Author: Kathryn Guare
Narrator: Wayne Farrell
Length: 11h 19m
Publisher: Kathryn Guare
Series: The Virtuosic Spy, Book One
Q&A with Kathryn Guare
- Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook and how you selected your narrator.
I used “ACX”, which is an audiobook platform offered by Amazon to match up authors with narrators. It’s great, because all the technical bits and bobs that I know nothing about are taken care of. All I had to do was upload a script for the auditions and agree on the contract with the narrator to get it all started, then upload an audiobook cover and description for the Audible and iTunes listings. There was a process for giving narrators an opportunity to audition, using the script I’d provided. I was beyond thrilled to have Wayne Farrell agree to take on the work. He’d narrated one of my all-time favorite books (“The Spinning Heart”) and I could hardly believe my luck!
- Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you? What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
Yes, I love audiobooks. I once had a job with a 1-hour commute both ways and I went through dozens of audiobooks. I love having someone tell me a story. It can be captivating in a way that’s different from reading it on the page, and I don’t think it’s cheating at all. It’s just a different sort of experience, and it allows you to be engaged with a book when your eyes need to be doing something else. There are so many books and so little time! I’m happy to use anything that helps me get through more of them and I always have a paperback and an audiobook going at the same time (Well, not at the same time, but you know what I mean!)
- Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?
I’m sure that’s true. Probably books that are strong on plot, action and dialogue work the best, but whatever the genre, the things I find tedious when reading a book are the same things I have trouble with when listening to one. If there is too much exhaustive description of setting, or facts and figures, and too little language that pulls me into the story or subject matter, I start to get impatient. But for me, the narrator is key more than genre. If I am enjoying the voice, and the storytelling skills of the person narrating, I can put up with almost anything else.
- Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
I think I probably had a movie more in mind than the audiobook. Not because I really wanted to see the book made into a movie, but because I could see the movie in my head as I wrote it. Some readers have mentioned that the book feels “cinematic” and they can also easily picture a movie.
- If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the primary roles?
Oh, I’ve had this conversation with so many readers and friends! He’s maybe getting a little too old for it now, but I’ve always said I’d be happy with Hugh Jackman as Conor. The role he played in the film “The Fountain” struck me as closest to the appearance and personality of Conor. And I think Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) would do a great job as Sedgwick. It’s almost more fun to hear what others think, though.
- How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
I did provide provide some brief descriptions of how I viewed the characters, but I thought it best to let the narrator develop his own approach, rather than asking him to adopt an accent or particular vocal style he may not be comfortable with. For me, it was most important that Conor McBride sound authentically Irish, which is why I was determined to have an Irish narrator. There were a few corrections when the UK/Irish pronunciation of a word slipped into an American character’s dialogue, but not often. Wayne has a remarkable range and facility with accents, and by the time I was listening to the chapters he’d already done his own editing and correcting.
- Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
The book grew out of so many things I love - Ireland, India, music, food, etc. My own family heritage is Irish, and I had a particular interest in India because my family had a close relationship with an Indian priest who eventually became the Archbishop of Agra. He makes a cameo appearance in the book, under an assumed name!
- Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
I think having a narrator with Wayne’s level of talent voice the characters really brings them to life. Their personalities became even more vivid to me, and some of the scenes seemed almost like hearing a radio drama or a dramatic reading of a play. An Audiofile review of one of his books said he makes it sound like a full cast recording. I think that’s true for Deceptive Cadence as well, and for me that was particularly delightful!
- How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
I don’t really remember, but knowing me, it’s likely that I had a nice cold cocktail
- Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?
Yes, and it was fantastic. I’ll say no more. ;)
- What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
The standard advice to writers is “write what you know” and I think that is very limiting and intimidating. My advice is “write what you want to know” because that opens up the world for you. Take the time to do the research to learn what you need to, then just go at it and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t do it.
- Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
After you’ve found a narrator who has the voice and skill that you want, and you’ve given them some basic guidelines, you have to let it go and let them do the work. It’s like turning your screenplay over to the director and actors. If the narrator is focused on responding to your detailed direction it means they aren’t developing their own relationship with the story and the result will be less than it could have been.
- What’s next for you?
I’m working on the production of the second book in the series, The Secret Chord, which I’m hoping to have available on Audible and iTunes soon. Stay tuned!
- You’ve mentioned the legendary Eamon Kelly as a source of inspiration for your interest in the craft of storytelling. What makes a good storyteller and how do you incorporate those traits into your own narration?
There are many challenges that one can face when looking to narrate a story. I’m not so much of a story teller as that is more a job for the author. If they have done their job properly, mine tends to go a little better.
