Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Sound of a Story, Pt. 2

Good evening! Only three more days until The Mime Order is out. I'm so incredibly excited for you all to read it. It's already out in some bookshops around the world, so if you've been able to have an early read, do let me know what you thought. Thank you to all of you for being so patient during the extra months of waiting for the book – I'm already hard at work on Book 3...

Last year, just after the publication of The Bone Season, I did an interview with Alana Kerr, who narrated the audiobook version of the book and provides the voices for not only Paige, but for all of my characters. Today, I'm delighted to have her back at A Book from the Beginning to talk about her experience narrating The Mime Order, and what she's been doing since I last spoke to her. Here are her answers to both my questions and those that some of you asked on social media.



Biography

Alana Kerr is originally from Belfast, Ireland. She graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with a joint 2:1 in Drama and English. She has trained in Meisner technique at the Impulse Company, London and takes weekly classes at the Margie Haber Studio, Los Angeles. She is also an alumnus of the National Youth Theatre (NYT) and the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) and is an accomplished actress, singer and voiceover artist.



Questions

Alana, it's been over a year since I did my last interview with you on the blog. Welcome back! What have you been up to since 2013? 

Thanks, I’m absolutely delighted to be voicing the next instalment of the Bone Season series. I’m such a fan! 2014 was a really varied for me. I voiced my second audiobook, shot a few commercials and my first US TV show, Murder Book, and travelled to Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Easter Island! 


How was your experience narrating The Mime Order in comparison to The Bone Season? Was there anything you set out to do differently? 

Thankfully with The Mime Order I had more time to prepare before recording than I did with The Bone Season, although it takes a surprisingly long time to do. I think I averaged 100 pages a day and there were approximately 450 pages. I’m a naturally slow reader but prepping a book isn’t just about reading it. I have to manually highlight each line of dialogue and make notes on character and tone. This all then helps tremendously when in the studio and hopefully makes for a more consistent read.

In terms of setting myself a new challenge for The Mime Order, I really wanted to up the ante in the action sequences and you certainly gave me plenty to work with! In particular, the final few chapters proved to be pretty exhausting but were so much fun to read. I felt like I was right there in the middle of the action. 


You did a stellar job with all the accents in the first book. Did you have to learn any new ones for The Mime Order

Thank you! I think the only one that threw me slightly off course this time around was Ognena Maria’s “light Bulgarian”. I hadn’t seen that one coming! For her, I decided to do a slight variation on Russian and mainly focus on clarity. There is a fine line between getting an accent 100% spot on and making it accessible to the audience, who might hail from anywhere from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Lancaster, England. As a narrator, it is of utmost importance to be clear and understood and often that can mean softening an accent a little.


The Bone Season was the first audiobook you narrated. Aside from this series, have you narrated any others? 

Yes, I also narrated The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazol Gaynor and am in the middle of prepping for Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner. 


There are invented songs in both books: An Ember Morning in The Bone Season and Five Ravens in The Mime Order. You didn't sing An Ember Morning, as I didn't provide the tune at the time, but you did sing Five Ravens. How did you find the experience of singing for an audiobook? 

I loved it! I was disappointed I didn’t get the chance to sing the first song so I was delighted to get your guidance for a tune for the second. I found Five Ravens so evocative and it really brought the streets of Scion London to life for me. It’s also fun to throw something in that and audiobook listener can experience above and beyond what’s written on the page. 


Who was your favourite character to speak for this time? 

This is a hard one as there are so many great characters to choose from. I did enjoy getting to know Paige a bit better though, I do have a soft spot for her! 


Did knowing more of everyone's story change the way that you voiced the characters?

I think it definitely helps to understand the character on a deeper level and that inevitably helps to shape your portrayal of them. 


I should tell you that my dad listened to the audiobook every day on his way to work, and has yet to read the paper version... Do you listen to many audiobooks yourself? Any you recommend, if so? 

This made me laugh out loud as my dad is such a fan too! He’s a big walker and loves to listen to audiobooks when he’s out and about. He loved The Bone Season and has pre-ordered The Mime Order in anticipation of its release. Audiobooks such a great way to experience a story and I often listen to them myself in the car. I find that living in LA doesn’t give me the same opportunity to read as London where I used to spend hours on the tube reading almost every day. Now I like to listen as I drive and in LA you do a lot of that! I’ve just finished listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point which is actually a social study rather than a novel but I absolutely loved it. I’m love being able to learn new things on the go. It’s funny how we often think of audiobooks as a new medium but it really harks back to the origin of storytelling. It is quite literally that, telling a story, and I think it’s a wonderful way to be swept away. 


