This post will be somewhat spoilery for anyone who has yet to read Ravensong and very spoilery for anyone who hasn't read Wolfsong. (But, if you haven't read Wolfsong, what are the chances you're reading this in the first place?)
A week ago, I started recording the audiobook for TJ Klune's Ravensong, the sequel to Wolfsong and the second book in the Green Creek series. I immediately got on social media to complain about the time jumps that occur throughout the first few chapters of Ravensong. Wolfsong already contained a cast of dozens of characters who would be returning in the sequel, and there are, of course, a few new people who show up.
"But what's the big deal?" you may ask. "Didn't a bunch of people bite the big one in Wolfsong? At least you won't have to narrate those voices anymore." True, but that's before TJ decided it would be fun to tell Gordo's story in both the present AND the past. Not only does everyone from Wolfsong return, but they also have to sound like a childlike version of themselves in flashbacks to Gordo's youth. And a whole slew of people who have barely been referenced are now speaking to Gordo.
But just wait! The flashbacks don't end there! The first third of the novel is also a flashback to the three years in which Joe, Carter, Kelly & Gordo leave Green Creek. And, believe it or not, that's where my biggest challenge in Ravensong has come.
When I read Wolfsong for the first time, Thomas' voice was so clear to me. He was regal and powerful and grounded, and I wanted him to sound like James Earl Jones. Sadly, I'm a white guy from Wisconsin, so that wasn't going to happen. Still, I tried to give his voice some gravitas and depth that would communicate that he is the Alpha with a capital A. After Thomas'death (I warned you there'd be spoilers) when Joe becomes alpha, I thought it made sense that his voice would reflect that change. Joe leaves shortly after becoming alpha and returns three years later. There was a golden opportunity to have his voice age "off screen." Joe at 17 = adolescent kid. Joe at 21 = Alan Rickman. No further explanation required.
Me: *receives the first email from TJ describing the structure of Ravensong*
Also me: Shit.
So after agonizing about how to age Joe in the first novel from child to adult and being so grateful for the one shortcut TJ gave me, I would now have to find the appropriate way to age him during that three-year hiatus in Ravensong. What is a narrator to do?
Well, I'll tell ya. (If you want to be surprised, skip to the next paragraph.) I decided it would be too jarring to have Joe adopt his alpha voice immediately, so for the first year on the road, I tried to keep his voice still sounding like teenage Joe because...well...he would still be a teenager. Beginning in the second year, he sounds more like adult Joe. I worried about this for a while before I realized, "Wait a minute. There isn't a right answer for this. I made all of this up. Essentially, I'm the world's foremost expert on pubescent alpha voice changes in the Green Creek universe." And then I decided to write a blog about it, and...well, now we're all here.
In addition to figuring out Joe's voice, I also have young Thomas AND Abel Bennett to throw in the alpha voice mix. All the fucking alphas. All of 'em!
I don't want to make it seem like recording Ravensong has been a constant struggle. In many ways, it's a relief and a joy to revisit these characters. Elizabeth, especially, has been a source of comfort and strength as I record. When I'm beating myself up for not nailing a line or getting frustrated by the endless motorcyclists that frequent the road I live on, it's her voice that whispers to me, "It's all right. You're doing a good job. Just tell the story."
I also enjoyed dipping my toe into the pond from which Michael Lesley draws his character voices. When I listen to the Verania series, I get so jealous of 1) Michael's immense talent and seemingly effortless ability to produce an endless list of zany characters and 2) the fact that the characters in Verania get to be zany and broad and hilarious. (Can you imagine a Gary or a Kevin or that one guard from the gypsy town -- you know the one I mean -- popping up in Green Creek? It just wouldn't work.) But in Ravensong, TJ gives me the gift of a few eccentric witches that allow me to take some slightly broader swings with character voices, and I'm loving it.
In summation, at the end of week one, I'm feeling pretty good. So far, I've managed to stay on schedule (I'm jinxing myself just writing that) and there have been several times when I've had to take a break to giggle or let a tear fall. I'm getting to work on a really great book, and I'm so fortunate to be doing this work I love with material that's so fulfilling.
And we'll see how I feel next week...