It is pretty magical when the minute an audio book sounds you know beyond all doubt, that you will need to buy the hard cover copy & a highlighter, take notes in the margin, and laminate that baby.
I am new to audio books, in truth, I was an audio book virgin until three days ago, when I decided to give it a go out of desperation. Two of my three kids have been sick on and off since I returned from a blissful holiday in Asia with my hubby. Punishment for my escape from reality I’m sure.
Between my gorgeous but very snotty (in both senses of the word) three-year-old demanding non-stop cuddles (which are lovely) and a very elusive ‘something’, and my six-year-old needing constant entertainment and relief from the viral rash which had consumed his whole body and face, I had zero time, capacity or silence to write my current WIP or read a decent book.
So, I gave the cuddles, the ice-blocks, family movies and lego time with Mum. I spent hours prepping food they wouldn’t eat and cleaning rooms just in time for the next hurricane to descend, and the whole while lost myself in books I could listen to on the go. The kids were happy because I was present, and I was happy because while physically I was trapped on the couch, I felt as though I was achieving something – because words are my work and my passion.
The first book, ‘Ice Blue’ by Emma Jameson, I got as a free trial on Audible and it was a strange experience. Not because it was poorly written, it wasn’t. I loved the tone and voice coming through from the author, as well as the beautiful way she strung words together. The main character’s observations and thoughts were apt and amusing.
What put me off was the narrator. Again, as a disclaimer – he was impressive, but an odd choice. The issue for me was, what seemed like the majority of the story was a female POV – a pregnant woman with a pretty vivid thought-life and the narrator sounded like a posh middle aged, male Brit.
As I am not British – his voice made the book feel as though it was set in the 1950’s or earlier and then the mention of smart phones and modern slang or circumstances threw me right off - regularly. This could have more to do with my lack of exposure to the sound than the actual truth of the matter – but hey, this whole literary world is about personal choice and perceptions isn’t it.
It proved to me as a writer, how incredibly important finding the right voice is. Not only as you write, but also if you choose to narrate or have your story narrated. In this instance, I was fascinated by the process and experience of listening to an audio book and the quality of the writing itself drew me through the story – BUT had I not been a writer, I don’t think I would have continued listening.
The next book I listened to ‘Water for Elephants’ by Sara Gruen had quite the opposite effect. From the first word, I was intrigued. The narrator, John Randolph Jones drew me in instantly. Think James Garner (The older Noah) from the movie ‘The Notebook.’ That beautifully aged male voice, that you lean into, wanting to hear every story he has to share. And then David LeDoux stepped up to the plate as his younger counterpart and the picture was complete. And that is how it is done, ladies and gentlemen.
There was another book in the middle there, but it was strange and I wouldn’t recommend it – although the narrator Nancy Wu was excellent to listen to, and also the only reason I persisted. Had I picked it up in hard copy, I wouldn’t have moved passed the first chapter, which makes perfect sense. An audio book is something you can fit into your life without making any changes, it just walks along or works along with you. A hard copy on the other hand, you have to invest your undivided attention in. So, of course you would be more protective of your time and not waste it on books that are poorly written or that don’t interest you.
Then we come back to that magical book I knew would be a favourite the minute I started listening. ‘Exponential Living’ by Sheri Riley – the first Non-fiction choice on the list – and WOW! Usher (the Artist) wrote the intro, and before it finished I was in, hook, line and sinker.
This was less about the narration and more about the content. This is a book I will buy, highlight, write notes in and laminate, because I know it will help me engage in my life more, and live better. This is one of those books I will buy a second copy of to lend out because there’s no way they are getting mine.
And now, as I launch into my fifth book in four days, I know there will come a time when I may have to say – enough is enough girl, take those darn ear buds out of your ears and listen to the world around you.
That time is not now though – because outside of the cocoon of the fantasy world inside my head, there is arguing and moaning and he said/she saids, raucous laughter, clapping and singing out of tune at the top of their lungs. There are hammers hammering and dogs barking and….oh man I’m out….that day is NOT today! I have a new parenting hashtag for you #EarbudsIn