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

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248 Responses to “Speaking of Audiobooks: Narrators Forum”

  1. Xe Sands says:

    Phil – couldn’t agree more. The complaints I’ve seen from listeners stem from narrators inserting a full chuckle or laugh separate from the dialog.

    My personal feeling is that we need to perform the dialog as realistically as possible, without distracting the listener. Author wrote it a particular way for a reason.

  2. Phil Gigante says:

    Natalie Ross had a scene in Shadowfever, where her character COULDN’T stop laughing (she was cursed) and had to deliver an angry speech at the same time…If the laughter hadn’t been there, I think the scene would have been lacking…

    • Phil Gigante: Natalie Ross had a scene in Shadowfever, where her character COULDN’T stop laughing (she was cursed) and had to deliver an angry speech at the same time…If the laughter hadn’t been there, I think the scene would have been lacking…

      And that’s why they call us actors. That’s the sort of physical/emotional/technical performance that an actor can do.

    • Lea Hensley says:

      Phil Gigante: Natalie Ross had a scene in Shadowfever, where her character COULDN’T stop laughing (she was cursed) and had to deliver an angry speech at the same time…If the laughter hadn’t been there, I think the scene would have been lacking…

      I remember it well Phil and as a listener, I must say that I totally agreed with her choice. I felt all the author meant for me to feel. Fantastic delivery.

  3. Renee Raudman says:

    A note regarding laughter/gasps etc… my rule is… if it works IN the dialogue,I will usually try to put it in. But I find that if it’s done outside of saying the actual words, it doesn’t work. (for me). And I’ll let it go. But if I can do the ‘thing’ IN the actual sentence or phrase, I like to try to make that work.

  4. Xe Sands says:

    Most definitely yes! The style of the book dictates the style of the read. As Tavia pointed out with LAMB (which I’ve heard is a phenomenal performance, btw), there are projects which required a very subtle touch to best carry the author’s intent – including performance of highly emotional scenes. Again, all comes back to the author’s intent and the “mood” of the text.

  5. Xe Sands says:

    Renee: “But if I can do the ‘thing’ IN the actual sentence or phrase, I like to try to make that work.”

    That’s it exactly. Because that’s how we tend to speak (unless we’re having a truly hilarious or agonizing moment). And I think dialog should be performed as authentically as possible – so the listener feels they are simply listening in on a real conversation.

  6. Thanks, Xe. The book is remarkable, unforgettable, striking. The author wrote something phenomenal, and I felt a great responsibility.

  7. Karen White says:

    Another example I think is when an author writes those non-language sounds we all make like “Ahem”. To say “Ahem” would be ridiculous!

    A tough one of those recently in ANIMAL ATTRACTION by Jill Shalvis was a dog straining on a leash and Jill wrote “Gak” in quotes for the dog. She’d put all the animal sounds in quotes like that, so I went out on a limb and voiced all the “Mew”s and “Arf”s with intention. I did the same with the strangled sound. which came out pretty, er, strangled sounding.

  8. Phil Gigante says:

    Renee—while I agree about getting the laugh in the dialogue, per say, I feel I’ve found success with giving characters—especially bad guys—a chilling, evil laugh which helps establish their identity, for example. In fact, some of my best reviews have mentioned voice tics that are not dialogue related. I think it’s a delicate balance ot fit them in, as long as they don’t distract!!
    Same thing with moans and sighs during love scenes…they can be truly effective (and HOT!!)

    • Lea Hensley says:

      Phil Gigante: Renee—while I agree about getting the laugh in the dialogue, per say, I feel I’ve found success with giving characters—especially bad guys—a chilling, evil laugh which helps establish their identity, for example. In fact, some of my best reviews have mentioned voice tics that are not dialogue related. I think it’s a delicate balance ot fit them in, as long as they don’t distract!!Same thing with moans and sighs during love scenes…they can be truly effective (and HOT!!)

      Phil, I think your narration of Moning’s Highlander series was made all the better by your laughs. I was laughing out loud and those laughs were placed so well that I only laughed all the harder.

