Voice Range: mid
Accents: Southern US, Scandinavian, Indian
Genres: Memoirs, Romance, Non-fiction, Inspirational, Westerns
Fluent Languages: English, conversational Swedish
Awards: Earphones (Audiofile)
I was raised in the Midwest, where drama and singing kept me busy throughout my young-adulthood. I was studying broadcast journalism at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln when I met the love of my life. I ended up marrying him and moving to California instead of becoming the next Dianne Sawyer. While working various jobs, I began traveling to Sweden every few years (my father's homeland) where I’ve picked up the Swedish language.
Fast forward to 2008 when the bottom fell out of the economy and I suddenly had the free time to explore what I really wanted to do. I decided to check out voiceovers. My narrating career started when I began volunteering for Learning Ally (formerly Recording For the Blind and Dyslexic) and discovered my love of narrating. Soon I was narrating for audiobook publishers, then ACX came on the scene, and I was finding success there as well.
How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
It was a very circuitous route, like almost every other narrator out there. I grew up having my mother and grandmother read to me. I was also active in drama and music until I went to college. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, public education, and the automotive industry until 2008, when I took a few voiceover classes and began volunteering for Learning Ally. I discovered immediately that narrating audiobooks was my passion, and so I Googled exhaustively, took narration classes, hung out in the online forums about narration, and continue to do all of these things still.
What do you do when you are not narrating?:
I served for three years on the Executive Board of World-Voices Organization ("WoVO"); it was a way I could give back to our industry. WoVO is a wonderful non-profit voiceover trade association that advocates for higher industry standards, as well as helps educate those just starting out. I wish it had been around when I was a newbie, because of all the rookie mistakes I made. I just couldn’t find the resources I needed and so I spent a lot of time spinning my wheels.
Another thing I do on the side, is write a column for “In D’Tale Magazine”, a digital monthly magazine geared toward the romance genre. I started this in 2015 with fellow narrator Karen Commins, but she has since moved on to other writing projects. “In D’Ear” is the name of the column and I expound on all things audiobook, from how to make one, to the sensitive nuances of narrating romance, and much more. There are still some authors who do not realize how much the audiobook industry has exploded, and are unsure of how it all works. My hope is that they’ll read my column and feel reassured that it’s not as hard as it may seem, and then they’ll pursue it. Of course I also hope they contact me to narrate their books and pay me incredibly handsomely for it.
Many audiobook narrators do other voice over work, where else could we hear your work? Do you find there to any big hurdles to jump when going from audiobooks to something else or vise versa?:
I initially spent a lot of time auditioning for commercials; I soon realized I hated it. It is very difficult for me to generate that insane energy about something at a moment's notice. It felt fake and contrived and I couldn't get behind it. I realized my personality is geared more toward long-term endurance-type stuff…. eLearning and audiobook narration. The honesty of living in a character's skin and telling the author's story is very appealing to me.
Do you have the luxury of picking and choosing the projects that you work on or do you take as many as you have time for?:
I guess you could say I have the luxury of picking and choosing, although it doesn't feel completely that way to me. My husband brings home the bacon, so I don't have the weight of bills and mortgages hanging over my head. But I feel strongly compelled to always have something in the pipeline.
For those of us that are unfamiliar with your work. How would you describe your narration style and voice? What would the one audiobook you would suggest for people to listen to your best work?:
The word that keeps cropping up when people describe my narration style is "smooth". I also have a distinctly feminine tone that surprisingly digs into the grittier characters, males included. The one book that would probably highlight my skills the best, would be "Riders of the Purple Sage" by Zane Grey. There's a vulnerable, naive heroine who finds her strength; a hardened gunslinger, a lusty young lover; and a tender, misjudged girl all wonderfully woven into Grey's famous landscape of the wild West.
As a narrator, do you get compensated in a set amount or do you also receive royalties from the individual sales? Do you like one more than the other? Has there ever been an per finished hour book that you wish was a royalty deal, what book? Or vise versa?:
I engage in both types of deals. I love the "per finished hour" work because it pays my bills. But I also enjoy the royalty share structure because it's nice to have money coming in each month, reliably. I've never wished a book was royalty share. When I first started out I narrated many more royalty share books than I do now. In fact, I rarely narrate royalty share anymore. I always work out a hybrid deal, if an author cannot pay my full hourly rate. I charge a fee per finished hour that is probably half of what it would normally be, in addition to royalty shares.
