Updated: Apr 3
One of the things I love the most is hearing my characters come to life. Don't get me wrong, I hear their voices and conversations in my head. Sometimes a little too much. But it makes me smile to listen to them on audiobook, having conversations with one another, sharing their story. And this one, the second book in the Once Lost series, encouraged my faith and brought me to tears several times. That's why I'm excited to introduce you to the producer of The Beloved audiobook, Andrew Silmser. Make sure to comment on this blog as I will giveaway eight FREE audiobook on April 7th. Just leave a comment for your chance to win! Winners will be randomly drawn.
Thanks for being here today, Andrew! Why don't we start off with you telling us a little about yourself. What do you do when not producing audio books?
Hi Kelly! Thanks for having me. When I am not producing audiobooks, I fill my time as a 7th grade English teacher. I have a great family with two daughters (12 and 15) and my lovely wife Lisa. We enjoy movies, the North Shore of Lake Superior (the coastal Maine of the Midwest), and semi-annual trips to Disney World. I have always enjoyed “read-alouds” in school. I can remember, as a student with undiagnosed ADHD (it barely existed in the minds of teachers and practitioners when I grew up), that one of the things to which I actually paid my full attention in class was the read-aloud time with my teachers.
Since then, I have made it a point to include read-alouds in my classroom. I also
remember when I was first introduced to audiobooks. For Christmas one year in my early teens I was given cassette tapes of an unabridged audiobook of The Time Machine by HG Wells. I mustered a polite “thank you,” and set it aside with the sweaters and the socks. Months later, out of sheer boredom, I popped in cassette one at bedtime. Three hours later my parents were yelling at me for staying up so late. I finished that audiobook within the next day or so.
Crazy how far we have come from the cassette tape days. Who would have ever thought we would be listening to books on our phones? There are several themes in The Beloved: seeking your dreams, faith in troubled times, judging others, and abuse of drugs/alcohol. What theme did you appreciate the most and why?
One theme you didn't mention is that of God’s love and faithfulness to everyone—even those who reject him outright or have never known him. This really struck me as profound. Danny makes it very clear that he wants nothing to do with God. Drugs and “freedom” are now his passion. Yet throughout the story, God continues to help and support Danny, even though he pursues self-destructive behavior. God gently taps on Danny’s shoulder, sending him help, keeping him safe, and letting him know that He’s there, when (or if) Danny wants to talk. Most of the time, Danny is too stubborn to budge, but God’s love is relentless. Looking back on the story, it’s amazing to me the subtle ways He tries to show Danny that He’s on his side.
So true, Andrew. That is a theme fully discussed in book three, The Redeemed (coming May 2!) Out of all the character in the story, who do you relate to the most and why?
Danny—100%. As mixed up as he is, he’s one of the most “pure” characters in the book. He is an excellent judge of character. When he is cynical about someone’s motives, he’s usually not wrong. He’s put off by sin, hypocrisy, and the other forms of pretense that he sees among Christians. It drives him nuts to see people who profess to love God and follow Jesus fail to live up to the ideals of the Christian life. I think that’s why Danny gravitates toward Brett. Brett is living his life the best way he knows how. He doesn’t try to be anything he can’t be. He’s honest about his pain, loves his brother, and lives in the moment. There’s a refreshing amount of honesty and freedom in Brett’s philosophy of life.
Like with Danny and Brett, it drives me nuts when Christians try to hide their imperfections-- especially around other Christians. When a church community judges the sins of its members too harshly, without compassion, it saddens me. Of all the institutions on the planet, the church should be the least surprised, least judgmental, and most welcoming when it comes to those who are struggling, suffering, and making poor choices. After all, the first step in becoming a Christian is admitting that we are sinners. That doesn’t change when we become Christians. The church should be known for its acceptance of others. It’s members should say, “Yep, no surprise there. We all have that same fundamental problem—let’s talk to God about it. God supports us through our struggles, so we will support you by welcoming you as you are."
Danny’s flaw, early on, was his impatience. Something I also recognize in myself. He’s very good at recognizing the problems, but he isn’t very good at letting God work through him to be part of the solution. Danny gets caught up recognizing injustice, anger, and disappointment, but he starts to expect God to fix things right away. He gets angrier and more discouraged when it doesn’t happen right away. He doesn’t realize that God’s plan is often not a quick-fix. So he gives up and runs off. I can definitely empathize. I don’t think I’ll ever have the patience to not be impatient with God.
Amazing incite. Which character was the most challenging to perform? Why?
Lydia. I think that since she plays such an important role in the book, I wanted to do her character justice. Since I still struggle with the self-consciousness of hearing my own voice, I was never 100% sure about the vocal qualities I was giving her. I didn’t want to make her narration seem too stereotypically “girly,” yet, she is a young woman with characteristics that should come across as feminine. I always felt like I was walking a tightrope with her. She spends most of the book in a state of confusion and sadness—but she perseveres with a strong faith and inner strength. That’s a tough balance to portray, especially as a male playing a female character. Ultimately, I hope her strength, patience, and openness to God and others come through.
I personally think you did a great job with Lydia. You really nailed her emotions without overdoing them. Well done!
Lastly, one of the things I love to ask readers, what was your favorite scene in the book? (without giving anything away!)
I can’t say much, but I think it has to be Easter Morning in Chicago with Danny and Kat. That was beautiful.
I think that is my favorite as well. I actually visited a Catholic church four years ago when I was first writing this series to get a feel for what Danny and Kat would experience on Easter. Amazing how some of the most powerful moments with God happen outside of the church.
Thank you again, Andrew, for being creating an amazing audiobook for adults and teens. We look forward to you narrate The Redeemed! Readers, comment below for a chance to win a FREE copy of this audiobook. Or you can head over to AMAZON to purchase your copy or to your Audible app. It is a great listen for the entire family! Also, subscribe to my blog for more chances to win paperbacks and audiobooks as we near the release of the final book in the Once Lost series.