Did you peek at any reviews of your narration online? 

Peek is the perfect word! Because The Bone Season was my first ever audiobook I felt not only a natural curiosity at how people received it but I was interested to learn what I could do to improve my narration. So yes, I did peek from behind my fingers once or twice but I didn’t dwell on it too much. I’m not sure to what extent I’d check on them in the future. 


When reading a second book in a series, do you go back and listen to your recording of the first to remember how you did different voices or does it just all come back to you? 

It seems strange but somehow I seemed to remember most of the voices. I tend to picture them in my mind and the voice comes with the image and the line. As with all good writing, each character speaks in a particular rhythm and this helps keep them separate and individual. We do, nevertheless, have a snippet of each voice available at the studio should I need a refresher which was very helpful. It was harder to remember smaller, more incidental characters but all of the major ones I was able to replicate fairly accurately just by conjuring that image and reading the given line of dialogue.


How much research do you do of the book before you read it out loud or is it the first time that you read it when you are recording it? 

It’s usually best to read the whole book before stepping into the studio although sometimes that isn’t always possible, as was the case with The Bone Season. Not only does it give you a better sense of the overall arc of the story but also gives you further insight into the characters. For example, something might be referenced quite late on in the novel that helps you better understand a character and how they approach certain situations. Or on a more basic level, you might only know where a character grew up, and therefore what accent they have, until you meet them for the second or third time. This happened to me with The Bone Season when I discovered Liss’ Scottish upbringing after I had decided in my head to make her Mancunian! Thankfully, I hadn’t started to record her dialogue yet and there was no need to go back and correct it. 


There's a big action scene towards the end of The Mime Order. It was one of the tougher scenes for me to write, as it's movement-heavy, involves a large number of characters, and spread over several chapters. Without spoilers, how did you tackle narrating it?

It’s really interesting to hear about your experience writing it. It’s such a wonderfully descriptive scene and it definitely proved to be one of the toughest, but most enjoyable sequences to record. As I already mentioned, I was keen to develop the action throughout The Mime Order and I felt as though I was really building to this moment. I found myself narrating from the edge of my seat with much of my energy focused on my core. It can be very draining to not only voice characters who are engaged in high energy action but to also accurately describe how something “whacked” me over the head or “thumped” into my back. It’s not enough to simply read those words but instead you have to find a way to describe not only the action but the impact it has on the character. The audience has to feel just how painful that thump was or how tired her aching arms are as she pulls herself up. I was pretty exhausted myself after that one! 





Thanks to Alana for taking the time to answer these in such detail! It's always so interesting to hear about the process of narrating an audiobook. You can pre-order The Mime Order in audiobook format from Audible here, and here's a sample of Alana's wonderful narration.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Blog Tour

Good morning from snowy London! 

I just wanted to make you guys aware of the two blog tours for The Mime Order that are running at the moment, kindly hosted by twenty-four book bloggers from the US and UK. The posts feature reviews of the book, audiobook clips, giveaways, and more.

The UK tour also contains some exclusive content written by me. Several of the bloggers will be posting pages from A Voyant’s Guide to the Scion Citadel of London, which I wrote specifically for the tour. It will give you some details about several of the important districts of London that feature prominently in The Mime Order. Thank you very much to all the bloggers who are participating in the tour! 

Here's the full list of posts. An asterisk indicates that this blog stop includes a page of exclusive content.


Friday, 19 December 2014

On the Merits of Unnaturalness


‘Be aware, my good Reader, that this Pamphlet, no matter how controversial its Content, must never fall into enemy Hands. It details all known Types of Unnaturalness, divides them into seven Orders, and details the Merits of each.’ — Jaxon Hall

Good afternoon! I'm delighted to announce that Bloomsbury will be publishing On the Merits of Unnaturalness, the first pamphlet by the infamous Jaxon Hall, as an exclusive, limited-edition print run. I've been hoping on hope that readers would have the chance to see this little project in the flesh, as it's such an important part of the Bone Season universe.

Within Scion's empire, illegal pamphlets are a popular means of spreading ideas within the clairvoyant underworld. Scion blacklists all literature about clairvoyance, fantasy, and the spirit world, and over the decades, it has held many book-burnings to destroy all such forbidden knowledge. Only one publishing house – the Spiritus Club – has made an effort to fight back. Founded by a voyant in 1908, the Club has published many seminal texts, such as The Vamps of Vauxhall and Love at First Sight; or, the Seer's Delight. Their work is printed in Grub Street and distributed by the couriers of the Penny Post, who carry and sell their stories and pamphlets all over the citadel. But none of their texts are more famous, or more controversial, than On the Merits of Unnaturalness.

