This is what I do

This is the final stretch for this 30 day writing challenge, the last seven days. It hasn’t always been easy and some days have been downright hard, but it’s been an experience. Let’s see what happens as I drag myself towards the finish line. Incidentally the last blog in this series will be on Sunday… and it’ll probably be very late since I now have plans to be up in Northern California picking up a truck at 8am that day, filling it to the brim with the last of our boxes and furniture still in storage up there, then driving for 7 hours or so to empty it all into our garage here at our (relatively) new house near Pasadena. Though I think we’ll save the unloading until Monday morning. It’s going to be an adventure.

Until then there’s writing to be done. Today I’m going to attempt to answer Steven who tweeted a day or so ago that he’d like to hear about my experiences narrating the Bond novels and/or the Millennium Trilogy (that’s the series that began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

Let’s start with the series that’s still ongoing (albeit with a different author). When I was contacted about recording that first Stieg Larsson book (the Dragon Tattoo) there was no indication to me that it was going to be anything special. I got the call from my contact at Random House (since bought by Penguin – so now ‘Penguin Random House’) probably around May or June of 2008. It’s a translation from the Swedish and it’s the first of three mystery/thriller novels by this writer who had died before publication, would I be interested? I loved the idea of narrating a series set in Sweden. I speak a little Swedish having passed through the country on my way to a girlfriend in Finland in 1976 (where most people are bi-lingual, Swedish/Finnish) so I knew what the authentic pronunciations should be. Of course I said ‘yes’.

But I also knew that most English speakers did not pronounce Swedish authentically and might not relate what I said to the words on the page. At that time I felt no pressure to give foreign words their authentic sounds (and in a lot of cases we still don’t – who says ‘Paree’ for ‘Paris’?) so I deliberately blurred the lines.

I can tell you exactly the dates I was recording this first novel since I have my calendar from back then – I recorded on the 14th-17th and on the 22nd and 23rd July, 2008. I must have had a very long weekend not to be recording between the 17th and 21st! I usually did about three hours a day though I see four scheduled sessions on a couple of those days which matches the final duration of between 16 and 17 hours. I loved it.

The rest is history in that the book became a huge best seller in print and still I see wonderful things written about my narration – Just last week in Audible’s list of 100 must listen audiobooks it had a review which mentioned the ideal combination of text with narrator… Still feels good 🙂

All three of those books by Stieg Larsson received Earphone Awards from Audiofile Magazine and the third (The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) received an Audie for best Thriller/Suspense in 2011. it was quite a ride and when done I didn’t think I’d see any more of those characters

Flash forward to 2015 and David Lagercrantz has been signed to continue the series with the same characters… and I get the call to see if I’m available to continue narrating. Of course I am! Now this time the producer wants the authentic pronunciations for all Swedish names… I get emails regularly asking “Why…?” and I can only say “Because…”.

Here’s where things got interesting that year. The publishers were in a great hurry and changes to the print copy to be released in the US were taking place right down to the wire. With the audio publishers needing my master recordings ASAP my producer gave me an ‘unready’ script. When the final US version of the script was released after I had started there were so many changes to what had basically been the UK translation that I had to go back and start again – having already recorded about 11 of the final 13 hours. That was not fun. I ended up recording every day between the 6th and the 13th of July, 2015.

The most recent novel, also by David Lagercrantz, (The Girl who Takes an Eye for an Eye) was a lot easier to record in August this year and was released two months ago (also winning an Earphone Award). Lagercrantz is not Stieg Larsson, but he does an admirable job staying with the characters as created by Larsson and the situations he creates for them make for edge of your seat reading. I expect there to be more…

Now Bond, James Bond, is a whole other kettle of fish! It was Blackstone Audio who first asked me to narrate the original James Bond novels as written by Ian Fleming, I think as far back as the late 1990s or early this century (that just sounds weird… ‘this century’). I was very excited as I was a huge fan of many of the Bond movies and remember seeing the original Bond paperbacks in my parents’ bookcase as I grew up. The idea of reading them thrilled me and they did not disappoint. The audiobooks sold well, when they were available, and Casino Royale topped the charts for quite a while when the Daniel Craig movie came out. It was loved by many. Sadly, as has happened with another very popular series of mine (the Patrick O’Brian ‘Master and Commander’ series of novels) the rights to publish the audio versions lapsed (or was lost in a bidding war) and they are no longer available for download (some libraries may still have copies on CD though).

A few years ago I was flattered when one of the more popular bloggers on the subject of audiobooks (The Literate Housewife) chose to have a James Bond challenge and over a period of months invited people to first listen to my narration of a particular Fleming Bond book (that had been made into a movie) and then on one particular evening everyone watched that movie while logged into a Twitter chat – It was so much fun!

I just did some research and found this on The Literate Housewife’s site – it’s her announcing the first ‘Shaken, Not Stirred’ Bond audiobook challenge in 2011 – click here

Although the Fleming Bonds have disappeared from public view I was able, however, to continue my association with the character of Bond thanks to Brilliance Audio who, over a period of years, asked me to narrate the James Bond novels as authored by Kingsley Amis, Raymond Benson and John Gardner (there are 22 audiobooks available currently). Again, not as good as the original creator, Ian Fleming’s novels but they are all still rollicking good adventures!

It’s been fun looking back. Thanks for the tweet, Steven!

Take Care
– S.


About Simon

Simon is an actor who found his way into audiobook narrating as a side-gig and seems to have made a success of it. With some training as an actor as a child (just a couple of hours a week, but it stuck) and 15 years working inside the BBC (ending up as one of the presenters/newsreaders on BBC Radio 4 in London) he found the ideal combination for an audiobook narrator. Found his way to California two decades ago and never left.

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3 Responses to This is what I do

  1. John Peaveler March 31, 2018 at 2:50 pm #

    I’m only just discovering the loss of your voice on the master and commander series. I’ve listened to them all many times during run training (ultra running). I can’t believe they aren’t available anywhere. That’s really heartbreaking. I have to see if I can find them on an old device.

    • S. Schreiner August 22, 2018 at 9:41 pm #

      I second that.

  2. Jan Johnston November 15, 2017 at 6:07 am #

    I am so very glad you are continuing with Langercrantz! I do believe TGWTDT was one of my very first purchases in audible books. My ophthalmologist had told me to rest my eyes after a cornea transplant — no intense reading for two weeks! What????

    So my love affair with audible books, and yours in particular, began!

    Look forward to many more in the future!

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