Audiobooks.com Interview with Ainissa Ramirez, Author of ‘The Alchemy of Us’

Have you always been interested in inventions, technology, and engineering, but could never get into any books on the topic because they were too dense or didn’t dig into the topic enough for you? Well, Ainissa Ramirez’ latest release, The Alchemy of Us, is the perfect next listen for you. It features several important inventions and how they shaped our culture. Plus, she touches on some inventors who had a huge impact who you might not know.

We got the chance to pick Ramirez’ brain about her most recent audiobook. Keep reading to find out what was her favorite invention to research, what she thinks of future of inventions, and more.

Audiobooks.com: What can readers gain from listening to the audiobook version of The Alchemy of Us that they might not necessarily get from reading the print version?

Ainissa Ramirez: The Alchemy of Us is a great book, but the audiobook version is a great experience. The audiobook provides an adventure that is richer than just words on a page.

The narrator, Allyson Johnson, doesn’t just speak the words, she performs them and brings them to life. With her artistic phrasing, energy, and personality, her narration will magically transport a reader to a world that existed not long ago. By listening in, readers will be entertained with the audiobook; and with her warm and kind voice, they will feel like they are spending time with an old friend.

Audiobooks.com: How involved are you in the narrator casting process and what do you look for in an audiobook narrator?

Ainissa Ramirez: I was very fortunate to work with such a supportive audiobook publisher like Gildan Media, because they took the lead in selecting a suitable narrator for my book, which was one of MIT Press’s big titles for the year. When they narrowed down their choices to one name, they sent samples of her work to me. As soon as I heard her voice, I was instantly enchanted. After listening to just a few minutes of her work, I asked, “How quickly can we hire her?”

I wanted a voice that mirrored my book. The Alchemy of Us is a warm invitation into the world of science. As such, I wanted a narrator who could be both smart and inviting simultaneously. The mission of my book is to explain science in an engaging way and make a reader feel included. I got all of that and more with the book’s narrator. The narrator possesses a voice that is cozy like a blanket. And with her artistry and narration, she makes a world where not only does a listener feel included, but she also creates a world a listener doesn’t want to leave.

Audiobooks.com: Did you find it hard to present the full story and facts for each invention while also keeping the material accessible to readers of all levels?

Ainissa Ramirez: Actually, this balancing act of keeping the material accessible to all readers while also presenting the full story is a challenge I enjoy. At my core, I am a teacher. As such, I am an advocate for my readers, desiring to make them all feel included in this unfamiliar world of science and invention.

When writing The Alchemy of Us, I made sure that the science was understandable and that a reader got just enough information so that they could move with ease in this new world. I honed this skill not only from teaching undergraduates for many years, but from explaining science to my grandmother when I was young. My grandmother was always interested in what I learned in school. While my science lessons might have been beyond what she might have known, I wanted her to feel included. To do so, I would describe science using things she knew.

In The Alchemy of Us, I make science understandable with a similar approach and zeal, often by using analogies and by telling stories, so that readers can feel included, too.

Audiobooks.com: Which invention was your favorite one to research and write about in The Alchemy of Us?

Ainissa Ramirez: If I had to pick one, it would be the discovery that took the most effort to research, which was the story of the work done by scientist J. J. Thomson. J. J. Thomson was a little man who made a huge impact on the world. He discovered the electron and did so by watching how a cathode ray (like the rays in old televisions) moved in a strange-looking glass bulb.
In order to get materials to write about J. J. Thomson, I had to venture to England and visit old libraries to uncover his story. It was important that I travel to these archives so that I could learn about Thomson’s work as well as learn about his personality. From early on, I knew he was a genius. But, from his old letters, I was able to find that Thomson was very accident prone. His wife would not let him use a hammer in the house! I loved learning how this Nobel Prize winner moved in the world and when I found interesting facts, such as these, I also found a way to make this great man of science relatable. These details were hard to get, but made Thomson seem more human. It is for these reasons that I am fond of J. J. Thomson and his entry in The Alchemy of Us.

Audiobooks.com: After analyzing these inventions through history and their impact on society, what do you think this lends to our future innovations?

Ainissa Ramirez: To be honest, I wrote about past inventions as a way to prepare us all for the future. The gadgets I highlight are simple ones, like the telegraph, the clock, and the light bulb, to name a few. But in The Alchemy of Us, I show readers the surprising outcomes that came from these inventions, particularly how they modified language, our sleeping patterns, and even our health. At this present time, it is hard to predict how future innovations will change us, but what is certain is that they will. That is why it is my hope that readers of The Alchemy of Us will feel empowered to ask questions to make sure that future innovations will fashion us in the most beneficial way. The Alchemy of Us encourages readers to put all inventions under the microscope so that, ultimately, we can all create a better future.∎


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