I am thrilled to have Susannah Sandlin visiting today, she’s one of my very favorite guests to have on the blog. Susannah has a new book out (yesterday!) and I listened to the audio version and posted about it Monday, April 4.
Haven’t you always wondered if and how an author chooses a narrator for a book? Susannah tells us how she had to take some different factors into consideration with this new book. There’s a giveaway form at the end – you definitely want to check it out!
Audio, Meet South Louisiana
The first hint to my publisher that I was overly preoccupied with the audiobook of WILD MAN’S CURSE was probably the pronunciation guide I sent my editor and the audiobook producer. Make that the first pronunciation guide. There were two. There might have been a few emails as well.
I’d never had any input into the audiobooks of my novels before, had never asked to be involved (which, in retrospect, was kind of dumb) and, to be honest, I have only listened to one of them. It felt totally bizarre to hear the words I’d written, read by someone else. It kind of creeped me out.
But WILD MAN’S CURSE was different. It is set in my favorite part of the country, South Louisiana—specifically, in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. The accent south of I-10 in the Louisiana parishes (i.e., counties) west of New Orleans is like no other. It draws from the cultural mix of the place, Cajun and Creole and Southern and indigenous Native American tribes. Not to mention the influences of shrimping and mud and sinking land and rising water. I knew I’d never be able to show my face in South Louisiana again, much less in the river parishes where some of my extended in-laws live, if things weren’t pronounced right—“right,” as in “not the way they look.”
I was sent a few audio files to listen to, with actresses reading from a section of the book, and knew right away that Elizabeth Godley was the one. She wasn’t heavy-handed with the accent, but it struck me as authentic for the characters—and I later found out the young actress is a Louisiana native.
Yes, I have listened to it. It wasn’t as creepy as I expected. LOL.
The original language of South-Central Louisiana was French; now, I doubt many native speakers of French would recognize the Cajun version that remains and is actually enjoying a resurgence with several French-immersion schools.
But there are still a great many recognizable words and the French heritage has resulted in some unexpected pronunciations. Since French vocabulary does not have a “th” opening sound, English words that begin with “th” are either pronounced with a hard “T” or a “d.” So the town of Thibodaux is pronounced “TIB-uh-doe” and you’ll hear some of the older folks say “dis” and “dere” and “dese” instead of “this” and “there” and “these.” Many also pronounce words that end with “er” with an “ah.” Thus, “water” becomes “wat-ah.” (Just to confuse things, “bayou” is sometimes pronounced “bye-yah.” I can’t explain that one.)
Just in case you’re reading instead of listening, however, here’s a brief pronunciation guide to the world of South Louisiana and WILD MAN’S CURSE.
Terrebonne (TER-uh-bone) Parish is the territory covered by the team of wildlife enforcement agents featured in the Wilds of the Bayou series, of which WILD MAN’S CURSE is the first. Wildlife enforcement agents are the law-enforcement arm of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Just in case you want to think of them as “game wardens,” by the way, you might want to know they have paramilitary training to prep them for working in harsh conditions and they have full powers of the law. Yes, a game warden can arrest you for speeding on the interstate. Just try it!
The towns and communities in the parish include: Montegut (MON-tuh-gue), Chauvin (SHOW-van), Houma (HOE-muh), Dulac (DOO-lack), Isle de Jean Charles (ILL-a-zhan-chal), Pointe-aux-Chenes (Point-a-Shayne), and Cocodrie (CO-cuh-dree)…the latter being French for “alligator.”
Character names: Broussard (brew-SARD); Savoie (SAH-voy); Billiot (BILL-yot); Doucet (“doo-CET”).
Want to hear what the real natives sound like? Here’s a great film (will open in a new window) of about eight minutes made by National Geographic on Isle de Jean Charles.
Want to win your own copy of the WILD MAN’S CURSE unabridged audiobook? Just use the Rafflecopter form and leave a comment here on the blog —which word’s pronunciation was the biggest surprise? Giveaway is international, you must be at least 18 years of age to enter, and a winner will be drawn on Monday, April 11. Susannah will be sending the prize.
Please make a meaningful, relevant and civil comment.