Creating an Audiobook: An Interview with Ben Burnes

cover color final with title(1)Once again, I’m reaching out to Ben Burnes for a second interview. Graciously, he accepted this offer because to say that Ben is busy may be an understatement: in addition to creating his own releases and video game soundtracks, he has just finished reading and producing an audiobook titled A Cat Will Play.

So, let’s just jump into this…

M. Duda: Ben, welcome back. This is your second interview on this site. You’ve become a regular…

Ben: I’m happy you let me be a regular! A blog is like someone’s home; at this point, you’ve basically let me crash on your couch indefinitely. Plus, it’s always fun to write something about creativity each month, and helps keep me thinking about it.

M. Duda: You just finished production of an audiobook. Lots of late nights. Bet you’re glad you can finally get some sleep.

Ben: I can’t say it was a lot of late nights, most of it was just very intense afternoons after work. This was my first audiobook recording, so it was a learning process for me. I made a lot of mistakes that cost time re-recording and editing everything.

I’m looking forward to doing another audiobook. A Cat Will Play took me almost two solid weeks of recording and editing. I think I could probably do it in 4 days now.

M. Duda: So, can you describe your experience? What is production of an audiobook like?

Ben: Overall it was a great experience! I was forced to stretch my vocal chords on many occasions to do multiple voices, which was fun and an interesting challenge. The entire process was frustrating at times, but only because I was learning the best process as I go.

Producing an audiobook is not super glamorous. You take the script and a method of recording into a quiet room and then you speak a ton of words until your voice starts to give out. Then you take that recording and edit out mistakes and breaths. Once I do more books and get the process refined down I might work more actively on recording with the laptop up and editing mistakes as I make them.

M. Duda: I hope you didn’t find this effort too challenging. <laughs> Did you enjoy the production experience?

Ben: Yeah, it was a great time! There were some low points, like when I realized the first half of a story had to be scrapped album_do_this_justicedue to background noise. But in the end, re-recording helped create a much better quality story to listen to.

M. Duda: It does seem like a great learning experience. What was your favorite story to work on?

Ben: Definitely “Cosmo’s Tale.” While it was not only a challenge to work with a story so long (over 12,000 words, definitely the longest story I’ve ever done), it also had multiple characters to voice that were outside my normal speaking voice. About 90% of the characters voiced were female and many of them were children. It was a fun challenge to find voices that were distinct and had enough character. Snotty Toddy was a lot of fun to voice too.

M. Duda: Did you have any issues or complications while producing the story?

album_thirteen_is_my_favorite_primeBen: The main issue I had was my recording environment. I had used my shed outside for much of this, which offered a quiet environment most of the time. However, while recording the first half of “Cosmo’s Tale,” there was a lot of traffic noise from my street and neighbors mowing. I thought the walls blocked enough of it and that I could process out the rest, but I was wrong. It happens.

I learned from my mistakes though and the rest of the story was recorded in the basement. There is the danger of nosy cats sometimes, but it’s dead quiet down there when I turn the furnace off.

M. Duda: Keeping track of everything—like the manuscript changes, the edits, the production notes—must have been a challenge. Did you use a collaboration tool to guide the project?

album_just_drive_mixtape_ostBen: Through most of the production, we used email to correspond back and forth. But later in the process I suggested we move over to Trello because of its ability for us to submit and track changes that need to be made to various sections of the book.

M. Duda: I’ve got to admit, I’ve never used Trello until you introduced me to it. I was surprised by how accessible the application is…

Ben: It’s definitely a neat productivity tool! I used it pretty much every day.

M. Duda: Do you use Trello for other projects?

Ben: Yeah! Mainly I track my major projects on it. I try to set deadlines for myself on when these projects should be finished. I don’t always hit my goals, but having that reminder up saying “This project piece is 3 days overdue” is a great way to get in gear and start working.

Currently my Trello houses current music projects, and a bunch of game ideas for when I start doing more game development stuff later this year.album_torn_ost

M. Duda: I can understand why you continue to use it. You’ve made a believer out of me.

Ben: That’s great! Some productivity tools work better for some people that others. Like some people swear by Evernote, but I could never get a grasp on it.

I still make physical to-do lists for daily tasks or what I should do over the course of a weekend. Sitting down with a pen and paper helps cement these tasks into my head and I’ve found that it really helps me get these things done.

M. Duda: I won’t take up more of your time. To wrap up, do you have any last minute words for readers?album_the_makers_eden_act1

Ben: Don’t worry about it! I’m always happy to chat with people. Being creative is quite the solitary craft at times. I’m glad the Internet and Twitter (@ben_burnes) are around to help offer social interaction.

The best advice I have is to be mindful of what you’re doing and keep at your projects! Having a solid plan that stretches out a few months really helps guide what you should do in your free time. And don’t forget to have some leisure time in there too! Burning out is a real thing and it sucks.

M. Duda: Thanks, Ben!

Ben: You’re welcome, Michael. Have a great day.

It was great of Ben to take this time for another interview. If you’ve enjoyed reading it, you can learn more about his work at www.abstractionmusic.com . Be prepared to be intrigued: Ben likes to see the world as his musical canvas: the situations life throws at us become the form and color of a song or tune. He drums to his own digital beat, which he shares on his albums.

If you are interested in A Cat Will Play, you can find the book in three formats here:

@Audible.com: http://tinyurl.com/pvpuzlj
@Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/qyfpw24

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