Every year, I stare at the scratch marks for more than an hour. They’re on the “ceiling” of the MRI at Aim Medical Imaging, in Vancouver, B.C. Since getting cancer in 2009, I’ve had an MRI every year.  If I weren’t drugged, I might last 5 seconds.  And yeah, I’ve tried it.  Several times. Rodeo cowboys last longer on bulls than I can last in an MRI.  That’s why I’m always drugged before entering the tube. At one point, I used to require general anesthesia. I’ve even tried to bite and claw my way out when I woke up halfway through. Those scratch marks, I imagine, came from a guy like me.
So my wife wasn’t convinced that I could sit in a small closet and record my audio book, Balance. And she was right.  But not for the reason you might expect.
My publisher got us in touch with a US-based audiobook producer called Twin Flames. They recommended specific recording equipment, so Pele rushed off to Best Buy to buy what we needed.  Then she bought special padding and draped clothes around me in the tiny closet of her mother’s beach house, where I would record the book. She had already gone over the entire manuscript, taking out sections such as, “As shown in Table 3.2” and replacing words like “saw” or “shown” with “hear” or “heard.” We had to look up every name I referenced, and every place, to make sure I pronounced them correctly.
And when I convinced her that I could handle the closet, we were ready to go.  With the producer, Twin Flames, I was scheduled to read for about 40 minutes a day. Their voice coach listened to every word while I recorded it. As he explained, several paragraphs would need to be re-recorded if there were an Internet connection glitch. He was hundreds of miles away, so we didn’t have to share the same closet.  If we had, I definitely would have bit him.
If I could read with machine-like precision (which no human can) I could have recorded the book in about seven days. But editing would be required.  And audio book readers always have to re-record sections. In total, I would need to spend about 3 months in the vicinity of that closet. After all, I couldn’t record one chapter in my closet and a second chapter in your closet.  The sound would be different. In fact, the Twin Flames producer could hear things I couldn’t.  “What’s that white noise?” he would ask.  “What white noise?” I replied.
My wife and I are location-independent.  That means, we didn’t want to stay in the same spot for three months.  It was already October…and getting cold, so we were planning to fly to Panama for the winter. After researching several recording studios in Panama, we finally realized recording my own audiobook wouldn’t be practical. At the time, I was really disappointed.
Ironically, it costs slightly less to hire a professional reader to work with Twin Flames than if I had recorded it myself. The audiobook company asked me what kind of reader I was looking for.  I wanted someone relatively young, but not too young.  I wanted someone expressive, but not crazy. They auditioned several readers, and then Twin Flames narrowed them down to their favorite five.  At that point, they sent me recordings of each of them reading my book’s introduction.
I’m what psychologist Barry Schwartz calls, a satisficer.  For example, when I’m looking at a restaurant menu, if I see something amazing listed on the first page, I won’t flip to the second page. I’ll just pick the first great thing I see. I can’t really sample all the food anyway, so there’s an unknown variable that I don’t waste my time with.
The third narrator I heard was John Harrison Gass. And that was it.  He was my man. I thought he was great. My wife (the opposite of a satisficer) listened to every other reader sixty-two times. I never exaggerate.
In the end, she chose John too.
Today, the audio book gets released.  You can hear an Amazon sample here.
I think John did a much better job than I could have.
And I doubt he’s the sort of guy who would freak out during an MRI scan.