      • Karen White says:

        Lea Hensley:
        Phil, I think your narration of Moning’s Highlander series was made all the better by your laughs.I was laughing out loud and those laughs were placed so well that I only laughed all the harder.

        I love the image of you guys laughing together…

      • Lea Hensley says:

        Lea Hensley: Phil, I think your narration of Moning’s Highlander series was made all the better by your laughs. I was laughing out loud and those laughs were placed so well that I only laughed all the harder.

        And, as a note on our current question. Some who only read the Highlander series, thought the heroes were too alpha. Hearing Phil’s take on those heroes made their alphaness just all that more endearing. And of course, the author helps with that as well!

        • Phil Gigante says:

          Lea Hensley: And, as a note on our current question. Some who only read the Highlander series, thought the heroes were too alpha. Hearing Phil’s take on those heroes made their alphaness just all that more endearing. And of course, the author helps with that as well!

          Thanks, Lea! A wonderful example of an author giving the “Lasses” what they want, i.e., hot hunky Alpha males—but leaving room to infuse them with tenderness, humor, failings that made them so much more real to me. Thank you!

  9. Lea Hensley says:

    Once again, not to interfere with this amazing discussion but when you are ready, here goes question 4:

    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?

  10. Phil Gigante says:

    Karen—speaking as an animal can be fun—or really hurt! LOL

  11. Karen White says:

    To the next question:
    A friend of mine who is a great actor and acting teacher once said that you have to find one specific thing that connect you, the real person, to each character you play. Then you can build a performance based in truth. I try to find that kernel in all the characters I “play” in books I work on. Similarly, I think you have to find something to like about each person, even if they’re a serial killer.

  12. Renee Raudman says:

    Oh Phil! You are absolutely correct! And I’m queen (self-appointed) of doing exactly those things you’re describing. I love the moans and ticks. I guess what I was referring to was actual author ‘direction’ and laughing or gasping awkwardly before/after a line, in order to just ‘do’ what the author described. I truly couldn’t agree w/ you more!

  13. Justine Eyre says:

    For me, the text is golden and is the base from which everything else springs forth. However, I use that base to jump from and inhabit a character fully…if she is a sensual, sexy character then my posture instantly changes, my body language starts to inhabit that character and I become her. The challenge as a narrator is doing a complete about face between characters, so that you inhabit each one fully and don’t bring elements of your sensual heroine over into the growly hero…

  14. Renee Raudman says:

    Gang…. I hate to leave this fantastic experience… but alas, duty calls. I have my engineer sitting at the computer as we speak. Lea, thanks so much for inviting me to this forum and for your wonderful planning and directions. Karen, thanks for all your ideas and input in making it happen. If there is anything I can do as follow up, or any questions that I can answer, perhaps there is a way for me to come back and do it at a later time? Great ‘speaking’ with you all! Hate to go!!!! xo Renee

    • Karen White says:

      Renee Raudman: Gang…. I hate to leave this fantastic experience… but alas, duty calls.I have my engineer sitting at the computer as we speak.Lea, thanks so much for inviting me to this forum and for your wonderful planning and directions.Karen, thanks for all your ideas and input in making it happen.If there is anything I can do as follow up, or any questions that I can answer, perhaps there is a way for me to come back and do it at a later time?Great ’speaking’ with you all!Hate to go!!!!xo Renee

      Bye, Renee! It was great to “talk” to you!

  15. Justine Eyre says:

    Karen is bang on, there is always a hook and even the most villainous of characters must come from a place of truth…they don’t think they are evil in the least, what they are doing comes from what is good to them. It can be hard to not pass judgment on the characters sometimes, especially when they make choices where you think, no, oh lordy, no. But you have to become them and go for the ride, even if it ends in catastrophe.

  16. I think for books that aren’t that well written, maybe, I have to find something I like about each character. Lesser writers may not write complex characters, or characters that are interesting, real people. But when a great writer writes an complex, unlikeable character, then I don’t have to stretch to like something about them to build the performance. The character is already fully alive. I just have to have compassion for them and then they’re brought to life. This is a slight deviation, but the better written the book, the easier it is to perform, even if the language is difficult.

