In these articles I reminisce about the long road we took to the creation of the upcoming “Witch Hunter” dramatized audiobook. Last time I explained where the inspiration came from for the original audio drama. Today I conclude the story from that point on.
Part 2 – from the Witch Hunter Chronicles audio drama to the Witch Hunter audiobook
When we were creating the original audio drama in 2008 and 2009, we were utterly oblivious about the thriving audio drama community on the internet. I never could have guessed how much great work there is to be found online until I happened to stumble upon some audio drama podcasts as well as the Audiodramatalk forum. “Witch Hunter” was still in the making at this point, and upon discovery of this wonderful community where podcasting had become the normal medium, composer Peter Van Riet and I talked about releasing our own story in the form of a podcast as well. It was Peter’s idea to rename the story to “The Witch Hunter Chronicles” in order to convey more of a sense of it being a series. I agreed, and so that’s how we did it.
We noticed that there was a great hunger for new material in the audio drama community, but also that many listeners were wary about new series, afraid that if they liked it, the chance always existed that the producers would suddenly quit after a few episodes. We understood this fear very well, and so we decided to wait until the story was well and truly finished before releasing it with a steady, uninterrupted weekly schedule. This approach paid off and we managed to pick up listenership at a satisfying rate. After 13 weeks, the story was done, many people had listened to it and we were happy. I thought that that would be the end of it, but of course, I felt the nagging urge to continue and create more material. Around that time I was contacted by Julie Hoverson from 19 Nocturne Boulevard who suggested that we should enter The Witch Hunter Chronicles in the Mark Time / Ogle Awards. We thought this was a good idea and so we entered. I had almost forgotten about the entry when an e-mail arrived to tell us that we had won the Honorable Mention. I’m not sure whether the organisers realised we were from another continent, but they invited us to come on stage to pick up the award. My partner and I looked at each other, smiled and nodded. I had never been out of Europe before at that time but we both said: why not? And so we went on a trip to Minneapolis and experienced a really big geek event such as we had never experienced before (they don’t have events that big in Europe). We also met a lot of cool people from the audio drama community such as The Sonic Society’s Jack Ward, Aural Stage Studios’ Matthew & Monique Boudreau, Final Rune Productions’ Fred Greenhalgh and the extremely talented Jonathan Mitchell, creator of the podcast The Truth. The event was wonderful and it really cemented our sense of community with these outstanding people.
Back in Belgium, we decided we wanted to reach more people locally as well. That’s when I came up with the idea of translating The Witch Hunter Chronicles into our native Dutch and release it. By this time I had developed some dissatisfaction with the original plot and I was looking forward to providing a more thrilling conclusion to the story in the Dutch version. We got pretty far with this project. The script was complete and quite a lot of dialogue had been recorded when we decided to pull the plug. For one thing, Dutch just didn’t feel like the right language to tell this story and more importantly, we felt we were abandoning our anglophone friends and fans by putting all our attention on creating something that only people in Belgium and the Netherlands could enjoy. Moreover, our countries don’t have a strong tradition of either fantasy or radio, so the interest was pretty low.
Still, I wanted to tell the new version of the story, so I decided to write it as a novel. Fantasy novels translated from English are popular in Belgium, so I thought there would be more interest if I did that. Moreover, it would be a wonderful opportunity to learn a new skill by writing prose rather than an audioplay.
Meanwhile, as Audio Epics, we started the creation of The Will of the Woods, which was a project I had wanted to do for a long time. The Will of the Woods went on to win the gold Ogle award but it never reached the level of popularity that The Witch Hunter Chronicles had. Too bad, because I personally feel it’s still the best audio drama we’ve ever made.
The Dutch Witch Hunter novel was completed in 2011. It was not called “Heksenjager”, which would be the Dutch term for witch hunter, but “Duivel Onder Ons”, which could be translated in two ways, either “Devil among us” or “Devil beneath us”. This double entendre was deliberate because both interpretations applied to the situation in Sevenpeaks. When the novel was finished, I decided I didn’t want to do anything with it after all. Strangely enough, it still didn’t feel right. I let some of my friends read it and while they were positive, I also sensed it hadn’t made any real impact on them. And I wanted to write something that made an impact. And I believed this story had the ability to do just that.
And so I decided to start over again, not just translating, but re-writing the entire novel in English. At this point, I began to get a very clear vision of what I wanted to do with it. I changed the viewpoint, I added new characters, changed elements of the world lore and some character motivations. And I came up with a new ending, one which would pave the way for a much larger story still. This is the novel Witch Hunter. And it will very soon be available, followed by the Witch Hunter audiobook.
While writing it, I realised this larger, better retelling of the story deserved an audio version as well. I didn’t want to adapt it again to an audioplay, feeling that I had finally found the right way of telling the story with this novel, so I opted for an audiobook. I enjoy audiobooks quite a bit, but I do have one gripe with them: they tend to be a bit dry, especially when you hear only one voice for ten hours or so.
Then I discovered Dune, the Macmillan audio version of that famous science fiction novel. What the creators of this audiobook had done really appealed to me, using a full cast to read the dialogue parts while retaining the complete narration of the book. In addition, the story was supported by music and sound. It was not spectacular, but it made the novel come alive more than a single narrator could. I realised this hybrid approach would work very well with the story of Ludlov and Samina. As for music, Peter had already provided a brilliant score for the original audio drama. It was only a matter of recording and editing, which I realised would be a massive undertaking for one man, as this audiobook is four times as long as the original audio drama series.
What we are trying to create is an audiobook that is spectacular. One that offers the clarity and depth of a novel, as well as the rich textures of sound and the immersive experience of the best material that modern audio drama has to offer.
And thanks to our crowdfunding backers, here we are! The novel is finished and the audiobook is in the making. Soon we will make the novel available on Amazon Kindle and Createspace. The audiobook will follow later this year. I thank all of our fans for your patience and for your undying enthusiasm for the story of the Witch Hunter audiobook.