Speaking of Audiobooks: Narrators Forum

Today at Speaking of Audiobooks, we are hosting our first live Narrators Forum.  It’s an event structured for narrators to come together and discuss pertinent issues in their industry as well as provide listeners with a glimpse into their world of bringing multiple characters to life.  Once the live portion of the forum is over, those involved want to hear from you.  Your feedback is important to them.

When I first started writing about audiobooks, I envisioned those reading to me in a studio surrounded by a director, producer, and recording technician.  My mind saw the director instructing a narrator to stop occasionally and try a line again or explain a needed change.  I guess I imagined something similar to a movie set with only one actor sitting in a sound booth performing all of the characters.  However, after visiting with a number of narrators this past year, I understand just how inaccurate that vision was.  Now that home studios are becoming more commonplace, narrators often operate alone and in somewhat of a vacuum.  There just aren’t that many opportunities to get together and talk about what they do day in and day out.

Meet the Narrators

Six highly talented narrators are joining us today and I couldn’t be more pleased with the group we’ve assembled for our first forum.  As I introduce each of our participating narrators, you’ll see a partial list of their romance narrations.

Justine EyreJustine Eyre – There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Justine’s past romance narrations but I must start with one yet to be released – Connie Brockway’s highly anticipated The Other Guy’s Bride (release scheduled for 12/22/11).  Justine is well known for her narration of Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter Series with listeners marking both Angel’s Blood and the most recent of the series, Archangel’s Blade, as not-to-be-missed right along with me.  Justine’s other romance narrations include Cynthia Eden’s Deadly Series, Sabrina Jeffries’ School for Heiresses Series, Karen Robards’ Scandalous, Keri Arthur’s Full Moon Rising, and Julia London’s The Year of Living Scandalously.

Phil Gigante head shotPhil Gigante – Voted Favorite Male Narrator and Best Male/Female Dual Romance Narration in our 2011 Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll, Phil is best known around here for his rollicking narration of Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander Series, the male roles in Karen Marie Moning’s Dreamfever and Shadowfever (yeah, I’m talking Jericho Barrons), Linda Howard’s Dream Man, Nora Roberts’ Blood Brothers, and a number of both Christine Feehan and Diana Palmer titles.  Regularly performing in a variety of genres, romance listeners eagerly await Phil’s new romance narrations and it’s always duly noted when he makes a return!

Tavia GilbertTavia Gilbert – Tavia’s narration of Jeaniene Frost’s One Foot in the Grave tied for first in our Favorite Urban Fantasy with Romance Thread category of our Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll earlier this year.  She’s best known around here for her narration of Frost’s Night Huntress and Night Huntress World Series, while other regulars rave about her performance of Karen Rose’s Die for Me, Scream for Me, and Kill for Me.  Sarah McCarthy’s Shadow Wrangler Series was released this fall with Tavia’s narration making the series a hit in audio.  She’s also performed titles by Suzanne Enoch, Heather Graham, Jordan Dane, and Debbie Macomber.

Renee Black (Raudman)Renee Raudman – Narrating the works of numerous well known romance authors, Renee has proven repeatedly that she definitely knows how to perform romance.  Her narration of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels Series has earned great praise with Magic Bleeds earning the Favorite 2010 Romance Audiobook category and Magic Strikes tying for first in our Favorite Urban Fantasy with Romance Thread category in our recent Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll.  Renee’s just wrapped up the third in Ilona Andrews’ The Edge Series, Fate’s Edge, which is set for release November 29th.  And on a personal note, I must mention Lisa Kleypas’ Blue-Eyed Devil.  Renee’s depiction of the abused heroine Haven was nothing less than stunning.

Xe SandsXe Sands – New to the scene but quickly making a name for herself, Xe also won a place in our Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll with the Favorite Debut Romance Narrator award.  I was completely impressed when I first heard Xe as she narrated Anne Stuart’s Fire and Ice.  She has scored big with Jacqueline Frank’s Nightwalker Series as well and those who have listened to even one in the series can’t quit raving about her performance.  Xe will soon be narrating Jordan Dane’s Evil Without a Face.

Karen WhiteKaren White – After nine years of narrating genres other than romance, Karen exploded into the romance genre and won our hearts with her narration of Julie James’ Just the Sexiest Man Alive.  She has since recorded a number of romance audiobooks including Kristina Douglas’ (Anne Stuart) Fallen Series, Susan Krinard’s Bride of the Wolf, and Cindy Proctor-King’s Head Over Heels.  Coming out soon are two titles I know will be big hits – Jill Shalvis’ Animal Magnetism and Animal Attraction.  Karen also just finished up her first Steampunk, Stacy Gail’s Crime Wave in a Corset.

How the Forum Works

At 11:00 eastern time today (November 14th), the live forum will begin in the discussion area immediately below this column.   During this live portion, only the narrators participating in the forum will post entries as they answer questions and talk with one another.  As moderator, I’ll ask a question and each narrator will answer and then discuss the issue between themselves before we move on to the next question.

We ask all of our listeners/readers to refrain from posting until the forum is complete. At that time, I’ll announce that the discussion is open for all.  I know that Karen, Xe, Renee, Tavia, Phil, and Justine are all eager to hear from you as well – both your observations and questions.

If you are unable to attend the actual event, you can read the discussion after the fact and, of course, we’ll be accepting comments from you, our listeners, for days.

A transcript of the narrators’ discussion will be available next week.  Let me know if you are interested in a copy.

