It’s no secret that Scrap Metal by Harper Fox is one of Mark’s all time favourite books and now he’s had the chance to listen to the audio book too. Read his review and find out what he thinks about the audio version.
Harper is also with us explaining why she actually can’t listen to her own audio books! Sounds strange? Then read what she has to say on the matter. There is also the chance for three lucky people to win a book of their choice from Harper’s backlist.
Hello, everyone, and thanks for stopping by the blog. A big thank-you too to Mark and the Sinfully team for reviewing the Scrap Metal audiobook and hosting me here today.
I’d like to talk about the weirdness of audiobooks, and why (until recently) I’ve never actually been able to sit and listen to one of mine all the way through. This reaction surprised me a lot! When I first heard that one of my earlier books was going to be produced for audio, I was bowled over, almost as excited as if I’d heard it was going to be made into a film. The idea of having my guys dramatised, given a voice, was hugely exciting. I waited for months, eagerly downloaded the finished book, listened to the first sentence, and...
Switched off, blushing all over bright red with embarrassment, and never switched on again.
Now, this was very odd. I’m a huge fan of the audiobook format. There are some voice artists – Martin Shaw and Benedict Cumberbatch spring to mind – whose work I could listen to forever. Martin’s Shaw’s Dorian Grey is sublime, and Joanna Lumley does a fabulous Pride and Prejudice. I’ve let these wonderful people read me to sleep on occasions past counting. So it wasn’t the audio platform itself that was bothering me.
Nor was it the quality of the production. I could tell, even in the short snatch I heard, that my publisher had done a great job, and sales and reviews bear this out, for this first book and the next two. I couldn’t listen to any of them. And I thought I had the reason why all figured out in my mind.
I was convinced it must be the accents! As a British author, naturally my ear is finely tuned to the sounds of my home turf. In all three of the books I’d listened to, an American artist had been reading. That was fine in itself – I love American accents, or indeed any accent at all provided it’s authentic and the reader has a pleasant voice. It wouldn’t actually have bothered me if the whole of my very English book had been read in a nice, consistent American accent. After all, I’ve enjoyed dozens of US books read by English-accented artists. Not a problem.
The problem was – or so I thought – that all the American voice artists had had a crack at British accents. Local ones, too, northern England and Scotland. And because I’ve lived here all my life and can probably pinpoint from someone’s voice whether they come from the east or west end of the city of Newcastle, let alone the east or west side of the Atlantic, because for me there is no generic “northern British accent” but a rich, finely nuanced tapestry of voices I associate quite intimately with certain places, these poor narrators of mine had no chance whatsoever of pleasing me. To me they sounded wildly off, like children playing. I literally couldn’t sit through more than thirty seconds of any of the audiobooks I’d so hoped to love.
But, apart from my personal disappointment, again it wasn’t a problem. I kept getting feedback that all three books were great. I was and remain so grateful to have had them made. My US readers – forgive me making a generalisation here –for the most part weren’t going t know that the accents weren’t hitting the mark (any more than I could tell if a British reader hadn’t managed to sound like a native New Yorker), could simply enjoy the dramatised stories in their own right, and I’ve heard from many of them that they’ve listened to the books over and over again. That makes me so happy. When I heard from English readers/listeners that they shared my situation and thought the books were great productions but the accents sounded odd, that was actually quite reassuring to me. I wasn’t alone. Okay, that had to be the problem – US readers attempting English accents and just falling far enough short to send my ears and brain into painful spasms.
Then the Scrap Metal audiobook project came along. For the first time, I was offered some input into the production. This was very exciting. Samhain Publishing and Audible both worked with me to find the right voice artist for the job, and we chose Sean Gormley. Sean hails from Ireland, not Scotland, but his sample recordings had that great authentic Celtic vibe, and his Scottish-accent work was terrific too. Not only that but he liaised with me over the Gaelic pronunciations in Scrap Metal and we emailed back and forth to make sure everything was just so. I was delighted. This was going to be the Harper Fox audiobook I could listen to and enjoy at long last!
The day came, and I loaded up the finished production and sat down with Mrs H in a state of high-strung nerves and expectation. I hit “play”, and Sean’s lovely voice filled the room. I could tell within a couple of sentences that this book was by far the best one yet. This was the real authentic deal, a voice I could believe in for my characters. And...
I turned bright red all over with embarrassment and had to switch off.
Whoa, what?! This performance was fantastic! Why couldn’t I listen to Sean’s beautiful rendition of one of my most popular books?
