Bridge of Clay is the new novel by Australia author Markus Zusak. He earned international acclaim with his last novel, The Book Thief. Bridge of Clay is essentially autobiographical, however, elements are fictionalised. The audiobook was produced in our Sydney Recording Studio, Crash Symphony Productions. Our engineers worked closely with Markus (who narrated his novel) and the wonderful people at Pan Macmillan. It was a mighty effort by all people involved and this is the story of the recording process.
About Markus Zusak
The first thing that strikes you when you meet Markus Zusak is how young he is. When you think of an internationally famous and successful writer the literary-novice in me tends to think of some wise old sage. He looked the same age as me! Well, he is a bit older than me but not by much. The second thing that really stands out about Markus is how nice he is. He’s an absolute gentleman, incredibly polite, humble, and friendly. He has a great sense of humour which completely diminishes any star-stuck nerves you might feel prior to meeting him. Thirdly, he has a lot to say and it’s well thought-out, too. You can tell he thinks a lot and very deeply and this is certainly why he’s such a good writer.
Lastly, his attention to detail and work ethic is very much above average. It’s immediately apparent that this is a big part of why he’s been so successful. When he entered the recording studio booth he worked in there for hours and hours on end without exiting. Most narrators start getting tired and generally ‘over it’ after 4 hours. On some days Markus recorded for up to 8 hours with very minimal breaks.
The emotional attachment
We have recorded a lot of audiobooks in our Sydney recording studio. In fact, audiobooks and podcasts are becoming our specialty. Bridge of Clay was a very different experience to any other audiobook that we’ve record and here’s why.
The book was largely autobiography, but it was packaged in such a way that it wasn’t completely transparent. It was fictionalised. I can only guess that it was written in this way to allow Markus to fully explore the emotion of his story and possibly to protect the real people in his life. This is my guess. It is a really emotional story and it draws you in. There were times when you could hear the intense emotion welling up inside Markus as he narrated the story in our recording studio. This is a unique situation for our recording studio, and as a result, there was a higher sense of purpose attached to this audiobook production. We wanted the absolute best result for him and to honour the people in the story.
Our editor, Adam Xycore, needs a shout out. His effort throughout this book was nothing short of epic and very much unsung. He didn’t get to meet Markus but was working on the project as the chapters were being recorded. Bridge of Clay was one of the longest audiobooks that we have recorded in our Sydney recording studio. It was so large, in fact, that Adam began referring to the book as ‘the beast’. He spent so much time surgically editing and scanning the audio to make sure that the quality of the audiobook was second to none.
Stew Havill had the job of recording the audiobook with Markus. Stew is a particularly gifted audio recording engineer. We’re extremely lucky to have him working in our Sydney recording studio. Stew has a very humorous and friendly personality that gelled very well with Markus. Basically, they got on with each other wonderfully.
The girls from Pan Macmillan deserve a warm mention. The audiobook was organised and overseen by Victoria Stilwell and Kate Faherty from Pan Macmillan. They were both very lovely to work with and extremely professional. Kate would come in to the recording studio daily to help produce the audiobook as it was being recorded. There’s no doubt that it would not be the polished success that it is without their direct involvement and oversight.
It was my job to proof the novel. Once a chapter had been recorded it would be sent to Adam. Then Adam would send the edited chapters to me. I would listen through the chapters and create a document indicating where I thought there could be quality improvements or if there was an error that I had discovered. Once all the chapters were done in this manner any re-recording was done by Markus and Stewart in the recording studio. Adam would then act on the ‘re-edit’ recommendations and then I would do a full re-listen. So, yep, we all listened to the book twice. We now know it well.
The Generosity of Mr Zusak!
As you can imagine, completing this audiobook was very cathartic for us all and particular Markus. This was the final stage in the process of releasing this huge novel. It took him almost 14 years to write and it was a huge relief for him when it was completed. Markus was also extremely generous to us all when he finished the book. He gave us all signed copies of the book and of his original international bestseller, The Book Thief. He also gave me a copy of the famous epic, The Odyssey by Homer. This epic features heavily in Bridge of Clay. Not only did he give these to us, in the recording studio, but he gave copies of his books to my mum! Mum’s a huge fan!
We recommend Bridge of Clay to everyone and hope you all enjoy the book as much as we enjoyed recording it!