Today’s Discussion Questions

To assist you in knowing the direction of the dialogue, I’m including the list of questions we will be utilizing as a framework for today’s discussion.

  • Those of us who have ardently listened to fictional audiobooks over the past ten – fifteen years have noticed a change in the method of delivery.  The art of narration now seems to require more intensity and attention to detail.  Where it may have been acceptable to simply read a book with a touch of dramatic flair at one time, listeners now expect narrators to perform.  Have you seen a gradual shift in the role of the narrator over the past fifteen years?
  • In discussions here at Speaking of Audiobooks, it’s clear that we see narrators as actors – the better the actor, the better the narration.  Since your audio listeners can’t see your body language or emotional expressions as they would on stage or in film, how do you perform your characters audibly?  And since you are required to portray more than one character, what are methods you use to differentiate your characters?
  • How do you convey emotion beyond the written word?  Do you shout if a character is shouting or just read the passage wherein the author is telling his/her audience about the action?  Do you perform a character crying if they are written as such?  Or do you literally laugh if the character is described as doing so?
  • A pure audiobook success for me is Anna Fields’ narration of Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  I didn’t care much for the heroine Blue in print as I found her testy and ungrateful and therefore wasn’t too crazy about the book.  But I gave it another shot in audio and saw another Blue entirely.  Fields’ interpretation was a good humored, self deprecating character and Natural Born Charmer moved into my favorites relisten file.
  • Most dedicated audiobook fans can name books where the narrator’s interpretation of a character – the voice used, the attitude portrayed, the mood the narrator set – changed the written word from okay to a favorite re-listen or better, turned a good book into a brilliant audiobook.  Along that same line of thought, what influences the choices you make when preparing to record?  In addition to the author’s words, what inspires you to portray a character one way or another?
  • Does the romance genre demand a different approach from narrators than other forms of fiction?  Do you feel the need to differentiate your characters more for the romance genre or do you differentiate equally for all genres?

I want to give special thanks to Karen White for encouraging me to put together today’s forum.  It is something I’ve had in the back of my mind for more than a year and have discussed with a few narrators.  Karen pulled me out of thinking and into action.

Speaking of Audiobooks plans to host a Narrators Forum every few months with a new set of discussion questions each time.  We’ll invite other narrators to participate as well as ask these to return.  A number of future topics are already in the works.

Now for the live forum!  It starts shortly – 11:00 eastern standard time.  Come watch the interaction, learn, enjoy, and then share with us!

- Lea Hensley

248 thoughts on “Speaking of Audiobooks: Narrators Forum

  1. @Kaetrin – Your cracking me up here with your dual narration thoughts and hook up ideas. :D

    Ditto Teri – a well done “give and take” dual narration is indeed a treat, I’d love to hear more of them too.

    @Renee – I’ve often said, whether I read or listening to a book, that they play in my mind. Finding the narrators / voice actors that deliver in vivid 3D = the ultimate enjoyment!

    And as someone who has been happily married for a lot of years I love this thought … So how great is it, that in every romance, I get to pursue or be pursued by, the man of my dreams, and fall in love all over again

  2. I am excited to hear that Phil thinks ‘dual narration’ is a burgeoning trend. I always feel like I’ve hit the jackpot when I listen to a book narrated by a male and female interacting with each other. It’s my favorite kind of narration. That is not to say that I haven’t absolutely adored books voiced by one talented narrator. I have and enjoyed every minute of the ‘listen’. But…’give and take’ dual narration is a special treat and still my favorite. I suppose I’m a little biased since all of the dual narrations to date have been Phil with a variety of talented female narrators (he does get around). :)

  3. :)))))) No, alas, it’s not Phil! Though, he could be a prototype! He’s certainly “one of the good ones”, and is married to a beautiful, talented and successful narrator! :) What fun to get to narrate with your mate!

  4. @ReneeRaudman Thx for clarifying your thoughts – I certainly understand what you mean – I’ve often wondered whether narrators (and what a poor word for what you REALLY do!), anyhow, I’ve often wondered whether narrators itch to change a word here or there. Perhaps that’s a question for another forum.

    • Kaetrin: @ReneeRaudmanThx for clarifying your thoughts – I certainly understand what you mean – I’ve often wondered whether narrators (and what a poor word for what you REALLY do!), anyhow, I’ve often wondered whether narrators itch to change a word here or there.Perhaps that’s a question for another forum.

      This may not be as interesting as changing words for “quality” sake – and I do agree wholeheartedly with all that Renee has said. We walk a fine line as interpretive artists – we did not create the text, our job is to bring it alive.

      That said, (more and more these days) I find lots of copywriting errors in books I am working on. A combination of my own detail oriented brain as well as the fact that I am reading it aloud, I think. Many writers are really thankful to have these discovered and are very helpful with making the appropriate changes.

  5. Karen, et al—re: dual narrations….Brilliance does indeed do dual narrations in their in-house studio. Both narrators share the same studio space to record. It can be kind of tight, and there are time you can’t help but look in each others eyes (or sometimes try to avoid it during hot scenes—which can lead to laughter!) I just completed a dual read with Angela Dawe at Brilliance of J. A. Konrath’s “Jack Daniels” novel STIRRED, which is usually a dual.
    I have also recently set up my home studio to do dual-recordings, as I see a trend that way and have been doing a lot of them—especially if the production can afford it.
    On the flip side of that, I recently produced a book called IN SESSION—featuring Natalie Ross, Dick Hill, Scott Brick, Lee Child and myself—and most of that was done in seperate studios, with the “guest voices” only voicing their dialogue lines, then the pieces were shipped back and edited together in post. BLATANT PLUG: IN SESSION by M.J. Rose is available on Audible.com, it’s cheap, and all profits from the audiobook go to David Baldacci’s WishYouWell Foundation—a charity supporting literacy! So go get it! LOL Thanks!

