Mandrill Press is a cooperative and cooperatives don’t work unless the members talk to each other. In our case, that isn’t quite as easy as it sounds because Suzie Hopkins lives in Abu Dhabi and, while John Lynch and I are both based in Britain, we are a long way apart. Skype would be the obvious solution, but Suzie won’t use it to talk about the things we need to discuss because she is fairly certain that the UAE security forces listen in to Skype conversations (and read emails) and if they ever identified the woman who writes erotica while living among them she would be expelled from the country. I know it sounds paranoid, but she’s told me enough that I believe what she says.
Be that as it may, we do find ways to communicate and a while ago we decided that we all wanted our books to be available as audiobooks as well as in paperback and e-book format.
The others have made their own arrangements – and even as I write that, I realise that it isn’t quite the whole story because all our admin is handled by John (we pay him to do it) and finding the narrators was his job.
I have been unbelievably lucky with mine. I wanted to begin with two books: Pearl’s a Sinner and Winging It.
I needed a female narrator for Pearl and a male for Winging It. We had two or three auditions for Pearl’s a Sinner which weren’t really suitable for the nature of the book and then I got an urgent email from John saying, “You have to listen to this. This is the one.” He was right. The audition was by Missy Cambridge (no, of course that is not her real name but I don’t have her permission to tell you who she is) and it was perfect. When Missy read Pearl’s dialogue, it was Pearl speaking and when she read the other parts, you could see that she was absolutely into what (and who) the story was about. I told John to go ahead and offer her a contract to produce the book.
Shortly after that, he contacted me with equal glee about an audition submitted by Shannon Gunn for Winging It. Once again, John’s enthusiasm was justified and we offered Shannon the production contract.
Winging It is due to be completed halfway through September but Pearl’s a Sinner is done. It was approved by ACX on Friday, August 28 and should be available for sale from ACX, Audible and iTunes on or before Monday September 7.
What I have learned in working with Missy Cambridge and Shannon Gunn is that the star of an audiobook is the narrator and not the writer. Sure, the writing is important and Shannon Gunn has told me that recording Winging It is easy because the writing is so good – but if you don’t have a brilliant narrator you won’t have a great book. Listening to Missy Cambridge bringing out what a jerk Pearl’s Uncle Martin is was a joy because that is exactly what I had hoped to show. When she recounts Pearl’s introduction to the life of the escort the scene comes to life in front of the listener. And hearing Shannon Gunn describe how Ben, the older man, prepares the young and innocent James for seduction was a revelation.
The nature of the ACX contract is that whatever money we make from the sale of the audiobooks will be divided equally between me as writer and the narrator – but I will never be able to repay Missy Cambridge and Shannon Gunn what I truly owe them. They are at the top of their craft.