AudioFile spoke with author Christina Diaz Gonzales and Scholastic Audiobooks Editor and Associate Producer John Pels about creating the audiobook version of INVISIBLE, a middle-grade bilingual graphic novel about five very different students who find commonality and friendship.
AudioFile: Tell us about the process of adapting INVISIBLE from a graphic novel to an audiobook.
Christina Diaz Gonzalez: The entire process was an amazing collaborative effort from beginning to end that wouldn’t have been possible without the talent and vision of John Pels and Paul Gagne (Director of Production at Scholastic Audiobooks). From adapting the graphic novel’s visual cues to finding voice actors whose Spanish accents were authentic, we all worked together to lay the groundwork. Then the incredible cast took over and brought each character to life. The final result is a wonderful audiobook that allows the listener to visualize the graphic novel without having Gabriela Epstein’s wonderful illustrations to guide their imaginations.
John Pels: Any graphic novel audio adaptation always begins with incredible source material, and Christina Diaz Gonzalez and Gabriela Epstein created a rock-solid foundation for our recording with their words and pictures. An initial read of the book introduced us to five strong protagonists with distinct and diverse voices, which we felt were perfectly suited for a full-cast audiobook. We began working on a script to create additional narrative text and dialogue along with notations for musical cues and sound effects to fully reimagine the graphic novel as a captivating audio experience. This initial draft of the script was shared with Christina, whose feedback was tremendously helpful in ensuring we were correctly interpreting the action and emotion of the story. With much of the text in the book presented bilingually in English and Spanish, she also provided invaluable expertise when it came to translating any added dialogue into Spanish. Then, once all parties signed off on the adapted text, the recording script was finalized, and we were ready to take our narrators to the booth.
AF: How did you go about casting INVISIBLE?
JP: Identifying the narrators to fill the five main roles in INVISIBLE (George, Sara, Dayara, Miguel, and Nico) was a critical moment in the development of the audiobook, and we worked with agents and studios across the country to find the best talent for each role. It was important for the Spanish to stand front and center with the English as it does in the book, and we were wanted to celebrate the diverse backgrounds and dialects of the characters—Puerto Rican, Cuban, Venezuelan, Mexican, and Dominican. Our search focused on finding bilingual performers so the diverse accents and dialects would sound both accurate and natural. Christina once again lent a helping hand, or rather an ear in this case, when reviewing the auditions we received to make sure each actor captured their character in a way that was distinctive and truthful to the book.
AF: In creating this full-cast audiobook, how did you unite all of the performances as well as incorporating the sound effects, etc.?
JP: The geographic locations of our narrators—Miami, Los Angeles, Nashville, and throughout the northeast— presented an interesting challenge on the technical side of things. Because we didn’t have the opportunity to record them performing together, it was important to ensure that the performances came across as a cohesive and natural-sounding whole. The process becomes a mix of art and science, with the goal of having the actors “play” off each other in just the right way even though they’re recording separately from each other, while also making sure the technical quality of sound recorded at different studios all matches in the finished product. The sound effects and music that we layer throughout help us take visual elements off the page and into the listener’s ears to build a more immersive experience, but without overshadowing the narration that drives the story.
AF: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about INVISIBLE?
CDG: I’m just so proud of this audiobook which gives both English and Spanish listeners the opportunity to simultaneously listen to a story about how we are often not seen for who we really are. The fact that it showcases English language learners and some of the diversity in today’s classrooms is an extra bonus!
Hear AudioFile's discussion of the audiobook on our podcast, Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine:
Andrés Hinspeter-Seda photo by Diosa Pacheco Photography, Christian Barillas photo by Natalie Faye, Lisset Díaz photo by Jace Kartye, Noah Rico photo by Michelle Nicole Photography