Author: Sara A. Noë
Narrators: A.J. Shuck, Mia Hutchinson-Shaw
Length: 18 hours and 50 minutes
Series: Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms , Book 1
Producer: Audiobook Empire
Publisher: On the Cobblestone Road LLC Audio
Released: Apr 9, 2022
Cato is the only true half-human, half-ghost hybrid in existence. He’s powerful and unique with two divine powers instead of one.
The United States government believes he is the key to developing a devastating weapon that will give humankind an advantage when war inevitably erupts between the Human Realm and Avilésor, the Ghost Realm.
After being an unwilling test subject in Project Alpha for two years, Cato and the rest of his “lab-family” survive a transport accident to find themselves stranded and powerless in the middle of the wilderness. Hunted every step of the way by ghostly Shadow Guards with supernatural abilities and human Agents desperate to recapture their prisoners, the eight young fugitives are drawn to Cato’s hometown where the Rip between Realms connects the worlds.
Cato wants nothing to do with his past, but as his enemies close in, he realizes he’s willing to do anything to protect his lab-family . . .
. . . even kidnap the daughter of a ghost hunter and make a dangerous deal to become a mercenary.
Sara A. Noë is an award-winning author, artist, and photographer. She has had poetry, short fiction, and memoir works featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and her poetry is now available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. Notable art achievements include her photograph “Aftermath” published on the cover of Voices Literary Journal in 2018, photograph “Spiraling” awarded Best Still Life in a 2019 juried gallery exhibit, and charcoal artwork “The Raven” displayed in the Uptown Arts District of Michigan City, Indiana.
A Fallen Hero, the first novel in the Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series, was published in 2018 and has been critically acclaimed by NAM Editorial, The Prairies Book Review, Literary Titan, and Chronicle Focus Editorial, among others. The novel made book reviewer Lauren Gantt’s list of Top 10 Favorite Books of 2019 and won the Literary Titan Gold Book Award in 2020. The series sequel, Phantom’s Mask, was released in July 2020 and won the Literary Titan Gold Book Award less than two months after its release.
As an artist, Sara creates her own covers and graphics. She lives in a little cottage with her calico cat, Calypso, who has a fondness for chewing pens and being as loud and sassy as possible.
A.J. Shuck is an Audiobook Narrator and Producer with 3 years of experience in Audiobooks and more than a decade of experience in stage acting and musical theatre. He fell in love with performing at the age of 13 when he premiered as Nerd #3 in a local production of High School Musical. He has a passion for books and reading especially YA Fiction and Mysteries. He believes strongly that the right words at the right time can change the world, certainly, they’ve changed his world. He is a proud member of the APA (Audio Publishers Association). He currently lives in Oklahoma City with the love of his life and their 3 beautiful daughters who have him wrapped around their little fingers.
Mia Hutchinson-Shaw is an actor and narrator based in NYC. Mia creates soulful, saucy, and lovable characters with her arsenal of accents and flare for the fun. Mia comes to narration with her background in classical and period-drama theater Off Broadway and Regional Stages. She trained in the UK at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, BA Acting with Honors (UK Equivalent to BFA) and was raised between Massachusetts and Montana. When not working as an actor, Mia is thrifting for her next outrageous, colorful clothing item, getting on her soap box about low-waste living, or hunting handmade jewelers for a new item for her collection of giant earrings. Her favorite is a pair of hot pink Galahs (a bird from Australia).
At Audiobook Empire, audio reigns supreme, narrators are hailed as heroes, and headphones are worn with pride.
Marrying pomp and circumstance with quality you can count on, Audiobook Empire is a full-service production house that produces and promotes audiobooks with gusto.
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Q & A with Author Sara A. Noë
- Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.For me, the process actually began with a state-sponsored program for creative entrepreneurs. I had been wanting to invest in an audiobook for a while but lacked the funds to make it happen. Luckily, an artist friend directed me to the On-Ramp Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator program, which included an intensive three-day course to help creatives learn how to turn their passion into a sustainable business. After completing the class, I qualified to receive a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission to use toward a creative project.
I knew I wanted to hire at least one, possibly two narrators for the project. I do a lot of the work myself when publishing the books, but I knew I lacked the training, experience, equipment, vocal range, editing software, and quiet space to record the audiobook in my own voice. Searching for qualified narrators ended up being a daunting task, and I felt overwhelmed without a targeted approach.
I encountered Audiobook Empire purely by chance. On LinkedIn, I had posted a photo of my dog helping me unpack and sort a new shipment of books for an event. Someone commented, “Awww” on the photo, and I noticed that her byline said she was a narrator. Even though I didn’t know her personally, I reached out in a private message to ask if she could provide any guidance on the process, and she offered to put me in touch with Audiobook Empire. Talk about a lucky break!
After having a lengthy phone discussion and ending with a much better grasp on the work that goes into audiobook production, I signed the contract and started working on gathering assets for auditions. I settled on a sample chapter that included multiple characters and high-stress stakes to test how well the narrators could build tension and excitement while switching between different voices. I also created character profiles so they’d have some background information before diving in.
The auditions slowly started to roll in from both male and female narrators. Once I settled on the two I liked best and thought would complement each other well, I agreed to their per finished hour (PFH) rates and sent in the full manuscript. I had to separate the scenes so each narrator knew which parts to record, and then the Audiobook Empire post-production team edited the files and spliced them together.
