Mad Richard Audiobook Out Today February 14, 2018
Here it is Valentine’s Day, and we’re celebrating with the release of an audiobook of my novel, Mad Richard. Read by Pascal Langdale, the book is available starting today on all major audiobook sites, including Audible, audiobooks.com, Recorded Books, Libro.fm and probably others I don’t know about. Check your favourites and see if it’s there. It should also be available soon through Hoopla for library users.
Last year, I had the pleasure of working with Pascal and producer Jessica Albert of ECW Press as we recorded the audio version. My role was small: checking the pronunciation of names and giving feedback on the accents Pascal used to create the many characters in the book, all of them based on real people.
These include the main character, artist Richard Dadd, and one of our big challenges, Charlotte Brontë. The novel opens with a scene in Bedlam—the Royal Bethlem Hospital in London—with Charlotte visiting poor Richard, then held at Her Majesty’s pleasure for the crime of murder.
After their meeting, we follow Richard and Charlotte in different directions as they live out their very different lives. With Richard, we retreat back into his eventful past as he studies painting in London, gets to know Charles Dickens and sets off on a Grand Tour of the Mid-East with a wealthy patron.
Meanwhile, after Charlotte leaves the hospital, we accompany her on the next crucial year of her life as she considers both her future as a writer and a proposal of marriage, one she knows will probably be her last.
The book is about art and artists–the pains and pleasures of making art–seen through the eyes and lives of a famous novelist and a then-unknown painter.
Jessica and I talked about having two narrators: a man for Richard’s chapters and a woman for Charlotte’s. In the end, we thought that would hurt the unity of the book, and since Richard is, after all, the titular character, we looked for an actor who could successfully convey characters of both genders. Luckily we found Pascal, who was able to vary voices and approach so greatly, the narrative flows seamlessly.
Of course, nobody knows how any of these people really sounded. Regional accents were different in the 19th century, and even well-educated aristocrats fell short of speaking the BBC’s plummy received English.
Yet we have a clue with Charlotte Brontë. Reports from the time reveal the surprising fact that she spoke with a Scottish accent. Charlotte was famously from Yorkshire, but her father, the Reverend Patrick Brontë, had been born in a part of Ireland heavy with Scottish settlers, and he was said to speak like a lowland Scot.
Living with him in his Haworth parsonage, Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne were said to have picked up his accent. More than one 19th century London gossip reported that Charlotte spoke like a wee Scottish lass. (And she was wee: under five feet tall.)
Pascal can do a lovely Scottish accent—and I speak as someone who is half Scottish and picky about the braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht thing. But we figured a Scottish-sounding Charlotte Brontë would confuse listeners, and Pascal decided to go with a slightly northern version of received English, the Charlottian voice people would expect to hear.
So the audiobook is out there now. Get on it, hockey friends, while driving your kids to endless practices from one side of whatever city to the other.