This past week, I received some pretty cool news: Oil and Marble will soon be available as an audio book via Audible, the audio book arm of Amazon. Some of my friends and family aren’t big readers but are big book listeners, so this means they will be able to listen to my novel during their commute.
But also, it’s just neat.
When I sold Oil and Marble, I had no idea whether my publisher would be able to sell the audio book rights. Would enough people show interest in the novel to warrant the time and money that goes into recording an audio book? It’s wild to think the audio rights sold before the official publication date even rolled around.
Then, an unanticipated question came up: Was I qualified and interested in reading Oil and Marble for the audio book?
At first, I freaked out — Yes! Of course, I’m interested!
I’ve taken decades of voice lessons and have obsessively studied the craft of acting for over two years. I’m proud of the way my voice sounds on radio. I’ve done scene nights at my acting school, plays in Hollywood theaters, been on hold for national TV commercials… This is my thing! I can do this! I want to do this! How awesome would it be to read my own freaking novel???
Part of this whole “selling a book” thing involves going on the road and giving book talks and readings. I love getting to stand in front of an audience and slip into the world of Leonardo and Michelangelo once again. I love taking my audience on a journey, not only through the words on the page, but through my voice, actions, and emotions. Performing passages from my book is one of my favorite things in the world… and the audio book seemed like another way experience that joy.
But after I came down from the initial high of even being asked to submit for the “role of narrator” (many authors don’t even get the opportunity to submit tape to read for their own novel), I stopped to think:
Is this the best decision for my story?
I am big on serving story. I always choose to serve story over myself. It’s why I’m a novelist: the story is paramount. I am not. I’d rather disappear into the background and let my story go out into the world on its own. And as paradoxical as it may sound, the fact that my story is more important than me is, well, important to me.
I used to lead a writers’ group at Actors’ Workout Studio in North Hollywood, and I always encouraged my fellow writers to let other actors read their work. Too many “writer slash actors” get so attached to their work that they think they’re the only ones who know how to read it properly. And that just isn’t true. In fact, another actor — with fresh eyes — brings something new to the material. They bring out things the writer didn’t even realize were hiding in the words.
When I thought about my own audio book, a voice in my head said, listen to your own advice. Let another actor take a crack at it. They might bring out something new and exciting.
Also, this book tour has taught me that I can’t do it all on my own. I need a team of editors, publicists, managers, attorneys to handle all of this madness. It’s too big for one person. Trying to do the audio book, too, was daunting. When would I have the time to perfect a reading (or the hours to record it) in between PR and speaking engagements and writing my next novel?
Plus, let’s face it, Oil and Marble is the story of two male artists. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Yes, there are female characters involved — most obviously, Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, aka Mona Lisa — but most of the action takes place inside the heads of two men.
I suppose you could argue that the narrator of the story could still be female, but I used a very limited 3rd person POV (that alternates from Leonardo’s voice to Michelangelo’s). The book is not told in FIRST person, but it’s very close. I slip in and out of the minds and hearts of Leonardo and Michelangelo… I live in their voices. So, a female voice might very well be distracting.
I’m proud to be a female author venturing into the minds of two male artists. I believe that’s one of the great things about being a woman in this day and age. The 1500s may have been closed to female artists, but today, I have the ability to go back in time and be there during those huge artistic achievements of the past. Plus, when women look into the hearts of men, we see things men don’t; just as when men look at women, they see things we don’t.
And then there was this: while doing a radio interview via phone, I realized that reading into a microphone is not nearly as fulfilling to me as teaching a group of 80 sixth graders or speaking to 400 museum goers or talking to a small group of book club readers. Speaking directly to those people, that’s a joy. Listening to my own voice drone on and on… not so much.
When I thought about all of this, I realized not only will the story be better served by a male narrator, but so will I.
So, while some other actor reads the audio version of Oil and Marble, I will continue to take my show on the road to teach people about art and writing and the artistic process…
And when the audio book finally comes out, I’ll listen to it, and I’m sure I’ll hear new things that I didn’t even know were hidden in those words.