Hi friends! I’m so excited about today’s guest post! Author J. Rodes (aka Jen Rodewald) is here to talk about what it’s like to take her YA Dystopian “The Uncloaked” trilogy from print to audiobook. And as a bonus, she is chatting with the series’ audiobook narrator, Kevin Lusignolo.
J. Rodes (aka Jennifer Rodewald) lives on the wide plains somewhere near the middle of Nowhere. A coffee addict, pickleball enthusiast, and storyteller, she also wears the hats of mom, teacher, and friend. Mostly, she loves Jesus and wants to see the kids she’s honored to teach fall in love with Him too.
Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authorJRodes
Or on Instagram at @author.j.rodes
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Her newest book is Charging the Darkness, releasing September 26th!
You were not saved for this…
The veil has been torn, but Braxton Luther still has more to do.
The captive Uncloaked have been freed, and the people know the dark truth. A rebellion against the Party has begun, but the question lingers among those who are safely hidden in the Refuge–what will happen to their broken nation? Secrets and shame, resentment and hatred continue to shake the nation, now divided.
What will it take to break the grip of the Party? Beyond that, is there any hope of healing after the damage of the darkness?
Other Books in the Series
Kevin Lusignolo is an alumnus of The University of Houston School of Theatre & Dance, where he received his BFA in Acting. Kevin works full-time in the Houston area to support his family while simultaneously feeding his urge to perform in his free time, whether through theatre, film, or voice-over. He has been producing audiobooks for the past three years through Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange website. Credits include titles such as The Pink Bus by Christopher Kelly, The Uncloaked Trilogy by J. Rodes, the classic children’s novel Swift Arrow by Josephine C. Edwards, and more.
There is nothing quite like hearing the story that was birthed in the strange places of your imagination come to life by a vocal talent. It is simply thrilling. For The Uncloaked, that talent came from narrator Kevin Lusignolo, and I have to tell you…
He. Nailed. It.
Finding the right narrator can get tricky. You’re both working off of a three-page audition script, which, when compared to a full-length novel, isn’t much. And, to make it more intimidating, I’ve listened to enough audio books to know that the wrong narrator can actually do more harm than good. Not what you want for your book-baby.
Not to mention, you’re contracting to work with this individual over several weeks if not months. That can get… sticky. No one wants a miserable experience there.
It’s a process, finding the right voice, the right talent. For me, for The Uncloaked, I was fortunate. I actually had two guys submit auditions that stood apart from the others, and it basically came to a draw—they were both outstanding candidates. I ended up asking them if they’d pitch another scene at me to help me decide—the call back of the narration world. Both agreed, and both were great, but it was this second audition that landed Kevin the job. <insert audition clip> The clencher was actually both amusing and simple. I was in my office with my hubs listening to both auditions and my fourteen-year-old daughter walked in on this line:
“Crickey, me and my uncorked mouth.”
She’d read The Uncloaked (multiple times!!! My author-mommy heart soared!), and when she walked into my office listening to Kevin do that part, she laughed, punched her fists into her hips and said, “THAT’S Braxton!”
Boom. We have a winner. 😊
So, with that backstory, I’m honored to introduce you to Kevin Lusignolo, the guy who brought The Uncloaked trilogy to life…
Kevin: Hi Jennifer. Thank you for having me here.
Jennifer: Well, this isn’t really MY blog… so, thanks, Carrie, for having us both here!
Carrie: It’s my pleasure! 😊
Jennifer: Kevin, let’s dive in… How long have you been doing audiobook narration, and what got you started in it?
Kevin: I got my start in the audiobook narration world a few years ago after I had graduated from The University of Houston School of Theatre & Dance. I received my BFA in acting. I still continue to try to make time to keep doing theatre around town, but it is very difficult to have a free schedule for the entirety of a rehearsal length and run of a show. I needed an outlet for my artistry that would work with my schedule and my full time job.
I had always been interested in voice over work, but I never knew how to get into the field of audiobook narration. I asked myself: Do I need to know someone at a production company? Is there even an audiobook production company near me? Do audiobook producers work full time? Who do I even audition for? Everything was a mystery.
Then, I had a friend introduce me to Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange website (ACX). I learned from her that there was a vast amount of audiobook freelancers who did all of the work from their own homes. Essentially, all I needed was a microphone, a computer, and a crash course in sound mastering.
Long story short, I landed my first book narration a couple months later. There is definitely quite a learning curve when it comes to producing a full length, retail-ready audiobook. I’m still learning more and more with each project I pick up!
