This past June, I described how I waded into the audiobook pool and went about auditioning and selecting a narrator for A Wizard’s Forge. This past week I returned notes and corrections on the last six chapters, and I gotta say, I’m thrilled. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to her.
Leah Casey is a Chicago-based writer, actress, artist, dancer, and creator of the Project STELLAR podcast, and she’s a powerhouse of talent. She has handled all the voices–female and male, young and old–with aplomb, and her narration is so good it gives me chills.
Any time one embarks on a new venture, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Leah’s audition was outstanding, but would the proof be in the full-length pudding? All the signs were good as we negotiated the fee and went about signing the contract: Leah was professional and responsive, and we’ve had a terrific working relationship. Production has taken longer than either of us initially planned, but we’ve kept each other updated on progress the whole time. I didn’t undertake this production with the goal of finishing it fast: I wanted it done right. And Leah has been on board with that goal all along.
As I did with the first post on this topic, I’m going to list out the steps we’ve taken together to pull the audiobook together so far. We still have a few steps to go, which I’ll post about after launch, but down at the bottom of this post you can find an audio sample of Leah’s work on A Wizard’s Forge.
Step 1. Manuscript and Director’s Notes
Obviously the narrator needs a copy of the book before she can record it. I sent Leah the Word document, not the book or an eBook. I’m not sure if I ever asked her preference, but the ACX website says to send the “manuscript,” and this made sense to me, so the narrator can format it however she likes and mark it up as much as she needs to.
I also provided some director’s notes about characterizations and the world of Knownearth. I sent a link to a blog post called Print to Screen, where I describe the characteristics of each of the principal players in AWF (as well as discuss my fantasy movie cast). In addition, I sent links to the FAQs on my website, so Leah could begin getting a sense of the world.
Step 2. Pronunciation Guide
AWF is a science fantasy set on another planet in the far future, and it has a mix of familiar and made-up names. Vic and her people, the Oreseekers, speak English (more or less), but languages have evolved in the other nations of Knownearth. No stranger to speculative fiction, Leah first sent me recordings of her saying all the weird words and names she found in the manuscript, so I could verify pronunciation before she started the narration. I returned corrections I made using my phone’s voice recorder. This saved us from having to fix mispronunciations in the actual narration.
Step 3. The First 15 Minutes
ACX requires narrators to provide and content creators (authors or publishers) to approve the first 15 minutes before full production gets underway. Leah’s 15-minute sample allowed me to evaluate whether her overall reading was on target (it was–whew, what a relief!) and give her some initial feedback.
Step 4. First Pass Narration
Leah and I agreed that it would work best with both our schedules if she sent me chapters as she finished them, rather than waiting until the whole book was done. She sent me 2-4 first-pass chapters every few days over several weeks, and I returned corrections as soon as I could by making notes in the manuscript. Per standard practice when making audio corrections, I included a time stamp with each note.
The fixes included not only changes to the narration, but corrections to my prose, as the read-aloud uncovered the occasional gaffe, which I asked her to fix as well.
Step 5. Second Pass Narration
This is where things stand now. Leah has begun uploading the corrected chapters on ACX, and I’ve begun listening to make sure all my notes have been addressed.
Considering AWF is 120,500 words, there really weren’t that many changes. Leah did a particularly amazing job with dialogue and emotions, and she really captured the spirit of Vic’s journey. The entire process has been a fantastic collaboration, and I have yet another reason to finish A Wizard’s Sacrifice, so I can book Leah’s time to narrate that one as well!
When the entire audiobook is done and launched, I’ll do a final post about those last steps. In the meantime, however, I leave you with a teaser spotlighting Leah’s great work.
A Wizard’s Forge, Chapter 1. The Logs, Narrated by Leah Casey
To see how the launch went, read Soundcheck Part 3 here.