I almost deleted her email. There it was, listed with all my other emails, most of which offered me a discount to Kohls, Best Buy, Tire Discounters, or burial plots. Fortunately, enough of the message was visible on my phone, so I opened it up and read it. It was one of those messages that make your day. She told me that she had read my book for Audible, and that it was a joy to read. After a few more nice words, she signed her name, Amber Benson.
I replied with a standard, though heartfelt thank you and hit send. And then I thought, Amber Benson, I’ve heard that name before. I don’t know why I recalled it immediately, but I did. She had played Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was one of my favorite shows back when I was still recording on VHS tapes. I wrote back immediately, and Amber confirmed that yes, she was that Amber Benson. My mind began to swirl with all the things that made the world so weird and wonderful. I thought of my college days, and how my BFF and I had called each other Buffy and Bitsy, our way of handling the absurdity of the preppy stage that we were all going through at the time. And later, how the use of the name Buffy in the title had drawn me to one of my all-time favorite shows. And now, many years later, the actor who played one of the great characters on that show was reading my book, putting another voice to the voices that had existed in my head for so long. What a trip!
I’ve emailed Amber a few more times since then. Through our exchanges, I learned that Amber was born in Alabama, just a few miles up the road from the hometown of Blue Riley. This, along with my insistence that the narrator of Finding the Grain have a true Southern accent, was likely the reason that Audible asked Amber to narrate my book. Through those exchanges, I also learned of Amber’s sweet kindness, and that she is gracious with her time and energy. I’m sure she got all of that from her years in Alabama.
The voice Amber lends to the narration of Finding the Grain is the kind of Southern accent that is too quickly dying out. It is the accent you would likely hear from the refined ladies who know how to carry themselves in both a tea room and a barn stall. These are kind, Southern ladies who have carried themselves through life with true grit and shrewd intelligence. If you ever come across one of them, don’t mess with her. She can lay you to the ground with a twist of phrase and a steely stare, followed by the requisite, “Bless your heart.” Amber’s narration reminded me of this part of the South, and how the spoken word is as much a part of our landscape as the hills, trees, and sunsets.
Today is Amber’s birthday, so I wanted to send her my best regards. Happy birthday to you, Amber. Thank you for the magic.
Amber Benson is also an author. She recently released her latest novel, The Witches of Echo Park, available at fine bookstores everywhere. Or, you know, Amazon.