“We need the find the balance. A switch we can turn between, “Hot Mess Therese” and “Professional Hot Mess Therese.”
That’s a paraphrase of tonight’s advice from my mentor, when I called to tell him that, with still a month to go before Unmentionable’s release, shit’s getting real and my tummy hurts.
I’ve been invited to go on a local morning program in a few weeks. That’s new. Lots of interviews and podcasts…but TV? “Local” I think means “serving all of Oregon.” This is unfortunately timed, as my usual oblivious and precedent-lacking confidence that I am, as my husband says, both the tits AND the gravy, is low.
I told them, a year ago. “I have a speech impediment. My tongue is tied to the bottom of my mouth, and further more, it has no tip. I was born with no tongue tip.” But none the less I found myself back in the exquisite arms of Digital One recording studio in Portland, this time with a PDF of my entire book before me, trying to record the audio version of my book. One that you might listen to in your car during your commute, or on your daily jogs.
On Monday, I recorded about five hours of dialog into the most sensitive and hateful microphone on the planet. An engineer sat outside my booth, and the book’s audio director Skyped in from Los Angeles.
Tips for Massacring an Audio Book
When you need to repeat a sentence, you find the last comma or period and say, “Pick up” into the microphone, so the editors will know to erase and replace. If you’ve got a word you can’t pronounce because it is an ancient form of medical Latin used by 19th century blowhards trying to sound smart while making you feel bad about your nocturnal emissions, that’s ok. The director keeps a talking dictionary open on his computer, which can tell you the right way to pronouce “Spermatorrhoea.”
The problem is, when your voice actor, me, can’t even pronounce “vulvar” (an ‘L’ and an ‘R’ THAT close together? That’s absolute tongue acrobatics. No matter how many times the two men helping her record keeping intonating “VUL-var. VUL-var. VUL VAR!” into her headphones.) She can’t pronounce “Orgasming” either because she keeps saying Orgasminaning because her brain insists that’s just better. To the point a frustrated engineer writes it out phonetically and lays it on your little music stand. Then add to that any word with more than one S, TH, F, R, L, or ending in “ably.” This dialog results:
Me: “Sponge baths are a popular opshun, but not the kind of lucksyurees….ug, pick up….but not the kind of luckszzzzurius…luh… (director over headphones “lux-ur-ee-us.”) luhxureeus sponge baths admishterd…pick up…administurd (director: “take it from ‘but not the kind…'”)….audible sigh and moan from me…then spoken with exasperating quickness, “Butnotthekindof…lux…urr…ee…ohs…spongebathsadminishterd…” (bang pinkie against music stand while gesticulating a strangling motion…Director: “Wait…you hit the stand again I think. Take it from “But not the kind….”)
Now, even if my voice was an angel’s choir, an editor would still have to go through 15 hours of recording, and REMOVE every mis-spoken word, slur, asthmatic pant, and groan, and try weave together the remnants into something that wouldn’t cause an innocent jogger to fall into a ditch when they rip their earbuds off in aural shock.
But hey, who can read my book better than me, right?
The first day’s audio found it’s way back to the Little, Brown audio producers Tuesday. After recording that day I checked my email. My agent, who is so very delicate and kind, thank god, had written me. She said…the producers at LB were having trouble with….the microphone…in that studio’s booth. And that just to save time they were thinking of hiring a profession voice actress.
The microphone. Yes. And the reason it was too sensitive to effectively record my audio was because THEY TURNED IT ON. I wasn’t too upset…I had heard playback.
I sounded like Daffy Duck and Sylvester the Cat had a baby and it was on meth.
But it was the first time in the past year anyone in my publication team had suggested I was not the most recent incarnation of the goddess Nike, bastion of VICTORY!
Today I got audition tapes of voice actors reading my book. I sat in my shed and laughed hard. Oh wow. Oh wow that’s how it was supposed to sound! I am delighted.
Then the invitation for the morning show appeared though my publicist. With the same casualness she uses to tell me I’ve been reviewed by Library Journal and they think the book is quite nifty.
Look, I know who I am. I know what I’m good at. I mean, I know the singular activity which I am good at. It’s sitting on my ass in this shed and typing. I am the antithesis of public persona.
My face, body, height, scowl, slur, weight, apathy and inability to SHUT UP are of no discomfort to me in this shed-life. But they are a vicious piercing insult to people who expect public entertainment.
“Book? Yeah. Wrote a book. Are those donuts back there in the green room from Voodoo Donuts? They’re sooo overrated. Honestly, Safeway donuts, just as good. You folks are throwing your donut money away. Now. Vaginas. Whaddya wanna know? But let me tell you, I’m a little high right now cuz I was nervous so…I only remember like two things from my book. Smash my nards, madam, can you tell that guy not to point that camera directly in my face? It’s UNNERVING.”
My mentor Chris is going with me to a booksellers convention this weekend. One where I have to song and dance my book, make it rain swag nipple pasties and chocolate tea tins all over booksellers from Alaska to Montana. But that is at least in person. The drive is long so I plan to listen to his wise council, as I have for the past five years. I’m heartened that he thinks there could be a “Hot Mess Switch.”
I haven’t found it in 38 years. But…we best keep looking.