A Successful Collaboration: AD Price and Elizabeth Schmidt Discuss Creating the Audiobook Version of AFTER THE BLUE, BLUE RAIN

As an author and avid listener of audio books, I’ve often wondered what goes into creating the audio versions of published works. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview both novelist AD Price and her audiobook narrator, actor Elizabeth Schmidt, about their highly successful collaboration.

AD Price

Before getting together with Elizabeth, I wanted to know what inspired AD to write her historical mystery, AFTER THE BLUE, BLUE RAIN:

AD: Much of my nonfiction writing involved historical subjects, specifically American films from the first half of the 20th century. In researching the films, I would sometimes stumble on news stories about intriguing events or people, and I would file them away as potential topics for novels I hoped to write “some day.” I was particularly fascinated by one real-life private detective who made news in some high-profile cases in the 1930s. I kept coming back to him as a likely crime novel protagonist, but when I actually sat down to write, I realized I also wanted a female detective in the mix. So, I made “Kit” and “Henry” partners in a detective agency.

I set the story in 1946 because the mid-1940s seemed like the most credible time to drop a female detective into, and I was attracted to the nuances of the postwar social milieu. Aspects of the plot were inspired by real events – the presence of Nazi sympathizers in L.A., and the successful escape of a German POW from a camp in rural America, for example – but I invented most of the storyline.

I find that for historical mysteries, the metro section of an old newspaper is a great source for plot ideas!

I was also curious about what led Elizabeth, an accomplished actor with numerous professional credits, to delve into audiobook narration:

Elizabeth Schmidt

ES: I have always loved to read, and the process of reading to others has always intrigued me as a career option. While I’ve always wanted to be an actor ever since I was little, in down times of my professional career, I did think about becoming a librarian. Growing up, we had a marvelous children’s library in my hometown of Palo Alto, and I became dear friends with the main children’s librarian there. I also now have a seven-year-old daughter, whom I adore reading to. And during the pandemic as much of my industry was shut down, I started exploring different opportunities to keep myself busy, and I decided I would delve into the world of audiobook narration! It’s been a blast to get to collaborate and work with so many different authors. I love storytelling in all different kinds of forms, so it’s been a really wonderful experience so far!

As to what led AD to decide to make the investment in creating an audiobook version of her work:

AD: I’ve been an avid audiobook listener for many years, and mysteries are my favorite genre for listening. I know people who listen to audiobooks almost exclusively, so creating an audiobook version of my story seemed like a smart way to expand my audience. I also liked the idea of having a collaborator after so much time working alone.

How Elizabeth delved into learning the craft:

ES: I felt like I had a natural affinity for the medium but had no idea where to get started, so I ended up taking a class (ACX Masterclass, though there are other places and teachers out there too), which was helpful for me in understanding the necessary equipment I needed to own, along with editing techniques that I needed to master. 

I remember speaking with a friend who is a prolific audiobook narrator, Stephanie Bentley, before I started my journey, and she asked me the question of why I wanted to do it. I said because I loved reading and sharing stories, I was a good cold reader, and I wanted to make contributions toward my SAG AFTRA health insurance, and she thought all of those were excellent reasons, and I should go for it!

I wondered how an author goes about finding the right audiobook narrator for their work. AD describes what steps she took to find Elizabeth and offers some general advice and words of caution to authors:

AD: Amazon’s ACX audiobook platform allows authors to audition voice actors using short samples from their book, and voice actors are allowed to choose which samples to audition for. As my book has five POV characters ­– four men and one woman – I was looking for a narrator who could handle both genders while also conveying the overall feel of the story. Elizabeth’s voice immediately stood out as being well-suited for the demands of a mystery narrative. I was impressed by the dramatic range she demonstrated, performing credibly in both the lighter, bantering scene and in the emotionally tense scene. I listened to many auditions – men’s and women’s – but I kept coming back to Elizabeth’s.

If you’re considering narrating your own book, be prepared. Performing a whole book out loud, as opposed to reading a few select passages, is a big, challenging task. As the author, you have the advantage of familiarity, but you’ll still need some acting skills and decent recording equipment to pull off a technically acceptable and engaging audiobook.   

There are two companies currently producing self-published audiobooks, Findaway and ACX. Each has their pros and cons. One thing I liked about ACX is that it’s more hands-on and gives the author total control in casting. Findaway does preliminary casting for you.

Who you pick as your narrator will probably come down to a gut feeling, and it helps to have as big a pool of voice actors to choose from as your budget will allow. Be open to hiring narrators with limited experience but, if at all possible, have enough money in your budget to pay a more experienced voice actor a decent hourly rate.