  6. I’d love to hear from other narrators on this – but none of the recording studios I’ve worked in are set up for dual narration. Brilliance must be – and it must be a challenge to work that way. TWO narrators’ noises and various other reasons for retakes to deal with. But if you didn’t record the book with the two narrators in the room at the same time, it would be a very expensive (and difficult) edit to piece the book together, keeping levels in line, etc. Audiobooks, sadly, just don’t have the budgets of animated movies, or even (even more sadly!) of video games.

    Again, I’d love to hear how Brilliance engineers the dual narration – but with production budgets shrinking, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are fewer of these produced rather than more. Maybe I am wrong?

  7. @Xe – you aren’t alone in your thinking about dual narration. I find it very disruptive to the flow of the story when the POV changes from the male to the female narrator and they voice all of the characters. I much prefer when the male narrator does all the male voices and the female narrator does all the female voices. Again, a great example is Dreamfever and Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning; narrated by Natalie Ross and Phil Gigante. The story was in first person so Natalie narrated the majority of the book. Phil provided all the male voices. It was ear candy.

  8. @Kaetrin – Exactly! Which is why I find it so imperative to truly connect with the characters and the scene. Not always a very comfortable experience if one of them is being a bit of a jerk, let me tell you! But if you are truly connected, the emotion comes through in your voice. It’s a bit like an emotional telephone call. If we’re on the phone with someone we are connected to, we can and do interpret their emotional intent via only their voice.

    @Melinda – well that is a relief to hear (on the dual narration aspect). I think it’s just me that finds this odd.

  9. @Karen White – well, my romance-loving heart is also hoping that’s the case!

    Next question is “who is Phil’s wife?” I googled and had no success – I’m so nosy – I know it’s none of my business but… Srsly though, as a romance listener, if I was listening to a book dual narrated by a real life couple, I couldn’t help but find it MORE romantic (well, at least in the HEA bits!). It’s like when Faith Hill and Tim McGraw sing a duet – you know there’s gotta be some extra meaning there…

  10. *oh I was going to say, including all the narrators in the forum today! forgot my asterisked comment

  11. @ Kaetrin YES! What she said! You have beautifully articulated why a narrator who “gets it” is so important to us!

    Having listened to around 500 audiobooks in the last ten years, it’s the ones I re-listen to, over and over again, they are the ones that fall into the category your clarifying Kaetrin.

    I’ve enjoyed the majority of those books and am rarely sorry I listen to a book but the true works of art for the ears, that is what I’m always searching for when I start a new audiobook – and they’re hard to come by. They take a good authors words and turn them into sheer brilliance.

    They have Chapter 32 t-shirts?? Where have I been? It’s time to Google. I better add Ilona Andrews items to my search while I’m at it. I already have my Barron’s coffee mug thanks to the matching set Lea bought us during our joint listen of Shadowfever. :D

  12. Well, I’ve just spent an enjoyable hour or so reading all the comments! Thank you to all the narrators who participated and an extra big thank you to Lea for arranging this event. :)

    @Renee Raudman. Early in the conversation, you said something like “after all the narrator is just the vehicle for telling the story”. With much respect (as you are one of my favourite narrators – in fact both Brenda and I are squeeing fangirls; it’s kind of embarrassing) I have to say that I disagree. I think you might just be selling your (the narrator’s) importance a little short. The audiobook medium has a different aspect to it than a paper/ebook. I believe, the performance of the narrator brings something extra (and, hopefully, special) to the experience that cannot be obtained otherwise. Narrators are so much more than a delivery method – For example, I read Blue-Eyed Devil first and then listened. The emotion you put into Haven’s voice when she was relating the violence Nick subjected her to made it so much more “real” to me. And, that line that Hardy delivers? About not having enough of Nick left to fill a matchbox? You said it SO much better on audio than I did when I heard it in my head when I read it. And that was all YOU. YOUR interpretation of someone else’s words. Someone else would have done it differently and it would have been a different audiobook (but probably not as good). And, just about everything that Curran has ever said? Way much better when you say it!

    In the Fever series, Barrons has a deeply sexy growl and I just don’t think people who haven’t listened to Phil’s Barrons voice can come up with that on their own. (We probably shouldn’t talk about the thing that happens deep in the belly of many listeners when Barrons is getting busy).

    In the Outlander series, Davina Porter has said lines which when I read them, I had emphasised slightly different words and the line then had a slightly different meaning. But, when I heard her delivery, I thought “no, she’s right, that’s how that line was meant to be said” and I got something extra out of it. I can’t get that on my own.

    There are others:-
    Tavia’s “Chapter 32″ (Night Huntress fans will know what I’m talking about! *wink*) with Cat and Bones
    Sophie Eastlake doing Dragos’ voice in Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound and asking for a zip-loc baggy, the Sentinels talking about a soap stars fake breasts (“too globular”)
    Susan Ericksen’s “Roarke” voice saying “Darlin’ Eve” in JD Robb’s In Death series
    and, there are plenty more.

