December 21st, 2016

Josh’s Story Brought to Life

Five years ago I opened a blank document on my computer with a simple prayer – “I need a new story, Lord. Give it to me.”

Suddenly I was on a Christian college campus, feeling the anxiety rise in my character on his first day of college. With each keystroke, sympathy grew inside me for this pathetic young man who had a lukewarm faith at best. I couldn’t see any victory in his life—yet, those are the lives God uses for his glory.

When brain trauma from a car accident brought me to the realization that I wouldn’t publish a new novel in 2015, I set out to find someone to perform Running in Such a Way: Josh’s Story as an audiobook. In search of a producer, I sent up another prayer – “Lord, bring the right man to this project. I need someone who will do it justice and glorify you.”

Enter Thomas P. Knotts.Thomas Knotts

Not right away, but five months and two auditions later. The moment my kids and I heard Thomas’ audition, we looked at each other and said, “He’s the one.”

It’s been a six-month process, but I’ve been so blessed by the way Thomas brought these characters to life. My teens and I laughed together and cried together as we listened to Josh’s story unfold in a new way. The slurred words of his alcoholic mother made my skin crawl and Elizabeth’s enthusiasm had me smiling. Thomas read with such passion that I felt as if I was hearing the story for the first time. There was one chapter that left me so crushed, I sat in my car crying after I arrived at my destination. I was baffled at how these words I wrote and rewrote and revised years ago could seem so foreign to me until I remembered, they were never my words. They were the Lord’s. I asked Him for a story and He gave it to me.

So, with that, I can’t wait for you to meet this man who brought Josh and Elizabeth to life. And stay tuned for a chance to win a free audio download of Running in Such a Way: Josh’s Story at the end of the blog.

Hi, Thomas. Thanks for being here today. Please tell us a little about yourself. What do you do when not producing audio books?

I am a high school biology teacher and athletic trainer in a small town in West Virginia.  My wife, Janie, and I have two children: Reese, five-years-old, and Ryker, two-years-old.  As I write this, Reese is perched on the arm of my chair with her arm resting on my shoulder and Ryker is taking a nap.  Janie and I teach a high school Sunday School class and help out in the AWANA program on Wednesday nights.  Needless to say, when we can eek out some adult time, we usually talk about nerdy science and medical stuff, since we were both biology majors and work in healthcare (she’s a Physician Assistant and I’m an Athletic Trainer).  It might be sad to say, but we sneak away to medical conferences as a form of mini-vacation so we can reconnect with each other as well as be nerds and learn.

That’s great that you and your spouse have so much in common. What, in your opinion, is the most challenging part of making an audio book? What do you feel is the most rewarding?

Balancing time has to be the most challenging part of this whole process.  Finding time to record in a truly quiet area is only the start of making an audio book.  I thought that I would be spending the most time on the actual recording, but I have come to find that editing and fixing my many mistakes is right up there when it comes to time expended.

The most rewarding aspect is knowing that my work has an eternal impact.  I make it a point to audition for books that will not compromise my Christian faith and let me tell you, that can be hard.  A lot of great books can be spoiled for me because I refuse to misuse God’s name or use inappropriate language.  Just because I am voice acting does not mean I stop being me.  I want my grandparents, parents, wife, and children to be able to listen to my audiobooks and grow.  This book is one that I feel proud of because it’s written with that eternal impact in mind and at the forefront.

One of the phrases the characters in Josh’s Story say often is “God’s got this”. Share a time in your own life when all you could say was “God’s got this”. How did the Lord reveal Himself through the situation as you trusted Him?

As I mentioned above, time management is a difficult thing for me.  I am a selective type-A personality, which means that I worry about the things that I choose to worry about in life.  I am new to the audiobook production business, and I know that deadlines are very, very important.  Needless to say, I did not realize that it was going to be so hard to find the correct environment and time to record and edit/rework projects.  Deadlines came and went. I started to realize I had bitten off more than I could chew.  I knew that I was working on something that was a bucket list goal, and that would have a positive and eternal impact.  Needless to say, I cannot manufacture time, so I had to say, “God’s got this.”  Thankfully, God provided people who understood and showed a huge amount of grace.

