Author: L.L. MacRae
Narrator: RJ Bayley
Length: 17 hours 7 minutes
Producer: Audiobook Empire
Publisher: L.L. MacRae
Genre: High Fantasy
Released: July 22, 2022
Fenn’s first and only memory is finding himself in the middle of a forest, face to face with a dragon spirit mocking him, all knowledge gone apart from his own name.Lost and confused, his only hope for answers is Calidra—a woman living on the edge of the world with her partner. Forced to return home when her father dies, Calidra has put off facing her estranged mother for seven years, and she begrudgingly helps Fenn, forging papers for him so he can avoid the Queen’s Inquisitors.But her mother is the least of her worries when they discover an ancient enemy is rising again. It should be impossible with the Iron Crown in power—and Fenn is terrified he might unwittingly be playing a part in the war’s resurgence.Surrounded by vengeful spirits and powerful magic, Fenn’s desperate attempt to find his way home might well alter the fate of Tassar, and every power in it.A new high-fantasy series bursts into life with the Dragon Spirits who reign supreme in the magic-drenched world of Tassar.
L.L. MacRae is a fantasy author of character-driven stories and epic adventure. Her books usually contain dragons, bucket-loads of magic, and are typically fun and hopeful. She lives in a tiny village in the English countryside, has a degree in Psychology, and was a professional copywriter before going full-time as an author—swapping corporate copy for magic and dragons!An accomplished full-time voice actor and audiobook narrator with 4 years of experience.RJ’s voice has been described by peers as a ‘well-weighted baritone, balanced & deep at the same time.’Natually he’s got a mild Yorkshire lilt that’s trustworthy and relatable. He’s extremely adaptable however and capable of many convincing accents, or anything you throw at him really.RJ’s broadcast quality studio consists of a fully acoustically treated room, RØDE NT-1A microphone, Reaper digital audio workstation and Izotope RX7 for clean-up and mastering for that high end sound.So far he’s narrated over 30 audiobooks with more currently in production. As a VO he’s been the voice of brands such as Nickelodeon, Johnson and Johnson, Network Rail, Aegon, Accord and more.He’s friendly, reliable, professional, takes direction well and always makes sure you’re happy with your narration.He maintains he’s not trying to ruin his own career by deafening himself with heavy metal on his dog walks.
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Q&A with Author L.L. MacRae
Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
I listen to a lot of audiobooks, so I always have audio versions created of my own novels. It was never a question, really. Accessibility is incredibly important, and having books available in multiple formats is a huge part of that. People who are visually impaired, dylexic, or simply prefer audio shouldn’t have to miss out! So yes, I was always aware there would be an audiobook recording to happen once the novel was complete, but nothing I wrote was changed or affected by the idea it would be narrated, if that makes sense? I did worry about too much alliteration or something like that which might throw off a potential narrator, but that was about the most I was conscious of!
How did you select your narrator?
It was a bit of a strange process finding the narrator for The Iron Crown! Originally I’d started creating the audiobook with a narrator, but after almost a year without much progress, we decided to part ways. It was a shame, but it happens. It also meant I had a lot of people who’d already been waiting for the audiobook for a year, so I needed to get everything rolling again super quickly. I posted on my social media apologising to everyone waiting for the audio and explained what had happened. I also said (because I try to be transparent with people who follow me) that I’d be opening for auditions shortly. RJ Bayley, who has narrated other superb fantasy including Thirteenth Hour and We Men Of Ash And Shadow reached out to be notified when these auditions opened. We ended up in conversation and I sent him an audition script early. He sent back his audition very quickly and absolutely nailed every single line. He seemed to instinctively “get” my writing – both style and the characters .RJ was so good, in fact, that I would have felt bad opening to auditions because after hearing his version, I doubted I’d hear anyone who fit better. So we decided to move forward together, he did an AMAZING job, and the rest is history!
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?
Honestly, other than a handful of discussions beforehand, there was no working together at all! RJ Bayley is a consummate professional and has a whole “welcome pack” for authors that he narrates for. It makes everything so much easier! He wants to know more about the characters rather than “this specific voice” which allows him the creative freedom to breathe life into the characters. For example, I’d provide information on characters ages, personalities, their level of confidence, where in the world they live (and in relation to each other), which gives RJ everything he needs to build a picture of who they are as a person. The voices he gives to the characters in The Iron Crown are nothing short of spectacular, so I’m very happy with this process! I gave a few pronunciation tips – when it comes to epic fantasy, so many words/names/places are made-up! – so he knew how I’d like them to be said. Of course I was always open in case anything came up that he wasn’t sure about. I heard the first 15 minutes and then nothing until the whole book was complete! It was a lovely surprise when he told me he was done – i was just as excited waiting for it as readers who’d been asking for the audio! Having a more hands-off approach was great. As an indie author, you have to do everything yourself, so leaving the production in capable hands is always a bonus!
