Q&A with Shelly Hickman, Believe

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Buy on Amazon

Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.

As of now, I only have one other audiobook and the narration was done by someone else - an honest to goodness actress. That process was a learning experience for me, but when I decided to narrate this book myself, it required an even steeper learning curve. I had to familiarize myself with Audacity software and its basic editing features, as well as get to know the studio grade microphone I purchased. I’m a teacher and have recorded many a video tutorial for my students, but the precise reading required was understandably much more demanding.

Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

Believe is my first book, so definitely no. In fact, when I first started writing it I didn’t even have any concrete plans to publish - it was simply therapy after losing my daughter. Publishing the story sort of came about by chance through a publisher friend of my niece before I eventually self-published.

What made you decide to narrate this yourself?

As I mentioned, because the writing of this story was a therapeutic process I was very much in need of after the loss of my daughter, it didn’t feel right to have someone else read it. My only hope is that the personal, heartfelt story will make up for the fact that I’m not a professional who is equipped with unique character voices and pitches. It’s just me, folks - hopefully portraying enough emotion to keep your attention.

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

This novella is semi-autobiographical. Rachel is a loose version of me after I lost Sydney, and most of the scenes involving Rachel and her daughter are based on my own experiences. I was also a heavy reader of anything with a spiritual/religious/”power of thought” subject matter at that time, and Rachel’s skepticism and confusion about such topics are very much me. However, the relationship between Rachel and Jack is entirely fictional.

Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?

I have become such an audiobook lover in the last few months and I tend to gravitate toward comedy. I’m reluctant to try novels, because if I don’t care for the narrator it can really put a damper on the story itself - which is why I’m extremely nervous about doing the audio for my own book and pray my delivery doesn’t ruin the story for anyone.

I recently listened to an Emily Giffin book. I had never read anything by her before and while I really enjoyed the story itself, I felt the narrator was not a good fit for the character telling it and it did somewhat take away from the book.

I just finished listening to A Man Called Ove, and I adored the audio version. It took me a little while to get into it, but once I did, I absolutely fell in love with the story and its characters.

Audiobook format appeals to me most because I can listen during my commute or at the gym, and it makes the time go by so much faster.

Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?

There is a pivotal scene between Rachel and Jack when he is taken off guard by a verbal attack from her. For the first time he sees that she isn’t the same person he knew years ago, and doesn’t hesitate to tell her so. The naivete of his assessment further stirs her anger, and she responds with, “Of course I’m not the same person!” And well, hopefully you’ll listen to the book to hear her entire rant. But the audio is particularly resonating because once you lose a child, you are never the same again. You can never go back to who you were. Sure, you may make an effort to be the same on the outside, but you’re not. It’s simply impossible.  

If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the  primary roles?

I’ve never given this a whole lot of thought for this particular book because it’s literally about me, though I’d like to think I’m not abrasive the way Rachel can be. I think Anna Kendrick would be a great choice for Rachel - she’s got the snarkiness. Jack is the reformed charmer, and though he’s a bit old for the role, Ryan Reynolds would be a good fit.

What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Not that I’m a bestselling novelist with pearls of wisdom to cast, but I think honesty in writing is most important. Skill will come the more you write, but you should always follow your voice. Don’t try a writing style that feels awkward or unnatural to you because it will come across clunky to the reader. I could never write mystery, erotica, or a work of literary fiction because it just isn’t me. Find your voice and refine it over time