Production is wrapping up for A Fallen Hero, the first book in the Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series. I’m so excited to take this opportunity to reveal the audiobook cover and introduce you to the narrators with a Q&A interview!
The audiobook project was partially funded by the Indiana Arts Commission as part of their On-Ramp Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator program. A HUGE thank-you to the IAC for this amazing opportunity and the chance to make the audiobook possible! If you’re a creative entrepreneur in Indiana and you’re interested in learning more, please feel free to contact me about On-Ramp. I’d be happy to share my experiences with the program and tell you more about this phenomenal resource!
Now… are you ready to see the audiobook cover?!
About the Audiobook Cover Design
If you’re already familiar with the books, the overall design probably looks familiar, right?
The telltale shadowed half-face and entrancing blue eye on the original cover have become iconic, memorable, and widely recognized when I display my work at shows, so I decided to keep the eerie image of Reese (although I was pressured to do a redesign for a more “typical” (cough-“generic”-cough–cough) fantasy cover… which is a story for another day).
After a lot of stress and weighing the pros and cons of doing a complete redesign and rebrand mid-series, I decided to stick with my gut and stay true to the original design since, after all, I didn’t write a typical fantasy book. A dark, supernatural sci-fan story filled with suspense, danger, torture, brainwashing, etc. deserves a dark cover, even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I know firsthand that it draws people in because it’s happened time and again when my covers are displayed at events. And people remember it once they’ve seen it.
A Fallen Hero‘s audiobook cover maintains the familiarity and intensity of the original design with text updates to accommodate the smaller dimensions and extra names for the narrators. I’m happy with it, and I’m glad I didn’t give in to the pressure to redesign it into another dime-a-dozen fantasy book we’ve all seen a million times on the shelf. Time will tell if I made the right decision from a marketability standpoint by choosing to be atypical.
I often forget to say this (because I forget it’s not the norm), but for those who may not be aware, I create all of the covers, graphics, maps, artwork, and merchandise designs myself. Very few authors can say that! The vast majority outsource to freelancers or agencies rather than creating the art themselves.
However, I’ve built my brand around not only being an author, but also an artist and photographer, which means I’ve created and/or designed just about everything you see on this website or at my events. (I’m very clear about crediting anything I didn’t make myself, like the Old Soul Artisan candles inspired by and named after the book series but created by the talented Harmony Todd.)
My art is just as much a part of my personal brand as my books are. I thoroughly enjoy having the creative freedom to produce my own work in both written and visual form. And I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with different styles ranging from hand-drawn sketches to inked maps, anime-style cartoons, book covers, digital graphics, and merch/apparel designs. Having the ability to create my own covers was a big part of why I chose to become an indie author so my books could be part of my art, not just my writing.
But audio… now that’s a different story! Since I handle just about every aspect of the books myself with the exception of editing and ebook formatting, many people expected me to also handle the narration.
However, I knew I was way too far outside my comfort zone to do it myself and meet the quality standards I wanted. I lacked the training, experience, equipment, quiet space, vocal range, and spare time to give the story justice and truly bring my characters to life in a unique and entertaining way. I wanted a great audiobook, so I knew from the start that I needed to hire professionals and produce it the right way.
Luckily, the IAC grant broke down some of my financial barriers, and then after partnering with Audiobook Empire, I found A.J. and Mia!
I listened to multiple auditions and instantly felt that these two in particular had the greatest potential to tell an engaging story and capture the voices of the characters I’d written. We’re getting closer to the audiobook’s release, and I’m thrilled to formally introduce the narrators to you!
Get to know A.J. and Mia with a Q&A interview and a glimpse of the narrators at work on A Fallen Hero in their recording booths:
Meet the Narrators
Hey, I’m A. J. Shuck. I’m a Narrator, Actor, Father, and Husband. Though not necessarily in that order. LOL!
I’m so excited for this book! I grew up performing, and spent the majority of my summers as a teenager doing summer stock musical theatre. I first started narrating in 2019, and I’ve loved it!
Hi there. I am Mia Hutchinson-Shaw. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I am an actor, narrator, and colorful clothing enthusiast. I am based in New York City. I trained classically at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where I got a BFA in Acting and Interlochen Arts Academy. I create ridiculous and heartfelt characters who possess equal amounts depth and bubbliness. My body of work spans period drama theater Off-Broadway , classical text and Shakespeare Regionally, screen, and now audiobook narration. I love to narrate Middle Grade, YA, Fantasy, Classics, Romance, Literary Fiction, and LGBTQIA+.
