Every now and then by chance, my thinking once went, you meet someone who gets you. When you’re a writer, and that person happens to be one of the most talented audiobook narrators in the business, one might say you’ve gotten the bonus plan. The upgrade to VIP status. First class, hot towels and everything.
I now understand how things work a little better than when that was representative of my thinking, and I am now convinced there was no chance involved, but we’ll save that for a post about that thought trail for another day.
But as they used to say in the stories in the nudie magazines, “I never thought it would happen to me.” (They love that phrase in true crime stories too. No one ever thinks it would happen to them. And based on odds, they’re probably right. Unless they are on a true crime show. Then I guarantee you are exactly who it’s going to be happening to.) But I honestly never even flirted with the thought it could happen to me.
It did, though. It did.
Aven Shore narrated my novel Jelly Jars late last year, and for me that salvaged 2020. The year that has become synonymous for everything crap-coated became the greatest year of my life. I was so proud of that book. Still am. And when we at Northern Lake decided to make it into an audiobook we got quite a few auditions, and several of them were very good, two or three were brilliant, but one was the voice I’d heard in my head when I was writing it. And that was Aven. She absolutely understood what I was hoping to do with the story, she caught all the nuances, and because I knew nothing about the trauma a writer can cause the beleaguered narrator I included a wide variety of accents, and even threw in an Elvis impersonator. I was brutal.
And she rolled with it all. She nailed it all.
By the time we had finished the project, Aven and I had already become pretty good friends. We talked often, and one day during a conversation the subject of my fantasy series, Cerah of Quadar came up. We discussed some of the themes, and the fact that it was a fantasy series with a strong female hero, and she suddenly said, “I’ve got to record that.”
Not long after that conversation I sent her the book to read over. Not long after that she was recording.
There was a precedent we set when recording Jelly Jars, wherein if something didn’t sit right with her we’d find a way to correct it that was acceptable to both of us.
The same procedure was used for the recording of A Dark Clock, with the primary difference being that we were tight enough by then that sometimes her suggested edit came after an eye-roll or a quiet, “Seriously?” And so when after the first few chapters she messaged me about what would end up being a major shift which, if incorporated into the story, would change all three books in the series, I was already inclined to listen, as without fail every suggestion she’d made, (to the best of my recollection) was better than the original. This notion, as I hinted, was huge. And I quote:
I’ve been pre-reading. Here’s a radical idea for you to consider. At this point in my life, a male Creator is an absolute absurdity of an idea. When it’s recycled it’s just an unthinking repetition of the Christian God idea, which is an absurdity unto itself, and a male “creator” is what some 8th men made up to co-opt female power. Female energy brings forth life – it is in our biology on all levels of life – one egg, that makes the choice – intentional creation. Men represent chance/opportunity and chaos – the billions of sperm/pollen. Ma’uzzi hasn’t been gendered before now. Would you consider a female, an ungendered, or a dual gendered (plenty of biological precedent) Great Creator?Aven Shore – July 9, 2021
I didn’t need any convincing. My picture of Christianity had changed considerably since I wrote the Cerah series, and when she made this suggestion it realized that if I had written the books now I would have likely reached a similar conclusion. Slightly later this post appeared on Facebook:
I wasn’t expecting anything like that, but something she says in the post rings a knell of truth with me every time I read it. “It really feels like co-creation.”
I think it felt that way because that’s exactly what it ended up being. By the time we finished, (and as you can see from her post, my use of the word “we” is not hyperbole) the audiobook was different from the printed version in many significant ways. It is different to the degree that once I get a few other projects further alone I’ll revise the text version to incorporate the improvements in that format as well.