PW snuck into the Manhattan recording studio to listen to Augusten Burroughs record his forthcoming book, Possible Side Effects (Audio Renaissance, May). We were able to chat with him during a brief break.
Possible Side Effects is your fourth book that you've also read on audio. What have you learned?
I think I've learned how to pace myself. I tend to read too fast. What sounds normal to a listener sounds incredibly slow and robotic to me. I've also learned to calm down, enunciate and be careful turning the pages of the script.
What's the hardest part about recording?
Sitting in one position for an extended period of time is difficult for me because I'm a fidgeter, and you can't move around without that movement getting picked up by the microphone. I've learned to wear soft clothes that don't make noises if I do move. It's also stressful to keep speaking at the same energy level.
How do you keep your energy level consistent?
You have to enter the work and completely maintain your focus. If you lose your focus, you have to take a break. If you don't concentrate on your material, people can hear that in your voice and it can push listeners away. I usually end up re-recording the first essay at the end of the last day of recording. The first essay I read is usually done cold after having spent a year not reading aloud. When I re-record it, I've found my groove.
How long does it take to record an unabridged audiobook?
I'm booked in this studio to record for three days from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with a half-hour lunch break. We generally record about 100 pages a day. There's not a lot of time spent between stops and starts if my director tells me that I mispronounced a word or wants to try a line again with a different inflection. The tape doesn't stop, we just jump back a little in the script.
Have you seen the movie of Running with Scissors, scheduled to be released in September?
It's amazing. It was like nothing I expected. When I got home from the screening, I couldn't think of one movie to compare it to. It's very sad and very funny and also vile and shocking. My agent said, "That's how most people describe your book." It was very strange to see Annette Bening, Brian Cox and Gwyneth Paltrow enacting my life. It was like watching a home movie with people a lot better looking than you remember.