Author: Jennifer LeBlanc
Narrator: James Oliva
Length: 4 hours 28 minutes
Series: August Barton, Book 1
Publisher: Jennifer LeBlanc
Released: Apr. 20, 2018
August Barton could never have mentally prepared himself for his freshman year of college: not only has his anxiety increased, but his parents are divorcing, his new roommate thinks Augie is the biggest nerd in existence, and his grandma, a retired prostitute named Gertie, has taken to running away from her nursing home. Augie just wants to hole up in his dorm room with his Star Wars collectables and textbooks, but Gertie is not about to let that happen. What ensues is a crazy ride including naked trespassing, befriending a local biker gang, and maybe-just maybe-with Augie defeating his anxiety and actually getting the girl.
Jennifer LeBlanc was born and raised in South Dakota and has always had a knack for story-telling. When not slaying zombies in the gaming world or writing, she can be found getting lost in a good book, doing something crafty, indulging in photography, or relaxing with her husband, two cats, and chihuahua. Jennifer loves animals and supports saving species on the verge of extinction. She currently works in merchant banking and credit services while writing her next project.
James Oliva is the creator/writer/director of the audio drama podcast What’s The Frequency? He’s also the voice of Michael Tate on audio podcast drama Greater Boston, Willard on Oak Podcast. James has also had guest appearances on ars Paradoxica, The Strange Case of Starship Iris, Seminar, Big Data, Jim Robbie and the Wanderers, The Haven Chronicles, and Radiation World. He was a finalist for a 2016 and 2017 Audio Verse Award in the acting category.
- Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?
- It really depends on the writing style. Having it read out loud and brought to life is an amazing thing. Your characters become more real and the reader gets to become more immersed in your story. With that said, if the writing isn’t something that sounds good when read aloud it might not translate as well into audiobook format. This is why choosing the right narrator is so important because translating what’s in your mind and your story the way you see it in your head is difficult. Details and certain things like character quirks and the tone need to match what you are trying to convey to the reader in your story. If the writing is flat and has no life or is too bland, it will be bland and flat when read aloud. I have listened to several audiobooks with the same old monotone narrators that try to make the story interesting, but don’t, because the writing isn’t interesting or the story isn’t written in an interesting way. On the flip side of that though I have also heard ones where the narrator works wonders for even the most boring and flat writing so it goes both ways.
- Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
- Yes, I definitely anticipated getting my book made into an audiobook early on in the process. Because of this, I wrote the story the way I would want to hear it. It was like I was watching a movie in my head and when writing, I wrote how I would want the movie to play out. I thought about what reactions people would have if a character said or did something more interesting. This helped give my characters more individuality and spunk. They weren’t just people put together as a means to an end in the book. They became so much more and it’s definitely something you can hear in the audiobook.
- How did you select your narrator?
- This part was scary because I knew what I wanted for the characters and how I wanted them to sound, but to find someone who could do them, and the story justice seemed really daunting. I did a search on the audiobook production platform and came across James Oliva’s profile. He conveniently had samples of his previous work available to listen to. I listened to each one several times and I just couldn’t believe the range he had as a voice actor. I was hooked and just knew he was the one. From there I sent an offer and he gladly accepted. I feel like it was just meant to be because I found who I believed was the perfect narrator on the first try. That never seems to happen and I feel so blessed to have worked with and to continue working with him.
- 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?
- For some of the lines yes, but for Augie he just had it. He sounded young and skittish and weird and that’s exactly what I wanted. It was the same with Gertie and for the most part all the others aside from a few things here and there that were easy to fix.
- Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
- Yes, I have always been socially awkward and at times never really felt like I was confident or even comfortable in my own skin. This is a characteristic that I gave to my main character Augie because it stems from me and how I was at that age. I have also always had a special relationship with my grandmother and she’s been one of the most influential people in my life. I wanted to write a story that portrayed that relationship even though my grandmother is the complete opposite of Augie’s in many ways.
