It’s Monday, kids, and that means good times all around here on Penprints.
Last month, the first episode of the Bright Eyes podcast was released, and I was quickly, irrevocably hooked. It’s a science fiction podcast following the adventures of Trish Odessa, the pilot-turned-captain of the Ender in the wake of her untimely, unexplained promotion. Much mystery, suspense, and space ensue.
And Aimee Meester, the writer and producer of the podcast, has graciously agreed to do an interview!
Rosalie: Hey, Aimee! Welcome to Penprints! :D I’m so jazzed to have you “here” to tell us about your podcast, Bright Eyes. To start with, can you share a little bit about yourself for those who don’t know of you?
Aimee: Thanks so much for having me! I’m Aimee, obviously — I’m a writer and storyteller and lover of all things sci-fi, including podcasts, obviously. My favorite genre is anything weird and right now I’m probably at home with my cat because that’s how I roll.
R: Cats = aw, yesssssss. SO, why sci-fi and anything weird? What has drawn you to those genres?
A: I grew up on Star Wars and Star Trek, so it just kind of grew on me as I grew up. Then I discovered the world of weird genres beyond that, and I was totally lost. (I’ll be in love with steampunk forever.) I adore spaceships, and the future, and the wild creativity and imagination you have in these genres.
R: Wow, so cool. So with your love for and background in sci-fi, what was your inspiration for Bright Eyes?
A: So it was actually… Star Trek: Beyond. :P I came out of the theater pumped up and excited about bright colors and spaceships and sci-fi that’s not so much dark and gritty (though I love that) as it is neon and fast-paced. Novels are standard for me, so that’s how it started…but as I started to discover fiction podcasts I realized this could be the perfect format for something that wasn’t working as a straight up novel.
R: Ohhhh, I love Star Trek: Beyond! You touched on it a little bit already, but can you explain a little more as to why you wanted to put out a story via podcast instead of more “traditional” avenues?
A: Honestly I just thought it would be cool! I’m a fan of finding different and creative formats for storytelling, and discovering podcasts blew my mind. The challenge and newness of it appealed to me, and it was awesome when I finally had an idea that fit with that format.
R: And after the initial decision to produce a podcast, what steps did you take to create it, and what have been some of your favorite/most challenging parts of the whole process?
A: I really just started out with no plan. I didn’t know how I was going to voice characters (I thought it might be me for a little bit!), I didn’t know how I would get it out there, I had zero equipment, no experience. I didn’t even actively start looking for people to help. I started writing episodes anyway, just cranking them out, getting out all my ideas and putting together my ideal episodes. I really don’t know where I would be if I had tried to get everything together before I started writing. It helped HUGELY to start with what I could do and go from there. Then Sydney and Cyrus, my crew, found me on Twitter through a series of happy accidents, and we got to work on the actual music and voice work.
My favorite part of this whole process is the collaboration. It’s fun to create a story by yourself, but it’s something totally different to create a story and characters with other people. I’m lucky to work with two people who really understand the project and have so many things to add in ways that I lack, which is nice. We fill in each other’s blank spots in that way. I write all the words and the story, yeah, but then it goes through Sydney, and her tone and voicework and the way she expresses and emphasizes things adds a whole new layer, and then Cyrus adds music and sound effects that add another layer. By the time it’s finished and out there it’s something none of us could have created on our own and I love that so much. It’s always a joy listening to the final episode and hearing what it’s become.
My least favorite part is adjusting to the fact that I’m writing for audio, and I’m writing for someone else’s voice. Obviously I have control over the words I write, but writing novels (which is the thing I’m used to doing) is hugely different from writing something that’s made only for audio. I have to constantly remind myself that this can’t sound pretty, there can’t be descriptions, it has to sound like someone talking. I also have to keep in mind Sydney’s voice and how she says things. Which sounds weird, but there are some phrases that she’s going to do awkwardly and some that work much better for her and how she voices the character, and the more I hear of her voice in this project the more I have to adjust myself to write accordingly. It turns out great, but it’s a bit of a pain when you’re not used to it.
R: Wow, that is so interesting! Thank you for sharing! Now, I’ve seen Bright Eyes spark a ton of interest in creating fiction podcasts. So, for any of the aspiring writers and podcasters (let’s just say that’s a word), what would be three pieces of advice you would give them as they set out to produce a podcast?
A: 0. “podcaster” is totally a word.
As for real, actual advice…
- Just start writing it. I don’t care if you don’t have anything lined up, if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it. Don’t wait. If you have an idea, and you want to make it happen, just start writing it. Nothing is going to happen until you have something on the page, I can promise you that.
- Listen to other podcasts! I’m begging you, listen to other fiction podcasts. Just like you read lots of books if you want to write books, you have to consume lots of what you’re trying to create. Podcasts don’t follow the rules of books. You have to train your brain to approach writing them in a totally different way. They’re written differently, in different ways, with different focuses, and you should probably be familiar with that before you try anything. Some great examples and places to start are Welcome to Night Vale (urban fantasy), Within the Wires (sci-fi), Sayer (hard sci-fi), Limetown (paranormal/horror), Wooden Overcoats (humor, soap-opera-y)…
- Don’t do it on your own. You’ll go insane.
R: Wow, thank you so much for all the fantastic insights, Aimee. And thank you for taking the time to share a little about your journey with Bright Eyes. I can’t wait for the next episode!
And the hashtag to use is: #wheresmilo.
Have you heard of Bright Eyes? Are you thinking of writing a fiction podcast? Are you a sci-fi fan?