When it was done, I listened to the audiobook so I could make sure everything sounded good before giving the green light and hitting publish. It was admittedly a very strange feeling listening to someone read my book! In some cases, the narrators used different character voices or intonations than I’d imagined when writing, so they added unexpected elements that made me appreciate how different people interpret scenes… sometimes even better than how they had previously played out in my head. A.J. and Mia masterfully used tense pauses and emotional voices to raise the stakes. Even though I, as the author, knew what would happen next, I was still on the edge of my seat needing to hear the next chapter because they had drawn me back into this world I created years ago. It was a wild and memorable experience!
- How did you select your narrator?I had the extra challenge of choosing two narrators I thought would complement each other well. Initially, I had more submissions from male narrators than female, so that was the one I chose first. I knew I wanted someone with a younger, lighter voice that could emulate the seventeen-year-old male protagonist and a wide cast of characters, including a seven-year-old little girl. What impressed me about A.J. right off the bat was how much emotion he injected into his voice. His dramatic pauses and inflections created a lot of tension in his audition, not to mention he pronounced all of the words correctly, which indicated that he’d taken the extra time to review my notes prior to recording his audition (something not all of the narrators did).
Once I knew A.J. was my first choice for a male narrator, that decision impacted my criteria when listening to the auditions from female narrators. There were a few strong submissions, but I felt that Mia had the best potential to match A.J.’s tone and energy for a coordinated audiobook that alternated between the two narrators without feeling disjointed. She also had a talent for leveraging pauses to build tension, and I liked the different character voices she used in her audition. Individually, A.J. and Mia both had strong auditions, but ultimately, I was looking for two narrators who could work well together. I’m happy with my choice! I think A.J. and Mia made a great power combo and played off each other’s strengths. I hope I can work with both of them again for future audiobooks in the series.
- How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?I created a document with characteristics, ages, dialect tips, and short bios for the most important characters in the book. I also created a short, simple pronunciation video for words I thought the narrators would need to know, including last names and invented worldbuilding terms. This way, they could hear as well as see the correct pronunciation, and then I encouraged the narrators to reach out if they came across any words they weren’t certain about pronouncing. But I also wanted my narrators to be an integral part of the project with creative leeway to interpret some of the character portrayals on their own, so I tried not to be too particular and dictate every little detail, especially for minor characters. I wanted the narrators to have fun and introduce little quirks or accents if they wanted to. I think A.J. and Mia both had fun with that freedom when voicing some of the ghosts in the book!
- Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?Honestly… no. I have a difficult time focusing on audio because my mind tends to wander until I realize I’ve tuned out and started multitasking on other projects. My brain is better adapted to focus on written words so I can tune out everything else and fully immerse myself in the story. But I wanted to make sure my book was available to everyone and anyone, including people who might be visually impaired, not have time to sit down and read, or simply prefer audio over other formats. This experience definitely opened my eyes to the unique perspective of audiobooks. They really change the way readers (or should I say, listeners) experience a story — especially if you have a great narrator who can do different character voices!
- What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?Humans have been telling oral stories for all of our history, long before written languages existed. If anything, an audiobook brings us closer to our earliest storytelling roots. Although I personally prefer print books above all other formats, I know several long-distance commuters who are too tired and busy to spend their limited free time reading, so they listen to audiobooks while driving to and from work. In today’s fast-paced world, sometimes that’s the only way people can still enjoy books. There’s nothing wrong with that. Listening to stories is in our nature. I applaud people who find ways to continue enjoying books even when they have busy lives and lack time to sit down and dedicate their full attention to “real” books.
- How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?The final push to release a book is usually a stressful, time-consuming endeavor. To date, I’ve released two print books and one audiobook, and I’m about to release my third book in the next few months. I usually celebrate by taking a break and relaxing for a little while before jumping into the next big project. I know my fan base is clamoring for the next book as soon as they devour the most recent one, but I need a beat to recharge and refocus so I don’t burn out.
- Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?Yes… and it was not a pleasant experience. I once dreamed that I was Cato, my protagonist. Government agents chased me through my old high school before finally cornering me in the auditorium, where I surrendered under the condition that I could tell my mom and sister goodbye before I was taken into custody. It was a heart-wrenching farewell with lots of tears. I much prefer daydreaming about my characters where the scenes unfold in my imagination like watching a movie rather than experiencing them myself through the eyes of my character!
8. What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
My biggest tip, especially for aspiring authors who plan to self-publish, is to find an editor who understands your vision and has an expert grasp on grammar. I’m always amazed by how, even after self-editing and getting feedback from beta readers, my books are elevated to a whole new level after my professional editor fine-tunes them with insightful suggestions and an impressive mastery of the English language.
I also believe that, although there is wisdom in the practice of “writing to market,” the best stories are the ones that come from the heart. I think authors should write the stories they need to tell, even if those stories don’t follow the formulaic plots of current bestsellers. Creativity can go a long way.
9. Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
My advice is to not be afraid of asking questions upfront so you understand what your narrators need and how involved you’ll be throughout the process. Some narrators/producers allow the author to provide feedback and request revisions during the proofing stage, while others do not. In my case, my audiobook is a paranormal science-fantasy story, and I made up quite a few words. I needed to make sure my narrators said my invented words correctly since the audiobook establishes pronunciations for worldbuilding lore in a way the print and ebook formats couldn’t accomplish. And because I had two narrators, I also had to make sure their character voices were similar enough to be recognizable regardless of which narrator had that character in a scene. Communication was my biggest challenge throughout the process of turning the book into an audiobook.
10. What’s next for you?
Next up is publishing the third book in the series! I’m currently working on the line edits, and then comes the formatting and proofing before the book is ready for publication. Book III is scheduled to be released this year. And, of course, I’m hoping the audiobook for Book I does well so I can save up to invest in producing Book II as soon as possible.
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