Talking Books, Author’s Voice and Thinking Aloud.

Listen in: Country Lovers is now available as an audiobook, and it’s the first Fiona Walker novel to be narrated by its author: me! With all this wild weather blowing around, there’s every excuse to slot in the air-buds or hook over the noise-cancelling earphones and lose yourself in the village of Compton Magna.

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I’ve been listening to it myself, although I’ve only managed one session, played on the kitchen’s Bluetooth speaker while Sam and I prepped supper one evening. He insisted I sound great (which let’s face it, was obligatory given I had a chopping knife in my hand) whereas I think the studio may have brought in an imposter for a second take. Like many of us, I’m mortified when I hear my recorded voice because that’s not how it sounds in my head. Whereas I’d heard Joanna-Lumley-meets-Mariella-Frostrup – warmth and laughter bubbling just beneath the surface – it seems the microphone captured an altogether more excitable woman trying very hard not to flap her hands about or let her stomach rumble. (Although in fairness, I get better as I go along, and by the time Sam and I switched it off to call the girls through for supper, he was rapt, which may only in part be due to consuming a large G&T while his real-life narrator moved on from sharp knives to pans of boiling water).

One surprising upshot was that before sitting down to eat, I had to grab a notepad and scribble a list of inspired ideas to help with the sequel I’m writing, ones which I feared would be forgotten if I suffered a middle-aged data dump mid-pasta. Lots of things suddenly made sense that I’ve been getting my plots twisted over while working on the third book in the series.

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Now I plan to listen to the rest of it over half term, along with the wonderful Jilly Bond reading The Country Set, because I’m certain it will help the book I’m currently working on really take flight. Audiobooks are so immediate and, unlike the written word, we don’t linger over individual paragraphs revelling in their construction. I can get very stuck through the course of a book – not so much writer’s block as a perfectionist’s obsession with the twiddly details – and I hope this will help. Listening back to the Compton Magna novels is a way to access the village’s soundtrack that I hear in my head when writing, not the Joanna-meets-Mariella writer’s voice but all the colourful characters chattering away. Being an obsessive wordsmith, I can be guilty of over-working my sentences instead of letting plain prose do the job, but creating dialogue is different; I’ve always written that quickly and instinctively. It was only when narrating Country Lovers that I realised how swiftly it moves the story along, and only when listening back to it that I appreciated how vividly it brings a world to life. That’s why there’s going to be lots of talking in the third book (although this time I’m leaving out the Polish – and singing – in the hope that I get the narration gig again).

You can listen to a sample/buy the Country Lovers audiobook on Audible or Google Play by clicking the below (and it’s also available on CD and at iTunes):

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4 thoughts on “Talking Books, Author’s Voice and Thinking Aloud.

  1. tr3planter says:

    I’ve just finished listening to Country Lovers, loved it and being bereft, thought I’d look in to see if there’s news of a sequel (so pleased to hear there is!). For what it’s worth, I’d be happy if you read the next one yourself. It says something that although your Scots and Irish accents are only a smidge better than mine, it didn’t detract from the story – and I’ve been known to return books read by other authors – in fact not all actors/pro readers are good to listen to either! I’m the picky sort that grumps about mispronunciation, wrong emphasis and listening to readers who don’t ‘get’ the author, or worse, think we don’t get them, so have to flag up every coming joke… Actually I’m worse than that: I edit mentally as I’m listening, substituting words etc as well! None of which applies to your books, obviously, or wouldn’t have the cheek to write that, but I am interested to know who decides on which voice to use? Nell

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    • Fiona Walker says:

      Hee! It was lovely to read your comments, Nell, and I’m mightily cheered that you could forgive me my stab at those quick-change accents, which truly tested the overheating Walker brain-cells to the limit in that small recording booth. It’s all very well hearing the voices in my head while I write, but quite another thing reading them out loud in such relentless non-stop shifts. I now have terrific respect for the professional actors who do it day in day out so brilliantly. I know the book well and yet I still kept coming up short in surprise to turn a page and find a stream of Arabic spoken in a Swedish accent. The experience has changed the way I listen to audiobooks because I now try to guess when the narrator’s fluffed a word multiple times/doesn’t understand what the hell’s going on but is trying to sound like they do/have just come back from a loo break on a caffeine high. I like to think of it as enhanced listening…

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