Showcase // The Pain Colony by Shanon Hunt
How did you select your narrator?
I found Erin simply by listening to voice after voice on the Audible samples. I had to hear a hundred before I found her, but she was perfect. Her vocal range was just what I needed for my frightened and emotionally frayed female main characters, and I loved the real drama she puts into her “woman in distress.” She’s an amazing actor. Her reading of Allison in the final chapters of the book still gives me chills! And when Erin brought Noah to the table, for the idea of dual recording, which I hadn’t considered, I was overjoyed! They have a wonderfully complementary style. Noah reads my hardened, cynical cop perfectly.
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?
Since this story is a science/medical thriller, we did talk about science. While I tried to avoid jargon in my exposition sections, I had a bit in the dialogue, which is naturally how a scientist would talk about his work. So, I recorded pronunciations and we had some discussions about a scientist (especially a young, smart one) who would talk about his/her work. For example, one of my scientists is a 21-year-old Ph.D. genius. He explains DNA and genetic editing with the same casualness as my own 20-year old might talk about a movie or a video game.
How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
For me, it’s a momentum thing. It’s hard to get started, but once I’m about 30% into the story, and my characters have turned into real people in my mind, I tend to look forward to the next chapter. I don’t write an outline, so each new scene is also new to me, and I get excited to see what’s happening next, the same as a reader would. And as the story starts to take form, I begin talking to my family about it (bringing my work home, so to speak), and talking about the characters as if they’re people I work with. “Layla’s in trouble, and I don’t know how to help her out of this bind…” The more real they become to me (and my poor suffering family) the more excited I get to writing the next scene.
Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
Yes! I absolutely love audiobooks because I take a two-hour hike with my dog every day. Sometimes I get so lost in the story, I get lost in the woods. More than once I’ve had to say to my dog, “Sydney, let’s go home,” to have her point us in the direction of where I parked the car.
Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
The last 25% of the story gets really intense as the characters all come together at the Colony. As the race is on, the chapters become short and intense, moving quickly back and forth between the main characters. Listening to the story on audio, as the narrator changes quickly between Erin and Noah, is so dramatic! I think the audio format brings something extra to the story as it progresses to the climax.
What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
I’ve never liked this argument. Reading – especially fiction – engages the creative mind, and that can happen by reading the words on the paper or listening to them spoken, because the imagery is not provided in either format. The point is to allow the reader/listener to create the world and characters in a way that resonates with that individual, making them an active participant in the story. TV and movies are different, however. The imagery is created for the viewer, making them a passive participant in someone else’s story. (Not that there’s anything wrong with TV/movies, it’s just engaging the mind in a different way.)
How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
Much to my surprise, finishing a novel isn’t quite so black-on-white. I had expected a big celebratory moment. But the story came together in pieces. I wrote the last chapter very early in the book. I never typed “The End.” And once the story was finished, I rewrote it. (I rewrote it four times in total, with feedback from my editor.) So, it was about six months in the “finishing” stage. I can’t say I ever felt a moment that was worthy of an “open the champagne” except perhaps the day the book was published. And even then I was such a nervous wreck, I couldn’t enjoy anything. 🙂
Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?
Nearly every single night. I’m not exaggerating. I dream about my characters more than the real people in my life, and it’s a little unsettling to me. But then again, I daydream about my characters all day long. And I worry about them. And I scheme to make their lives bad, and I study up on new tricks to help them fix it. And I feel all their emotions. I cry when they cry. I simply spend way more time with my imaginary people, so – as creepy as it sounds – I’m just way closer to them.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently writing the last chapters of the sequel to The Pain Colony, which includes three point-of-view characters: Nick Slater, an investigative journalist, Josie Finley, a nineteen-year-old pregnant woman living in a fundamentalist town, and of course…Layla, a leader within the Colony. I’m super excited to keep the Colony world alive!
Runs Dec. 5th-12th | Open internationallyThe Pain Colony Giveaway: $50 Amazon Gift Card
As a former pharmaceutical executive of 15 years, Shanon Hunt has firsthand experience with cutting edge medical advances. But it wasn’t until she took an interest in CRISPR and the near-future implications of genetic engineering that she became inspired to write a suspense thriller.
When she’s not plotting her next story, she enjoys being tormented by her frisbee-obsessed Australian Shepherd, hiking the wilds of northern New Jersey, and canyoneering in southern Utah with her husband, Steve. She lives in suburban New Jersey with Steve and their two teenage sons, Nick and Ben.
Erin deWard is an Audie Award-winning audiobook narrator and a classically trained stage actor. She is a long-time company member of The Strange Bedfellows, a Rockland County, NY based Shakespeare company and can be found directing, assisting another director, or on the lighting board for The Children’s Shakespeare Theatre in Rockland County, NY. She also directs English Language dubbing for IDC in New York. Erin has been working in the field of Audio Description (media accessibility for people who are blind) as a writer, voice talent, advocate, and trainer for over a decade. She is a proud and grateful member of SAG/AFTRA.
Family lore has it that, when I was three years old, my parents took my two older brothers and me on a vacation to Puerto Rico. At some point during the sojourn, my parents … well … they lost me on the beach. After searching, frantically, (Or not, as the case may be. I mean, they DID lose me in the first place.) they found me in the hotel bar, sitting on a hooker’s lap, telling a story to a sailor. And THAT is when my life in performance & yarn-spinning began.
The rest of my life has pretty much followed suit. Telling stories and becoming characters. I have over 40 years of experience as a stage, film/TV actor and singer/songwriter/musician. And now, with over 325 audiobook titles, I’m so passionate about this industry – a medium that allows me to be immersed, for hours and hours, in wonderful characters and their tales. I’m grateful for the authors, narrators, & production companies with which I work and so thankful for all the listeners!
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