    Those things make a great audiobook. The author writes a story but the narrator CREATES something additional and both are delivered on audio, IMO. Yes, a narrator “delivers” the author’s words but a great narrator is delivery by Ferrari (possibly being driven by Gerard Butler).

    • Tavia’s “Chapter 32″ (Night Huntress fans will know what I’m talking about! *wink*) with Cat and Bones

      I don’t know WHAT you’re talking about. * wink

      I really should get a Chapter 32 t-shirt. A listener told me about it, and I was delighted!

      And your comment about the Ferrari is so, so kind. That makes my…year?

    • What wonderful additional reading this has been! What a treat! My apologies for taking so long to respond, as I’m afraid it’s been a bear of a week, but Kaetrin, I did want to respond to not only your lovely and thoughtful comments regarding Blue Devil — Thank you so much!!! (that was a very special book, and I felt so fortunate to have been chosen to narrate), but also regarding the “just a vehicle” statement. I actually completely agree with what you, and Brenda and others wrote.

      I guess to further clarify what I meant in the initial quote is that; unlike making a film (and to me, audiobooks are much more like a film than television or other mediums), where there is artistic license when a story is being filmed w/ verbiage, dialogue, scenes, etc., audiobooks are not subject to that. We are a vehicle to translate the exact words on the page to the listener. We, as narrators, do get to bring our essence, flavor, style and character choices to each and every story, but at the end of the day, we are required to ‘perform’ the exact story as written and not ‘our version’ of it per se, outside of those words.

      Ironically, one of my goals with every audiobook, is to make ‘movies for the mind’s eye’ for the listener. Truth be told, I do it for me! That’s why I love my job. Because, although I prep the book before hand, it comes alive for me when it’s read out loud. It becomes a movie in my mind. Each character is separate and individual, and (usually) a blast (or a challenge!) to perform!

      I love creating the leading men, as they ultimately become men I’m most attracted to, or who I’d want to pursue me! — (though it should be said, that I’m in a very happy, long and successful relationship)! So how great is it, that in every romance, I get to pursue or be pursued by, the man of my dreams, and fall in love all over again, (while, of course, embodying the writers specific characteristics for each of those characters. :)

      Much to be thankful for! Happy Thanksgiving Week to you all. Renee

      • Renee Raudman: I love creating the leading men, as they ultimately become men I’m most attracted to, or who I’d want to pursue me! — (though it should be said, that I’m in a very happy, long and successful relationship)!

        It’s not with Phil is it? LOL!! :D

  13. @Lee Ann – oh agreed! I wouldn’t audition for a book that I knew had accents I wasn’t able to perform. But often I get books assigned to me and the publisher doesn’t necessarily know about the accents involved. Would that we always had the opportunity to read a book before committing!

    • Xe Sands: @Lee Ann – oh agreed! I wouldn’t audition for a book that I knew had accents I wasn’t able to perform. But often I get books assigned to me and the publisher doesn’t necessarily know about the accents involved. Would that we always had the opportunity to read a book before committing!

      Oh dear, that could be a problem! In that case, voice coach here I come! :)

  14. @Brenda — Thank you for the listener’s perspective. It’s greatly appreciated — after the author, you’re the person I want to please. :)

    @Xe — I agree that there are definitely times when an accent/dialect coach would be a necessity. Usually, though, since I know my current limitations, I only audition for books for which I feel I can voice all of the characters in my reading. I have found what you mention about ‘subtle’ accenting to be very helpful. That is something that I’ve already used and I think it was the right decision for those projects. Narrating is, indeed, a craft and one where it is good to sometimes step out of one’s comfort zone. (As was discussed in the forum today.)

    Thanks to both of you!

  15. Oh you are all simply wonderful! Love the interest in what we do, and love your support and enthusiasm for our work!

    @Lee Ann – the accent issue! Here’s my take. If the author specifically calls out an accent (i.e. “He said in his thick Sicilian accent”) then I think you’ve gotta go for it. This is where accent/dialect coaches are KEY. Can’t stress that enough. However, if you have a book in which the character accents are not called out, I think you can make a choice. When I was prepping Fire and Ice, I asked this same question of a host of senior narrators. And the response was overwhelming along the lines of: whatever you choose, be subtle! Subtle accenting is the safest and often the best route. Pat Fraley said that every such choice (accent/no accent/high characterization, etc.) is a risk. You risk pulling the listener out of the story…but every risk also comes with a potential reward. So you have to think about what you can authentically deliver IN CHARACTER, and go from there, getting assistance as needed from a coach.

    @Diane – I wonder about the dual narration specifics as well, and as a listener, have the same preference as you. I worked on one book that had three narrators. And we each had moments when we had to voice the other’s characters. I can’t imagine how listeners would have been able to tell who was speaking – it felt crazy, to be honest. And I’m looking forward to a dual narration with Phil as well! Should it ever happen, I am sure that this group will be the first to hear of it – SOA hears about everything!

    • Xe Sands: [snipped]
      @Diane – I wonder about the dual narration specifics as well, and as a listener, have the same preference as you. I worked on one book that had three narrators. And we each had moments when we had to voice the other’s characters. I can’t imagine how listeners would have been able to tell who was speaking – it felt crazy, to be honest. [snipped]

      I prefer to hear one narrator at a time! The thing about dual narration for me is this: once a narrator establishes a voice, and remains consistent, I have no trouble telling who is speaking – even in a dual narration where male POV is by the male narrator, female by female. Some of my favorite listens are done this way – The Time Traveler’s Wife; the last few of Brockmann’s Troubleshooters. Or The Help which used 4 narrators – that worked beautifully, and they didn’t each pop in to voice their own characters; instead each told from her perspective, using the voices she would have heard in her mind.