    • Karen White says:

      Tavia Gilbert: I think for books that aren’t that well written, maybe, I have to find something I like about each character. Lesser writers may not write complex characters, or characters that are interesting, real people. But when a great writer writes an complex, unlikeable character, then I don’t have to stretch to like something about them to build the performance. The character is already fully alive. I just have to have compassion for them and then they’re brought to life. This is a slight deviation, but the better written the book, the easier it is to perform, even if the language is difficult.

      Wonderfully put, Tavia.

  17. Phil Gigante says:

    The old axiom that I teach to students of any medium, stage, audio, film, whatever—is “You MUST find something to LOVE in this”. If you love the characters, the project, some aspect of it—if you can find the inner truth in your performance, and transmit that through the mic—I think the listeners can feel that added level of passion and commitment, and get caught up in the joy of your performance. You can’t record a commercial without smiling—the listener will know. You can’t hate the book while you are reading it—the listener will know that, too. On breaks it’s ok to bitch about it! :-)

  18. Have a great recording day, Renee!

  19. Xe Sands says:

    Justine – LOL! Happens also with accents, I find. Have to cleanse both the body posture and tongue between characters.

    OK…that sounded a bit…um. Heh.

    On with Q#4!

    I try to portray characters the way that they “feel” as I read them. I tend to experience books with full audio and visual in my head as I read – so there is always a model building as I do my pre-read. Tricky part is getting them to come out of my mouth they way they sound in my head! But I hear what you’re saying with respect to bringing out nuances in a character that perhaps might otherwise be missed. I think the best way to ensure you get to what the author intended with a character is to truly connect with their story, their history…then you can allow their full character to come forward in the read.

    And Justine pegs it – body language/posture shifts with each character. Which can sometimes be a pain if you’re trying not to make any noise and your character is larger than life.

  20. Justine Eyre says:

    Tavia, I whole heartedly agree! When a book is beautifully written, you just slip into the characters with great ease…when the characters are not as fully fleshed, then there is more required of the narrator in a sense, for we now have to fill in some of those character blanks…

  21. Phil Gigante says:

    Bye Mrs. Butterbean! xoxo

  22. Xe Sands says:

    Bye Renee – so glad you were with us!

    And Justine mentions something so important: you can’t judge the characters (well, you can judge them all you want during your pre-read, but when you narrate, you have to BE them). I’ve found this to be a crucial bit – remind myself with each book to set my own feelings aside and simply inhabit the world they inhabit, be them, feel what they feel. Makes a huge difference, particularly with bad boy heroes and villains. As Justine says, they don’t believe they are evil (usually anyway). And heroines don’t actually think they are being insipid…

  23. Oh, yes. Books that are poorly conceived, poorly written are exhausting to do, because they take so much effort, not least in finding ways to connect with material that lacks the soul that great writers commit to the page.

  24. Xe Sands says:

    Lea – I think that beautifully illustrates your point, and highlights what Phil said. You have to connect, you have to find something to LOVE about each book, each character. Then they become three dimensional, as the author likely intended (even if they couldn’t quite deliver it in the writing – and that’s not about HIGHLANDER – just a general comment).

  25. Karen White says:

    I think it’s a bit too much to take on the responsibility of making poor writing great, I do think it’s my responsibility to do my best with every book. There have been situations where I may have exacerbated weaknesses in writing by embracing fully what has been written and amplifying it, I think what we all aim for is to make a true connection with what we are reading, to bring passion, interest or curiosity to it. To discover the words as we go, so that the listeners experience is as immediate as possible.

    One of the actor’s biggest challenges is to remain present in performance. Even though we don’t rehearse audiobooks the way we would a theatre piece, we (hopefully) have pre-read and prepared our choices. But when we are recording, we have to read as if we don’t know what’s coming next. It’s possible to be reading along, accurately, but not “be there”. Just like you can space out when driving a familiar route and suddenly realize, “whoa, I don’t remember driving the past 5 minutes!”