On the Merits of Unnaturalness was first published in 2031, before Jaxon became a mime-lord. It explains Jaxon Hall's groundbreaking theory on the Seven Orders of Clairvoyance, in which he divided clairvoyants into seven groups – some of which were superior to others. The pamphlet goes into detail regarding the particular gifts of each order and sub-type of clairvoyant that Jaxon had discovered at that time. (So if you're been wondering what a botanomancer or a crystallist is, this is your chance to find out.) The release of the pamphlet, which was written under a pseudonym, brought widespread knowledge of the Seven Orders system to London and eventually spread to other citadels in Europe. However, it also caused a spate of brutal gang wars between the newly identified categories and the imprisonment of one group of voyants – the vile augurs – in the slum of Jacob’s Island, Bermondsey. 

How can I get one? 

There are 500 pamphlets, available on a first come first served basis to readers in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and India. You won't receive a confirmation email, but you can direct queries to @TheBoneSeason

  • Step 1: Pre-order The Mime Order. Pre-order links are here. (If you've already pre-ordered, that's fine! Onward to Step 2). 

  • Step 2: Send evidence of your pre-order, e.g. a receipt or confirmation email, to themimeorder@bloomsbury.com. Make sure you include your postal address, and write ‘The Mime Order pre-order’ in the subject line.  

This pamphlet was great fun to write, and I loved inhabiting Jaxon's mind for a while. I hope very much that you'll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Be Prepared

Finished copies of The Mime Order came in a few days ago, and they're even more beautiful than the Bone Season hardbacks. And bigger. And redder. Here's a master post of crash courses and refreshers so you can get back into the swing of Scion before January...



Refreshers
Crash Courses
Other resources

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Character list

The last refresher for The Mime Order is here! Although there is a recap of the Bone Season's story in the book – specifically in Chapter 2 – I decided not to remind the reader of every single character, so this guide is here to jog your memory. This doesn't cover all characters in the series so far, but it does cover some of the most important ones. 


*** MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1 ***


Voyants

Paige Mahoney: The narrator of the series. Also known as the Pale Dreamer or by her slave name, 40. She is an extremely rare kind of clairvoyant called a dreamwalker, with the power to enter other people's dreamscapes and take control of their bodies. Born in Ireland, Paige moved to England with her father and grew up in the Scion Citadel of London as a privileged daughter of a government employee. Since the age of sixteen, she has also worked for the infamous Jaxon Hall, mime-lord of I-4, as his mollisher (heir) in the criminal underworld of the citadel. After being captured by Scion and sent to the penal colony of Sheol I, she led a successful rebellion against the Rephaim along with Arcturus Mesarthim – her Rephaite keeper – and Julian Amesbury. Last seen getting on the train to London. Status: alive.

Jaxon Hall: Also known as the White Binder. The notorious mime-lord of I-4 and author of On the Merits of Unnaturalness, the controversial document that divided voyants into seven "orders". Paige's boss and leader of the Seven Seals. At the end of The Bone Season, Paige declares to him that she plans to leave the gang. Last seen getting on the train after helping rescue Paige. Status: alive.

Liss Rymore: Paige's friend in the penal colony of Sheol I, where she was principal performer. A skilled cartomancer (card-reader) from Scotland, she was the human charge of Gomeisa Sargas until he tired of her. Died at the end of The Bone Season at the hands of Gomeisa. Status: deceased.

Julian Amesbury: Paige's friend in the penal colony of Sheol I, who worked with her closely to plan the rebellion. His clairvoyant type is unknown. Last seen during the rebellion. Status: unknown. 

Michael Wren: The loyal human servant of Arcturus Mesarthim. Michael was once a polyglot, but a traumatic event made him an unreadable, and he was treated as an amaurotic by most of the Rephaim. He helped orchestrate the rebellion. He chooses his words carefully. Status: alive. 

Ivy: A palm-reader from London who was imprisoned alongside Paige in Sheol I. Over the course of their six-month detainment, she was repeatedly tortured by her keeper, Thuban Sargas. Status: alive.

Lotte, Charles, Ella, Felix, Nell: Bone Season XX survivors. Last seen getting on the train to London. Status: alive. 

David: An enigmatic Bone Season prisoner who seemed to know too much about the colony and its workings. Status: unknown. 

Eliza Renton: One of Paige's best friends. Eliza has worked for Jaxon Hall since she was eighteen. She is an automatiste, or art medium, specialising in producing and selling mime-art. She stayed in London while the rest of the gang went to rescue Paige. Last seen in Paige's memories. Status: alive.