      I’ve found that great narrators* seem to find subtle ways to imply gender that again, once established and used consistently, work for me. Will Patton’s female voices in the Dave Robicheaux series comes to mind. I surely don’t want female narrators ruining their vocal chords trying to produce baritones, but I also don’t want to hear someone different pop in to voice dialog during a read by a different voice. Maybe that’s just me.

      This was an incredibly fun forum to read, even if it did take me away from my audiobook!!

  16. Thank you to Lea and all the narrators for a wonderful time. I’m bringing up a question that I’ve never been able to get an answer to. Hopefully some of you can straighten me out. :) On the dual narration issue: who makes the decision on how the narration is done? My preference is for male narrator = male pov and male voices only and female narrator = female pov and female voices only. If I hear the male narrator doing both male and female and the female narrator doing the same voices I’m asking myself why dual narrators? I will listen to that kind of narration but I don’t enjoy it as much since each character has two voices to get used to every time there’s a switch and that tends to take me out of the story while I’m adjusting.
    Xe – I’m looking forward to you and Phil teaming up for a dual. :)

  17. Thanks to all the narrators who’ve been so wonderfully open in sharing with us. Now I have a long list of books I want to listen to again. I’m currently revisiting Karen Rose’s Vartanian trilogy narrated perfectly by Tavia.

    I think it’s amazing that audiobook actors are so adept at doing ALL the parts. Don’t sell yourselves short on that. Sometimes while I’m listening to dialogue it’ll hit me that this is one actor having a conversation with herself/himself as two different people. Amazing. Jeez, how do you DO THAT?

    Next time I listen to Renee doing a Kate Daniels battle scene, I’ll know that her arms are sticking up like a goalpost. Love that!

    • Diana: Thanks to all the narrators who’ve been so wonderfully open in sharing with us. Now I have a long list of books I want to listen to again. I’m currently revisiting Karen Rose’s Vartanian trilogy narrated perfectly by Tavia.
      I think it’s amazing that audiobook actors are so adept at doing ALL the parts. Don’t sell yourselves short on that. Sometimes while I’m listening to dialogue it’ll hit me that this is one actor having a conversation with herself/himself as two different people. Amazing. Jeez, how do you DO THAT?

      Thanks, Diana – I have to say that for me that is the most fun part. It is challenging, but when it goes well, it’s such a high. It’s kind of like playing tennis with yourself. Luckily without the running part. :)

      Next time I listen to Renee doing a Kate Daniels battle scene, I’ll know that her arms are sticking up like a goalpost. Love that!

      I love that image of Renee as well!

  18. First of all, a big thank you to all of the narrators on the panel! It was great to hear the different approaches to handling male and female voices, use of the hands and body during recording (I’m afraid I’d hit the mic every time in my tiny studio) and the funny comments.

    How do any of you feel about using accents? This has come up before for me. I used varied southern accents for female and male characters throughout one book and it turned out well — mostly because I’m comfortable using different U.S. southern accents. The author selected me based on an audition with the accent (which he had requested). However, what do you do when a book calls for an English, Scotch, German, Irish, etc., (you get my drift) accent?

    I finished a book a few months ago that was set in Scotland but I did not attempt a Scottish accent. The main character was an American but everyone else was Scottish, except for one Italian male. Because the author chose me from my audition (reading of the first chapter), she was obviously fine with an American accent. I’m discovering that readers don’t necessarily feel that way, though. It’s one thing to practice and feel confident enough to handle a few lines but to read the entire book with a foreign (to me) accent sounds like a nightmare.

    Any experiences with this, good and bad, that any of you could share?

    Thanks again for your time!

    • Lee Ann—I love doing accents. I do a lot of accent heavy books, and I tend to get a lot of work based on the fact that I have a good ear for them. When I need to review an accent, I always try to find a native speaker or three on youtube or whatever, then narrow the region where the accent is coming from.
      I do feel that an accent adds a lot to a performance—but a badly done accent detracts more than a “straight” voice would. The “mid-Atlantic” unaffected speech is perfectly acceptable if you and the Author are good with it.
      Look at British theatre—it doesn’t matter what country it is set in—the wealthy speak proper English, the poor or cokney. See: any Shakespeare or Les Miserables!

      Lee Ann Howlett: First of all, a big thank you to all of the narrators on the panel! It was great to hear the different approaches to handling male and female voices, use of the hands and body during recording (I’m afraid I’d hit the mic every time in my tiny studio) and the funny comments.How do any of you feel about using accents? This has come up before for me. I used varied southern accents for female and male characters throughout one book and it turned out well — mostly because I’m comfortable using different U.S. southern accents. The author selected me based on an audition with the accent (which he had requested). However, what do you do when a book calls for an English, Scotch, German, Irish, etc., (you get my drift) accent?I finished a book a few months ago that was set in Scotland but I did not attempt a Scottish accent. The main character was an American but everyone else was Scottish, except for one Italian male. Because the author chose me from my audition (reading of the first chapter), she was obviously fine with an American accent. I’m discovering that readers don’t necessarily feel that way, though. It’s one thing to practice and feel confident enough to handle a few lines but to read the entire book with a foreign (to me) accent sounds like a nightmare.Any experiences with this, good and bad, that any of you could share?Thanks again for your time!

