Dakota Fanning on narrating Veronica Roth’s latest ‘larger-than-life’ book

Dakota Fanning

It seems like now more than ever is an opportune time to catch up on some reading, but in a new way. Audible has built a platform where listeners can experience comedic series, original shows and even audio-books from acclaimed authors like never before. The latest release of the latter is Veronica Roth’s highly-anticipated new adult debut, ‘Chosen Ones.’ If you’re a fan of the ‘Divergent’ writer, expect a solid dose of everything you love about Roth’s writing, from the valiant female characters, to the vivid descriptions of other worlds to the intense journeys that her characters must forge through.

‘Chosen Ones’ follows Sloane, who was part of five ordinary teenagers who were singled out by a prophecy to take down the ‘Dark One’—a malevolent and powerful entity wreaking havoc across North America. Once they defeat the Dark One, life seems to go back to normal, until one of the Chosen Ones is killed on the 10th anniversary of the Dark One’s demise.

To play the plucky lead role of Sloane, ‘Chosen Ones’ needed a voice that could incorporate all of the fortitude of the character while also having the added challenge of narrating the book as well. That’s where acclaimed actress Dakota Fanning comes in.

Fanning sat down with Metro to discuss what she enjoyed about the recording process, what she likes about her character and delve into more on how Veronica Roth is able to pen such vivid worlds for our enjoyment.

What was it that intrigued you to sign on with this project?

It’s actually something that I had been thinking would be fun to do. My sister had done something with Audible a little bit ago, and I had heard about her experience, she had so much fun—so I was excited just to do it. Then, I read the book, and it was kind of this great treat that I actually loved it too.

What was the recording experience like?

It was a really fun experience, and it’s always exciting to get to do something new that you’ve never done before. The process was just sort of diving in and going for it—it’s one of those things where you go, ‘Okay, so I just start reading it now, right?’ Then if you need to stop or if you fumble a word you go back to the beginning of the sentence and then say it again. It was a very kind of free process though where it wasn’t like having to do takes, it’s all recorded, so we do have that freedom. But it was [also] finding the balance of separating when a person is speaking and the narration of the story and hoping there is differentiation, but also not to be too distracting and not to read it too fast. But then by the end, you kind of have it down, it just started to flow pretty quickly. It was long days, 3 or 4 of them, but I really enjoyed it, I loved it.

Did you get to chat with Veronica Roth beforehand?

I didn’t. I’ve never been able to chat with her and I’ve not met her, but I’m such a fan—I would love too. That’s the thing about this recording work, you’re in a separate booth apart from everyone else. But I hope to get to meet her and tell her in person how much I enjoyed the experience and loved her book. I just think this book especially, for fans of her ‘Divergent’ books, this is kind of the next step for them. Those fans are grown up into the next stage of their life, and this book is for them, so I hope they like it.

‘Chosen Ones’ by Veronica Roth. Provided

What can you tell me about your character, Sloane?

I think Sloane has taken her experience very hard. I think that the pressure that was put on her at a very young age has definitely taken it’s toll on her mental health. Also, the personality she shows the world, she’s built a wall up around herself and I think that’s the only way she knows how to survive, because her feelings are just so big. I think that we meet her kind of really showing that side of herself, which is sort of hardened—don’t let anybody inside. Of course, as we go through the entire book and the entire journey, we see why she’s become that way and that’s not actually who she is, you kind of break her down piece by piece. She needs to kind of re-build herself I think to become a new version of herself that’s not completely devoid of the version that we meet of her at the beginning, but I think she’s been through even more and is older now and is able to have a greater understanding for these kinds of huge events that she’s been apart of. What I like about her is her resilience. Even though she has that tough exterior and doesn’t always say things with a smile, you get to see her perseverance and I like those things. What I like about the book in general and Veronica’s choice with Sloane as the main character is that there is always such an emphasis on female characters being so likable and being so warm or turning into a nice person at the end—but I think with Veronica, the emphasis is not on [Sloane’s] like-ability and all of that, it’s about what she achieved and what she accomplishes and in learning more about herself, I think she does drop down some of those walls.

Veronica Roth always writes so vividly. What do you think having her story now, in the form of an audio-book, will bring to the audience’s experience overall?

I think that Veronica’s writing is very suited for Audible and for a listening experience just because it is so descriptive. I think she creates a world down to every little detail. She could be describing a gadget that doesn’t even exist on this planet and you could still somehow understand what it is, there is just a lot of juicy descriptions to say out loud. Because your eyes don’t have to be working, when you’re listening to an Audible book, I hope that people are able to just close their eyes and are able to imagine the world in a deeper way.

We’ve talked about what this audio-book could be for Veronica Roth fans, but what about for people who are new to her work ?

I think this is a great first book to experience her writing if you’re not familiar. If you’re into science fiction, if you’re into futuristic stuff or if you’re into apocalyptic kind of vibes, I think that this book is really for you. But at the same time, what I think [Veronica] does a really good job of is dealing with these kinds of bigger than life themes that are things that we have yet to experience. For being other-worldly, I think she really grounds the stories in the characters and you get to know them very deeply. That seems to be her first priority, so I think you get the best of both worlds. You get an intimate, character-driven story that has these larger-than-life elements scattered throughout, and then obviously her descriptive writing is very cinematic and very visual, so you also get that experience at the same time, because she describes everything so clearly.

‘Chosen Ones’ is available now to download on Audible. 

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