Skip to main content


Excitingly, Abendau’s Heir is coming out in audio format. I thought it would be fun to chat with its narrator, the fab Travis Niesler from Ravenwood Audio, about the process from his angle since it’s something I didn’t know anything about a few months ago.

I’ll be honest, I dragged my heels on agreeing audio rights. The reason was a straightforward one – fear. These were my words, from one of my book-babies and I was worried I’d hate the version. But, having heard a sample of another book by Travis, I decided to take the plunge and go for it.

Travis – how do you decide projects? Do you have a specialism, or a type you especially enjoy. 

Of the books that I am currently working on I’ve pursued a rather eclectic bunch. Abendau’s Heir is actually my first finished product and Gary Compton over at Tickety Boo tapped me for it without me having to ask for it! I enjoy reading a variety of books, so when I go out for an audio project I usually go for books that seem like they would be really good as audio. Aside from the space opera’s I am working on for Gary I have a bizarro western, two comedy slasher/horror stories, a zombie western, a gothic tale, and a couple 70s inspired zombie stories, so I am all over the place!

Of course, I wanted to know about the process of recording. Firstly, I wondered what the first steps to a project were - a read through first, or straight to recording so that it's fresh? 

Travis - When I get a story or pursue a story I usually try to find a song or music track that fits the feeling I get after reading the synopsis and looking at the cover. Then I do a cold read on the first chapter/prologue and send it off to whoever is taking charge of the files. I’ve only read a couple of the stories I am working on before I actually sat down to record. I think the fresh look prevents me from putting a personal touch to it. My role as the narrator is to tell the story and (hopefully) entertain the listener and you really need to be invisible (personality wise) when reading. The bizarro western for example is one that I read prior to recording but it is the type of story that needs to be over the top so I get to act out a little. Abendau’s  Heir was a treat to read blind because the story really tells itself and the characters spoke through me as I was introduced to them I had a lot of fun exploring the world while also creating what I hope is a satisfying version of your art.

 Also, I wondered about the tech. I've done skype interviews over the ipad and have been amazed at the quality, but I assume there's a little more to it than that? 

Travis - As far as the tech goes I have a fairly spartan set up. I am working on building a sound booth to take it that much further but, I have a dampening box for my microphone and usually have two computers running! Hahaha my library/office/recording studio is a very busy room.

One of my concerns was the number of point of view characters I had in the book. I had no idea how one narrator could possibly capture them all (as it happens, the female dialogue is read by a female narrator). When I listened to the final version, I was astounded how different they all sounded, and how I could tell one from the other. My favourite was probably Lichio, who had the relaxed edge I imagined. The one furthest from my imaginings was probably Sonly, who I felt sounded a little young for the character she will eventually become. (The nice thing is, as Travis and I are now facebook friends, and get on well, I was able to feed that back for the next book when I think it’s important she sounds a little more mature.)

I also wondered how voices were selected, and if there had been any training for it. Plus, given I have one of the hard accents (apparently) to copy, I wondered if there were any Travis found easy, and any he hated doing. 
Travis - I haven’t had any training beyond truly enjoying listening to other audio books, as well as memorizing my favorite movies. You would be surprised at how easy it is to pick up on inflections of various accents when you watch a movie 60+ times! As an American I am always nervous doing non American accents, mostly because I don’t want to offend or sound foolish. But I am particularly fond of the irish, Scottish, and various british accents. Eastern Europeans are the hardest for me to emulate precisely. I try to let each character tell me who they are and what they sound like, unless I have the author as a resource who has specific visions for the characters.

So, the final version came back to me to listen to and proof. I quickly stopped using the book to proof against because it seemed audio was a different experience, and it was about the flow and whether it pulled me out than obsessive accuracy.

My first impressions? It’s American! My internal voice is Northern Irish and whilst I did write most of that voice out of Abendau, deliberately, I’m still used to hearing the accent with it. After a few chapters, though, I was used to that change and enjoying that it was so different – and fresher – than the voice I’ve carried around for years.

My second impression was how scenes differed in terms of pace. Long reflective scenes came across well, with a good balance of thoughts to dialogue. Action scenes were snappier and quicker.

My third impression was an interesting one. It is a dark, dark book. All the reviews say so. But I never, entirely, saw it that way. Or rather, I knew it had a dark section within it, but didn’t realise just how few punches I’d pulled. That was something of a shock and a revelation and something I’ll use to inform future books – that the words I create can resonate differently with a bit of distance. 

With that in mind, I wondered how it felt for Travis when the author was listening to it. 

Travis -When I first start sending files I am really really nervous. I enjoy doing this so much and while I’m recording I often forget all about the fact that I am doing this for someone else…that I am borrowing some one else’s art and vision. But the inevitable reality always sinks in when I click send and I get nervous they won’t like it…or that I totally flopped on something inside the narration whether it’s pacing or voice. I have been lucky so far! As a reader I tend to get attached to various stories or authors, and as a narrator that attachment can make it very nerve wracking! And I am very needy hahaha I need the reassurance that I am doing a good job.

Overall, I’m delighted with the audio version. I think it captures what I was trying to do with the book, and it’s very smooth and easy to follow. I’m not sure how reviews will go – whether they’ll focus more on the finish, or the story, and that will be interesting to follow.

I do know I’m looking forward, very much, to what Travis will do with book two, and how he’ll bring it to life.

And here it is!