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.
- 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.
- 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?
What it my job to control her artistry?
Am I thrilled with the outcome?
With many, many thanks to Melinda Cumming for her willingness to work collaboratively.