First, for those of you who missed it earlier this week, you can read my newest blog tour post here, complete with a never-before-seen excerpted passage from Return to Longbourn. It’s high time you met Mr. Harrison Farnsworth, master of Thornefie… I mean Netherfield. He’s Mary’s employer and man of considerable mystery.
Next, let me tell you about my new adventure. This week, I’ve started the process of publishing The Darcys of Pemberley and Return to Longbourn as talking books! Since I do much of my reading in audio myself, I always hoped to have the chance to see…er…hear my books translated into that format too. Now that it’s underway, I’m fascinated by the process.
Some authors narrate their own books when they go audio. I seriously considered it. After all, who could possibly understand the material better than I do? I alone could know exactly how (according to my imagination) a line ought to be read – where to place the emphasis, where to pause for effect, etc. And, when I’ve done a reading from one of my books, it’s been well received.
But in the end I got cold feet. Three problems, basically: 1- new technology that I don’t have time or patience to learn. 2- my questionable British accent (according to the faces my sister makes when I use it). 3- I am no actress, and a trained actress/actor can probably provide a better experience for listeners. It comes down to knowing your limitations.
“To know [Shakespeare] pretty thoroughly is, perhaps, not uncommon; but to read him well aloud is no everyday talent.” … “Even in my profession,” said Edmund, with a smile, “how little the art of reading has been studied! How little a clear manner, and a good delivery, have been attended to!” (Mansfield Park, chapter 34)
Therefore, I’m in the process of selecting a professional voiceover artist for the job. The first four sample auditions came in today! Let me tell you, it is a surreal experience hearing your own words – your own story – read back to you by a stranger’s voice. It’s weird and wonderful at the same time.
It made me ponder whether or not Jane Austen might have ever had a similar experience. Obviously, there were no “talking books” then, but people did sometimes read to each other as a form of entertainment. And since Jane Austen wrote anonymously, the reader might not have known that the author was actually in the room in her case. Can’t you just picture it? – a group of acquaintances gathered round the fireplace in the evening, and someone pulls out a volume of Pride and Prejudice, offering to read a portion out for the others. Jane sits back and smiles demurely, never letting on.
I found this passage as part of a biographical note introducing a complete collection of her works:
Most gratifying to her was the applause which from time to time reached her ears from those who were competent to discriminate. Still, in spite of such applause, so much did she shrink from notoriety, that no accumulation of fame would have induced her, had she lived, to affix her name to any productions of her pen. In the bosom of her own family she talked of them freely, thankful for praise, open to remark, and submissive to criticism. But in public she turned away from any allusion to the character of an author. She read aloud with very great taste and effect. Her own works, probably, were never heard to so much advantage as from her own mouth; for she partook largely in all the best gifts of the comic muse.
If Jane was widely known to “read aloud with great taste and effect,” perhaps, in a scene like the one above, she might have been asked to take the book herself. As the story flowed from her lips, the others must have been amazed at her understanding and the feeling with which she read. Wouldn’t you have loved to be sitting in that circle as she began… “It is a truth universally acknowledged…”