Dr Nicklas "Nick" Nygård: Paige's best friend, whom she was once in love with. Originally from Sweden. Nick leads a double life as a Scion medical researcher and Jaxon Hall's oracle. He is in love with Zeke Sáenz. Last seen getting on the train after helping rescue Paige. Status: alive.

Nadine Arnett: A whisperer who works as a busker for Jaxon, originally from Québec. Half-sister of Zeke Sáenz. Last seen getting on the train after helping rescue Paige. Status: alive.

Ezekiel "Zeke" Sáenz: An unreadable who works for Jaxon, originally from Mexico. Half-brother of Nadine Arnett. Last seen getting on the train after helping rescue Paige. Status: alive.

Danica "Dani" Panić: Like Nick, Danica leads a double life: one as a Scion engineer, one as Jaxon Hall's inventor. She hails from the Scion Citadel of Belgrade, Serbia. Her clairvoyant type is unknown, but she is believed to be a kind of fury. Last seen getting on the train after helping rescue Paige. Status: alive.

Antoinette Carter: An Irish voyant who was once a famous TV personality before she went into hiding from Scion. Jaxon Hall attempted to meet with her in Trafalgar Square, but the meeting was interrupted by the Rephaim, who aimed to capture both Hall and Carter. Last seen in London. Status: unknown. 

Haymarket Hector: Underlord of the Unnatural Assembly and the clairvoyant crime syndicate. He is the head of all mime-lords and mime-queens in London. Status: alive.  

XVIII-39-7: A human from Bone Season XVIII who betrayed the plan of the "scarred ones" to Nashira in return for freedom. Status: unknown.


The Rephaim 


Arcturus "Warden" Mesarthim: Arcturus was Warden of the Mesarthim family and blood-consort (fiancé) to Nashira Sargas until the end of The Bone Season. He was one of the "scarred ones", Rephaim who rebelled unsuccessfully against the Sargas family in the year 2039. He was Paige's keeper during Bone Season XX and helped her orchestrate the rebellion that led to her escape. Warden is an oneiromancer, or sleep-dealer, which allows him to relive other people's memories. He was last seen on the train station's platform after bidding farewell to Paige, saying that if she ever sees him again, it will mean that there's danger. Status: unknown.

Terebellum "Terebell" Sheratan: Terebell is an ally of Arcturus and a member of the "scarred ones". She protected Paige in the penal colony when she was stealing supplies. She was last seen on Port Meadow. Status: unknown.

Nashira Sargas: Nashira is blood-sovereign of the Rephaim and Suzerain of the British Isles and all of Scion's territories. She is the puppet master behind the Scion government. She was last seen in the Guildhall on the night the rebellion broke out, when she confronted Paige on the stage. Her clairvoyant type is unknown, but it allows her to bind multiple spirits called "fallen angels". Status: unknown. 

Gomeisa Sargas: The other blood-sovereign, Gomeisa Sargas, spends most of his time in London with the puppet government. He was last seen battling the traitor Rephaim in the Guildhall after murdering Liss Rymore, Paige's friend. Status: unknown. 

Kraz Sargas: The blood-heir of the Rephaim. Paige destroyed him using the pollen of the poppy anemone. Status: deceased.

Thuban Sargas: The most brutal of the Rephaim, Thuban was keeper to Ivy, whom he tortured and starved for most of her time with him. Now Kraz Sargas is gone, he is blood-heir of the Rephaim. Status: unknown.

Alsafi Sualocin: One of Nashira's trusted Rephaim, revealed at the end of The Bone Season to be an ally of the "scarred ones". Status: unknown. 

Pleione Sualocin: An ally of the "scarred ones". Last seen during the rebellion. Status: unknown.  
 
Amaurotics


Frank Weaver: Grand Inquisitor of the Scion Citadel of London, leader of Scion's empire. In reality, he is no more than a puppet for the Rephaim. Status: alive. 

Sebastian "Seb" Pearce: From a privileged family, Seb was captured by Scion for unknown reasons and sent to the penal colony along with Paige and her fellow voyants. He was murdered by Nashira Sargas after Paige refused to harm him with her spirit. Status: deceased. 

Colin Mahoney: Paige's father. He originally worked as a forensic pathologist in Ireland before he was conscripted to work for SciSORS (Scion: Special Organisation for Research and Science). He currently lives in an apartment in the Barbican, I-5. As far as Paige knows, he is unaware of her clairvoyance. Status: alive.