What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?:
My greatest achievement to date is winning an Earphones Award from AudioFile Magazine. Despite many great reviews of my work in the past, this award made me feel like I'd finally "arrived". My most difficult moment? Earlier in my career I was "hired" by a publisher to narrate six books by a best-selling author for royalty share, only to find out he never intended to pay me. There is legal action against the fellow, filed by numerous other narrators he's duped, and I cringe every time I think about being suckered.
If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?:
I would probably pick a supernatural creature. I've been watching "Adventure Time" with my son.
If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?:
WARNING: LOGIC IS OPTIONAL.
Care to share an awkward fanboy/fangirl moment, either one where someone was gushing over your narration/acting…..or one where you were gushing over another narrator/actor’s work?:
Yep. I had never met Simon Vance, but bodly contacted him out of the blue several years ago to ask if he would consider participating in a fundraising "Record-A-Thon" for Learning Ally. He said yes! I "directed" and engineered for him while he narrated a few chapters for the event, and I was trying so hard to be calm, cool, and collected, but was absolutely agog. He was so nice and easygoing and brilliant in the booth, of course. My friends at Learning Ally were very polite, and didn't snicker at me publicly, but I'm sure they noticed my star-struck-ed-ness. Happy ending? He still talks to me.
What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?:
Ford vs Chevy
If you were to create a narrating playlist, what artists and songs would be on it?
Wow. I just don't know. This is an interesting question. Can I "pass"?
You are hosting a dinner party and must invite 3 famous people (real or fictional). Who would you choose and why?
Dolly Parton. I just love her. She's a gifted performer and she's just very down-to-Earth and funny.
Erma Bombeck, whom I think was hilarious and clever.
Lucille Ball, whom I admired and loved watching on TV.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another narrator?
"You be you; everyone else is taken"
What is the first book you remember reading on your own? What do you remember most about the experience?:
"Hucklebones" by Mickey Klar Marks. It is an old and beautifully illustrated book about a horse who learns to dance. I was fascinated by the artwork, and how the horse learned to dance without even realizing it; he was trying not to step on a hoarde of rabbits running under his feet. Here's a link: https://www.amazon.com/Hucklebones-Mickey-Klar-Marks/dp/B0006RJTSG
You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?:
I am not a very competitive person, I usually focus on the journey rather than the destination. I would say undoubtedly that I would invite my sister, and there would be wine involved. Even if there was no wine, she would make me laugh until I pee my pants. She is the only person who can do that to me.
Do you ever get specific notes or ideas from the writer about how something should be read? What is a helpful note, and what is, shall we say, less helpful?:
I usually ask for a character sheet and for the proper pronunciation of any unusual words or proper names/places. Unhelpful feedback… I once spent an inordinate amount of time practicing some French phrases for a book. I contacted a French voiceover fellow who generously sent me recordings of him speaking these phrases. I worked really hard and felt I did a great job. I got notes back from the publisher, correcting every one of those phrases and words. In the margin was written something to the effect of: "Guess that French I took in college finally paid off!" Of course I fixed it the way they wanted it, but I was dismayed.
Do you have an initial process or routine by which you get to know the book you’re going to be reading? Do you mark them up, for example?:
I always pre-read and make notes in the manuscript in iAnnotate.
How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?:
I let them marinate in my mind as I pre-read. Once I have mentally solidified the character, I take notes and keep that with me in the booth, as well as saving audio clips to replay when that character resurfaces so I can match the character's voice.
Is your studio in your home? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this? Do you have something that you would consider unique in your setup? What is it?:
My handy husband created a 3 X 5 booth for me in an upstairs hallway. I record using an AT4040 mic, and my monitor, mouse, and keyboard are all remote; my Macbook sits outside my booth. The unique part is that I have my great grandmother's antique sewing machine in a beautiful cabinet sitting in the hallway and was able to run the cords underneath it and up into it to power the Macbook. Everything is completely hidden.