Well, as I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve given some intense thought to this. I have listened to the book all the way through now, and I can confirm that this is top-end work from start to finish. Nichol and Cameron and the island really do come to life. But still I can’t listen in the way I’d hoped to do; can’t stick it on during a car journey, can’t relax in the presence of my own protagonists! And, after mulling the matter over, I think I finally understand.
I’m not sure it’s anything to do with the accents at all. Obviously it’s nicer for me to listen to a book when the narrator’s voice makes an authentic match to my protags’ location and character, but that’s not it. The thing is that, the moment I conceive new idea for a book in that sporadically fecund womb-cum-goldfish-tank I call my brain, I conceive in the same instant a sound. A sound for the narrative, a voice for each and every one of my players. It’s unique. It comes right away, a part of the foundation of the book, and it doesn’t alter as I write it. I know, intimately, how it all sounds.
Well, I know how it sounds to me. What I’d somehow failed to take into account is that, although I’ve readily imagined how each individual reader of my books will have their own vision of the guys and their landscape, they will also – of course! – hear their own versions of the narrative and character voices too. It’s very intimate, that wholly realised perception. My success as a writer depends upon it – the reader’s imagination, I mean. When it comes to the whole overall experience of any book, as the author I only do about ten percent of the work. It’s magic. I provide the framework, a few brushstrokes, then I hand over these springboards, these starting points, into the infinitely varied brains and perceptions of my readers, and they do the rest. They hallucinate a whole world! The more I think about it, the more incredible it seems.
But the thing is, I never get to see that world. I never get to experience how a reader’s imaging of my work differs from mine. Most particularly, I never get to hear their version of my voice – my voice as an author, my voice as I’ve channelled it through my characters. At least, I never got to hear it until I heard my first Harper Fox audiobook.
And that’s why I can’t listen. The experience is simply too intimate. It’s like watching surveillance footage of your own imagination. This is quite a revelation to me. It’s made me realise what a powerful, potent, overwhelming connection I have with my readers. Normally I’m sealed off from the force of it because I’m in my own little world, safely tucked away in my skull. Hearing a narrator’s voice reading my work breaks all the barricades down. And I haven’t learned to cope with that at all.
So, to all the wonderful narrators and voice artists who’ve worked on my books, I extend my wholehearted apologies. The accents weren’t what was putting me off at all. The overlay of your sound on top of mine was just too much, and I hope I’ll get past that one day and be able to enjoy my audiobooks. To my readers, I’ll say now that if you want a fantastic audiobook experience, go pick up Scrap Metal at Audible, because it’s a job of consummate professionalism and voice-artist creativity, and it’s 12 hours long, and you’ll be happily immersed for all that time in Nichol and Cameron’s world as called to life by Sean Gormley. (Hey, you know, it’s actually quite liberating for me to be able to give a book of mine such an unrestrained plug – since technically I’m bigging-up someone else’s work.)
Now I’d love to hear your thoughts about audiobooks. How important is accent to you? If you’re a British listener, does it drive you crazy to hear an American accent reading one of your favourite UK authors’ books? US listeners, do you ever find a regional English accent, or a Scottish or Irish one, to get between you and your enjoyment of the book, or do you prefer to hear authentic accents? Do any authors share my weird reactions to hearing their own work narrated – or do you love it? Tell me all. Everyone who comments will be in with the chance of their choice of ebook from my backlist, three lucky winners to be chosen in due course!
Scrap Metal by Harper Fox ~ Narrated by Sean Gormley
Title: Scrap Metal
Author: Harper Fox
Narration: Sean Gormley
Release: 29th January 2015
Genre: M/M (contemporary)
Is there room for love in a heart full of secrets? One year ago, before Fate took a wrecking ball to his life, Nichol was happily working on his doctorate in linguistics. Now he's hip deep in sheep, mud, and collies. His late brother and mother had been well-suited to life on Seacliff Farm. Nichol? Not so much.
As lambing season progresses in the teeth of an icy north wind, the last straw is the intruder Nichol catches in the barn. He says his name is Cam, and he’s on the run from a Glasgow gang. Something about the young man's tired resignation touches Nichol deeply, and instead of giving him the business end of a shotgun, he offers Cam a blanket and a place to stay. Somehow, Cam quickly charms his way through Nichol's defenses and into his heart. Even his grandfather takes to the cheeky city boy, whose hard work and good head for figures help set the farm back on its feet. As the cold Scottish springtime melts into summer, Nichol finds himself falling in love. When tragedy strikes, Cam's resolutely held secret is finally revealed and Nichol must face the truth. He's given his heart away, and it’s time to pay the price.
©2012 Harper Fox (P)2014 Audible Inc.
If a picture can paint a thousand words then this book was for me a literary landscape masterpiece. The beautiful, lyrical and descriptive writing carried me off to the Scottish highlands. A place as desolate and lonely as it is beautiful and majestic.
Here we meet Nichol, who has returned to help is grandfather on his farm after losing his mother and brother in a tragic accident. He leaves behind him a bright academic life studying linguistics at Edinburgh Uni, not forgetting the gay scene either. Here on this remote sheep farm living with a grandfather who never really had accepted him he feels even more alone than he has ever been but his sense of family loyalty still the greater tug brings him back. He's desperately lonely. This all changes when he discovers Cameron in his barn after breaking in for shelter from a stormy night. He feels the attraction immediately but Cam holds a dark secret and is on the run. Cam becomes Nichol's world, but the dark secret Cam is hiding could threaten the love and everything Nichol holds dear.
The dynamics between these two characters is electrifying. Oh how I felt for Nichol’s feeling of loneliness in the opening scene on a hill right in the middle of lambing season. Cam is obviously not all he makes out to be either. But you just can’t stop you’re heart loving him in the same way as Nichol does until the very end where we do find out that those fears and doubts about Cam are completely unfounded and he is definitely not what he first appears to be.
I love the way that Nichol’s grandfather Harry is portrayed as a cantankerous old git who has little love for Nichol after losing his older brother the appointed heir to the farm. But even under that coconut hard exterior there is still a man who cares. The only way he knows to express himself is to be tough on everyone especially Nichol and himself. Nichol is no natural born farmer but out of family loyalty tries to keep things going even though the farm itself is almost bankrupt, but Cam turns out to be the one who turns things around and through this finds a place in Nichol’s heart that is unshakeable.
I love this book! The writer brings a depth of emotion into the MCs that swept me away on an emotional tide, bringing the life, the hardships, the close family ties and bonds on a remote Scottish highland vividly to life. I love the way she also makes use of the traditional Gaelic, cleverly done so you still know what is meant. This is also a beautiful and lyrical language. Putting a stark contrast on the generation gap where for Nichol's Granda it was practically a native language for him, Nichol although able to speak it used it only sparingly and when forced too. I could hear those Celtic tones after learning Cornish in school which is another Celtic derivative language.
If you haven't listened or read this book yet then you have really missed out on something truly exquisite. A real gem.
As this is one of my all time favourite books I must admit I started listening with some trepidation as to what the narrator was going to do with this. I’m not so puritanical to say that it has to be a native speaker of the region where the book is set, it just has to fit.
Well, I’m delighted to say that Sean Gormely did a fantastic job. As already mentioned the story is set on an island in the remote Scottish highlands and although Sean’s native accent is obviously Irish he most definitely does an extremely meritable Scottish accent for the characterisations, at least for my ears. For me this was no problem as it made an even greater distinction between the characters’ dialogues and the narration of the book. Although there are some inconsistencies with the accents in the characterisations getting a little muddled, whether Scottish or Irish, both fit well together here intertwining in a melodic, generic, Celtic feel to the book and listening experience.
Sean’s lilting Celtic tones are exactly what is needed for this book and it was a joy to listen to. The spoken Gaelic contained within the book was like music to my ears (just wished there was actually more of it to listen to – lol!) and the whole listening experience was a feast for my aural senses. His speed of delivery is such that whether you are familiar with an Irish accent or not everything is clearly enunciated and presents no problems with comprehension.
So I could breathe out a big sigh of relief that one of my all time favourite books was marvellously narrated and brought a whole new dimension to a book that I already love so much.
Listen to an Excerpt
Meet Harper Fox
Bestselling British author Harper Fox has established herself as a firm favourite with readers of M/M romance. Over the past three years, she’s delivered thirteen critically acclaimed novels, novellas and short stories, including Scrap Metal (Rainbow Awards Honourable Mention),The Salisbury Key(CAPA nominated) and Life After Joe (Band of Thebes Best LGBT Book, 2011).
Harper takes her inspiration from a wide range of British settings – wild countryside, edgy urban and most things in between – and loves to use these backdrops for stories about sexy gay men sharing passion, adventure and happy endings. She also runs her own publishing imprint, FoxTales.
Harper is enjoying life in Cornwall after her move from Northumberland, and soaking up ideas and inspiration from the wildly lovely Cornish coasts.
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Harper will be giving away a choice of any book from her backlist to three lucky winners. Just enter the Rafflecopter draw below and answer Harper’s questions from her guest post.
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