When not working as an actor, I am thrifting for my next outrageous, colorful clothing item, getting on my soapbox about low-waste living, or I am adding items to my collection of giant earrings. And if I weren’t busy enough I am an avid hiker and beginner bird watcher.
What Inspired You to Start Narrating Audiobooks?
A.J. – I’ve always had a love of books and reading. And I’ve always loved performing and acting! The marriage of the two in Audiobook Narration was something that I had daydreamed about for years. And one day I had to ask myself the hard question. Would I be content with this just remaining a happy daydream for the rest of my life? The answer was a resounding No. So I started my journey, I saved up to buy my equipment and get some coaching, and I haven’t looked back. I’m happy to say I regret nothing.
Mia – I found narration during the start of 2020, when I was self isolating. It felt like a natural extension of my love of language, my classical acting training, and love of reading.
How Many Books Have You Narrated?
A. J. – This is my 11th book.
Mia – This is my fourth book.
What Is Your Favorite Part About Narrating? Least Favorite?
A. J. – I love doing my prep read through! Really diving into the story and the characters! Deciding how I want to portray certain Characters and narrate certain parts. It’s just creative and fun! I would probably say pick-ups as well. It’s time consuming and I feel like it just shows where I could’ve done better before.
Mia – I love casting the characters! So exciting as an actor to find where each one lives in your body and voice. My least favorite is making misreads and doing pick-ups of the mistakes. It’s tedious!
Do You Have a Favorite Genre or Style?
A. J. – I love YA Fiction/Fantasy. Everything is so vibrant when you are young. You feel everything so intensely the first time! I love tapping into that!
Mia – Currently I have been listening to a lot of Young Adult. I love the playfulness that it allows for performance and yet the complexity of themes in the writing.
What Does Your Routine Look Like When You’re Starting a New Audiobook Project?
A. J. – I always read through the whole book first! I take notes on characters, story points, word pronunciation, and I write out a very brief outline of each chapter. That way I can refer to my notes when recording.
The book reference:
“Kit had proven to be a natural when it came to foraging. She was bringing in most of our food now. When I found a package of stale crackers, Kit showed me up with a whole box of pastries. The ghosts probably didn’t even notice the little kitten raiding their stashes after clowders of cats had scouted the town for her so she knew the best marks to hit.”– A Fallen hero
What’s the Most Rewarding Part of Your Job as a Narrator?
A. J. – I love imagining the listener experiencing the book. I want them to be not only entertained, but inspired.
Mia – The room for curiosity and the excuse to read and read! I also just love working with authors in collaboration to bring the story to life while staying true to the work of the author.
On Average, How Long Does It Take You to Produce One Hour of Audio?
A.J. – It depends on what all I have to do. Just to narrate is usually a 1 to 2 or 2.5 ratio. If I’m doing all the post work it takes between 6-8 hours.
What Advice Would You Give to Someone Who Is Interested in Becoming an Audiobook Narrator?
A. J. – Get coaching! And listen to the old guard narrators! And know that it is a LOT of work! But it is also a LOT of fun! Before you do anything take Sean Pratt’s “So, You Want to be an Audiobook Narrator?” Challenge. Look it up on YouTube!
Mia – Listen to lots of audiobooks. Make your own audiobook from the public domain to make sure Narration is indeed for you before getting hired by an author or publisher. Invest in high quality coaching from experienced narrators and yet be scrappy and creative along the way while you build your booth and gear.
ARE YOU EXCITED about the release of the audiobook for the first novel in the Chronicles of Avilésor series? I know I am! Be sure to follow me on social media for updates, and follow A.J. and Mia too if you’re interested in staying up to date with their journeys and careers. See below for links!
Sara A. Noë (Author)
Buy Me a Coffee: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/saranoe
Monthly Newsletter: https://onthecobblestoneroad.us18.list-manage.com/subscribe/post?u=48228ba9428b827eab521e030&id=dfa715e088
Chronicles of Avilésor (Book Series)
A.J. Shuck (Narrator)