Editor’s note: Aaron Blank is the producer for The Inquisitor’s Tale audiobook. You can listen to a sample of the book here.
This audiobook is a wonderful example of using more than one narrator. When assessing books such as The Inquisitor’s Tale, how do you decide to use multiple narrator or a single performer?
Aaron: Adam made identifying the characters pretty clear from his multiple first-person narratives. This is a great tool for a producer, once I had confirmed the different characters with him it was time to find actors whose voices and skill sets fit those requirements. It was also a treat to be able to have Adam voice the Inquisitor, we don’t always have a situation where an author wants to read, and their book is appropriate for them to do so.
This book adapted to an audiobook very well. When you were writing it, did you hear each voice as a different narrator?
Adam: Not only did I hear each voice as a different narrator, I performed each voice as a different narrator. As I revised each chapter, I read it aloud in the voice and accent of my narrator. There was a moment when I thought (hoped?) that I would get to perform the entire book, in a whole panoply of different characters. Then I listened to the professional narrators reading my book… and I was glad I didn’t.
Aaron: THE INQUISITOR’S TALE was a good challenge for producing as I needed to really have a concrete grasp on all the perspectives and voices in the book before I could start any casting. Since it’s not one voice that meant I had to understand it completely. Once I had the cast list, it was time to find the right voices. I came up with my favorites and submitted them to Adam to make sure I was on the right path. He and I worked very closely to make sure that the choices I was making fit with his overall vision for the audiobook. I submitted a number of appropriate actors to him for each role to see which he found most fitting for the role. Specifically, there’s Gerald the Scot, given his origin we decided he should have a light Scottish accent. But, we didn’t do a French accent for the other characters out of concern that the young adult market could find such a narration could be difficult to understand.
Mr. Gidwitz, what was it like performing your own book? Did you always have it in mind that you wanted to narrate one of your own characters?
Adam: Performing my own book was much, much, much harder than I had anticipated. I am a pretty good reader–I read to kids all the time, and I can make them laugh, make them scared, make them lean in and then sit right back. I was a teacher, after all. I’m a pro. So I figured narrating an audiobook would be kind of the same thing. No. It was not. It was insanely difficult. First of all, you can’t move around while you read, because then you’re closer or farther from the mike. Second, all my wry glances and silly faces and sly winks don’t do anything on a recorded book–I have to do it all with my voice. Third, apparently you have all these spit bubbles in your mouth and gurgles in your throat that are constantly erupting just when you think you’ve delivered the perfect line. Fourth, no one cares when you breath when you speak–but it sounds crazy to breath at the wrong time when you’re recording a book; I used to act some, so I thought I understood breathing. I do not. Finally, the stamina. Recording for six straight hours is not easy. By the end of the first day, I became so giddy with exhaustion that I could not read a sentence of my book without breaking up laughing. I had to tap out for the day. I was beaten. But I came back the next day, and we finished the job. It was an amazing and truly humbling experience. I hope they let me do it again.
This time period is not one we see often in middle grade fiction. Does a time period such as the Inquisition play into how an audiobook is produced?
Aaron: The time period that any book is set in is definitely considered in the overall scope of a production in how it’s cast and directed. This was definitely a unique period to produce in, and I needed to hire narrators with very mature acting skills given the historical accuracy of the text. But it also gave us an opportunity to expose listeners to language that they may not have encountered otherwise.
Adam Gidwitz and Benjamin Bagby will appear together for the first time at Symphony Space in New York City on Saturday, April 1, 2017, for an interactive storytelling event bringing the Middle Ages to life for young readers and listeners (costumes encouraged!). Find more details and tickets here.
Thank you both for your time!