Jennifer: It’s a pretty big learning curve on my end too. My first book to go to audio was a novella, and it was a good experience, but there were definitely some things that I was like, Oh. Hmm…
My job entails more research than most imagine, tons of working out scenes in my empty office or car (yes, out loud), a copious amount of time sitting in front of my laptop (often staring at the dumb blinking cursor hoping the right words will magically materialize onto the page… in a specific time frame), and an equally copious amount of coffee. That said, I love my job, and can’t see myself doing anything else… 😉
Tell us what your work looks like, Kevin. Where do you record? Do you do anything special to prep?
Kevin: I don’t have much in the way of fancy equipment or a recording studio (as much as I’d love one). My wife refers to my place of work as my “recording closet”, because that is exactly what it is. In one of our walk-in closets, I have a camping chair parked in front of a rolling shelf that holds a keyboard and a TV monitor. I hung a couple yoga mats behind the camping chair and tossed a quilt over them for sound absorption, and I have a handful of foam squares that I’ve strategically placed to help keep echo to a minimum. I’m six foot four, so you can imagine how silly it may look to walk in on me.
Jennifer: I am so laughing right now! I have a brother who is 6’4”, and I’m picturing him in this scenario. Too. Funny!
Kevin: As far as prep goes, there’s nothing better than a nice cup of coffee. I steer clear of eating before a recording session in order to keep extra mouth noises to a minimum. It makes the audio mastering process take less time, the less I have to go through and mute all the weird noises that the human mouth inexplicably makes.
Jennifer: Now I’m really curious about those weird noises, and actually kind of want to hear them… Although if it’s anything like listening to my teenager eat, maybe not. Good thing you edit…
Anything quirky or fun while you’re narrating?
Kevin: I do my best to stay on task, but you can imagine that the work gets tedious the longer I sit and record. To shake things up, sometimes I will record myself singing in the different characters’ voices. The character Hulk does a great version of Part of Your World from “The Little Mermaid”, and for some reason Hannah likes to sing songs from “Dear Evan Hansen”.
Jennifer: Hil-arious! Now that you say that, I can totally hear Hulk singing Part of Your World, which is maybe a tiny bit disturbing. Not sure I want that guy to be part of my world! Why did you decide to audition for The Uncloaked?
Kevin: When choosing which books to audition for, I always look for two key features. Does the book seem like something I would find interesting, and does it seem like a book that my voice will suit? I wouldn’t want to audition for a book that I knew I wasn’t a fit for, and I couldn’t imagine narrating anything longer than an hour that I didn’t find interesting.
The Uncloaked piqued my interest immediately. I can tell from any audition script if the book is going to be fun to narrate, and Jen’s writing style was very appealing right off the bat. From an acting standpoint, first person narration is the most fulfilling type of narration because it requires the narrator to be “in character” for the entirety of the book. The lure was only heightened by the fact that The Uncloaked was a trilogy.
Jennifer: First person is my fave to write in… for that same reason. Writing that way is intimate, I have to become that character, and I feel like it’s easier for me to really get inside their head when I write first person. And the trilogy part… I think I remember that I asked you specifically if you were in this for the long haul, so I’m glad that part was appealing, rather than off-putting, to you.
Is this a long-term job plan? What do you hope the future looks like?
Kevin: I hope to continue freelancing audiobooks in my spare time for as long as possible. I would love if I could make narration my full-time job, but I am still too early in the process to make any such commitment, and I never have a heavy workload. I like to have the freedom to pick and choose one book at a time to focus on, and to work at my own pace. I imagine that I will continue to work on audiobooks in my free time until I am well into retirement.
Jennifer: It’s nice to have that freedom for a craft that is your passion. I love that about my writing gig as well. Was there anything from The Uncloaked Trilogy that you feel like will stay with you (either from the work itself, or the book)?
Kevin: The thing that I think sticks with me the most with The Uncloaked Trilogy is the characters. Each one is written and developed in such a way that it was easy for me to distinguish different voices and personalities when I read. As I am reading through the third book in the series, Charging the Darkness, in preparation for narration, I find that I read with the characters’ voices bouncing around in my head. I can hear and picture them clearly.
The characters have even stuck with me as I have auditioned for other future projects. When I read audition scripts, I think of which characters from The Uncloaked Trilogy would fit into the story, and then I audition with that character in mind.
Jennifer: I hear their voices (your voices!) in my head as I’m reading through the edit/proof work for Charging the Darkness. Pretty sure that’s a good sign! 😊
Carrie: I’m gonna jump in here a second to ask Jen a question. How much input do you get into the voices, the cadence, i.e HOW he reads the story?
