Author: Trudie Skies
Narrator: RJ Bayley
Length: 19 hours and 22 minutes
Series: The Cruel Gods, Book 1
Producer: Audiobook Empire
Publisher: Trudie Skies
Released: May 16, 2022
Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy
WHEN THE SAINTS FAIL, THE SINNERS STEP UP. Cruel gods rule the steam-powered city of Chime, demanding worship and tribute from their mortal subjects. Kayl lost her faith in them long ago, and now seeks to protect vulnerable and downtrodden mortals from their gods’ whims. But when Kayl discovers powers that she didn’t know she had—and destroys a mortal’s soul by accident—she becomes Chime’s most wanted. Quen’s job was to pursue sinners, until the visions started. Haunted by foreboding images of his beloved city’s destruction, Quen hunts soul-sucking creatures made of aether who prey on its citizens—and Kayl is his number one target. To ensure Chime’s future, Kayl and Quen must discover the truth of Kayl’s divine abilities before the gods take matters into their own hands. For a city that bows to cruel gods, it’ll take godless heathens to save it. The Thirteenth Hour is the first book in The Cruel Gods series—a gaslamp fantasy featuring magical portals, gothic cosmic deities, quaint Britishisms, and steampunk vibes. This is an adult book containing strong language and mature themes that some listeners may find disturbing. For a full list of content warnings, visit Trudie Skies’s website.
Trudie Skies has been living inside fantasy worlds ever since she discovered that reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Through the magic of books, she wishes to share these worlds of hope and heroes with other weary souls. Living in North East England, Trudie spends most of her free time daydreaming about clouds, devouring whatever fantasy books or video games she can get her hands on, and chasing after her troublesome dogs, who would like to reassure you they are very good boys. Her debut YA fantasy series, Sand Dancer, was published through Uproar Books. Trudie is now writing adult gaslamp fantasy with her new series, The Cruel Gods.
Q&A with Author Trudie Skies
- Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
- I’m still completely new to audiobooks, though I’ve written technically five books by now, three of them published. I’d been aware of how popular audiobooks are and how much more accessible they are for certain readers. But I was also aware of how expensive they can be to produce. I didn’t think creating an audiobook would be on the cards for The Thirteenth Hour, at least not within the first year of its release, but then a friend introduced me to RJ Bayley, who explained the process in a way that sounded possible.
- With RJ’s advice and guidance, we created a contract and signed up to Audiobook Empire. From the author side, there wasn’t much I needed to do, which freed my hands to let RJ do all the hard work while I kept on writing!
- And then one day, BAM! The audiobook was done! And it was divine.
- Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?
- Nah, I think all fictional books have the potential to be amazing audiobooks, but it comes down to the narrator, and how they bring that world and its characters alive. Though even non-fiction books would benefit a reader who needs, say, a cookbook that can be narrated.
- Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
- Honestly, it wasn’t something I thought about when writing, though the writing style of The Thirteenth Hour is well suited to narration, I think, due to the first-person voice throughout. The only difficulty comes with voices that the characters may be hearing inside their heads, but RJ managed that, and the other races, really well with differing voices and accents.
- How did you select your narrator?
- A good friend of mine from the blogging community recommended RJ! At the time, I hadn’t been seriously considering doing an audiobook, but many bloggers had wonderful things to say about RJ and his talents. We shared a few DM’s on Twitter where RJ went over process with me, as I was still new to audiobooks. RJ was so friendly to talk with, that I thought screw it, let’s do it! And that’s one of the best YOLO’s I’ve ever done!
- How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
- RJ has an incredibly detailed guide on how he creates his audiobooks and what would be helpful for me as an author to send over, such as descriptions of my characters, what they may sound like, as well as the theme and tone of the book and any playlist which accompanies it. I sent him over a detailed description of the various characters and races from The Thirteenth Hour in return!
- Because The Thirteenth Hour has twelve unique races and gods, I described what their personalities were like, and then gave RJ the freedom to go wild with their voices and accents. He has an impressive range of voices, and I was blown away by the finished version!
- Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
- I take a lot of inspiration from video games. The Thirteenth Hour is set within an Edwardian British-inspired world, and I’ve tried to fit in as many Britishisms as I could, almost aggressively so. There’re a few specific references to things like Mr Kipling and the London Underground.
- How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
- I play a lot of video games! Probably too many. As I mentioned above, video games are a source of inspiration for me – The Thirteenth Hour has elements from Final Fantasy and The Elder Scrolls – but games are also a way to relax.
- Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
- What I love about audiobooks is the ability to listen while working or doing housework, which instantly makes both far more enjoyable.
- Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
- Yes! I can’t say for spoilers, but toward the end of the book, things start getting emotionally intense, and RJ’s performance really brought those emotions to life that I think sounds better through his performance than my written word.