      • Thank you, Phil! By the way, you had me in stitches today, too.

        It’s funny that you should mention mid-Atlantic speech since that’s basically what I used for the few Scottish bits of dialogue in the book “One Vacant Chair.” Everyone else was from Texas but there was a section of the book that took place in Scotland. I was afraid that switching to a plain American accent would be too jarring to the listener so I checked out Youtube and several sites that were recommended by other narrators to get a feel for how to pronounce the words. I love the sound of a Scottish accent but performing with one was definitely different. I decided to err on the side of caution and use a very slight accent — enough to give the listener the flavor of being in another place among different people. It came out as more mid-Atlantic but that was OK. And, yes, I have noticed that all of the British dramas I watch (I’m a big fan) always seem to have the wealthy speak proper English in posh accents while the poor all sound ill-educated. :)

        Phil Gigante: Lee Ann—I love doing accents. I do a lot of accent heavy books, and I tend to get a lot of work based on the fact that I have a good ear for them. When I need to review an accent, I always try to find a native speaker or three on youtube or whatever, then narrow the region where the accent is coming from. I do feel that an accent adds a lot to a performance—but a badly done accent detracts more than a “straight” voice would. The “mid-Atlantic” unaffected speech is perfectly acceptable if you and the Author are good with it. Look at British theatre—it doesn’t matter what country it is set in—the wealthy speak proper English, the poor or cokney. See: any Shakespeare or Les Miserables!

  19. My thanks to Lea and all of the narrators/sound artists that participated in this enlightening forum! I find all aspects of the production of audiobooks fascinating and appreciate the “behind the scenes” insight that was shared.

    I was particularly interested in the comments about whether or not to add sounds such as laughter, sighs, etc. during the narration of dialogue. It was fascinating to read the different approaches and thoughts about whether adding these extra “sounds” detracted or added to the narration.

    Now that I’m better informed I won’t be so quick to judge the narration as lacking when I don’t hear that laugh or that sigh. However, my personal opinion is that whether or not the author writes “she laughed” at the beginning or the end of the dialogue, I do want to hear some indication of laughter within the narration. While an overblown guffaw would indeed be distracting, I find the lack of any indication of laughter to be distracting as well.

    Again, my thanks to all who participated. I look forward to the next forum!

  20. Those are great question BevQB (and great answers once again!) a mini forum all in it’s self. I have many comments to make – several Amen’s to choices and styles – but I’ll add them a little at a time to avoid the “book”.

    @Xe First things first: I think we’re all just a little bit in love with Phil now Personally his humor, which is right up my alley, then the obvious appreciation for his fans, along with his understanding of the genre – is what makes this a true statement. Then we can move on to voice. ;)

    Romance doesn’t have to be a narrators personal genre of choice but respecting a book, any book, along with it’s following of fans shines through in a narration. That aspect is something I have admired in each and every one of today’s participants.

    Seeing inside your heads – your thoughts when preparing to narrate right on through to the execution and final product shows me a dedication to your craft that makes you all the “stars” you are in our ears.

    @Renee – I’m so glad you discovered the “difference” in how you approached narrating after you were comfortable with your style and were willing to stick by it. :)

  21. I don’t have any questions but I do want to add my thank you to the narrators who participated and to Lea and AAR for setting this up.

    I loved having an into-the-booth peek at the narrator’s job. I’ve listened to and enjoyed performances by all of the narrators involved today and “eavesdropping” (although at one point I felt a bit more like a voyeur :D ) on your discussion about the process you use to bring the characters to life was a huge treat for any audiobook fan.

    • Kelli: I don’t have any questions but I do want to add my thank you to the narrators who participated and to Lea and AAR for setting this up.
      I loved having an into-the-booth peek at the narrator’s job. I’ve listened to and enjoyed performances by all of the narrators involved today and “eavesdropping” (although at one point I felt a bit more like a voyeur ) on your discussion about the process you use to bring the characters to life was a huge treat for any audiobook fan.

      Thanks, Kelli, and everyone for being such loyal fans!

  22. Such great comments and questions so far!

    First things first: I think we’re all just a little bit in love with Phil now ;)

    Phil pegged all of it, so no need for me to reiterate. I’ll add that I have chosen not to audition for books because I either didn’t think I was a good fit or because the material was simply too graphic in a personally offensive way for me to consider connecting with it in the deep manner required to deliver a credible performance.

    Quick note on accents: dialect coaches are beautiful people :)

  23. I just finished reading all the post, this it’s great,
    Oh my!! Phil is something!
    I can’t hear his name mention without thinking about ” MISS LANE”.. his first line on Dreamfever, I almost felt of the chair when I heard his voice… perfect Barons!!
    He made laugh so hard just now. It’s nice to read about the working process and their approach to the books.
    All the ladies were great too.
    Good job Lea!!!

  24. Again, many thanks to Phil, Karen, Renee, Tavia, Justine, and Xe! This was beyond great!!

    I won’t be around my computer for the next 24 hours (we’re moving). Brenda, my co-moderator over at our Goodreads group, will oversee the discussion until then. I’ll check in tomorrow.

  25. This forum has been such a thrill to eavesdrop on this morning – thank you so much to the narrators for participating with such detail and enthusiasm!

    If I began to comment on every point I found fascinating, informative or enlightening I’d write a book! :) And thank you too for the laughs with the steamy scenes comments, they were priceless!