What are the fantasy influences behind your writing?
The Final Fantasy video game series was my first experience of epic narratives, grey characters with incredible backstories, and superb worldbuilding. I return to a number of the titles in this series again and again – like a comfort blanket! But at around eight years old, it was incredibly significant on my psyche!
How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
Music helps, and so do video games! Getting outside and allowing my mind to wander, or simply doing/watching something totally unrelated sometimes helps inspiration grow.Sometimes just going to bed and getting comfy is when my brain throws all the good ideas at me! I try and put trust in my subconscious that it’ll figure out a plot hole or create a new, fun idea that can be incorporated (if not into my current book, then a future project).More tangibly, brainstorming with other creatives – especially if they have totally different writing styles! I’ve had brilliant feedback and ideas generated from being part of a writing group, or just discussing a plot with another author. Their objectivity often allows them to comment on things that I hadn’t considered before, and then a snowball of inspiration begins!
Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
I’d say close to 80% of my reading is through audiobooks! It’s a fantastic format and can really bring a story to life like nothing else. I always have an audiobook on the go when I’m driving, cooking, cleaning etc. Sometimes I just want to chill out with a jigsaw puzzle and I’ll throw on a chapter or two of my current audiobook! It’s a huge part of reading (we’re told stories as children) and an aspect that I think sometimes receives unfair stigma. If I have the time to do “immersive reading” – where I listen to the audiobook while reading along with a physical copy or eBook – it can heighten the experience to a whole new level! Highly recommend it 😀
If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
I think I would! As long as I could only observe safely, and not have to actually BE in the new place! I am super curious about the future – a short way ahead, say 50 or 100 years in the future, and also the far future, like 500, 1000, 2000 years in the future! I wonder what happens to humanity and the planet, if we’re okay in the end or if the apocalyptic science fiction becomes reality! But on balance, I’d probably go back to prehistoric times and see dinosaurs! I’m a huuuuge fan of dragons and dinosaurs are basically the next closest thing! So seeing what they really looked like, their behaviour etc. would be what I’d love to see if I could time travel! Ideally I’d be able to come back to the present after a whirlwind tour and hopefully have tonnes of inspiration!
Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?
Oh yes! All the time! In fact it’s very rare that they DON’T appear in my dreams! It isn’t just characters, either, it’s places and plot points, too. Thankfully, my subconscious is pretty active and many scenes and ideas in my books come from my dreams. Dreams are pretty good at solving plot holes too! It’s a bit strange, but I feel like a lot of creativity comes from the subconscious. Your brain piecing together ideas without you consciously realising, and often the fruits of those appear in dreams. I day dream quite a lot (or at least, I used to!), and I have notebooks and note apps on my phone/laptop full of all these little half-ideas and concepts that often go on to be included in existing series, or even become the foundation for new series! Dreaming and allowing the mind to wander is super important to creativity for me, and I’m always pleased when they appear in my dreams! It’s kind of like visiting old friends that you didn’t know you had!
What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Keep writing. Follow the new, shiny ideas until you can write one to the end. Writing a novel is a slog, so keeping motivated as often as possible will help get chunks of it written! Also thinking what you have written is terrible rubbish that should be burned is entirely normal and part of the process. It will pass.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently writing the sequel to The Iron Crown, called The Shadow Gate. I’m hoping it’ll be released at the end of 2022, but it may be very early 2023. And of course, the audiobook version won’t be far behind! RJ is interested in returning to narrate the sequel, which is great for consistency, so watch this space!
L.L. MacRae’s Top 10 Books Read Last Year
Burn Red Skies – Kerstin Espinosa Rosero (epic fantasy with dragons, elemental magic, and airship smugglers)
Jade Legacy – Fonda Lee (final book in the Green Bone Saga – urban fantasy, crazy family dynamics, mafia-style characters with great martial arts)
Reaper Man – Sir Terry Pratchett (the second of the “Death” books)
Underlord/Uncrowned – Will Wight (some of my favourites in the Cradle series!)
The Thirteenth Hour – Trudie Skies (gaslamp/steampunk fantasy that’s quintessentially British! Feels very epic)
Wolfeater – Anthony Mitchell (standalone fantasy set in a freezing landscape where survival is never guaranteed)
Orconomics – J. Zachary Pike (satirical fantasy/D&D style adventuring with a very grumpy protagonist!)
Iron Truth – S.A. Tholin (sci-fi – two people try and find a way off a ravaged planet where no one can be trusted, everyone haunted by demons…)
Last Gifts Of The Universe – Rory August (cosy sci-fi about loss, family, and adventure)
Pronunciation Guide (Unlisted video) from the author – also gives a description of POV characters and other major characters, as well as some of the dragons in the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkUBHodz_jQI received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Audiobook Empire. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.