- Also, there is a scene where a character sings really badly. Words can only do so much to capture the awfulness of that singing, but RJ, being a professional, really delivered!
- What’s next for you?
- Right now, I’m finishing up the sequel to The Thirteenth Hour, which is called The Children of Chaos. Then I’ll be launching into the third and final book of the trilogy, though I expect I will be writing stories within this world for years to come. Join me in Chime!
Q&A with Narrator RJ Bayley
- How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?
- I completely stumbled into it. I was working a normal job before I got chronically ill and was diagnosed with diabetes. That made my depression incredibly bad and I went through some psychosis. I had to go off work long-term sick and eventually lost my job. The next few months were spent applying for jobs I didn’t really want and then, also-depressingly, getting rejected for them anyway. It was my wife who mentioned a friend of hers narrated audiobooks through ACX. Doing community radio, I had a microphone and knew my way around Audacity so I gave it a shot. I got the first or second book I auditioned for, at a PFH rate, so I decided it was worth really pursuing as a career. It turned my world around; in part, it, and therefore my wife, saved my life.
- Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
- I’m an avid listener. Unfortunately I am your stereotypical millennial who is addicted to my phone. When I try to sit down with a book my mind eventually wanders to my mobile, even if it’s the greatest book ever written. Audiobooks are a different matter. I can zone right into them but keep my hands occupied, be it walking my dogs, doing chores or painting my Warhammer 40,000 models. Usually while listening to a Warhammer 40,000 audiobook! I joke that I literally have to be paid to sit down and read a book.
- What would you say are your strongest narration abilities?
- People have said I’m really good at making character voices distinct, so probably that. I like to narrate books in a way that I’d want to hear them, so I want the audience to know exactly which character is talking when, even without dialogue tags. I often pick up interesting voices I like from movies, video games, TV or real life and put them in my back pocket so I can give them to an appropriate character in a project.
- What about this title compelled you to audition as narrator?
- It was a combination of the series title and the cover. The cover artwork is absolutely gorgeous which drew my eye. Seeing the series is called ‘The Cruel Gods’ massively appealed to me as there’s little more epic than having gods as your antagonist. Reading the blurb and a sample of the book and discovering what a clearly very talented writer Trudie is, I knew I had to try and narrate this. I feel like I got a sense of her ethics in the sample and synopsis, and I think we’re quite similar in a lot of our outlooks, so that also made me want this project.
- How did you decide how each character should sound in this title?
- I usually send authors I work with a Welcome Pack. Part of this is a character info sheet, where they can fill in how they see the character, how they think they should sound, their education level, things like that. All of that helps inform how the major characters will sound. Trudie returned an extremely helpful one, including character portraits, which was amazing for my narration. Trudie’s audiobook gave me even more to work with, however. Her characters are from cultures who generally lean hard into certain traits, such as sinfulness or earthiness, so I was able to match them with accents I associate with those traits, be that sincerely or playfully.
- Do you read reviews for your audiobooks?
- Yes. Not regularly, but I like to see how what I’m doing is being perceived. Luckily they’re mostly nice!
- If so, which ones stand out to you most, positive or negative?
- It’s the positive ones. They’re really good for my self-esteem and they confirm that my approach works for a lot of listeners. I get that typical artist thing, where I find myself wondering ‘is this rubbish? Am I screwing this up? Am I a rubbish narrator?’, so it’s nice to read that’s not usually the case.
- What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
- I would ask them if they think that’s true for the visually impaired or others who can’t read, and if they’d say the same to those people. It’s been proven that different folks take in information better in different formats. I and many others happen to find the best way to absorb something is aurally. If I forced myself to read a book rather than listen to it I wouldn’t absorb the book as well – even if I wasn’t distracted by a screen! Obviously this isn’t true for books I’m working on, as that’s a very different process than just reading for fun.
- What bits of advice would you give to aspiring audiobook narrators?
- Don’t be afraid to forge your own path. It’s easy to visit some industry audiobook narrator social media groups and get told ‘there is only one correct way of doing things and any other way is the wrong way.’ That’s rubbish. Test common wisdom. If you come up with a quicker way of doing something that gives equal or even better results, then congratulations, you’re an innovator. Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to come up with fresh solutions.
- What’s next for you?
- I’m extremely fortunate that my next several projects are all with the wonderful people of Audiobook Empire. I’ve just finished narrating the first The Confessions of Pavane book, The Dragonbone sword by Steven Savile and Steve Lockley, so I’ve got the pickups to come back for that one. I’m also about to start the first Dragon Spirits book by L.L. MacRae, The Iron Crown. That’s a big ol’ epic, so I’m excited to tuck into that.
Plugging you into the audio community since 2016.