Jennifer: I was SO stinking bossy and picky! Kevin was super patient with me and persistent on getting them where I wanted them to be. I think the only characters I DIDN’T ask for a tweaking or a total overhaul was Braxton, Tristan, and most of the adults who made minor appearances in the story. Here’s the great thing about a talented narrator like this guy; he’s got this massive range of voices, and the ability to adapt them as needed. The more I asked for, the harder he worked, and I feel like the finished project was outstanding for his efforts. (Thanks for sticking with me, Kevin!)
There are quite a few different characters, especially in book 2 and 3! Kevin, what was the most challenging part of that?
Kevin: The biggest difficulty in narrating a book with a wide variety of characters, voices, and perspectives is the consistency. When I go back and listen to chapter one of book one, I don’t want to hear a different Braxton or Eliza. Of course, given that the books are somewhat of a coming of age tale for Braxton; he is allowed to mature, but the personality must still stay consistent.
I have a folder on my computer dedicated entirely to the characters’ voices. Each character has at least one audio file on which I record myself either reading a line of dialogue from the book or improvising in the character’s voice. It has been a tremendous help in keeping the voices consistent. I just go back and listen to a sample if a character comes up whose voice I haven’t read in a while.
A great challenge that took a while to wrap my head around was in book two, where we have chapters that are narrated from Hannah’s point-of-view, rather than Braxton’s. It was most fun when a chapter would contain Hannah narrating about a conversation with Braxton, and immediately after it would switch to Braxton narrating the same conversation with Hannah. I expect it will be even more of a dance when I get to narrating the third book, in which we’ll have even more characters’ perspectives narrating.
Jennifer: I was amazed at the consistency you maintained—and I loved how I could actually “hear” Braxton growing up through the first two books. Well. Done. Also, confession here, I was so nervous about how you would do narrating from Hannah’s point of view. Turns out, I didn’t need to be.
I can’t imagine juggling all of those voices as you worked through two (now three!) successive books. I feel a little bad for making you work so hard…
Carrie: Now it’s MY turn to ask Kevin something, Miss Jennifer-hogging-all-the-questions 😉 How many times do you read a book before recording it?
Kevin: I make sure to completely read through the books at least once before I begin recording. I still remember a time where I was recording a book that I had only read about halfway through before starting the recording process. It had a character in it that was pretty major; he was the protagonist’s boyfriend. The funny thing was, there was no real character description of the guy for me to go off of, so I picked a random voice that I thought sounded correct. Turns out, there was a character description about three quarters of the way through the book in which I found out that the character was black. It all ended up working out in the end, but it was just a good lesson in general preparedness. Now I read the whole book at least once so that there are no curveballs in the middle of recording.
Carrie: haha! oh no! How long does the recording usually take through the whole process?
Kevin: The general time that goes into a project is eight hours for every one hour of finished book. That includes the time that I spend with editing and mastering the audio, making sure that there’s no background noise or weird mouth noises.
Jennifer: One-to-eight… sometimes it’s hard to wrap your mind around the time-consumption of craft. Thanks again for getting rid of those weird mouth noises (still a little curious, though…) What is the best part of narration? The hardest?
Kevin: The best part to me is when the entire book is complete and published and I can log onto Amazon and listen to the audio sample. The recording process is fun, but there’s just something wonderful about being able to step back and admire the finished product. It’s like showing the public a performance that I’ve been working on for months. For you, it’s years I’m sure. And the public gets to go through the universe you’ve created in a matter of hours.
I think the hardest part of audiobook narration in general is the process of landing a good gig with a great author or publisher. I’ve submitted tons of auditions for many many books. The answer is most often “thanks but no”, it’s just the nature of the craft. I’ve also worked with terrible publishers who don’t care about the author’s work, and even a publisher who just abandoned the finished audiobook and refused to pay me for months of work.
Jennifer: *Mouth gapping* No! Just… no. Wow, that’s really awful!
Kevin: I was incredibly lucky to meet you and to be chosen for the voice of The Uncloaked Trilogy. I can tell the major difference that it makes to be working with the author of the book rather than a third party. You’ve been a blessing to me, and this collaboration continues to be a delight in my life.
Jennifer: The blessing is absolutely mutual. I have LOVED hearing you bring this work to life, and I’ve shared with Kevin multiple times, my kids’ reaction to this project has been the best. Every day they would come to me asking, “did your narrator guy finish another chapter yet? Can we listen to it???” The tada moment is so sweet, and this project has been amazing. 😊
Carrie: Thank you both so very much! This has been such a fascinating conversation!!
I’m giving away a copy of The Uncloaked in audiobook (or print if you’d rather) to one of my readers! (US only since gifting via Amazon doesn’t always play nice internationally) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.