As a narrator, my side of telling the story always boils down to whether I think I can do justice to the work of the author.
Have I understood what messages the writer wants to send? Can I make sense of the environment that they have set their scenes in and can I draw on personal experience to properly portray characters?
Those are the fundamental boxes that need to be ticked before accepting a project.
Next for me then is pacing. The question of what is happening in the text. Where is it going? How does the scene start and end? The narration needs to follow that pace either with a tempo that reflects the rhythm of the text or in some cases, with a pace that runs counter to the flow of words on the page.
The most important element of pacing for me though, is knowing where to pause or slow down. It’s vital to give the reader time to absorb things. If the author has painted a scene, it’s good to be able to describe that with the right tone. My voice changes according to the mood of the text but also to its environment. Sun, wind, snow, rain….they all generate different vocal qualities in me.
In a nutshell, you’ve got to be able to elicit emotions from a listener on a level that matches the text.
- When you are evaluating whether you want to take on a particular audiobook project, what are some key qualities you look for?
I know it can sound a bit petty and flies in the face of the age old maxim, but if I don’t like the cover of the book, there is a very high chance I’m going to pass on it.
I’ll still open it up and have a read though, as I’ve been surprised a few times in the past, but not that much. I find it almost impossible to narrate a book that doesn’t draw me in. If I don’t have that “suspension of disbelief” moment within the first two chapters, I’m not going to be narrating it. That is not to say that it isn’t a good book. It’s just not for me.
One of my main gripes as a narrator is being asked to read books where an author uses unusual words to describe something simple, thus alienating a large percentage of readers for example describing a comment as “asinine” instead of just simply saying it was stupid or foolish. Stuff like that unnecessarily breaks the story flow for a lot of folks.
- Were there particular characteristics of Deceptive Cadence that resonated with you? What about the project did you enjoy most, and what did you find most challenging?
There was a lot within the story that I could connect with. The stand out one being that the main character is Irish. The main location was another. I have spent time in India and know exactly what it’s like there. Again, we are back to the question about the key elements of good storytelling: can you apply personal experiences to the story?
Kathryn Guare writes exceptionally well, with great scene setting and her characters are very believable. I enjoyed “being” them as such. The challenge with any book like this is the wide variety of accents in it: Irish, English, American, Indian, Russian. In this case, you have to make sure that you get each one right, but at the same time, provide enough separation between characters so that the listener knows who is speaking. A lot of people can do a good Delhi accent, but not many people can do two or three different Delhi accents. Therein lies the challenge.
The next book in the series has a lot of American characters in it, and because of that, you will hear a different approach to how that audiobook will be done. Rather than trying to do many accents which may be confusing for some, I will limit accents and rely more on pacing and timbre for characters, leaving the text and the listener to intuit separation. It’s old-school narration but works far better for the direction that the series has taken.
- Many listeners have expressed an admiration of your versatility with different characters. One reviewer mentioned that your narration sounds like “a full cast recording”. How do you go about developing your approach to the characters in the book, and how is it different for the approach, or tone you develop for the narrative text? How did you apply this to Deceptive Cadence?
A lot of time goes into the recording of an audiobook. When some authors take their first steps into the process, they can literally be blown away by the amount of hours it takes (not to mention how much the sum of these hours cost!)
Here’s the general process.
I read the book from cover to cover to work out the book: plot, moods, environments, unusual place names or words (we are back to “asinine” again), and a list of the characters. I will normally ask the author for a list of character backgrounds as well - a description of age, looks, moods, and also anything that may come up in future story arcs that may affect how I portray them.
From a voice perspective, I usually shape the character voice around several elements: Pitch (high or low), Tempo (Fast or slow), Rhythm (Staccato, Loping etc) , Placement (nasal, chesty, throaty) and Mouth Work (Accent, movement, twisting)
I make notes for each character and refer to them while I’m recording.
- As a reader, what are some of your own favorite books and authors, and why?
I like suspense novels, particularly in the spy genre. Another reason why I liked Deceptive Cadence. Some of my favourite books are “Day of the Jackal” by Frederick Forsyth and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” by John le Carré.
Both authors bring realism to the books because they were spies in a former life. (Maybe Kathryn Guare is one too?!)
- As a listener, what are some of your favorite audiobooks, and why?
The audiobook versions of both books above are great.
I’m also very partial to some Agatha Christie books that have been read by the amazing David Suchet where he plays Hercule Poirot. The man is a brilliant narrator and I highly recommend “The Mysterious Affair At Styles” as evidence of that!
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