Launching the Audiobook
Updated: Sep 18, 2022
Raúl Esparza captures the emotional turmoil of mental illness
About a year ago, a friend living with schizophrenia suggested making an audio version of my book, explaining that those with mental illness might find it easier to listen than to read. After much consideration, my wife and I ultimately agreed, but it wasn’t an easy decision.
“Keep it to yourself it's my life." -- Billy Joel
With such a personal account, the challenge was in finding the right narrator. A few friends argued that I should do it, but I knew better. I wasn’t an actor and, aside from reading to my kids when they were growing up, had no experience as a narrator. No, I needed someone who could accurately convey with dignity the myriad of emotions that surrounded our experience, while also respecting the many different accents included in our story.
This last part was the first obstacle. A few weeks into the project, the production company sent along snippets of dialogue from a half dozen potential candidates. They had selected white, Midwestern actors for the work given that I am a white, Midwestern guy. But if you’ve read my book, you know that many of the primary characters are of Cuban heritage. Expecting non-native Spanish speakers to portray our relatives was not a viable approach.
“Dad, no way can you have these guys read your story,” my astute daughter commented after listening to the samples, “they all sound like caricatures of Latinos.” My wife and I quickly agreed, cringing as we finished the final submission. We realized that we required a narrator of Cuban heritage, someone who could sound like the average American but could also slip easily into Spanish that had been learned from parents and grandparents.
Taking matters into my own hands, I turned to the internet. I began searching for Hispanic actors who had experience with audiobook narration, thinking that any Spanish speaker would be an improvement. If I found someone, I’d go to audible and listen to samples of the books they had read. Finally, I stumbled across the name Raúl Esparza. It sounded familiar, and the article mentioned that he was Cuban American.
Raúl had only read for a few books, including Under the Dome by Stephen King, but I recognized his face from television. He starred on Law and Order: SVU and, although I wasn’t an avid fan, I’d seen the show a few times. I then began learning about his past performances, especially on Broadway. He had been nominated for several Tonys and a myriad of other awards. I quickly realized that Raúl was among the most talented actors in the country, and he happened to have grown up in Miami in a Cuban family.
I was excited to have identified such a great candidate, but I had no way to reach him. I knew that celebrities had agents and social media accounts, but I also knew that breaking through those channels was almost impossible. Upon reviewing Raúl’s biography, I saw that he had attended the same high school as my wife’s cousin, or “Alex” in my book. Reaching out, I learned that Alex and Raúl had known each other as teenagers. They still had mutual friends in common, and ultimately this helped me put the book in front of Raúl.
Fortunately, Raúl was captivated by the story and supportive of the message. He carved out a few days this past spring to record the audiobook, and we received the files earlier this summer. Simply put, they surpassed even our highest expectations. He was the perfect person to narrate our story. His accents are authentic; his enactment is incredible.
We’re hopeful that the audiobook will help the story find its way into more hands—providing hope to others struggling and bringing understanding to those not familiar with mental illness. But more than that, we’re confident that others will appreciate the brilliance of Raúl’s performance as much as we do.
We are holding our official launch this month. Not many people read my blogs, so I’m going to reward the few that do. I’ll send along a free copy of the audiobook to the first five people who request it (you can use the contact form). And let me know what you think: