The audiobook of The Testament of Mariam has now been recorded in full by Serena Scott Thomas, checked by me – chapter by chapter – a few points amended, and the final version mastered by the sound engineer Élan Polushko. It’s been quite an emotional experience, hearing my own words brought to life by an actress with Serena’s skill. The really compelling aspect of Serena’s work has been that she doesn’t simply read the text, she performs it. She uses different voices for the different characters. She subtly changes Mariam’s voice between youth and age, weakening it as Mariam becomes ill. She varies pace and intensity from violence and high drama to the exuberance of family festivals, to periods of meditation, to moments of spine-tingling mystery.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of the experience has been the response of both Serena and Élan, who kept telling me throughout how much they loved the book, that they looked forward to every recording session, and that they really didn’t want it to come to an end! How wonderful!
Then to my delight and surprise, Serena put this post up on Facebook:
To all of you who love historical fiction here’s an amazing author and book. I have just finished narrating the audiobook of her latest novel “The Testament of Mariam” which is a fascinating and deeply moving portrayal of the boyhood and family life of Jesus, seen through the eyes of his sister Mariam. Narrating this book has been a life changing experience for me, seeing Jesus as a human being and how he related to his family on a day to day basis, really feeling his humanity as he went through his life and execution. The book shines a bright light on the culture and customs of the age and area in which they lived. It has helped me understand a small part the history of the Middle East that is so relevant in today’s world. I recommend that everyone read this book, whatever your culture or faith. It’s a beautiful book in so many ways and I’m so sad that we finished it. I feel as though I am grieving the loss of dear friends….. Thank you Ann Swinfen for giving me this beautiful experience xoxo
What an accolade. I feel so grateful to Serena.
The recording is now going through what Audible calls a ‘brief quality check’, though they say this may take 14 to 20 working days (!?). However, I’m told by others that it may only take a week to 10 days.
I will post an extra blog to let people know once it’s available.
In the meantime you can listen to a five-minute sample here:
The things you have to learn to do in this high-tech age! This is the first time I’ve used SoundCloud, but it seems to work.
The audiobook of Mariam is by far the most exciting thing to report this month. Back to the old-fashioned words on paper (and also on computer screen, to be quite honest).
The first three books in the Christoval Alvarez series are now all available in Kindle and paperback format:
Like other indie authors these days, I find most books sell as Kindles, but I’ve been very gratified to see such a large number of paperbacks selling as well, not only of my recent novels but also my backlist. Myself, although I find Kindles handy, I really prefer ink-and-paper books, as anyone will testify who has tried to cross any room in our house, while doing a slalom between the piles of books on the floor.
My thoughts are now turning to the fourth Christoval book, which will start in July 1589, immediately after Christoval’s return from Portugal. I can see the Bartholomew’s Fair of that August playing a significant part in the story, for reasons which will become clear.
So, as I am deep in the sixteenth century, virtually all my reading lately, both fiction and non-fiction, relates to the period. Having read my way (again) through all eight books of Dorothy Dunnett’s Niccolo series, I’m now reading my way (again) through the six books of the Lymond series. The former series is set, of course, in the fifteenth century, the latter in the sixteenth.
My huge library of books has a major section of reference works on the sixteenth century including:
And many more.
I’ve also been reading several books by Alison Sim on the by-ways of Tudor life – domestic arrangements, women’s lives, games, servants and so forth. I do become cross, however, when I find mistakes, such as her assertion that Henry VIII made a grant to the Royal College of Surgeons. The Royal College of Surgeons did not exist until 1800. In the sixteenth century, physicians like Dr Alvarez and Christoval tended somewhat to look down on surgeons, who were often barber-surgeons. (‘Short back and sides, and pull out that tooth for you, sir?’) Their common nickname of ‘sawbones’ was not without justification. There was a Royal College of Physicians at the time, this being the more respectable profession. You were usually only admitted if you had a degree from the medical faculty of Oxford or Cambridge, the only English universities at the time. There were certain special cases for admission. Christoval cannot gain admission in the normal way, but it’s just possible one of these special cases might apply. Wait and see!
So many readers have asked me to write a sequel to Flood that I am also turning that over in my mind. Certainly Mercy, Gideon, Tom and Alice keep talking to me. And there is a connection – to be revealed at a future date – between the Christoval series and the people in Flood.
Enough about the writing life. In fact most of this month was taken up with family visits – three, one after the other. Exhausting but lovely. As most of our family lives quite a distance away, we have to make the most of these visits. In between the visits, David has been repairing and repainting our Victorian sheds and repairing and repainting the gypsy caravan. I’m tasked with painting the fancy bits. I haven’t started on this yet, but it promises to be very difficult, requiring a sharp eye and a steady hand. This is what it looked like when I bought it.
However, the original paint has flaked badly, not having been very well applied, so a lot of work is required. I just hope the good weather lasts into the autumn. This warm and sometimes damp summer has meant that you have only to blink and courgettes turn into marrows, the spinach shoots skyward, and the slugs and pigeons have eaten everything else in the vegetable garden. Scottish raspberries: good. Scottish plums: poor. Herefordshire damsons and crabapples: good. Usual autumn bottling, freezing and preserving tasks: formidable.
I’m afraid this has been a rather disjointed blog, but it’s been a rather disjointed month. Now I’m just waiting for word from Audible that the audiobook of Mariam is available. Serena and I have agreed that if it breaks even financially, we’ll do Flood next. But probably not in a broad East Anglian accent!
Till next time,