ve never left, who have the same voices, you’d have to find all sorts of ways to distinguish between them. But with Gilded Cage there are two clear, distinct worlds. And all the characters are distinct as well, they have their defining characteristics, which makes it easier.
VJ: Any challenges?
AJ: One character has a Geordie accent, which threw me slightly, but when that happens you just listen to YouTube, samples of that accent, and swot up. There have definitely been some voices in this that I haven’t done before. Such as the dog-man. He’s a unique voice. I’ve never had to call on that part of my vocal register.
VJ: Leo, when do you make the decision to hit the intercom button and talk to the reader?
LW: Sometimes the stress might be slightly off. Sometimes there’s a question about who actually says a thing. Sometimes you can just eke a tiny bit more meaning out of a sentence. And a lot of it is reassurance, as well – just letting people know that their reading is good and they should carry on.
VJ: What happens after today, now that we’ve finished?
LW: I’ve marked up the script as we go through. That goes to an editor, who has been editing the past two days already. The editor then masters them, and there’s a finished audio. It comes back here, and normally it’ll be proofed pretty quickly – checking against the text, making sure there are no missed edits, making sure there are no pronunciation errors or inconsistencies. With a book, inconsistencies can be a real issue.
GILDED CAGE was recorded for Macmillan Digital Audio and Penguin Random House Audio Publishing at Strathmore Publishing in the heart of London, and the same recording will be used worldwide. You can pre-order it now: US or UK.