It's been a crazy 2 weeks, of that there can be no doubt. The following story is true, and no names have been changed to protect the innocent.
I stood in the dealer’s room and watched as a man climbed onto a table, stood up and began to read. The opening chapter to a book he was launching. His first published novel. I listened, transfixed, as he transported me from a large room in a conference centre to a community hall in Devon, circa 1995. A tale of a boy, in a church full of people, with a bomb vest on. The boy wants to talk to God, and if he doesn't answer, well, let’s just say that there may be trouble ahead.
The man on the table was Kit Power, a man I had been friends with on social media for a while but with whom I had no business connection. I bought a copy of the book on impulse, sensing that there was going to be a superb story inside.
I brought it home, read it over two nights and was blown away. A part of my brain started whispering, "You need to do this. You need to try and make this into an audiobook."
But where to begin? How do you go about approaching someone and convincing them to hand their work over and let you interpret and perform it?
In this case, I played to my strengths.
I sent Kit a Private Message on Facebook, told him how much I had enjoyed the book and would he be around later that evening? <Insert Ominous Sting Here>
I downloaded the Kindle sample of the book and headed into the booth, recorded the first chapter (the same on as Kit had read at FCON) gave it the full production treatment and sat back for a couple of hours, pondering as to whether or not to go through with this insanity. Also petrified that Kit would hate it.
There is a rather famous book called 'Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway', which has been a mantra of mine for many year, so after renaming the file to the rather enigmatic 'For Your Ears Only' (what can I say? I'm a bit of a showman) I sent it to him.
Kit downloaded it, listened, and he came back enthusiastically, we began to talk the nuts and bolts about what he could do to turn this audiobook into a reality. Naturally I suggested ACX, which is Amazon’s online marketplace for audio rights, it brings writers, publishers and narrators together to create audiobooks and I have had great success using this platform over the last 18 months or so.
I talked Kit through the process, which is fairly simple, and he claimed and offered the contract to produce GodBomb! on the 29th of October, only 5 days after hearing Kit's reading at the launch.
I got to work, did the initial 15 minutes to let Kit hear how it was sounding (This is standard ACX procedure), which he approved and I carried on with the meat of the meal. I uploaded each chapter as they were edited, I don't always do this as I usually prefer to let the client hear the whole production but I felt in this case that Kit was going to be integral to letting me know if I'd missed any the nuances in this multi-layered tale.
Here we are, a mere 11 days later, the book has been uploaded, approved and is now winging it's way through the technical checks and pre sales processes that go into putting an audiobook on sale.
This has been an amazing experience, Kit could not have been more positive or helpful during the last couple of weeks and it has been an absolute pleasure and honour to have helped him create his very first audiobook through ACX.
ACX is an absolutely integral part of what I do. I wouldn't be here without them, and to them I say 'Thank You'
The fuse is lit. The GodBomb! is about to go off.
See, here’s the thing: FCon was honestly a bit of a blur. Well, okay, a lot of a blur. Not really because of alcohol consumption (though that played it’s part) but more just because I spent most of the weekend in a state of total sensory overload.
As I mentioned in my Edge Lit write up, I kind of struggle with group social situations. I mean, put me on a stage with a mic, no problem, but that conversational large group - the ‘party’ scenario - and, well, I really struggle. I have a terrible memory for names - faces, fine, but names suck for me - and also I just have an inherent anxiety about, well, everything.
So I haven't written a trip report - partly because there’s plenty of good ones out there already, but mostly because there is zero chance I won’t forget to namecheck one of the many, many, kind and brilliant people I got to talk to over the weekend, and frankly, I find that idea mortifying.
Except now I am going to talk about Chris.
See, I DO know Chris, and not just from social media. Chris has been talking to me for a while.
It started with his stunning version of Jasper Bark’s ‘Taking The Piss’ - my favourite short horror story of last year. I loved the story, but I adored Chris’s rendition of it - this angry, aggressive cockney voice, spinning his black yarn of bloody, violent revenge. I don’t mind telling you it kicked my arse. We soon became Facebook friends, and from there I found his work on High Moor.
From this, I learned several things. First, Graeme Reynolds is an exceptionally gifted writer - the source material is absolutely superb. But secondly, I learned that ‘Taking The Piss’ was no fluke - Chris Barnes has serious game.
For starters, turns out he’s Scottish - a fact that I had no clue of prior to High Moor, which should tell you something about how good his accent work is. But more than that, Chris has a grasp and feel for both narrative pacing and character voice that is simply incredible. He understands cadence, and pitch, and how to make the written word breathe and evoke when spoken. Great as ‘Taking The Piss’ is, it’s also short. ‘High Moor’ is long - also dense, brilliantly plotted, and with a ton of characters and moving parts.I’m not sure everyone really appreciates how hard it is to take a text like that - brilliant as it is - and make it work as well in audio as it does on the page. Chris does. He understands exactly how the mediums are different, and how they compliment, and what he needs to do to bring the book to life.
I’m a fan, is what I’m trying to say.
So when I got to FCon, it was a real pleasure to meet Chris early. We started chatting, and I blabbed about how I had a Doctor Who panel the next day and was terrified, and he immediately put me at my ease, chatting about the show, and the Moffat era, and likes and dislikes - smart, deep, thoughtful stuff, and before I knew it, I was rehearsing my panel appearance, without even really thinking about it.
That was the first big kindness.
The second was this: He shared how nervous he was. He had a reading AND a panel booked for the weekend, and he was, simply, terrified. As in, suffering from sleepless nights, subsisting on Red Bull, convinced-he-was-going-to-throw-up terrified. And I remember thinking if this obviously gifted a reader and speaker is this nervous, maybe I need to just chill out a little bit and accept the nerves are part of the ride. And sure, that’s to a degree re-learning a lesson, but bloody hell, I needed to relearn it that day, and luckily for me, there was Chris.
So reading the above from him, I really can’t help but laugh, because frankly, the only reason I hadn’t approached him to look at doing an Audiobook version of GodBomb! was the feeling that he was probably out of my league. So when I got that FB message - well, chuffed is inadequate, but it’ll have to do. I am proud as hell to have Chris Barnes narrating my book, and guess what? He’s done it again - he’s elevated the source material, with intelligent choices and a deep seated feel and understanding of the story. Chris gets it. And he got GodBomb! And I can’t wait for you all to hear it too.