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by Kitty Felde

Editor’s Note: Host of the award-winning Book Club for Kids podcast Kitty Felde adapted her middle grade novel Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza to a podcast. The second book in her Fina Mendoza Mysteries series will be out later this year in the summer and she will be available to chat with you on Twitter on Friday, March 26, 2021, from 12PM to 1PM (Pacific Time).

Keep on reading to learn the benefits of adapting your book to a podcast, and some of her tips and tricks for when you do…

Credit: Imelda Hinojosa

Podcasts are everywhere — a record 1.8 million podcasts, according to Edison Research. So why not turn your book into a podcast?

I’m not talking about an audiobook where one actor reads your manuscript word for word. I’m talking about an audio play, like an old-time radio drama, that takes your readers on a literary journey through their ears.

Voices create pictures in their brain and a personal relationship with your characters. And a podcast helps sell books.

I decided to adapt Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza to an 8-part episodic podcast The Fina Mendoza Mysteries. There have been 18,000 downloads so far. And quite a few book sales.

Book cover art: Imelda Hinojosa

You’ll find lots of free online tutorials about how to record and edit a podcast, or you could hire a freelancer. (I recommend the talented people at AIR — the Association for Independents in Radio.) You can record in a studio or “out in the wild.” But before you produce, you need a script.

How do you adapt your book? Think with your ears.

Go Through Your Manuscript

You don’t need every word. Eliminate scenes that don’t move the story forward. Eliminate descriptions unless they are crucial to plot or character. Eliminate secondary characters.

Don’t Be Afraid to Add What You Need

There is a scene early in my book where Fina is looking for her lost sweatshirt in the Capitol Crypt. It’s a genuinely spooky place, particularly late in the day when all the tourists are gone. How do you convey that?

My solution: I brought one of the Crypt statues to life. Founding Father Caesar Rodney, full of snarky attitude, accuses Fina of being scared.

Create a Soundscape

Sound can help tell your story, creating place, time and characters.

Place: Much of my story takes place inside the U.S. Capitol, with its marble floors and high ceilings. Hard surfaces. There’s an echo. I knew that I couldn’t fly my cast to Washington to record our scenes in that space. (And I knew permission to do so would never happen…) I had to find a recording space that sounded like the Capitol. Our condo’s clubhouse was perfect: tile floors, high ceilings, a lovely echo. It was perfect.

Time: How do you portray the time or season through sound? My book takes place in the fall, which means falling leaves that conveniently crunch underfoot. A night scene includes a distant hooting owl.

Character: Specific sounds can help define character. For a scene in the older sister’s bedroom, I decided that Gabby was an indie music fan. A musician friend kindly let us use her music as the soundtrack behind the dialogue for that scene.

The congressman father in my book carries around three cellphones — one for work, one for home, and one for fundraising. My cast and I spent an hour listening to various ringtones to find the perfect one to fit the “character” of each phone.

Kitty Felde (right) with her cast members Rosalie Huntington (left) and Amy Solano (middle).

Try It Yourself

Pick a scene in your book. Where does it take place? Describe the feel of that space. What does that space sound like? Are there occasional sounds specific to that scene? Where could you record to recreate the sound of that place? When does that scene take place? How can you use sound to communicate the time of day or season? Find a sound you could use to help define one character.

Oh, and don’t forget to add a tag line at the end of the podcast, telling listeners exactly where they can buy your book!

Join Kitty and SCBWI-Los Angeles on Twitter next week Friday, March 26, from 12-1 PM (PST) to continue this discussion. We’ll talk more about how podcasts help sell books, discuss more tips and tricks in adapting your book for a podcast, and answer any other questions you want to ask her. She’ll also do her best to answer questions you leave in the blog comments beforehand. We can’t wait to chat with you!

To chat with us: log into your Twitter account anytime during our chat hour and use the hashtag #KTChat or @mention Kitty (@kittyfelde)! If you aren’t on Twitter, leave your questions in the comments before the chat begins. Find SCBWI-LA on Twitter here: @SCBWISOCALLA

And if you’d like to learn more about writing an article for #KTChat, find info here.

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Kitty Felde hosts the award-winning Book Club for Kids podcast. She also writes plays that are performed worldwide. State of the Union, the second book in the Fina Mendoza Mysteries series, comes out summer 2021 (Chesapeake Press). Kitty looked for the Demon Cat while covering Congress for public radio. She found the paw prints, but not the cat.

Author headshot by Doug Sanford. Other images provided by author.