I arrive at the studio ready to go. Having narrated the audiobook of my first book, I had learned a thing or two. I know to wear soft clothing and avoid jangly jewelry. I am equipped with throat lozenges and tea. And I am well rested — this will take a lot of energy. This is my first time recording with Hidden City Studios, but they present strong testimonials and are conveniently located 10 minutes from home.

With Trevor, Elliott, and Max the dog
Ready to record!

I am greeted warmly by Max, the dog, and by humans, Elliott and Trevor, who get me set up in a room that is small, padded, and devoid of natural light. The sole window looks into the space where the audio engineers will work the mixing board and communicate with me via headphones. I have scheduled the studio for 4 hours per day over a 3-day period. When I recorded my first audiobook in just two days, I was told that I’m faster than most narrators, that I can read large chunks without errors. I’m sure it helps that I wrote the book; I also credit my theater experience.

The sustained attention it takes to read aloud word-perfect for hours at a time is grueling. Inevitably, there will be errors — a verbal stumble, burp, or mispronunciation (who knew “particularly” is so hard to pronounce?). Sometimes I recognize my mistake and pause with an apology. On other occasions, Trevor and Elliott notice something and interrupt me. Anytime we need to fix something, they replay the lead in, and I pick up where I left off. They are forgiving and encouraging, repeatedly telling me, “you’re doing great.”

Whereas my previous audiobook was released 3 years after Beyond Your Bubble was published, I want the audiobook for Facing the Fracture to be released concurrent with the print version. This book is designed to help people who are distressed about political conflict, and I want it to be accessible in multiple formats as soon as possible, especially with another contentious U.S. presidential election looming. My publisher tells me it can take up to 8 weeks after submitting the files to Audible for the audiobook to be available, so I get cracking. It’s 3 months before the book release, which should be enough time for the recording to be edited, mixed, mastered, and submitted. Although I finished writing the book months ago, it’s been through two cycles of proofreads (prior to and following the layout), and any final corrections need to be made in the next few weeks before the book goes to press. Perfect — there’s no better way to identify errors than to read the entire book aloud!

By day 3, I’m pretty tired, but I can see the finish line. I’ve been keeping up a good pace so far, and we’re two thirds of the way through Facing the Fracture. Trevor has to slow me down at one point as I start racing to the end. Everything is going smoothly until we hit a bump halfway through the final chapter. When I first conceived of the book, I knew how it would end. I wanted readers to feel motivated and powerful, and so I drew on a speech that never fails to inspire me. Now, reading it aloud in the studio, I feel the emotion rise in my throat, and I literally move myself to tears. “No problem, take your time,” says Trevor. I breathe, take a sip of tea, and try again. Once more, I am overcome with feeling. “Maybe it’s OK that the emotion comes through?” I suggest. Elliott replies, “sure, but we have to be able to understand you.” We try again and again. It feels like it takes half an hour to record the final page of the book, but we finally get it done. Having regained my composure, I power through the acknowledgements. And it’s a wrap!

Audio engineers/cheerleaders, Elliott and Trevor
In the recording studio (with clues for BTVS fans)

Elliott and Trevor welcome me out of my padded cell. They tell me they learned so much, that the book is needed by many people right now, that they will recommend it. This is so encouraging to hear, especially because they hadn’t sought out the book based on their interest in the topic. I emerge from the studio into the Santa Barbara sunshine feeling hopeful that, just as Elliott and Trevor guided me through an emotional and exhausting experience, my voice will empower listeners to navigate the challenges of living in a divided nation.

NOTE: The print version of Facing the Fracture is available now for pre-order. Look for the audiobook closer to the release date of August 2024.