    Can’t wait to have you all drop back in and see what your fans have to say for the rest of the day, and probably days to follow.

    This was fabulous!

  26. First of all, Lea, thank you for today’s forum. And huge thank you to all of your guests. It’s been interesting and entertaining. Oh and btw, those steamy scenes? Since hearing them out loud brings out my 12 yr old giggling girl, I can just imagine the shades of pink and red you must turn when actually performing… er… reading them! *waves to Phil, aka Mr. Eargasm*

    Now my questions:

    1. Do you read a book before you accept it for narration? Have you ever had to back out of a performance? If so, other than scheduling or health problems, what were the reasons. i.e. you disliked the book, it wasn’t a good fit for your style, too graphic, couldn’t connect with the main characters, etc?

    2. When you accept a book for narration that includes accents, have you ever had to quickly master an accent or do you only accept books that include accents you already know?

    3. Are you able to contact authors for clarification such as pronunciations?

    4. Have you reached the point in your careers that you no longer have to audition or submit samples? As far as that goes, do you ever apply for a book anymore or are books submitted to you?

    5. Is there an average length of time that elapses from your first read through planning through final recording?

    6. When narrating subsequent books in a series, have you ever regretted some of your choices for character voices in the first book, maybe because it made later characters more difficult to perform? And if so, how did you handle it?

    • BEV!!!! I so miss you, girl!!! Glad to hear from my very first fan—thank you for coming. Ahem. Blush.
      Answers:
      1. Rarely get to read a book before taking the project, unless I’m producing it and choose to record it. For a production company, we usually get a synopsis, then hopefully get to read it a week or so before we record. I have thought some books were weaker than others—but then you find something to latch onto to make it work.

      2. All the time! I always think I’ve done them all, then some serbo-croation/britsh/chinese/kentucky character comes along…

      3. Most of the time, yes. I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the best: Karen Moning, M.J. Rose, Andrew Vachss—who really help out a lot. Lots of times we make a list, and the publisher sends it to the author, who may or may not get back to us…

      4.Usually, a publishing company sends out samples of our previous work, if required. If I really want a book, I have campaigned for it. Nowadays, I get approached by authors to produce their work, which is a godsend.

      5.Yes—”Never enough”.

      6.Once or twice—but usually because the Author changes/adds detail to a character that wasn’t in the first book. I did have a character who seemingly had a “race change” between books. He became Hispanic in the second book, with no mention of it in the first! LOL

      Great to hear from you, Gorgeous!!! Take care!

      BevQB: First of all, Lea, thank you for today’s forum. And huge thank you to all of your guests. It’s been interesting and entertaining. Oh and btw, those steamy scenes? Since hearing them out loud brings out my 12 yr old giggling girl, I can just imagine the shades of pink and red you must turn when actually performing… er… reading them! *waves to Phil, aka Mr. Eargasm*Now my questions:1. Do you read a book before you accept it for narration? Have you ever had to back out of a performance? If so, other than scheduling or health problems, what were the reasons. i.e. you disliked the book, it wasn’t a good fit for your style, too graphic, couldn’t connect with the main characters, etc?2. When you accept a book for narration that includes accents, have you ever had to quickly master an accent or do you only accept books that include accents you already know?3. Are you able to contact authors for clarification such as pronunciations?4. Have you reached the point in your careers that you no longer have to audition or submit samples? As far as that goes, do you ever apply for a book anymore or are books submitted to you?5. Is there an average length of time that elapses from your first read through planning through final recording?6. When narrating subsequent books in a series, have you ever regretted some of your choices for character voices in the first book, maybe because it made later characters more difficult to perform? And if so, how did you handle it?

    • BevQB: First of all, Lea, thank you for today’s forum. And huge thank you to all of your guests. It’s been interesting and entertaining. Oh and btw, those steamy scenes? Since hearing them out loud brings out my 12 yr old giggling girl, I can just imagine the shades of pink and red you must turn when actually performing… er… reading them! *waves to Phil, aka Mr. Eargasm*Now my questions:1. Do you read a book before you accept it for narration? Have you ever had to back out of a performance? If so, other than scheduling or health problems, what were the reasons. i.e. you disliked the book, it wasn’t a good fit for your style, too graphic, couldn’t connect with the main characters, etc?

      Like Phil, it’s unusual to be able to read a book before accepting a job, mostly for time reasons. I did turn down a book once that turned out to be almost all British characters – which you wouldn’t know until you read it b/c it was set on Mars! I think I recommended Justine for that one…

      2. When you accept a book for narration that includes accents, have you ever had to quickly master an accent or do you only accept books that include accents you already know?

      Unless, as above, the book would be better served by someone who is native to the country, I’ve had to do a bit of research on most of my books, and learn accents as I go. Luckily, most acting training programs give us tools to be able to do that.

      3. Are you able to contact authors for clarification such as pronunciations?
      Talking to authors is so invaluable, and most are open to it (if they are really famous or busy, they’ll often have assistants). I find they are mostly appreciative that we want their input on character name pronunciations, or even on acting choices we make.

      4. Have you reached the point in your careers that you no longer have to audition or submit samples? As far as that goes, do you ever apply for a book anymore or are books submitted to you?

      I still audition at times, and I have “gone after” books I was really interested in. I am from VA/KY/NC and I like to read books from that part of the country. I have a book coming out in December called THE DRY GRASS OF AUGUST by AJ Mayhew. I happened to read the book and wrote to the author to tell her how much I liked it – we corresponded after that, and when the audiobook rights were sold, she requested me, so I got to read it! That was gratifying because when I read the book the first time I could hear it in my head so clearly that I needed to narrate it!