    • Karen White: I think it’s a bit too much to take on the responsibility of making poor writing great, I do think it’s my responsibility to do my best with every book.There have been situations where I may have exacerbated weaknesses in writing by embracing fully what has been written and amplifying it, I think what we all aim for is to make a true connection with what we are reading, to bring passion, interest or curiosity to it.To discover the words as we go, so that the listeners experience is as immediate as possible.One of the actor’s biggest challenges is to remain present in performance.Even though we don’t rehearse audiobooks the way we would a theatre piece, we (hopefully) have pre-read and prepared our choices.But when we are recording, we have to read as if we don’t know what’s coming next.It’s possible to be reading along, accurately, but not “be there”.Just like you can space out when driving a familiar route and suddenly realize, “whoa, I don’t remember driving the past 5 minutes!”

      What Karen said. Yes to all of it.

  26. Phil Gigante says:

    BTW—EVERY Romance author does this—Moning, Graham, Burr, Palmer, Steele, in all their books I’ve done, I find the Alpha male exterior/Plucky, hopeless romantic inginue is a required for the genre—but there is always room to expend…

    • Phil Gigante: BTW—EVERY Romance author does this—Moning, Graham, Burr, Palmer, Steele, in all their books I’ve done, I find the Alpha male exterior/Plucky, hopeless romantic inginue is a required for the genre—but there is always room to expend…

      The Jeaniene Frost Night Huntress series definitely has the most interesting characters of the romances I’ve done, and Suzanne Enoch’s books, actually. They’re an especial delight to do when they play with the convention.

  27. Justine Eyre says:

    I agree, Karen, and that is what makes the recording process so rewarding and exhausting…you have to be present for every minute of that audio marathon, you cannot flicker in and out of the tale!

    • Karen White says:

      Justine Eyre: I agree, Karen, and that is what makes the recording process so rewarding and exhausting…you have to be present for every minute of that audio marathon, you cannot flicker in and out of the tale!

      Oh, I love that Justine – my brain “flickers” on and off all the time in real life. And I agree, besides the sitting, being present is the most exhausting thing about the work. Yoga is great training for both.

  28. Phil Gigante says:

    Karen—absoulutely!

  29. Xe Sands says:

    Karen – so true! And you always feel it when that happens…you get through a paragraph or two and think, ‘What did I just read? Yeah, time for a retake.’

  30. Phil Gigante says:

    But sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do in the world! LOL

  31. Lea Hensley says:

    Again, not to hurry things along but when you are ready to shift, we’re going to focus on romance performances. So here goes – I’ve placed a number of questions together for our fifth question:

    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?

    Do you find it challenging to portray two people falling in love? If so, what are those challenges?

  32. Phil Gigante says:

    I don’t think the basic preperation changes, i.e. the arc of the book or scene or moment, finding the character’s voices, pronunciations (!), but I do feel that you have to let yourself slide—sometimes far back—into that part of your mind and heart where everything is new; your emotions are felt much stronger, your heart beats faster, the joys of love and passion are at their absolute pinnacle. I think as humans we’ve all felt this, but it can tend to fade with time and familiarity. You have to give the readers that experience in the most heartfelt way posiible, which means drawing on the basic, inner, primal needs of yourself, without sounding silly or jaded or cliched. It can be a scary and kind of wistful thing to come out of the studio and think, “Wow…I used to feel that strongly all the time. Love and the heart were once ALL that mattered! When does that become a lesser priority…?”

    • Karen White says:

      Phil Gigante: I don’t think the basic preperation changes, i.e. the arc of the book or scene or moment, finding the character’s voices, pronunciations (!), but I do feel that you have to let yourself slide—sometimes far back—into that part of your mind and heart where everything is new; your emotions are felt much stronger, your heart beats faster, the joys of love and passion are at their absolute pinnacle. I think as humans we’ve all felt this, but it can tend to fade with time and familiarity. You have to give the readers that experience in the most heartfelt way posiible, which means drawing on the basic, inner, primal needs of yourself, without sounding silly or jaded or cliched. It can be a scary and kind of wistful thing to come out of the studio and think, “Wow…I used to feel that strongly all the time. Love and the heart were once ALL that mattered! When does that become a lesser priority…?”

      Beautifully put! I think that’s why I love getting to go on the journey of two people falling in love and overcoming their various emotional blocks to get there. Though I’m past the point in my personal life when I get to do that, it can reaffirm my feelings for my loved ones.

