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Name: C.S. MacCath

Tell us a bit about yourself: I’m an American expat living on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, one of the most beautiful islands on Earth and a Gàidhealtachd of the Scottish Gaelic language. My husband Sean and I own a hundred-year-old minister’s manse here and run an enterprise web development company and small press from home. We’re both vegan, and we’re both volunteer wildlife rescuers for a facility in Seaforth, Nova Scotia called Hope for Wildlife.

Tell us about your process for narrating.  (Be as elaborate as you like.): Before I begin recording, I read the piece aloud with attention to vocal inflection and voicing of characters. Key passages and phrases are highlighted during this reading, and each major character’s dialogue is also highlighted with its own, separate color. Then I read through the piece again, focusing on those highlighted passages while I work to establish an overall cadence for the narration.

During recording, I break often, perhaps every page or two. This gives me the opportunity to rest and clear my throat with water so my reading voice remains constant throughout the piece. It’s easy to become fatigued after a few hours of recording, and that affects vocal constancy as well, so I try not to work longer than three or four hours during a session.

Once I’ve recorded the piece, I listen to it carefully for sound artifacts. These are nearly impossible to scrub from a recording, so passages containing them need to be revisited. I also listen for places where my reading was inconsistent or simply didn’t convey the meaning I intended and revisit these as well.

Finally, I splice the recording and listen to it a final time to make certain I haven’t missed anything. For more information on that part of the process, you might read my blog entry: .Recording for Audible ACX – Technical Post

With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? I most certainly think it’s one important future of storytelling, since audio books are a dynamic and convenient way to enjoy the written word. My husband is an audio book fan, and his listening habit takes the place of the reading habit he had as a boy. My own listeners have mentioned they prefer audio books as well. I love them too and always have one on the go.

That said, I believe audio books occupy a place alongside paper books and e-books. Not every reader has the same needs, and I think the publishing industry should continue to meet those needs equitably.

If you are an author, do you produce your own audiobooks or do you prefer to look for an independent narrator? Why have you made this choice? I produce my own audio books; from cover art to narration to digital mastering. In fact, I’m just finishing the remodeling of a small room in my house so that I’ll have a properly sound-attenuated space to record in going forward. It took me roughly a year to build these separate skills, and there was a lot of trial and error, but I prefer to be self-sufficient where I can when it comes to my career. I also enjoy the work quite a bit. It’s a nice creative break from the writing itself.

Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc?) I have mixed feelings about ACX. The technical requirements for self-published audio books are precise, but not onerous, and they need to be what they are in order for listeners to have a quality, distraction-free listening experience. So I have no quarrel with the technical rigor of the process. The web site is easy to use, and I’ve found the ACX support crew consistently helpful when I’ve called them with questions. ACX also provides a number of audio book codes to authors for promotional purposes, which is nice. As for earnings, I’m not excited about the royalties offered to authors who don’t distribute their audio books exclusively through ACX, but I’m not willing to sign a seven-year exclusivity contract for pieces I distribute as an independent author.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I write speculative fiction and poetry, which includes science fiction, fantasy and the occasional bit of Pagan-influenced slipstream. My first collection is entitled The Ruin of Beltany Ring: A Collection of Pagan Poems and Tales and is comprised of work published between 2004 and 2010(ish). I’ve also sold a number of stories and poems since then, which you can find by visiting the “Things to Read” sidebar at csmaccath.com. I’m presently working on a series of science fiction novels entitled Petals of the Twenty Thousand Blossom, for which I’ve written a novel I’m shopping around to agents and publishers right now. I’ve just begun another novel in that series, and I’m planning to pitch a second collection of short fiction to a good small press later on this summer.

Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? I have! But I found as I was writing the character that she diverged from the person quite a bit for the sake of the story. So when I finally did shoot her in the head, she wasn’t much like the woman I derived her from, which is probably for the best. Fictionalizing real people can lead to legal trouble if the fiction resembles the person too plainly.

That said, I’ve extracted character types, motivations and even remembered conversations with difficult people and given them to my fictional villains. I find this humanizes them, which is necessary if you want your bad guys to be more than foils in a story.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I world-build for everything I write, even short stories. In fact, I often begin my research with a vague idea or perhaps just a strong character and allow the world-building to lead me into the story. As for favorite resources, I research so widely that I don’t really have any specific favorites. However, I have taught world-building at science fiction conventions and can offer a few of my own resources to your readers.

The first is a series of blog entries I wrote about constructed languages, or conlangs. You can find the introduction to that series here: ConLangs 101: Introduction. The convention workshop resource sheet on conlang construction can be found here: ConLangs 101 Resource Sheet.

The second and third are resource sheets for two convention workshops: Physical Worldbuilding and Cultural Worldbuilding. These were intended for attendees, so there are a few things in them that might not be relevant to your readers, but there’s some good stuff too.

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? There’s always a message underlying my work. My recent story “N is for Nanomachine” was a look at the ways people choose to approach death. My forthcoming story “C is for Change” is about the way people are broken and what happens when they transcend that brokenness. I write about life, so meaning is important to me.

As for its overall importance, who can say? There are a number of popular speculative fiction writers who specialize in artful prose and poetry that have no underlying message, and their work sells. It reads like cotton candy tastes to me, and I don’t care for that sort of thing, but that’s only because I do care so much about message and meaning. Your mileage may vary.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? I have never, ever commented publicly on a review of my work, and I hope I’m never so far off my game that I do. Very occasionally, I’ve sent a brief ‘thank you’ e-mail to a kind reviewer or mentioned my appreciation for a good review in a blog entry, but that’s it.

Reviews are conversations readers have about writing, and writers should never insert themselves into that conversation when it’s about their own work. This is especially true of negative reviews. Writers don’t live in the heads of their readers, and while some negative reviews are hurtful on purpose, most are just honest expressions of what didn’t work for a reader. That kind of critique can be helpful.

As for importance, I think reviews are important tools for reader discussion, but I think they’re somewhat less important for writers, except as a means for finding out how their work is received and where some skill-building might be in order. That said, I still love it when a reader has something nice to say about my writing. ☺

Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? I just finished The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey, and I have to say that on the whole, it didn’t work for me. However, my favorite novel of the last year was Lexicon, by Max Barry, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all people with a pulse. I’malso following the Saga comic series by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples and love it.

Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. I have a collection of action figures from the Pacific Rim movie, and I play with them.

Where can we learn more about you?

Social Media links:

Blog: csmaccath.com/blog

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ceallaighsmaccath

Twitter: twitter.com/#!/csmaccath

Google+: plus.google.com/+CSMacCath

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