I’m participating in one of the creepiest, weirdest, most…surreal experiences I’ve ever had.
Greg Tremblay is a voice actor currently producing the audiobook for my novel Reverb. We met through ACX, Amazon’s audiobook portal which hooks up authors with actors/producers for creating audiobooks to sell exclusively through Amazon and their channel partners. I hadn’t consider Reverb as an audiobook until several readers inquired if I had one available. I’d never heard an audiobook before. Every time I try to listen to one my mind drifts, generally first to whatever is in front of me, then it begins a-wanderin, drowning out all sound to the muse in my head. It does with TV too. Can’t help it. Not much holds my attention the way my imagination does.
I’m currently reviewing the chapters of Reverb that Greg has recorded to date. A practiced professional, he’s ‘playing’ all characters true to their voice and nature. It’s bizarre, at best, giving voice to the people I’d only heard in my head, but he’s particularly nailed James, the protagonist in the novel, with his cultivated British accent, the rich tenor of his voice. And it’s creeping me out. I get anxious, breathless, listening. The story, in parts “brutally raw,” is hard enough to read, yet alone hear, and the intensity of Greg’s deliver is so palpable it feels real.
James had been inside my head since I was a kid. Made him up when I felt afraid. Started when I was little, pretending to be a guy because men were supposed to be stronger than women, and when I felt scared I sought strength. I found it in James. He was brilliant, what I always wished to be, and insular, like most men seemed to me.
As I grew, James took on a life of his own, with a complex history. Through my teens I ran scenes in my head of how James would respond to mean family members, or bullying by contemporaries. Traveling around the world on my own in my 20s, I summoned James often. In the middle-east when I was stopped by soldiers, I cloaked James, stood tall, looked them in the eye, addressed them aggressively, like a man. In times of black loneliness, I’ve worn James, delved into writing, drawing, creating, as he did with music, shrouding himself from his own feelings with his career, as so many men do.
While I never lost the reality that James was fiction, someone I made up to serve me, there were times I felt his presence projecting from me so powerfully, the line between reality and fiction blurred. It scared me. Absorbing myself with myself every time I felt scared or lonely was not leading to the intimacy I wanted to share. By my 30s, it was clear I was distancing myself from the relationship I sought as a woman, when I took on James, and projected a man.
In an effort to distance myself from James, to shed him from me completely, I felt compelled to write about him. In giving him his own ground, perhaps I too could find some, learn to handle fear on my own.
It took a year to write the novel, and another year editing it to leached James out of me and onto the page. For quite some time after finishing the novel, I stopped thinking about him. He simply didn’t come to mind. Fear is still choking, often, but now I deal with it instead of cloaking James. He’s merely a character in a novel, after all.
Until now. Greg’s audio narration of Reverb has given James a voice. He’s been actualized, made real. And having James out there now, playing out his life story as I write this blog, is on the extreme end of surreal.
The most exquisitely bizarre bit—I can’t wait for the next chapter Greg delivers to hear James again, be with him, in the same room, the same space, camera pov, a fly on the wall—listening, seeing him in my mind’s eye. “Addicting read,” several reviewers have called Reverb. I get that now, and other reviews like, “frantically turning the pages to see what happens next.” I can’t wait to hear the rest of his story, like I didn’t write it. Someone else who knows James did.
I’m bemused where other authors get inspiration for their characters, and wonder if my feelings, this surreal experience is typical for other writers who’ve had their work actualized into voice or film. I’m grateful I’ve endeavored down this audiobook path. After I completed Reverb, I thought James and I were done. Through Greg’s interpretation, I’m now getting to know James outside of my head, as an individual. And while I’ll always feel affection for him, having helped me through all those moments of fear, our separation is now complete.