Zut Alors

I’ve written in the past about the anxious moment just before you click on the email from your editor with the jpeg of your new book cover attached. A similar frisson occurs when you hear the narrator of the audiobook for the first time.

It’s odd, hearing someone else read your words. You quickly realize that even though the words can’t change, there are still countless small decisions to be made, all of which will affect the reading. What does the reader emphasize, where does he pause, or speed up? How dramatic (or melodramatic) is he? And then there’s the voice itself. It’s obviously not yours – but could it be? Does it sound anything like the voice that’s been rattling around your head these past several years?

A Good American and Setting Free the Kites were both told in the first person, by an American character. That, for obvious reasons, limited the available choice of narrator for the audiobook. (I was never in contention for that gig.) The Paris Hours is very different. It’s a third party narrator, and so is not associated so directly with any one character in the novel. Also, since the book is set in Paris (spoiler alert!) there was no call for a particular accent – although I was pretty sure the publisher wouldn’t be looking for a John Cleese-stye turn at the start of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

This week I was sent an audio file of the actor that Macmillan Audio have chosen to read the book, and I’m thrilled. It really does kind of sound how I’d imagined the book in my head. The actor, Raphael Corkhill, is English – but, like me, now lives the US. (He appeared the film adaptation of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and was also in NBC’s The Blacklist.) It sounds as if he must have spent some time in France, too, as he attacks the little bits of French that are scattered about the book with impressive gusto and in an impeccable accent. I’ve had a mixed relationship with my audiobooks in the past – I’ve never listened to much of them. But I’m looking forward to hearing what Raphael does with the text.

So much of putting a book out into the world is out of an author’s hands. All I can do is marshall the words on the page, but for everything else I have to rely on others. It’s one leap of faith (and a lot of finger crossing) after another. But so far – with the cover and now with the choice of Raphael – I feel as if I’m in wonderful hands with my new publisher, Flatiron Books.

Comments 1

  1. I’ve only had other people read short stories for a fiction podcast I do, but I’m always amazed by the cadences that I hear in my head going different ways–almost always for the better. Like you, I don’t listen to many audiobooks, but more friends have in recent years. The production levels are amazing, and the efforts narrators and actors put into them is a huge step forward from when I was younger and listening to books on tape in a ride share years ago.

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