Q&A with Errin Stevens, The Mer Chronicles


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

Well, I went to the ACX web site and did a LOT of internet research while I considered how to best approach my projects. I decided I don’t much like how often we all get asked to create on the if-come, so even though it was expensive for me, I carved out a section of Updrift for use as a script and put the project up as a paid gig through the ACX production system. I got such wonderful responses from some truly talented narrators and was so agitated about choosing the right one. I co-opted the opinion of a longtime friend and actress to listen with me to help me figure it out! She told me to go with the one that pulled the “right” emotional response as I felt it… and since she and I both thought Sean’s read was the most compelling, I made him an offer. Thankfully, he accepted.

Sean was an amazing professional to work with. He made every edit I requested, did everything smoothly and beautifully, and the second I could amass my next pile of cash to produce the sequel, I contacted him to see if he’d be interested, and he jumped all over it. I’m really grateful for the care Sean took with my stories and can’t recommend him highly enough.

Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?

My short answer to this is ‘yes,’ although with the caveat that I still prefer reading on paper because that process blurs a certain divide between my conscious and unconscious and results in the experience I’m seeking when I read. But. I’ve listened to a few audiobooks - it saved my sanity on two cross-country drives! - and I think the experience was similar enough to “reading” that I’d do it again. I think any nonfiction would play well (I adored “In a Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson); and I think a good narrator will know how to bring a story across as the writer intended.

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

No, but I found when I listened to auditions I did in fact have beliefs about how my characters should sound. As I write my third - and having produced two audiobooks at this point - I can say I’m thinking of it this time around. And it’s a helpful perspective to have, has helped me refine my own narrative voice on the page, I think.

How did you select your narrator?

Sean was one of several people who auditioned for Updrift on the ACX platform. His audition really stood out to me and my actress friend.

How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process?

Very closely, and Sean was the consummate professional throughout. He may remember the process differently, but just as proofing a written manuscript results in copy edits, the same little things come up in voice narration. I think there were two sentences in the whole of both works I asked Sean to re-read with a different tone. The rest was small stuff.

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

Although my stories are not at all retellings, the inspiration for Updrift was The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. The little reflection of it I hope people see/enjoy is in the form of a character twist, since I modeled my bad guy after the original heroine. I.e., he was the one who risked everything and suffered the most for what he wanted.

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

Oh my goodness, yes. Sean’s voice is just this terrific blend of compelling goodies, prompts for the listener to envision the story as well as hear it, and to feel more viscerally the tension the characters feel. And then I think his rich, resonant delivery does a much better job bringing both my hero and my antagonist to life.

What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Do it. Share your first draft VERY carefully and give yourself ample time to digest advice before you act on anything someone else says you need to change. Your story is yours and you have every permission to write it. But seriously, adopt the butt-in-chair technique and just write the dang thing. :-)

Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?

If you can, pay your narrator rather than offer a royalty share. It’s a cleaner deal, it gives creatives just like you a little income, and you’ll get more response for your audition. Plus you’ll hear a ton of good options, capable professionals you’d want working on your baby.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to finish Outrush this year if it kills me. And it might. Seriously, I think my brain got broke last year… ;-)