Today’s featured debut author is Jessica McCann, a professional freelance writer and novelist who lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. Her debut historical novel, All Different Kinds of Free, was awarded the Freedom in Fiction Prize and is available in trade paperback, ebook and audiobook, which is what we chat about today.
Name of audiobook: All Different Kinds of Free
Audiobook genre: Historical fiction, literary fiction
Date published: Audio, June 2012; paperback/eBook, April 2011
What is your book about? The novel is inspired by the true story of Margaret Morgan, a free woman of color in 1830s Pennsylvania, who was kidnapped with her children and sold into slavery in the South. She fought hard to regain her freedom, and she endured tremendous loss and hardship. Her ordeal led to one of the most pivotal Supreme Court cases in America’s history, Prigg v. Pennsylvania. The history books will have you believe the story of Prigg v. Pennsylvania is important because it ended in controversy and fanned the early embers of the Civil War. This book will have you believe the story is important because it began with Margaret.
Why did you want to create an audiobook for your historical fiction? The novel had been well-received in trade paperback and ebook, and audio seemed like a logical next step. My publisher and I wanted to share Margaret’s story with as wide an audience as possible.
Overall, how did you find the experience? Having my debut novel published has been a learning experience at every turn. The audiobook was no exception. Although I had been a published nonfiction writer for many years, venturing into the world of fiction writing and publishing was all new. I think my career as a professional freelance writer helped me to embrace that learning curve with both humility and enthusiasm.
Does a man or woman narrate your book? Was there any discussion as to whether it should be a female or male voice, or was that easily determined? The main character/protagonist of the novel is a woman and more than half of the book is told in her first-person point of view. I’m sure that influenced the interest among potential narrators. We received audition samples only from women voice artists, which worked out just fine.
You recently wrote a piece for THE WRITER magazine that says that writers are always so concerned about “voice,” but when preparing an audiobook “voice” takes on another dimension. Can you explain? Voice generally refers to writing style — the words an author chooses, the way she strings those words together, how she says what it is she wants to say. When a novel is produced as an audiobook, this literary term gains a more explicit meaning – it becomes an actual voice. Even though all the same words are still there, in the exact same order, the book evolves in its voice when the narrator layers his or her vocal talents and style into the mix.
Did you suggest any changes to the narrator in the way the book was narrated? If so, how receptive was she to these changes? I did get an opportunity to hear a 15-minute sample and offer my general feedback. Mia Bankston, who narrated All Different Kinds of Free, was a true professional. She listened to my feedback and was open to my thoughts and suggestions. She also helped me to understand the production process, including why some things I’d suggested were doable and others were not.
Did you make any concessions? The only concession I made was in letting go of the creative process and placing my trust in Bankston and my publisher, Bell Bridge Books, to do what needed to be done. As a long-time freelance writer and essentially “one-woman-show,” relinquishing control in that way did not come naturally. Thankfully, I couldn’t be happier with the end result.
How did it feel listening to your book being narrated by someone other than you? It was strange – not so much hearing it narrated by someone other than me, but by someone other than the “Margaret” I had heard in my head while writing the book. The character had a distinct voice in my mind, one that didn’t necessarily match the narrator who recorded the audiobook. It took a little time for me to get used to the “new” voice. Once I did, I felt she truly captured the spirit of the book’s heroine.
Note: All this week, we will be celebrating the audiobook release of Baby Grand. Tomorrow: Dina further discusses her decision to hire a man, rather than a woman, as her narrator for Baby Grand.