Well, the quality of your work shows, Thomas. It was, without a doubt, worth the wait. :)

One of my favorite lines in the book was spoken by Elizabeth at the end of a very long week:

‘“I was actually telling God how frustrated I was right before you came up to me. I told Him it wasn’t fair that I was all alone having to deal with this.” Slipping her hand into his, she [Elizabeth] looked up at Josh. The overhead light in the parking lot shined dimly on her face to reveal tears forming in her eyes. “And then He sent you.”’

Share a time that you had a need and God brought along the perfect person to fill that need.

A couple of years ago, I was going through a really hard time.  At one point, I was on my office floor crying and praying to God – I was a broken man.  My co-workers were noticing a change in me, and not for the good.  They could see my pain.  One morning, before I got out of my car at work, I asked God to just give me some peace, a break from the pain, something.  That same day, during lunch, a student who was on the football team gave me some news that completely changed what I was going through.  God used that teenage boy to instantly bring tears of joy to my eyes and take a huge burden off my heart. I wasn’t completely better, but that was the beginning of a huge healing in my life.  That guy may not even know or care about that day, but I sure do, and it was all because God put him there to say those refreshing words as an answer to my prayer.  I am very thankful to God for that day.

I love how the Lord brings about the right people at the right time. Related to the book Running in Such a Way, what character in the story do you relate to the most and why?

Tommy.  We share a name and a major.  I like the idea of being a friend who is always there to encourage and offer solutions to problems.  Tommy doesn’t take no for an answer, but he’s not outrageous about his persistence, either.  He always seems to be right where he needs to be to give a bit of encouragement and let the other person shine in the spotlight.  I like that about him, and I hope that others would see that in me, too.

Who was your favorite character to perform and why?

Obviously, as a guy, I loved playing the lead.  Josh is a great guy who struggles, and that is what makes it real for me.  I teach in an area that has a lot of problems, alcohol being one of them.  To know that my students might be living Josh’s story strikes home with me.  I also enjoyed playing Josh’s mom.  There is a scene when everything comes to a head and hard choices are made.  I felt her nervousness and fear.  Her pain and insecurity still resonate with me.

Who was most challenging? Why?

Two women: Elizabeth and Josh’s little sister.  Since I have a lower voice, trying to find that “real” sounding woman’s voice was rough.  To this day, I still wonder how I can make my woman’s voice sound better.  As I was researching for this book, one of my friends walked into my recording area while I was playing a youtube video on how to sound like a woman.  Thankfully, I got to explain why before she jumped to conclusions, otherwise that might have been a very different conversation, indeed!

Josh’s sister is young, which compounds to the whole issue.  I struggled to look for that childish/girly voice.  In voice over work, a lot of the male children are voiced by ladies; the most famous being Bart Simpson and Jimmy Neutron.  To combine the most difficult aspects of VO work into Josh’s sister (female and child) was hard for me.  I am sure that I would not want to do a lot of narrating from her perspective, at least, until she gets older.

What was your favorite scene in the book? (without giving anything away!)

The mothers take the cake on this one.  Let’s just say that I got to really flesh out some raw emotions with those two women.  Each has a scene that wrenches my guts, and I loved feeling what they were feeling as I was recording.

You did a great job on those scenes, Thomas. They were some of my favorites as I, too, felt the emotions. Any frustrations or roadblocks as you were making Running in Such a Way? How did you overcome?   

Time, time, and time.  Honestly, I was shown a ton of grace and patience by you, Kelly.  There were times when I know that you would have been completely in your rights to virtually smack me in the face through email, but you kept being encouraging and moving us forward.  I have learned a lot about myself through this process and had some new insight into what it really takes to record an audiobook.  I can’t express my gratitude for patience and grace as they were shown to me.  As stated above, I had to tell myself, “God’s got this!”  I know He did then, and I know He does now.  I hope that all the readers and listeners of this book get to see that, too.

Thank you, Thomas, for all the time and effort you put into bringing this story to life!

Thomas and I would also like to thank you, the readers of this blog, by raffling off THREE FREE audiobooks.  Simply leave a comment below to be entered into the drawing. If you have read Josh’s Story, let us know who your favorite character was. If you haven’t read the book, feel free to leave a question or comment for Thomas or me. You could even share a time God provided as you trusted him. Winners will be announced December 28th via email.

To learn more about Running in Such a Way: Josh’s Story or to purchase it in paperback, Kindle, or audiobook, click here.

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