Aranel Parmadil has been part of the Sherlock Holmes fandom for years, and has recorded nearly one hundred podfics of all sorts of Sherlock fan fiction.
Though she's a tremendously busy academic in Wales and England, she shared with Improbable Press how she got into recording the stories she loves, and how she feels about her newest venture: Recording audiobooks for Improbable Press, starting with our first book The Night They Met by Atlin Merrick.
Aranel, you are so busy teaching full-time in Wales and short courses at Oxford, how on earth did you get into doing podfics?
I needed a bit of a break at times from the intensive academic work that I was doing to complete my PhD, as well as some time off from the demands of my (more than) full time job as a high school teacher during the day, and running a school boarding house of up to twenty teenage boys at night and the weekends, so, as usual, I turned to fandom to provide that headspeace and found myself drawn quite thoroughly (and willingly) into the world of BBC Sherlock.
At this point I devoured fic, reading well into the night on far too many occasions - after all, who needs sleep? After nearly two years of reading, commenting and happily clicking kudos on some absolutely amazing writing, including that by such huge fandom names as AtlinMerrick (of course), 221b_Hound and verityburns, amongst others, I found myself wanting to give something back. I wanted my chance to play.
My PhD finally complete, I began to think more seriously about what I could do to contribute to this amazing and highly creative fandom. I am not a writer of fiction; I simply don't have that talent and I admire those who do beyond my poor scope of words. I cannot draw, paint, sculpt, crochet or, in fact, create anything of beauty with my hands.
What I CAN do, and have been doing for twenty-five years as an English teacher, is read. I can read texts aloud and bring them to life quite effectively within a classroom setting, so why not try it within a fandom setting? I decided that I would, in fact, play about with what I had and see what came of it.
I had already listened to some fantastic podfics, my absolute favourite up to that point being verityburns' own 'The Heart in the Whole' (swoon). So, feeling trepidatious but just a bit excited, I broke out an old computer microphone, waited for an afternoon when the family was out, and recorded my first podfic.
Listening back to that first attempt now, I can hear all the beginner's mistakes in pace, audio quality etc, but I can also hear the voice of a reader who was having the time of her life voicing a fic she had enjoyed and playing in the Sherlock sandbox, and wanted to offer that enjoyment to whoever would deign to listen.
I received and responded to some really helpful feedback; I played about with adjusting my pace and voice acting, watched youtube tutorials on how to make the audio quality better and, gradually, I started to produce podfic that I felt increasingly proud of. After investing in a decent microphone almost a year later, and learning how to add in music etc, I am much happier with the quality of the work.
I take pride in what I do and try my absolute best to offer a good listening experience to those who, like me, enjoy podfic. It might be a form of play to me, in that it is a hobby and I enjoy it, but it is still important to me to deliver a quality product that doesn't disappoint the original author, whose work I always respect. Although I have limited free time, I still very much enjoy creating new podfics, whether on my own or as part of a co-project with the delightful consulting_smartass, and I hope to continue offering these works to the fandom for some time to come.
How do you feel about recording your first audiobook—for us!—turning play into a new profession?
I am really excited about the opportunity but also honoured that Improbable Press have chosen me to produce their first audiobook.
It's a responsibility that I welcome and I will do my best to deliver as good a listening experience as possible.