The toughest story I've ever narrated is now live at the horror podcast Cast Macabre.
Why was it so difficult?
"The High Priest", by C. Deskin Rink is gorgeously, lyrically written but wow, were there a lot of words there that I had never said before.
I asked Barry J. Northern, the force behind Cast Macabre for some help with the pronunciations of the names and he connected me with C. Deskin Rink. I love it when I can interact with the writers of the pieces I voice, because I know all of the energy and thought that goes into writing and I want to do what I can to help bring their vision to the listeners.
Well, C. Deskin Rink had a lot of ideas about how "The High Priest" should sound. He sent me a link to another story that was read in the style he envisioned for "The High Priest", as well as a link to "Ankor Sabbat" a story of his podcast on Pseudopod that was set in the same world. I listened to both, and also went through the manuscript and looked up the pronunciations for every word I was unsure of how to say, then wrote them phonetically in the text. That took some time because there were a lot of words I was unsure of how to say! It was the most preparation I've ever done before reading a story.
As is typical for me, I then went through a low period. It's great to have so much input from the writer, but then I worried: Can I pull it off? He obviously cares a lot about how this story should sound and what if I fall short? Also, I write in a fairly uncomplicated style. I don't typically use unusual vocabulary. Would I be able to do his writing justice, as well as make it accessible to the listener?
But when I started recording, all of those doubts went away. True the reading wasn't as smooth as it could have been. I ran out of breath a few times, and stumbled more than I usually do. "Cartilaginous" gave me some trouble, for example! But for the most part, I loved saying all of those gorgeous words. And Barry was able to edit it together so that I sound like the whole thing just flowed off my tongue!
I've always thought of myself as someone who puts story first. Both as a writer and a reader, I want the story to be captivating. The writing hasn't been as important to me. I don't have much patience with weak writing, but usually I prefer the writing to be clear and invisible so that the story can shine through. In the case of "The High Priest", however, the language used and the elaborate style in which it was written, were a thrill to read. I loved doing it. The fact that the story is also intense and awful (this is horror, you understand, so that's a compliment) just made the whole experience all the better.
"The High Priest" is a fullcast production. Abigail Hilton, author/creator of the Guild of the Cowry Catchers (you all know how much I love that story!) voiced Bethany, the protagonist, and Bob Eccles played the part of Arden, the wolfish warrior who helps her.
This story is dark; it's poetic; it was a huge challenge for me to narrate, but I'm so glad I had the opportunity to give it a voice!