My First Attempt At Casting

The publisher who bought the audio rights to my novel sent me a questionnaire awhile back, asking if I had any ideas on who I wanted as a narrator.

I thought about it for a second, thinking how much I loved Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders, or Tom Hardy in, well, anything, when I realised I needed an American accent. And a male actor, if it is okay to say that. There are two female leads in my book, but the character who seems to resonate with most readers is the main male character, Hank. I may have made him up but I see him in my mind as clear as day. I know how he walks and talks. And I want good things for him. I love Hank, the way I love Tim Foley, a male character in a book called Gypsy Autumn that found a place in my fourteen-year-old heart and has stayed there ever since. The way I love Dominick Birdsey from Wally Lamb’s beautifully sad yet life affirming I Know This Much Is True. Mark Ruffalo played the part in the screen adaptation and was perfection. I love him too, and Michael Keaton and Colin Farrell and Tom Hiddleston. I told myself to be realistic, narrator-wise. But then I remembered something.

A friend told me a while back I had to start dreaming bigger. Thinking about Tom Hiddleston narrating your book is the big league of dreams, I think. So I gave myself a pat on the back and got back to work. I thought about Hank’s voice, his dignity, his quiet strength, while giving myself permission to imagine without constraint while running through a catalogue of shows and series I loved. Frasier is my all-time favourite, and while I think David Hyde Pierce can do anything, he seems so happy on Broadway I didn’t want to pull him away from that. My other favourite series is Criminal Minds, about a group of FBI profilers who solve crimes with intelligence and not force. If I thought there was an agent like Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid, Derek Morgan or David Rossi in real life, I’d pitch a tent on the lawns of Quantico. A squatter at FBI headquarters. That’s something I could see myself doing, if it was summer and my tent had a shower and bathroom.

By the time I was done Spielberg was directing the audio, Andre Rieu was playing the violin with his orchestra, and Tom Hanks was playing Hank. I was being interviewed by Anderson Cooper and I had so much money in the bank I went shopping at Louis Vuitton on a whim.

Imagination is a wonderful thing.

Truth be told, Hank’s voice and his character is based on a soldier I saw being interviewed who fought in Normandy and Bastogne. I would have asked my publisher if we could have had him, if it was possible. This would have been my dream – maybe not the biggest dream, but genuine. Much like Hank.

In the end my Australian publisher sent me some audio auditions and I chose a man who read beautifully and had a family connection to Normandy. I liked the symmetry of that.

Still I think about the soldier I saw interviewed, and I like to think he knows, wherever he is, about the role he played in my book. He does, at least in my imagination.

To Have and to Publish

I can still remember where I was when I said it. Part prayer, part desperate plea, part hideous, crawling fear that I was wasting my life and would never be happy.

I can’t remember the time of year but I know the kitchen of the house where I stood was dark, even though it was daytime, and despite the windows. It was a grey, rainy, windy kind of day where you could either curl up with a good book or a long-haired stranger in a white shirt and riding boots could knock on your door, looking for Catherine. With my luck the stranger would show up just as I was hitting the best part of the story, and he’d have a horrible cold. Perhaps an axe. Maybe both.

I don’t know what motivated my actions, but I do remember walking in circles as I said, ‘I just want to write a book, I want to be a writer. I want to be a published author. I don’t care if I ever get married, I just want to write books.’

It appears some omnipotent force was listening that day, for my debut novel is about to go live on Amazon. I’m not sure that’s the correct way of saying so perhaps I should be clearer. An agent signed me in July 2020. My book was edited and rewritten and cried over, mostly by me but perhaps by my editor, too – I’m not sure.  Last December, a London publisher made an offer. Two audio book companies bid for the rights. Contracts were signed. Germany bought the rights, and a translation is being worked on as I write this.

Still, I didn’t want to tell anyone. I waited for the email saying ‘Oops, we meant to sign a Martina McLennon who wrote a book called This Time Among Us’.

I started writing my second book. I worried about my third. But still, it didn’t feel real. Even as the jacket was designed. Even as the advance money started to roll in. I felt I was tempting fate when I wrote out my acknowledgments. But I kept going, because all I’ve ever wanted, since I started reading books at the school library years ago, was to be a writer.

Then, magical things started happening. People I’d lost touch with read about my deal in the trade papers and got in touch. Friends started asking when they could buy a copy. One heady day I was asked if I would be doing a signing in Canada.

So I sent out an email to all my friends who at one point had heard me say, head bowed, voice soft, that I wanted to write. Unless I’d had a glass of red wine in which case the strength of my voice and how I held my head varied.

And I was overwhelmed by the support and kindness and love shown me by the people I told.

I’m still not convinced that on November 11th the digital version will drop. In eight days I will know for sure. And I’m still not married.