Janis Ian & Stefan Rudnicki Record My Audiobook!* – Part 1
Warning: This will be a long post. My blog isn’t set up yet, but I wanted to share with those of you who have asked some of my experiences this week in LA recording the audio version of my book with Janis Ian and Stefan Rudnicki of Skyboat Media.
I learned more and experienced more than I can share in one post. So, this one will be dedicated to the “behind the scenes” part. The second will be about my experience of Janis reading my book.
I walked in, and I was nervous. And though Stefan and Janis put me at ease, I did not feel exactly welcome. Took me a few hours to understand why. They weren’t being “unwelcoming”; they were working, and they were working on a level and at something that I was not just a novice at –they were working on something at a level and in a world
that was entirely foreign to me. You don’t have decades long careers, awards to fill a whole room, and trust and respect of your fellow artists without traveling very high and different roads.
It should, then, be no shock then that I felt like I was entering a foreign country. Immersion is often the best way to learn: And I was lucky enough to be immersed in the world of two truly great, real, passionate, dedicated, and f-ing genius artists. Soak it in. Watch, listen and learn. I felt like a kid at the adult’s table. And it was great.
I thought recording an audio book was like reading into a really good mic and then cleaning up stray sounds or whatever. I’m an idiot! Janis and Stefan began, and I was instantly awed. The words, the tone, the rhythm, the entire process between them had something going on underneath and through and through (other than their sheer skill and artistry) that I couldn’t name.
Hearing Janis read my words, I could feel a depth, a personal, specific depth, a whole world that I had not imagined. I will speak about that more in the next post. Before Stefan begin (forgive me, Stefan)….I thought a director of audio books was a glorified engineer. I could not have been more wrong. At first, all I could tell was that he had both a holistic and detailed understanding of the work that went way beyond normal. And so I appreciated the care. I was touched deeply by the care he exhibited, the time it must have taken. I felt humbled and honored and overwhelmed (that was true of both him and Janis, but again, I will get to Janis specifically in the next post). But I didn’t understand exactly why or what he was doing.
And I didn’t understand why I was nearly moved to tears by the attentiveness and expertise and art I was seeing.
And then I realized that I take reading for granted. I have read and written since I could read and write. As a reader, you are in control of your experience of the author and the text. You can read a line, not quite get it, read on or read before, and go back. As a reader, you can skip around to “get a feel” if you need to. As a reader, you can savor what you want and skip what you want and again, go forward or backwards to reference what you need for clarity. And the voice in your head, no matter how great the author, is your own.
As a listener…none of those things are true. In creating this audio book, Janis and Stefan were charged with orchestrating the emergence, cadence and tone of each syllable of each word, each sentence, and paragraph so that the listener could be expertly guided to experience the harmony of the whole.
The listener has to trust. The creators of the audio book – the narrator and the director — are responsible for engendering that trust. They orchestrate your experience, based on the author’s words. They must enter the work they are recording so deeply, guard it’s integrity and truth (as well as their own) with such devotion that the arc of each word, sentence, paragraph and story, delivers exactly what the listener needs in every sound. As an author….no wonder I was moved to tears.