What is the atmosphere like in your studio when you record. What’s it like, and are things very serious or not very serious?:
The atmosphere in the booth is very zen-like for me. It's peaceful, isolated, and very conducive to focused work. It's also very much like a sauna in the summer. I manage the heat by wearing frozen bandannas and my son's gel-filled shoulder wrap, which I keep in the freezer (he was a pitcher). I am pretty sure I look like a complete weirdo.
How long do you record at a time, on average? What is it about a book that will shorten or lengthen this?:
I found that one of the biggest challenges to this lifestyle is self-discipline. So I made a little sign that I can see every morning that shows my office hours. Basically, I narrate from 9-4, with frequent short breaks to get up and walk around. If the text is particularly engaging, I'll work longer and take fewer breaks. If it's dull or filled with difficult words or technical industry jargon, I'll find reasons to procrastinate or take more breaks. Suddenly I feel compelled to alphabetize my spice shelf or look for that term paper I wrote in highschool, and it's then that I have to force myself to get back in the booth and do my job.
What is your favorite genre to narrate? Why?:
I love young adult and memoirs. YA stories can be wild and colorful and just wonderful. Memoirs to me are sacred. They are someone's memories, and are precious, plus, there is much truth to the saying "truth is stranger than fiction."
What has been your favorite character? What character has given you the most grief?:
My favorite character was a toothless, cranky old grandmother in my mother's favorite book, "Greenwillow". She was a hoot and really over the top. A character that has made me work harder than any other, was the main character in a romance story who made terrible decisions and I just struggled with her personality and interactions. But it's not my job to judge, and it took extra effort to clear my mind and focus on being her and the rest of the characters.
How do you stop yourself from laughing or crying at some of the things authors write?:
I can't. I'm invested in the characters and story and freely laugh or cry. But it does take a while to regain my "sound" and get back to work after these episodes.
I have heard that many in the industry dislike the term narrator. What do you prefer and why?:
Really? I guess I hadn't heard that one yet. I like "narrator" especially when British people say it….."nrrAYtor".
How do you view audiobook narration/production: Art or Science?:
Definitely both. The art is in the performance; the science is in the rest of it. We home nrrAYtors must be performer, director, and engineer, as we record ourselves.
Do you have a philosophy of how to create the perfect audiobook experience?:
Nope. I would hope that a listener would be focused on the audiobook alone, but that's the beauty of audio, isn't it? You can multitask!
Do you have a preference for reading fiction or nonfiction for pleasure? And is what you read for pleasure what you’d prefer to read for audiobooks?:
Fiction is preferable, and yes, I'd always choose to perform books in which I'm interested.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring narrators?:
Do your own homework. Research incessantly. Take coaching. Get excellent equipment. Hire an engineer to help make sure your recording quality is excellent. Realize that when you post a question on social media, you are getting responses from people who may have only ever recorded one book or maybe none! If you care about your career, ask qualified people, but don't abuse that privilege.
What has been your favorite project and why?:
Carlyn Craig, of PostHypnotic Press has worked with me on a couple of very special projects. The favorite one was recording my mother's favorite story, "Greenwillow" by BJ Chute. I was having trouble obtaining the audio rights and Carlyn was able to work her magic and make it happen. I recorded the book, Carlyn published it and made beautiful CD packages of it. I had my mother out for a visit on her 72nd birthday and gave it to her as a gift. It was a very sentimental, teary moment.
Do you believe that listening to an audiobook should be considered reading? Why or why not?:
YES, I definitely consider it reading, although technically it is not. One is still getting all of the information…. it's reading with your ears.
Are you working on any special projects?:
I will find out soon. I read a book recently when I was visiting my mother-in-law, that I remember as a child, and when I checked to see if it was in audio, was shocked that it wasn't. I've asked Carlyn to work her magic again to see if I can do this project.
Have you ever gotten a poor review on your narration? What do you do with such reviews?:
Yep. I don't spend much time looking at reviews, but sometimes I will, and when the bad ones crop up, I try to see if there are more than one that says the same thing. That indicates there is something I can work on to be better. But usually I chalk the bad reviews up to that individual's preferences. You can't please everyone.
How do you feel about authors that choose to narrate their own audiobooks? Any advice to them?:
Unless an author is particularly gifted at narration or acting, I advise leaving narration to the trained professionals.
This is for the question you wish I would have asked but didn’t.:
I like daisies.
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