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Author Shveta Thakrar and Narrator Soneela Nankani on INTO THE MOON GARDEN

AudioFile spoke with author Shveta Thakrar and narrator Soneela Nankani about INTO THE MOON GARDEN and their audiobook partnership.

AudioFile: Shveta, tell us how you came to write the audio-original story INTO THE MOON GARDEN. What did you have to do differently from other books you’ve written?

Shveta Thakrar: I’m a fantasy author through and through, and when I heard that Audible had been acquiring fantasy novellas, it seemed like a good time to try my hand at one. A novella is an interesting length—longer and more complex than a short story, but not so long that you have room to weave in a bunch of subplots—and one I’d always been curious about. So I pitched a tale about a scientist who might or might not have talked to the moon, a moon garden full of wish blossoms, and unresolved grief, and my editor, Jessica Almon Galland, bought it.

Working on this project was definitely its own experience; I knew I wanted to separate the sections of Rashmi’s and Darsh’s journey with global lunar mythology interludes, so I had to figure out how many I actually needed, research the mythology, and decide where to intersperse the interludes in a way that adds to the flow of the story.

In addition, I had to cut a lot of the dialogue tags and even some of the description—my work is usually very lyrical and imagery-driven, intended to immerse the reader—I would normally incorporate because our voice actor would then step up and fill in that gap. For example, instead of me writing “Rashmi said frostily,” Soneela performed it.

And since I’d had Soneela in mind for the role from the beginning, I gave plenty of thought to how my words would sound performed by her and even how the plot would play out in audio while I honed the manuscript. It was, indeed, a challenge to balance all that—a fun one!

AF: You have worked with Soneela before on other audiobooks — how were you introduced to Soneela and her work, and what do you feel her performances bring to your audiobooks? Are you an audiobook listener beyond your own works?

ST: I actually got incredibly lucky in how I found Soneela; when it was time to record the audiobook for my first novel, STAR DAUGHTER, I was given three samples by voice actors to listen to and choose from. They were all good, but Soneela was far and away my favorite. Her narration, her intonation, her ability to do different voices while managing to sound magical—she was the one. And happily for us all, she said yes!

I listened to her performance of the book once it was done, and it left me utterly enchanted. So of course, I’ve been requesting her ever since. Fortunately for me so far, she’s been available every time.

As for HOW she does what she does, I’d say she has a knack for sinking into the characters, taking time to understand who they are and then truly embodying them, making each one delightfully believable and fun to listen to. From the reviews I’ve seen, lots of other people agree.

I definitely am an audiobook listener! Before I tried them, I never would have guessed how handy they are for devouring more books while cooking and washing the dishes and taking walks. Plus having a book performed by a talented voice actor or cast brings the story to life in a different way—one that adds a new and immersive dimension I really like. Don’t get me wrong—I will always love reading words on a page, but it’s great to have the option of listening to those words, too.

AF: Soneela, tell us a bit about working on Shveta’s audiobooks, including INTO THE MOON GARDEN. What in her work speaks to you as a reader and as a narrator?

Soneela Nankani

Soneela Nankani: Shveta has this incredible ability to create new worlds for her readers that are at once grounded in the familiar and wildly fantastical—which makes her stories both thrilling and utterly relatable. As a narrator, I love going on the adventure that is Shveta’s writing. I have learned to expect the unexpected and know that there will always be some ethereal creatures that will be deeply enjoyable to perform.

INTO THE MOON GARDEN has a different feel from her other books. It’s a love story, a game, an exploration of family, and a study of the mythology of the moon—all in a novella! I had an amazing time as a narrator, working to illuminate each of those threads, as well as the moments in which those threads tangle.

AF: You’re a Golden Voice. Share some of your secrets about your narrating craft —such as how you choose a narrating style, choose voices for characters, prepare a text, etc.

SN: What a big question!

Well, I’m a classically trained actor, so I approach books the way I would a script. All of my work is rooted in text. And I’m looking for clues. What does this character say about themself? What do other characters say about them? How is the narrator shaping how this story is being told? What does this character want? How do they go about getting it? As I search for those things, gradually, the world begins to shape itself in my mind.

It’s only after my prep of the script—making a character list with relevant info about each character, looking up pronunciations, taking copious notes, and imaging the world of the book—that I think about narrating style and character voices since I want those things to be informed by all the work that came before. And even then, sometimes when I step into the studio a few days later, the book has been working on my subconscious, and some characters may sound slightly different than I originally thought they would—which is why I’m diligent about making samples for every character voice. I love to allow for spontaneity and play in my work in that way. Another place I like to do that is dialogue — in the interplay between the characters, with the subtext. I just love working on dialogue! A big thank you to Paula Parker for inspiring my deep love and attention to it!

Into the Moon GardenAF: Is there anything else either of you would like to share about creating INTO THE MOON GARDEN and about your author/narrator partnership?

ST: This was definitely a challenging but enjoyable project, and it was amazing to watch it grow from a vague seed in my head to the polished audiobook, complete with Rashmi’s self-discovery, the video-game structure of the moon garden and its wish blossoms, the lunar mythology, and, of course, the sound effects, dreamy music, and Soneela’s gorgeous voice acting. I couldn’t ask for a better partner than Soneela and hope we get to keep working together for a long time. She really is the best.

SN: I truly enjoyed the multifaceted nature of INTO THE MOON GARDEN. It was an exciting challenge to perform, as are all of Shveta’s works. What a thrill it’s been to be able to work with her. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!


AudioFile Magazine is your #1 audiobook review source.

Shveta Thakrar photo by Lindsey Márton O'Brien of Lumina Noctis, Soneela Nankani photo by Jody Christopherson. 

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