Krissy kneen on the pleasures and challenges of the SPOKEN word

I used to read aloud as a kid. My family of artists always had their hands full painting or making sculptures and our entertainment was to listen to things. Our version of audio-books were old black and white movies that my aunt had taped on her beloved reel-to-reel tape recorder. These were the days before video recordings and the only way to relive a film that had been played on television (by Bill Collins no less) was to record the audio and play it back. But when we had heard the film Miranda about a million times (a film which I have heard but never seen), then it was time for something new. I read books to the family while they worked. Mostly I read science fiction (Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlen) or fantasy (Tolkien or Marion Zimmer Bradley).

Miranda film poster

Last week I got to relive that time of my life when I got the job of reading my own book, The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine which was being recorded for an audiobook. The job took the best part of three days. Three intense, very focused days. I travelled to Risk sound studio in Melbourne, arriving in the dark with my fingers stinging, wishing I had brought gloves. The work was then an intense process of being locked in a small dark padded room with an e-reader to work from and reading the book, drinking lots of water to lubricate my mouth and going back each time I missed a word or lost concentration enough for it to sound less animated.

By the end of each day I was quite exhausted. It takes an awful lot of concentration but it is the same kind of concentration that you use when writing, shutting the world out and focusing only on the words on the page. I soon got into the swing of it and it became a kind of challenge to see how much of the book I could get through in each session, barely pausing for breaks and reading till my eyes gave out 7.5 hours later.

Krissy Audiobook

It is a bit harsh and unforgiving reading your own book aloud. Your own habits are impossible to ignore, and when you have finished writing a book  you don’t really want to ever read your own book again!

Still, I loved having the opportunity to learn a new skill and gain a new experience and it gave me the chance to stay with my good friend, writer Steven Amsterdam and his partner Cory. Spending my post-reading evenings talking books and life with these gentlemen was one of the highlights of the whole experience.


I have just finished the new unpublished manuscript by Amsterdam who won the Age Book of the Year with his first book Things We Didn’t See Coming, and it was so very good that you are all in for a treat in about a year’s time when his next book is finally published.

Best of all I rediscovered my love of reading aloud and my boyfriend will no doubt benefit from this. I plan to read science books to him when it is his turn to cook dinner. I have The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery ready and waiting for our first read-aloud session. What a joy it will be to read someone else’s book aloud for a change.

— Krissy kneen