      5. Is there an average length of time that elapses from your first read through planning through final recording?

      It’s usually pretty quick, say within two weeks or less (except in situations as above)

      6. When narrating subsequent books in a series, have you ever regretted some of your choices for character voices in the first book, maybe because it made later characters more difficult to perform? And if so, how did you handle it?

      Like others have said, I’ve definitely made choices that were hard to sustain when a character became a leading character later in a series. But I’ve also had characters morph over a series as well – or get more specific – from a “slight mysterious accent” to a “British” accent to a “Gurkha” accent in the course of three books! Sometimes you can’t win!

      Thanks for your interest Bev, and for listening.

  27. I am definitely in the performance-style camp and I do appreciate dual narration. Until I had the opportunity to “meet” and listen to Phil Gigante I did not listen to audiobooks. I don’t like being read to! Phil’s performances in Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander and Fever series are outstanding and now I am exploring the audio versions of some of my other favorite authors. Phil, you of course are The Voice I compare all others, so my standard is quite high! Thank you to all of you for the opportunity is see your processes behind audiobooks. How do you usually record, is it done straight through in chapter order? Also, who decides whether the book will be abridged, author, publisher or the audiobook company?

    • Hi Karla! Thank you, dear! You were a pleasure to read to! We tend to do a book front to back, unless there are special circumstances. Right now, for instance, I’m doing a non-fiction with a female co-reader, and the book is structured so that I can read all my bits first, then she does hers, and the editors get to put it together after. All abridgements are usually done by the publisher—I have nothing to say about those…xoxoxo

      Karla Jackson-Levine: I am definitely in the performance-style camp and I do appreciate dual narration. Until I had the opportunity to “meet” and listen to Phil Gigante I did not listen to audiobooks. I don’t like being read to! Phil’s performances in Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander and Fever series are outstanding and now I am exploring the audio versions of some of my other favorite authors. Phil, you of course are The Voice I compare all others, so my standard is quite high! Thank you to all of you for the opportunity is see your processes behind audiobooks. How do you usually record, is it done straight through in chapter order? Also, who decides whether the book will be abridged, author, publisher or the audiobook company?

  28. The discussion is now open to our listeners as the narrator’s portion of the forum has ended. They’ll be checking back in though so ask away and please give us your thoughts about the forum and its content!!

  29. Thanks also to the listeners out there—you’re the reason we do this! You make our hours in the “hotbox” worthwhile!! XXXX

  30. Been an amazing ride this morning! Very much looking forward to listener/reader comments.

    Many thanks to my very talented colleagues for generously sharing their time this morning!

  31. Thanks, Lea! Xe, Tavia, Renee, Karen—it was an absolute pleasure being here with you!!!
    Lea—thank you so much for keeping the listeners informed and up on the world we inhabit. It means so much to us!

  32. Lea – so I’m guessing that in this case, it’s not so important for the character to sound like the baritone he’s likely described as, as it is for him to be voiced in a way that carries his character across.

    Actually, not sure why I wrote “in this case,” as it’s every case, regardless of gender and the gender of the narrator voicing it.

    But I have to say that listeners have definitely responded more positively when I’ve been able to pull out a truly deep voice for the characters who require it (which in the NIGHTWALKERS would be, uh, ALL of them!). And that’s not always possible to do (and can wreak havoc on the vocal cords).

    • Xe Sands: Lea – so I’m guessing that in this case, it’s not so important for the character to sound like the baritone he’s likely described as, as it is for him to be voiced in a way that carries his character across.Actually, not sure why I wrote “in this case,” as it’s every case, regardless of gender and the gender of the narrator voicing it. But I have to say that listeners have definitely responded more positively when I’ve been able to pull out a truly deep voice for the characters who require it (which in the NIGHTWALKERS would be, uh, ALL of them!). And that’s not always possible to do (and can wreak havoc on the vocal cords).

      Right – a female narrator doesn’t have to have those deep voices although that is always appreciated (and raved about). But the hero’s voice MUST be clearly differentiated from the herone…and then the rest applies!

  33. I, too, must get to work.

    Lea, I am so grateful for your wonderful work in putting all of this together. This has been great! Very glad to have been invited to be a part of it. And huge thanks to all the listeners, as well. You are appreciated!

    Thanks, Karen, Xe, Justine, Phil, Renee, and Vicky!

  34. Lea—I agree. When I’m playing that Alpha, then damnnit I AM that tall, hunky, passionate, in control, well hung stud! If I don’t believe that, I may as well not be doing it. You MUST believe you are that guy—at least until you see your reflection on a break and go “Damn! Whay aren’t my eyes as deep as the sea?” LOL I find recording naked helps—kinda disconcerting in a dual read, though! LOL

    • Phil Gigante: Lea—I agree. When I’m playing that Alpha, then damnnit I AM that tall, hunky, passionate, in control, well hung stud! If I don’t believe that, I may as well not be doing it. You MUST believe you are that guy—at least until you see your reflection on a break and go “Damn! Whay aren’t my eyes as deep as the sea?” LOL I find recording naked helps—kinda disconcerting in a dual read, though! LOL

      That’s the Phil we know and love!

  35. I guess it’s time to end this absolutley wonderful time. I can’t thank you all enough. Any other final comments?

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