How I worked successfully with the narrator of the audio book.

Alle C. Hall
2 min readSep 22, 2023
Melinda Cumming narrates As Far as You Can Go Before You have to Come Back: A Novel

The mere idea of an audio book was precious to me. I couldn’t wait to hear my work — mine mine mine mine mine — fully embodied.

I was also terrified: even it turned out well, what if it was different than I would do it?

I found that following discoveries resulted in an audio book that was not only (IMHO) stunning and evocative. It was a completely fulfilling experience to work on.

  1. As soon as I could, I reached out to the narrator with this message: I’ve done my work. Yours is to interpret the audio version as you see fit. Oooh, boy, did that take trust. I’d never met Melinda; I’d never heard her work. I saw what the Buddhists call “radical acceptance” as my best way to get that which I truly desried: a great audio book.
  2. I asked if I could hear the final version before it went out. I can see how some narrators would balk at this request. Who needs a neurotic, controlling author micro-managing how an autonomous artist and adult did this and how wrong that was? I told Melinda my truth: my book is the travel journey of a white girl in Asia. My bottom line was that the Asian and Asian-American characters be presented with dignity and grace. Toward that effort, I wanted to make sure that all the non-English words were pronounced correctly. (I speak Japanese. Melinda does not.) I didn’t tell her that I was also checking on her accents. A respectful accent was going to be critical.

Sept. 29th, 2023: me ‘n Melinda discuss respectfully presenting BIPOC characters as part of our in-person conversation at Village Bookstore in Bellingham, WA.

And then … Melinda asked me for input. I didn’t expect her offer, but boy, was I grateful for it! In listening to the rough drafts, I found only one place where her interpretation would lead to a psychological inconsistency in the character, down the road. Melinda seemed grateful for the feedback. Turns out, she respected my work as much as I respected hers.

Were their places where Melinda’s interpretation varied from the way I’d heard it in my head for three decades?

Sure.

What it my job to control her artistry?

Nope.

Am I thrilled with the outcome?

Yep!

With many, many thanks to Melinda Cumming for her willingness to work collaboratively.

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Alle C. Hall

Author: As Far as You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back: 1st Place: International FireBird Book Awards: "Literary" & "Coming of Age"