Author Talks: The making of an audio book with Charlotte Wood

Author Talks: The making of an audio book with Charlotte Wood

“It felt like somebody else’s book that I was listening to.” ­ – Charlotte Wood

Ever thought about how an audio book is made? Who reads them? How do they choose a voice for a character? How much is the author involved, and what do they think about it? Charlotte Wood, Miles Franklin shortlisted author of The Natural Way of Things, reveals all…

 

Better Reading: How was the experience of helping The Natural Way of Things to become an audio book?

Charlotte Wood: I knew who the reader was which I haven’t done before. Other times I’ve had audio books made and they’ve chosen somebody and made it and it’s been perfectly good but this time was different because the reader was Ailsa Piper who happens to be a very good friend of mine, as well as a very sought-after reader for audio books. It’s fantastic because she is fabulous at her job; she’s not only an actor but she’s a writer herself, so she has a feel for language and rhythm.

So I was very excited when I heard Ailsa was going to do it. Then when I heard it I found it incredibly moving in a way that I hadn’t before. It’s hard to explain why but it completely separated the book from me. It felt like somebody else’s book that I was listening to. It made me feel very involved in the story and with the characters in a way that I hadn’t before. When you write it you’re so concerned with all kinds of issues like narrative pace, did you get this right and that, words that annoy you and that sort of thing, but when I had heard Ailsa’s reading I felt it as a completely new experience, it was really very powerful.

 

charlotte-wood_the-natural-way-of-thingsBR: Did you work with Ailsa on the interpretation? Did Ailsa consult you about characters?

CW: We had a talk before she went in but I said to her, “I want you to do whatever you want.” It shouldn’t have anything to do with me because I really believe, whether it’s audio books or plays or films or any other version of a book, it is in fact a whole new piece of work and so the people making it should be free do what they want with it.

But she did ask me some things. She asked me about the first line of the book which is, “So there were kookaburras here.” She asked me about the intent of that line and it was amazing to me about how many different meanings it could have. She said, “If I say there WERE kookaburras here,” it is different to saying ‘There were kookaburras HERE.”

To me it had only one meaning and that was that the character Yolanda was trying to place herself and work out where she is. So it turned into a really interesting discussion about all the really finely calibrated different meanings you can get with a few simple words.

She asked me if I had any particular ideas about the kind of voices they might have and interestingly enough, I hadn’t really given it that much thought at all. I had thought about their bodies and what sort of person they were and what sort of class and that sort of thing. So I would describe how they moved or how they walked and how they thought of themselves and then she said, “Okay, well that says to me they would a more back-in-the-throat kind of voice or something.” It was amazing how she could choose a voice for a character based on what I said. She also had the very tricky job of being able to do that and differentiate between the characters but not go into some kind of ridiculous cartoony overplaying voices.

 

BR: She would also be doing the male characters and given that some of them were brutal that would have been a challenge?

CW: Yes a lot of it’s about rhythm. It’s not just that a deep voice works for a man. You know one of the guards is quite dangerous but he’s also kind of whiney and weak and sulky. So she could make a voice that wasn’t just a generic man’s voice. It was really fascinating to talk to her about the process of doing it.

 

BR: There’s a photo of you in the studio. Did you go into the studio with Ailsa for the recording?

We interviewed each other about the process of making an audio book , so we had the conversation about the voices away from the studio then she went in and did the reading. Then she and I had a conversation about what it means to have an audio book as opposed to a print book, and how it affects you as a reader and a listener. We spoke about the decisions she had to make, and she also asked me some things about the writing.

(Listen to the conversation between Charlotte Wood and Ailsa Piper in ‘Author Talks’ Interview Series here)

 

Wood_Charlotte

Charlotte Wood accepts the Stella Prize earlier this year

BR: Do you listen to audio books?

Every now and then, if I’m doing a lot of driving I do. Quite a long time ago my husband and I and a couple of friends drove across to Perth and back over a couple of weeks, camping on this big long holiday, and we listened to heaps of audio books in the car and it was fantastic.

Then when I was working on a deadline to finish my PhD last year, I went away by myself so I was working on the screen all day and at night, instead of watching TV, I listened to audio books and it was great. I was so tired and my eyes were so tired from working that I couldn’t read anymore but I could ‘read’ audio. So I listened to the audio book of The Handmaid’s Tale which I had not read before writing The Natural Way of Things. It was an amazing experience on audio. Obviously I knew what it was about but I deliberately didn’t read it until I was finished with my book.

*****

To find out more about Wavesound’s expanding range of Australian voices on audio book, as well as their major international titles, click here.

 

 

 

 

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            Publisher details

            The Natural Way of Things
            Author
            Charlotte Wood
            Publisher
            Allen & Unwin
            Genre
            Fiction
            Released
            01 October, 2015

            Synopsis

            She hears her own thick voice deep inside her ears when she says, 'I need to know where I am.' The man stands there, tall and narrow, hand still on the doorknob, surprised. He says, almost in sympathy, 'Oh, sweetie. You need to know what you are.'Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a 'nurse'.The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world?Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl's past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue - but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves...With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid's Tale and Lord of the Flies, The Natural Way of Things is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel. It confirms Charlotte Wood's position as one of our most thoughtful, provocative and fearless truth-tellers, as she unflinchingly reveals us and our world to ourselves...'As a man, to read it is as unsettling as receiving one piece of bad news after another. It is confronting. Yet anyone who reads it, man or woman, is going to be left with a sense that a long-hidden truth has been revealed to them.#47 in Australia's Top 100 2016
            Charlotte Wood
            About the author

            Charlotte Wood

            Charlotte Wood has been described as "one of our most original and provocative writers.” (The Australian).Her fifth novel, The Natural Way of Things, was published in September 2015.  Her previous novel, Animal People, won the People's Choice medal in the 2013 NSW Premier's Literary Awards, was shortlisted for the 2013 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction and longlisted for the 2012 Miles Franklin Literary Award. Her earlier novels were also shortlisted for various prizes, including the Miles Franklin Award and regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.  Her non-fiction book is an essay collection, Love & Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food.Charlotte is also editor of The Writer's Room Interviews, a bimonthly digital magazine of conversations with Australian authors, and in 2009 edited a collection of short stories about siblings by some of Australia's finest writers, called Brothers & Sisters.In 2014 she was appointed Chair of Arts Practice, Literature, at the Australia Council for the Arts.  Charlotte writes an occasional blog 'on reading, writing and living' at www.howtoshuckanoyster.com, and lives in Sydney with her husband.

            Books by Charlotte Wood

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