Behind The Podcast with Christine “Kix” Mwaturura, Creator of Private Affairs
Behind The Podcast with Christine “Kix” Mwaturura, Creator of Private Affairs
When you put your headphones on to listen to your favorite podcast, it might be the voices of the hosts you hear, but there’s usually a whole team of audio extraordinaires working behind the scenes to bring that show to life.
Our Behind the Podcast series pulls back the curtain on podcast production from around the Acast Creator Network, sharing stories from the diverse mix of people and roles working within podcasting. We’ll hear from the sound designers creating immersive sonic experiences, scriptwriters who’ve mastered words to build intricate worlds, and the producers who pull all the strings to bring you brilliant episodes week after week.
It comes as no surprise that romance fiction entices listeners in the intimate space of podcasting, but how do you keep them coming back for more?
Private Affairs is an award-winning romantic-dramedy fiction podcast that follows the story of Veronica (Vee), a recent transplant from Zimbabwe to Melbourne, who unexpectedly finds herself swept up in a romance with a charming Aussie doctor. However, the podcast is much more than a sizzling romp, with the show imbued with a nuance that explores the complexities of maintaining relationships across interracial, intercultural, and class boundaries.
Its creator, Christine “Kix” Mwaturura, is a Zimbabwean-Australian producer, writer, and radio DJ based in Melbourne — which should clue you up on the semi-autobiographical nature of Private Affairs. “I had this idea about a blog that I used to write, and there was a story from the blog that I just thought, there's something interesting about this story.”, Christine explains. “And then my sister was the one who suggested, why don't you turn your blog into a podcast?”
Private Affairs season one launched in 2021 and has since been crowned Podcast of the Year and Best Fiction Podcast at the 2021 Australian Podcast Awards. As well as breaking into the top 100 charts in the UK and Australia, and appearing in Drama all-time charts in several countries.
Acast caught up with Christine— dialing in from Melbourne, Australia—to find out how to make sparks fly when writing, directing and producing a romantic-dramedy fiction podcast.
On Creative Freedom
Taking a glance at Private Affairs’ credits, it’s clear that the podcast is very much a creation of Christine’s. Reflecting on her roles at the beginning of season one’s production, Christine wore many hats; the fundraiser, the writer, the director, the producer, the editor, the publicist — essentially anything that was not sound design, mixing, or acting.
“I was the one doing it. Not really because I wanted to, not for all of them, but I had to because of the limitations. I think it’s normal, especially for independent creators, that you end up doing a lot of the work yourself which is a really good experience to learn all the different roles from start to finish.” She says this real-world knowledge of the different elements of making podcasts has the added benefit of allowing her to communicate exactly what she wants and needs from her expanded team in production for season two.
“The advantage of doing all of those roles is that I do have a lot of autonomy, as well as creative freedom. You end up with a true expression of what you wanted”
On Scriptwriting For Fiction Podcasts
Producing enthralling audio fiction is one of, if not the most challenging formats in podcasting; there is so much riding on the scriptwriting for convincing world-building and drama portrayed through audio only. Even more so in the romance genre, where budding relationships between characters are to be believed without any of the flirtatious body language available on-screen.
Christine emphasizes, “In my opinion, it all starts with the writing. If you have a compelling story with good dialogue, I think you have a better chance of creating something that people want to listen to.”
When adapting her blog into the podcast script, Christine conducted research by looking at resources from the film and television industry, which provided guidance on story structure, pacing, and how to create characters with depth and interweaving storylines.
One crucial lesson Christine learned from screenwriters is not to use too much exposition and to write obvious explanations to get ideas across. “People don't want that, so don't dumb things down too much because you don't have a TV screen to convey your idea — trust that the audience is smart.”
Private Affairs also takes advantage of the medium and often leans into sound to conjure images of locations and scenes. During the scriptwriting process, Christine includes sound design notes to communicate ideas for the sound designer, Jerry Agbinya, to add in post-production, but flags, “Nothing is set in stone. Sometimes what you think will sound nice in your head, once you hear it, you're like, oh, that's terrible — so it's a collaboration between the two of us.”
Fundamentally, when sitting down to write a script, Christine says, “I just think to myself, what do I want to listen to? What haven't I heard discussed? And I start writing that. I think part of it is just a product of reading a lot of books. I really do think that reading has made me a better writer.”
On Casting For Audio Fiction
Audio fiction scripts need to be brought to life by a cast of actors, so finding the perfect voices of your characters is a vital piece of the puzzle. When casting actors, there’s a huge advantage in knowing the writing inside out, Christine notes, “I know the characters so well, going into casting I already had a strong sense of what I wanted in terms of the voice and the emotional range.”
However, the audition process is the make-or-break moment for knowing whether an actor is a right fit for the role. Christine explains, “I picked a scene where it would require them to have some emotional gear shifts”, she then evaluates, “Can they interpret that? Something has changed within the scene and they need to respond appropriately. And then I also like to go through the scene again with my feedback, to see if the actor can adjust and take direction.”
Considering the actor’s motivation for wanting to take part in the project is also valuable to Christine, “It's a very personal story. I put a lot of myself into it, so I want to bring on people who will treat it with care.”
On Advice For Getting Into Audio Fiction
Podcasting continues to be fertile ground for writers exploring creative ideas and new concepts, and Christine’s success with Private Affairs is a testament to the fact that if you’re passionate, ideas can flourish in audio. Posing the question of why writers should consider fiction podcasts, Christine responds “It's like the wild west right now. There are no rules to it, you can really do whatever you want. and I think that's so freeing”
“In Private Affairs I combine different styles of writing within the same show. There’s narration, there’s dialogue, sometimes I slip into more of a literary voice, and other times it's more of a poetic voice. You can do so many cool things with the medium.”
One practical piece of advice Christine has for writing audio fiction is remembering who exactly will be listening to it. “Always remember who you're making it for. I believe in the principle that if you design for everyone, you design for no one.”
Often the person you’re writing for is someone similar to yourself. It’s here where your personal truth and experiences can carry through to the person at the other end of the headphones. Christine notes, “I think these days people are really interested, especially the younger generation, in an authentic experience of something. So especially for me as a black woman, I feel like sometimes it might be tempting to like water down things. Private Affairs stars a black African woman and has some of my vernacular languages in there. It's got things that non-Black, non-Zimbabwean people will not understand, but I wanted to keep those elements in there because it is who I am. It is how we speak to each other. People can still [largely] understand, even if you're not from that target demographic, but there are things in there that I think people who are from [the] target demographic will appreciate [more] And people who are not will get an insight into something that is authentic.”
Season two of Private Affairs is starting on 17 February, you can listen to the trailer here.
Private Affairs is part of the Acast Creator Network and can be found wherever you get your podcasts.