The Voice in My Head is No Longer My Own
By Billy Taylor
When Listening Library contacted me about turning my YA thriller, THIEVING WEASELS, into an audiobook I thought it would be harmless. Fun even.
I never thought it would drive me insane.
But that was before I crossed paths with Robbie Daymond, actor extraordinaire and evil genius.
The first time I heard Robbie read my words I was caught totally off guard. I had spent so many hours inside the head of my hero, Skip O’Rourke, that to hear someone else play the part was like having a stranger barge into my kitchen and grab the last breakfast taco.
“Hey,” I wanted to shout. “That’s mine!”
Then something magical happened. About ten minutes into listening, Robbie became Skip O’Rourke. And Sheila O’Rourke. And Skip’s evil Uncle Wonderful. The transition was so fast and fluid I didn’t realize it was happening until it was too late.
The only problem was, Robbie’s voice stayed with me long after I finished listening to the audiobook.
In the beginning this was almost enjoyable. As a writer, I’m stuck inside my head all day long, and it was a relief to have someone else do the heavy lifting for a change.
My enjoyment ended on the day I was about to put an extra-large carrot cake in my grocery cart, and I heard a familiar voice ask, “Is that really good idea?”
“Robbie?” I whispered. “Is that you?”
“Duh. Who else would it be?”
I left the carrot cake on the counter.
You might think a voice actor taking over your brain would be a bad thing, but there were a few advantages. I soon found myself flossing more, training for a half marathon, and taking out the garbage even when it wasn’t full.
“I don’t know what’s gotten into you,” my wife said, as I walked in from repainting the garage for the third time that week, “But I like it!”
Then the inevitable happened.
“I don’t really think my character would do that,” Robbie chimed in one morning while I was working on the sequel to THIEVING WEASELS.
“Of course he would,” I replied.
“What do you know? You’re only the writer. I’m the real Skip O’Rourke.”
Clearly, something had to be done. But what? Not only could Robbie see and hear everything thing I did, he was growing more bossy by the hour. Soon I was living exclusively on kale and whey smoothies, hitting the gym three hours a day, and working on a hip hop musical based on the life of the actor George Hamilton (because Alexander Hamilton was already taken, and you know, HAMILTON!)
The possibility of escape finally came when I downloaded the audiobook for MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold. It’s read by the super-talented Phoebe Strole, and not only does she do a masterful job portraying Mim Malone, the heroine of David’s book, but she began pushing Robbie Daymond out of my head.
“Do we have to listen to that dumb book again?” he said in a weak voice as I put on my headphones. “Let’s listen to HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOR by John Corey Whaley. I do a fantastic job reading that book. The critics raved.”
“No,” I growled. “We’re finishing this one.”
Eight hours and twenty-six minutes of MOSQUITOLAND later, and Robbie Daymond was gone.
It was lonely at first, and yes, I immediately gained five pounds, but at least I had my brain back. It was time to celebrate, and I dashed off to the supermarket for a bottle of wine.
“Don’t get that one,” a female voice said as I grabbed a bottle of Chardonnay off the shelf. “It’s far too oakey.”
Before I could reply another voice said, “Don’t listen to her, pal. Phoebe has terrible taste in wine.”
“Shut up, Robbie!” Phoebe shouted. “I killed you once, I can kill you again.”
“Oh yeah? Just try it!”
“Look,” I pleaded. “Can’t we compromise and get a bottle of Pinot Grigio?”
This went on for another ten minutes until I realized that neither Robbie or Phoebe were paying any attention to me.
“Hey, you two,” I said, grabbing my cart. “Do you mind if I go pick up something in the bread aisle?”
This was my chance, and I raced out of the store. I dove in my car, cranked up the radio, and began singing along to the first song I heard.
This time, Robbie and Phoebe were gone for good. No more fighting over wine. No bugging me about baked goods. And no more hip hop musicals based on the life of the man who starred in ZORRO: THE GAY BLADE. I was free.
Unfortunately, I now have Beyonce stuck in my head, but that’s practically normal.
I mean, who doesn’t have Beyonce stuck in their head?
Billy Taylor is the author of the adult novel Based on the Movie. Thieving Weasels is his debut YA. He is a graduate of the Film Program at SUNY Purchase and the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. Before turning his hand to writing, he worked as a dolly grip on dozens of movies and TV programs including Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and My Cousin Vinny. He lives in San Antonio, Texas with his family.
THIEVING WEASELS is also available on hardcover and ebook from Dial, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.
Praise for THIEVING WEASELS:
“[A] funny, cold-blooded debut novel.”–The Wall Street Journal
“Taylor’s comedic crime novel entertains with its madcap, rapid-fire antics.”–Publishers Weekly
“Taylor milks the plot for comedy, delivering plenty of dark humor.”–Kirkus Reviews
“The protagonist is an engaging narrator…a fun choice.”–School Library Journal
“The plot against Skip is clever enough and the stakes are high enough (yes, he really wants quit of this clan) to make the tension authentic. Don’t be deceived…life with the O’Rourkes is no laughing matter.”–BCCB
“Readers who enjoy criminal-caper stories with plots so convoluted they are never sure who is on whose side will enjoy this adventure.”–VOYA