Once AD and Elizabeth got together, each did considerable preparation prior to recording. Here’s what they had to say about how they prepared:

AD: I provided Elizabeth with short character bios, with notes on how I imagined the characters’ overall physicality. We spent some time going over the various German accents in the book and how heavy to make them. For some, I found YouTube interviews with German or Austrian actors whose accents I thought had the right intensity for a particular character. Otherwise, I didn’t specify how the characters should be represented vocally. I trusted that Elizabeth got the story and the character arcs.  

ES: I always read fully any book I’m going to narrate first to make sure I know the story arc and how my choices can help enhance it. Like highlighting certain moments while narrating that might be important for the reader to remember later on–but not giving anything away, of course. I couldn’t put her book down—I loved it and was so excited to see what was going to happen next. I also fell in love with the nuanced characters she created.  For AFTER THE BLUE, BLUE RAIN, I also did some specific research into different accents, some of which were new to me (like German and Austrian).

I was curious about what the workday of an audiobook narrator is like and asked Elizabeth to describe a session:

ES: I typically work at home, so after taking my daughter to school, I cram myself into my master bedroom closet, which I’ve converted into my studio.  Depending on the day and schedule I’m on, I will tape for an hour or two in there, and then later on during the day, I’ll edit what I’ve taped earlier.  Typically for me, one hour of finished audiobook narration takes me about two hours to tape and edit.

I wondered what it was like for AD to hear her work read by a professional actor like Elizabeth, and how Elizabeth felt about the experience of narrating AFTER THE BLUE, BLUE RAIN.

AD:  It was both exhilarating and terrifying to hear my novel read by Elizabeth! There were times when I cringed at my word choice or the rhythm of a sentence, and other times when I felt like my prose was worthy of Elizabeth’s performance. On the whole, it was a very satisfying, enlightening experience. 

ES:  As I said, I loved the story and the characters. Historical fiction is so fascinating, and because I live in Los Angeles, like Amy, I loved her descriptions of our “hometown” in the 1940s. By having a female protagonist as the center of the story, I appreciated her turning the expectations of a man always being a private investigator in a historical noir piece on its head. Kit’s experiences and the assumptions that others had of her felt realistic and truthful to the story but atypical in the genre, and I enjoyed supporting Amy’s vision for her.

Apart from loving the novel and my collaboration with Amy, I felt particularly drawn to the book because of my own German background (though my family had been in California for generations before World War II). One of the characters in the story that I voiced shares the same surname with me. And that side of my family owned a well-known lithography business during the time period (Schmidt Lithograph) which printed orange crate labels that feature as a tiny but noteworthy detail in the story. It felt like kismet to get to work on the book!

 

BIO and Buy/Contact Links for AD Price

A native of Washington, D. C., A. D. Price is an Emmy-winning author of several educational books on history and the arts. After the Blue, Blue Rain is her first novel.  She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two dogs.

Email: adpricebooks@gmail.com

Website: https://adpricebooks.com (please visit to request promo codes for a free download of the audiobook)

Retail links to audiobook and book:

Audible US link: https://www.audible.com/pd/B0BW28JST6

Audible UK link: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B0BW2J4R7V

Apple audiobook link: https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/id1672691782

 

Amazon link to book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDPCGDB1/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0

BIO and Contact Links for Elizabeth Schmidt:

Recent television credits: Ryan Murphy’s “Hollywood” (Netflix–recurring), “Strange Angel,” “For the People,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” Film: “American Sniper” and “Incident on Highway 73” (best actress winner). Stage: Cal Shakes, Fulton Theatre, Mountain Playhouse, Lion Theatre/Theatre Row, & Garry Marshall Theatre. Elizabeth is a Northwestern University theatre program graduate and a proud co-founder and co-artistic director of InHouse Theatre Company, an intimate, site-specific theatre in Los Angeles. IG: @therealelizabethschmidt www.ElizabethSchmidt.com

Elizabeth Schmidt
www.elizabethschmidt.com
http://www.imdb.me/elizabethschmidt
www.infinitystrategists.com

 

About AFTER THE BLUE, BLUE RAIN:

L.A. 1946. The client is desperate, the target has disappeared into thin air. And a routine missing person case is about to take a dangerous turn for P.I. Kit Comfort and partner Henry Richman, the LAPD’s most infamous ex-cop. While on the hunt for a veteran who’s gone missing from an L.A.-bound train, detectives Kit and Henry come face-to-face with an underground network of enemy sympathizers. The duo’s discovery sets off alarms with the U.S. Army, and soon, the pair are in a race against the clock, battling both a deadly cabal and dodgy government agents. The wounds of war come full circle in this devastating conspiracy between “good and evil.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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