  33. Justine Eyre says:

    Well, the romantic in me loves portraying two people falling in love, you get to live vicariously through their journey and feel all those giddy, beautiful ‘first’ moments.

    I don’t feel that the romance genre requires a different approach than other genres…passion comes in so many forms, a husband for his wife, mother for her son, the detective’s passion for chasing down the killer. In the romance genre, you are allowed to slow down and explore that passion in greater detail…perhaps that would the main difference for me…

  34. Phil Gigante says:

    My biggest learning experience with romance was and is continuing to work on my female character’s voices. They used to be such a concern that I felt they were getting in the way of the text—now I’m fully involved with fleshing out the CHARACTER first, and letting the voice naturally follow. I think the differences from my early romances to the ones I do today are striking—thank gods!

    • Phil Gigante: My biggest learning experience with romance was and is continuing to work on my female character’s voices. They used to be such a concern that I felt they were getting in the way of the text—now I’m fully involved with fleshing out the CHARACTER first, and letting the voice naturally follow. I think the differences from my early romances to the ones I do today are striking—thank gods!

      Ah, yes, this is exactly the journey that I have been on in the development of my craft. I am much better now, thank goodness.

  35. I think the genre allows for perhaps more play with pacing.

    • Lea Hensley says:

      Tavia Gilbert: I think the genre allows for perhaps more play with pacing.

      The pacing is always important in any audiobook, I’m sure. But in romance, it is particularly noticed. The narrator must sense the timing of the leads interaction/conversation. If it’s missed and a proper pause isn’t given to show amazement or excitement isn’t shown by rushing a bit, the romance listener starts thinking “The narrator doesn’t understand romance.” Not fair, but it is so much about the feeling and the rush or romance.

      • Lea Hensley:
        The pacing is always important in any audiobook, I’m sure.But in romance, it is particularly noticed.The narrator must sense the timing of the leads interaction/conversation.If it’s missed and a proper pause isn’t given to show amazement or excitement isn’t shown by rushing a bit, the romance listener starts thinking “The narrator doesn’t understand romance.”Not fair, but it is so much about the feeling and the rush or romance.

        Interesting, Lea! Romance is about energy, about the moment, about what is felt, and that must be conveyed through pace, the energetic space, in the performance.

  36. Xe Sands says:

    Phil – that was so beautifully put. Thank you!

    On a more technical note, I have found that romance genre listeners do voice a preference for more authentic portrayal of male characters more often than listeners of other genres, which I think is related to the plethora of “impossibly deep baritones” headlining romance novels. And I do feel the need to differentiate a bit more, as listeners seem to respond positively to the heightened level of differentiation.

    As for the portrayal of those falling in love – what an interesting question! No, I don’t find it challenging – it’s one of the most wonderful and accessible emotional experiences to portray and it comes more naturally to me than other dynamics.

  37. Phil Gigante says:

    With a romance, almost everything else is a “sub-plot”. Terrorists, serial killers, whatever. I think the author/listeners are much more focused on how the situations effect the two (or more) romantic characters—rather than the “plot” being the #1 priority, i.e. a thriller…

  38. Xe Sands says:

    Phil – I completely understand! I think authentically voicing the opposite gender is definitely a conundrum, compounded in romance b/c of the high expectations of listeners. These couples are THE COUPLE, you know? They are very archetypal in various ways…and listeners have very clear ideas about how their romantic heroes (and villains) should sound.

    I often see more criticism of female a narrator’s voicing of male characters than I do for male narrators. Lea – what’s your perspective on that? Is it just that listenership tends to be predominantly women, and so they are looking for that authentic alpha? Or is it something else?

    And does this beg the question: why not a dual narration more of the time (asking artistically, leaving the question of financial consideration aside).

