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June 6, 2012

David Maraniss on Recording his Upcoming Audiobook, BARACK OBAMA: The Story

David Maraniss, an associate editor at The Washington Post and fellow of the Society of American Historians,is the author of critically acclaimed bestselling bookson Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi, Vietnam and the sixties,Roberto Clemente, and the 1960 Rome Olympics. He wonthe 1993 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Clinton, waspart of the Post team that won the 2007 Pulitzer for coverageof the Virginia Tech tragedy, and has been a Pulitzer finalistthree other times. He lives in Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife, Linda.
How long did it take you to record your book?
It took me seven long days, six or seven hour days, to record 235,000-plus words.

How did you keep your voice “in shape” during the recording sessions?
I have a wheezy, asthmatic voice to begin with, so keeping it "in shape" is a relative term. I followed as best I could the instructions of my daughter Sarah, who is an actress and drama teacher. She taught me how to sit, how to use my nasal passages and diaphragm so I wouldn't get too worn out. I would drink tea also.

What word(s) did you stumble over?
Lord knows this book had plenty of words that could trip me up. At various points I had to read words that were native Hawaiian, Luo, Swahili, Bahasa Indonesia, French. And of course English. It is often not so much the word itself as the combination of syllables that can be the most tongue-tripping.
What did you enjoy about the recording experience?
What I enjoyed about it was also what was most exasperating about it. I enjoyed seeing how the words and sentences and paragraphs could flow together when it was working, and I cringed a few times at the awkwardness of certain sentences that became apparent only when read aloud.

Did your book “feel” different to you as you read it?
The book did not feel different. To me writing is all about rhythm and flow, so I tend to write as though it is to be read aloud.
For authors who have had more than one book recorded: Did the experience of recording your audiobook change your writing process for your next book?
Maybe for my NEXT book. I'll write shorter. No, not really.

Did you imagine any voices for your characters while you were creating them for the page?  If so, what was it like trying to create those voices in the recording studio?
It would have been dangerous for me to try to do so. I couldn't replicate the deep Paul Robeson-style voice of Barack Obama's father, and to try would not have worked. President Obama himself, in recording his memoir, employed a variety of voices to great effect, but I didn't try to do that.

Do you like to listen to audio yourself?  If yes: where do you listen?  What types of books do you listen to?  Do you have any favorite narrators?
I listen to audiobooks when we are driving out to our summer house in Madison every year, and on the way back. It is a great way to spend a few days, lost in a story (but hopefully still paying attention to the road). Stanley Tucci read one book that we greatly enjoyed. And there is always, when you want the voice of God, David McCullough.