Tell us a little about yourself (Your bio).
Jeannie was trained on stage, being a member of several theater companies in Boston and also studied acting for film with Carter Thor Studios. Academically, her loves are in the natural and animal sciences. Having grown up around the world, she loves to read stories of all cultural backgrounds.
How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
I’ve always loved acting, performing, being part of a story. In real life though, you have to look the part. The more I learned about voiceover work, the more I realized it’s an enormous world that everyone hears but doesn’t know exists and you don’t have to look anything like who or what you’re voicing at all. The second I realized being a narrator was a potential career, I wanted to do it. So many stories, so many characters, so many different worlds. Growing up nerdy, I enjoyed learning about everything, and reading aloud info cards at museums to whoever would listen. Someone should have told me then and there that reading aloud is an actual job.
What do you do when you are not narrating?
When not doing long form, I’m looking for short form narration! Ads, animated silliness, anything. But I also like to come out of the booth and play outside. I’m often paddling, running, or doing damage to my yard. If I’m inside, I’m watching films and cuddling with my pets.
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?
Audiobooks are the all encompassing version for me, the voiceover box of chocolates. So it’s not a hurdle, it keeps me warm for everything else. Stories have ads in them, have silly characters in them, and as Forrest would say, you never know what you’re gonna get. If anything, I think the hurdle is the other way around, for anyone who hasn’t done long form to go into audiobook narration. As for other gigs, I once did a series of physics workbooks and accompanying video tutorials. It amuses me to think that someone may hear my voice and suddenly have nightmare flashbacks of physics classes. I also read some videos for an AA program once, so I hope my voice subconsciously reminds people to stay sober.
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?
You never know. I’ve only said no a few times but they were reasons other than being swamped, unfortunately. At a time I had no books to work on I sent out a few auditions, not realizing I’d get them, and at the same time. Since I wanted to read them all I gladly said yes. So they come in waves sometimes and you have to figure that out. I’d rather the wave then the ebb of course.
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?
I can’t really say I have a style, it really depends on the book and the genre. I’ve honestly enjoyed the books I’ve had the opportunity to read, but you can’t compare a child’s book to a romance novel. I do like staying true to the stories and characters as much as possible, but then I think that could be said about every narrator.
If I had to choose one audiobook, I’d say The Killer Net. I loved reading it, loved the story and the characters, and had such a great time with it being a very clever murder mystery. It was a roller coaster ride both as a story and as a narration project.
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’ve had both. On one hand, instant gratification is nice since you can never tell how many will sell, but then we’re all hoping for runaway best sellers. It just depends on the gamble you want to play. Ideally, I wish I could have both a completion amount as well as royalty, but who wouldn’t want that?
What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?
My greatest achievement is yet to come 🙂
By far and away the most difficult moments have been in editing. The patience, the spit bubble waves, and feeling like my eyes and ears will cross any moment.
Do you have a list of your own favorite narrators, who inspires you? Do you have a list of favorite audiobook that you have listened to?
The more I narrate the more wonderful narrators I meet. The big names we all know have inspired me and meeting them in person is always awesome, I can’t say any one of them is more inspiring than the other. Not to sound flowery, but one of the best things about this industry is the incredible support from peers. We all have different voices so it’s not a competition.
The most recent audiobook I enjoyed was Alan Cumming’s Not My Father’s Son. After listening to it, you understand that some books really should be heard not just read.
What is your favorite thing to do? Pastime, hobby, obsession, etc.
I live in southern California which means I spend a lot of time on the water. I’ve been paddling dragonboats for almost twenty years now. On land, I’m cuddling with my pets, eating chocolate, or pretending to be at Diagon Alley.
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?
There have been a times the author has given notes, and they’ve always been constructive. Thankfully, I haven’t had authors tell me how to read, but if I misread something, I would want to know about it.
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?
Fiction, I read it through, highlighting where characters appear, how they may sound, any questions I may have, anything vague that might need following up later or will need the author’s explanation. I then make mini sound clips for the characters so I have lines in their voice for reference. I’ll name the clips with any personality traits, like “Joe young smarmy jerk.”
Non-fiction I skim first, noting any questions I may have, but is much more straightforward and has fewer mark ups.
How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?
I would love to know any magic method, but usually you get to know characters while you’re reading and you imagine in your mind how they would sound. Some take a while to think about, some the authors straight up give you like so and so had a gravelly rasp to him since he smoked for twenty years.
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?
Yes, the advantage is you can read in the middle of the night if you wanted to. The disadvantage is that the kitchen is so temptingly close….
Unique to my setup is my cats and stuffed animals hanging out while I’m working.
What is the atmosphere like in your studio when you record. What’s it like, and are things very serious or not very serious?
What is your favorite genre to narrate? Why?
No favorite yet. I love trying things I haven’t done before. There’s so much out there, I’ve barely scratched the surface enough to have a favorite yet.
How do you stop yourself from laughing or crying at some of the things authors write?
Plow through, while staying true to the delivery. At those moments you have to distance yourself without being detached either. I was actually really relieved when I didn’t get a sad book I auditioned for so I can’t say I’d be able to easily get through one. The only example I have is when doing erotica. Yes romance and erotica can be hysterical, it’s very weird and always will be but you do get used to it a bit. You feel like you’re invading someone’s privacy but you’re going at it with you and you’re editing you going at it with you…it’s strange and a bit disturbing, and sometimes you do have to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, but it’s a story and you still want to do a good job without the reader knowing just how weird of an experience you’re having. They’re listening to a story, not the narrator having a hard time.
I have heard that many in the industry dislike the term narrator. What do you prefer and why?
I’m totally fine with narrator, the only term I’m sometimes uncomfortable with is voice talent. Narrator implies audiobooks, and using the word talent sounds like I’m patting myself on the back. It also sounds like you’re about to get a talent show which needs bells and whistles, when I’m just telling you a story.
How do you view audiobook narration/production: Art or Science?
Both. But then aren’t Art and Science so beautifully intertwined in life already?
Do you have a philosophy of how to create the perfect audiobook experience?
If I can close my eyes and go completely into that world. Unless I’m driving. If the story can keep me sane in LA traffic, it’s a success.
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?
I prefer reading fiction for pleasure. Non-fiction is because I want to learn something, so I like hearing it or watching a documentary on a subject. So narrating, I like it all.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring narrators?
Do some theater, get on your feet and perform, not just behind a mic. And practice with the recording equipment, I wish I didn’t spend so much time learning all the software and practicing with it, but it was necessary.
Are you working on any special projects?
They’re all special! I usually try to read something different or try something new, so until I get stuck in a rut, they’re all special to some degree.
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