    • Lea Hensley says:

      Xe Sands: Phil – I completely understand! I think authentically voicing the opposite gender is definitely a conundrum, compounded in romance b/c of the high expectations of listeners. These couples are THE COUPLE, you know? They are very archetypal in various ways…and listeners have very clear ideas about how their romantic heroes (and villains) should sound.I often see more criticism of female a narrator’s voicing of male characters than I do for male narrators. Lea – what’s your perspective on that? Is it just that listenership tends to be predominantly women, and so they are looking for that authentic alpha? Or is it something else?And does this beg the question: why not a dual narration more of the time (asking artistically, leaving the question of financial consideration aside).

      I know for myself, I want the hero to sound utterly male. Does that mean I want them to all sound the same? Not really. I want to hear them stubborn, a bit helpless when they can’t figure out the heroine, contrite (but not too contrite), loving, bossy (we know they’ll be taken down a bit). More than anything, the hero needs to sound like the author has written him. I’m listening to a book now where the hero is a tough guy who doesn’t soften until the last quarter. However, the narrator often performs his lines with a questioning sound on the past few words. Sounds so much like a high school girl to me and I’m having a tough time getting past it. That is not how the hero is written.

  39. Phil Gigante says:

    Karen—but when you’re “past that point in life”—every thing has been done (LOL), isn’t it wonderful to reawaken those feelings, and feel the first blush of love, romance, passion? Virginity? Do you ladies find that hard to re-awaken at all?

    • Karen White says:

      Phil Gigante: Karen—but when you’re “past that point in life”—every thing has been done (LOL), isn’t it wonderful to reawaken those feelings, and feel the first blush of love, romance, passion? Virginity? Do you ladies find that hard to re-awaken at all?

      Oh, yes, totally agree. I just think my husband might have a hard time with me dating :)
      On the “first time” question – I love the opportunity for a do-over on that one!

  40. Xe Sands says:

    Lea – thank you for putting it like that! That is very illuminating for me as a narrator. “It is so much about the feeling and the rush of romance.”

    Yes!!

  41. Justine Eyre says:

    Lea, that is an invaluable note about pacing…yes, romance is definitely a genre where the narrator can linger and explore…not to get too graphic with the descriptives!

  42. Phil Gigante says:

    Xe—-I have a thousand male voices, and I think about 10 viable romantic females! (But I’m working on that!) I do love the dual reads—it gives me a chance to react rather than act, and can change some of my preconcieved notions of a character or book. I love the solo work too—but with the right reader, I think romance can really benefit from multi-voice.

  43. Xe Sands says:

    Phil – you are so very amusing. No, I don’t find it hard to re-awaken all that…but it can be a bit disconcerting to experience it happening :)

  44. Justine Eyre says:

    Speaking of lingering, I am so sorry to cut my end of the dialogue short, work calleth!
    I’ve loved being here and hearing from you all, much food for thought for the week ahead.
    Many happy narrations and Lea, thank you so very much for putting forth this forum.
    I have had a blast!
    All the best,
    Justine

  45. Karen White says:

    To Xe’s point: “And does this beg the question: why not a dual narration more of the time (asking artistically, leaving the question of financial consideration aside).”

    I have noticed that a dual narration seems to happen most often when the book is written in 1st person. But I’ve narrated several in a row where the perspective clearly changes from section to section, even though it’s in the 3rd person. You don’t lose the challenge of voicing the specifically described deep-voiced alphas, but I have thought that having dual narrators would be valuable.

  46. Xe Sands says:

    Phil – alright that’s it! You and me baby…dual read is gonna happen.

  47. Have a wonderful afternoon, Justine!

  48. Phil Gigante says:

    I want a do-over too! I rarely find a romance book where the “first time” is as awkward, scary, hesitant as real life. But that could be great fun to play! The Alpha males always seem to have the situation well in hand—so to speak—and the inginue just lays back and is amazed by it all…

    • Phil Gigante: I want a do-over too! I rarely find a romance book where the “first time” is as awkward, scary, hesitant as real life. But that could be great fun to play! The Alpha males always seem to have the situation well in hand—so to speak—and the inginue just lays back and is amazed by it all…

      I don’t think the Alpha males are ever virgins!

  49. Karen White says:

    Well I am amazed by YOU ALL! Including and especially Lea!

    I, too, have to get to work, and look forward to ruminating on all of this as I do.

    Happy reading, all.

  50. Have fun, Karen! xo

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