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Q&A with Jennifer LeBlanc, The Tribulations of August Barton


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

It really depends on the writing style. Having it read out loud and brought to life is an amazing thing. Your characters become more real and the reader gets to become more immersed in your story. With that said, if the writing isn’t something that sounds good when read aloud it might not translate as well into audiobook format. This is why choosing the right narrator is so important because translating what's in your mind and your story the way you see it in your head is difficult. Details and certain things like character quirks and the tone need to match what you are trying to convey to the reader in your story. If the writing is flat and has no life or is too bland, it will be bland and flat when read aloud. I have listened to several audiobooks with the same old monotone narrators that try to make the story interesting, but don’t, because the writing isn’t interesting or the story isn’t written in an interesting way. On the flip side of that though I have also heard ones where the narrator works wonders for even the most boring and flat writing so it goes both ways.  

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

Yes, I definitely anticipated getting my book made into an audiobook early on in the process. Because of this, I wrote the story the way I would want to hear it. It was like I was watching a movie in my head and when writing, I wrote how I would want the movie to play out. I thought about what reactions people would have if a character said or did something more interesting. This helped give my characters more individuality and spunk. They weren’t just people put together as a means to an end in the book. They became so much more and it’s definitely something you can hear in the audiobook.

How did you select your narrator?

This part was scary because I knew what I wanted for the characters and how I wanted them to sound, but to find someone who could do them, and the story justice seemed really daunting. I did a search on the audiobook production platform and came across James Oliva’s profile. He conveniently had samples of his previous work available to listen to. I listened to each one several times and I just couldn’t believe the range he had as a voice actor. I was hooked and just knew he was the one. From there I sent an offer and he gladly accepted. I feel like it was just meant to be because I found who I believed was the perfect narrator on the first try. That never seems to happen and I feel so blessed to have worked with and to continue working with him.

How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?

For some of the lines yes, but for Augie he just had it. He sounded young and skittish and weird and that’s exactly what I wanted. It was the same with Gertie and for the most part all the others aside from a few things here and there that were easy to fix.

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

Yes, I have always been socially awkward and at times never really felt like I was confident or even comfortable in my own skin. This is a characteristic that I gave to my main character Augie because it stems from me and how I was at that age. I have also always had a special relationship with my grandmother and she’s been one of the most influential people in my life. I wanted to write a story that portrayed that relationship even though my grandmother is the complete opposite of Augie’s in many ways.

What about the audiobook format appeals to you?

I really loved audio books as a kid because they essentially taught to me how to read better and how to pronounce words that I didn’t know how to. They helped me understand the tone and get into the story better. I would always get the cassette tapes from the library and then follow along with the physical book. I still listen to them here and there on occasion without the physical books. Some of them are great and others don’t grab my attention as well. It really depends on the narrator. I don’t listen to audiobooks very much anymore, but I do like them.

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

All of it, in my opinion the whole experience of listening to it brought so much more emotion out and so much more appeal for the characters. They become more real and relatable and I can’t thank James enough for the work he put into making my audiobook so great.

What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Talk to other authors if you can and connect with the writing community, whether it be local or reaching out online. Having the support of other people in the same boat helped me immensely through this process. The knowledge and advice of other readers, writers, and authors is invaluable whether it’s good or bad. Everything helps. Learn as much as you can. Do research on self-publishing and traditional publishing and most importantly READ! To become a good writer, you must first become a good reader.

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

Be diligent in selecting your narrator and make sure they will be a good fit for your book. Also be patient with your narrator, once you have chosen one, because they have a lot more work they have to do behind the scenes than we see or know about. There’s a lot that goes into recording and editing the content in your book. It’s a process and it takes time. It’s not an easy feat by any means and is more than worth it in the end.

What’s next for you?

Publishing book two in the August Barton Novella Series titled, The Revelations of August Barton. Once the paperback and ebook are out, James has graciously accepted the task of narrating the audiobook for this one as well. I can’t wait to dig in and get it out there for all the readers and listeners. Once Revelations is released, I plan on doing more author events around where I live and doing some more marketing.

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