- How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
- I work a regular full-time job and write on the side when I have time. Most of the time my day job is so brain draining that I don’t have the mental energy to write afterwords. To remedy this, I try to wake up as early as I can and write before work. Before my brain is completely fried for the day. This isn’t always achievable, sometimes I don’t write very much, but a little at a time goes a long way. I also try to take advantage of long weekends and any time I have away from work. I like to walk my dog when it’s nice out to clear my head and get back into the right headspace for writing. I also try to write when I am feeling the most inspired, because I am one hundred percent in the moment with that thought or idea. I feel like this is when I do my best writing because I am completely consumed by the story playing out in my mind. Most of the time I get inspired by music and can sit for hours and hours and listen to song after song as I am writing. I write as much as I can as often as I can and while it may be sporadic or unscheduled it works for me.
- Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
- All of it, in my opinion the whole experience of listening to it brought so much more emotion out and so much more appeal for the characters. They become more real and relatable and I can’t thank James enough for the work he put into making my audiobook so great.
- What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
- I really loved audio books as a kid because they essentially taught to me how to read better and how to pronounce words that I didn’t know how to. They helped me understand the tone and get into the story better. I would always get the cassette tapes from the library and then follow along with the physical book. I still listen to them here and there on occasion without the physical books. Some of them are great and others don’t grab my attention as well. It really depends on the narrator. I don’t listen to audiobooks very much anymore, but I do like them.
- What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- Talk to other authors if you can and connect with the writing community, whether it be local or reaching out online. Having the support of other people in the same boat helped me immensely through this process. The knowledge and advice of other readers, writers, and authors is invaluable whether it’s good or bad. Everything helps. Learn as much as you can. Do research on self-publishing and traditional publishing and most importantly READ! To become a good writer, you must first become a good reader.
- Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
- Be diligent in selecting your narrator and make sure they will be a good fit for your book. Also be patient with your narrator, once you have chosen one, because they have a lot more work they have to do behind the scenes than we see or know about. There’s a lot that goes into recording and editing the content in your book. It’s a process and it takes time. It’s not an easy feat by any means and is more than worth it in the end.
- What’s next for you?
- Publishing book two in the August Barton Novella Series titled, The Revelations of August Barton. Once the paperback and ebook are out, James has graciously accepted the task of narrating the audiobook for this one as well. I can’t wait to dig in and get it out there for all the readers and listeners. Once Revelations is released, I plan on doing more author events around where I live and doing some more marketing.
This story was certainly not what I was expecting! I was expecting it to be a little bit crazy, awkward and funny. What I actually got was all that and much, much more. I thoroughly enjoyed this book which at one point had me laughing and ugly crying.
For a relatively short audiobook it certainly contained a full, well penned, funny and emotional story.
Augie starts college and is absolutely dreading it. Especially when he meets his jock room mate. Augie likes Star Wars and has anxiety and panic attacks Isaac is loud and loves to party.
Things take a turn when Augie’s retirement home escaping, proudly ex-prostitute grandmother insists that she and Augie attend one of the college parties where Augie encounters the girl of his dreams and finds out that his gran is really pretty cool (and embarrassing)
While Augie planned to spend college keeping to himself, thanks to his growing relationships (especially with his wonderful grandmother) he actually finds himself, learns coping strategies to deal with anxiety and finds a determination to get the girl.
Throughout this wonderful audiobook we meet Augie’s mum Diane, his grandmothers best friend who is another ex-prostitute called Auntie Toons, a biker gang, and an elite restaurateur amongst other fantastic characters. He finds that first impressions are indeed not reliable and which is highlighted early on when he get to know Isaac a bit better.
This is a funny journey through college life but what ultimately shines through is that it is a story of love, friendship, support and learning to take risks.
I have 1 criticism- sound effects. I hate them in audiobooks and James Oliva is perfectly vesatile enough to not need them. Thankfully there were not too many and I still thoroughly enjoyed Jennifer LeBlanc’s charmingly and skilfully penned, journey.
The narration was brilliantly done with consistent voice characterisation, expressions of mood and situation and along with the hugely talented writing of Jennifer LeBlanc a wonderful talent for bringing the funny and the emotional together seamlessly.
‘Rock on Toons’
(Trust me, if you take the time to listen to this and find out what those three words mean and why they are a wonderful sign off for this review then you will not regret it.)
I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jennifer LeBlanc. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
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