Voice Range: quirky women, sexy men, teens and seniors
Accents: Tennessee, Atlanta, RP, French, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, Midwest
Genres: Romance, Mystery, Thriller, Tech
Fluent Languages: English
Awards: Hugged an Oscar Winner onscreen
Audiobooks to Highlight
Devious Minds by Colleen Helme
A Soft Place to Fall by Barbara Bretton
A Time of Demons and Angels by Kathryn Meyer Griffith
Signs That it is Over by Denise Brienne
I am a voice actor, audio producer and database system developer. I spent most of my career in the San Francisco Bay Area producing audiobooks, corporate and medical audios and videos as well as developing database systems for corporate clients in both private and public sectors. I currently work out of a home based studio in Buffalo, NY.
How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
I was an engineer in Silicon Valley before the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. It shook me awake. I quit my job and started making puppets. Logical career progression! I spent the next 15 years as a puppeteer (and independent database development contractor). I wrote and performed curriculum based shows in the schools. I performed and directed puppetry in theater productions. After a particularly exhausting performance at Marine World USA, my puppetry partner and I looked each other in the eyes and said… enough. So I took voice lessons in London and attended a voice over school in SF with dreams of a VO career. I volunteered at The Lighthouse for the Blind where I had a live audiobook narration broadcast. I thought of it as vocal exercise but ended up taking it seriously, producing as many books as possible in my tiny, noisy, city apartment. I started attending the Audio Publishers Conferences to meet other narrators and taking as many classes as I could find. I listened to a lot of books and read every review in Audiofile Magazine. That’s how it all started. From there I moved operation into a sound studio in an arts collective in SF and recently to a studio in my home in Buffalo, NY.
What do you do when you are not narrating?:
I still work part time as a software geek but my focus now is on database systems for arts organizations and fundraising. I love sewing, bicycling, pottery, curling (the one you do on ice) and dreaming up performance ideas with other artists.
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 was the voice of Brianna the Organic Banana in the Safeway organic produce handling instructional videos, the safety officer for conveyor belt safety (keep an eye on your necktie), the voice of clinical trial information and don’t hesitate to ask me about Medicare. I think I’m the only person on earth who has read every single document on that.
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?:
If you’re new to me… listen to Devious Minds by Colleen Helme. Her cozy paranormal mysteries are right in my wheelhouse. Devious Minds is book 8 in the Shelby Nichols Adventures series but works pretty well as a standalone. I feel like the characters in Colleen’s Adventures are actual people in my life. Well… they are, aren’t they?
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?:
The most surprising outcome of a royalty share deal was with Signs that it is Over by Denise Brienne. It’s a very short book that gives somewhat obvious advise… that if your clothes are being thrown out of a window… your relationship might be on the way out. Since it was so short I thought it would compensate in sales but it turns out that it sells like crazy and has surpassed all targets. Royalty deals are sort of like the stock market. You can be wise and choose carefully or take a gamble. What’s the harm in any of it really? I still take on royalty share deals. But I do have a mortgage and need to get paid pfh for the most part and I gamble a bit less than I did when I started out.
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?:
If I had to choose someone to rescue me from the jaws of certain death… let it be Ramos from The Shelby Nichols Adventures. Please. On a motorcycle. With a spare helmet. I won’t hesitate to kiss him.
If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?:
Causes extreme laughter.
What is the first book you remember reading on your own? What do you remember most about the experience?:
Jack and Jill with my Dad. I remember the smell of the book and the colors of the pictures. I learned to read with the experimental ITA method. A variety of sounds were represented by symbols. We all learned to read quickly and voraciously. But I guess we’re lousy spellers so they discontinued the practice after only a few years. But I think ITA was great for someone like me who responded well to symbols and was more inclined toward math.
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 welcome feedback from the writer or rights holder. This is a collaborative process. All notes are useful. No matter what the note might be… it is an indication that something isn’t working and it’s up to me to figure it out.
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 read the book and write notes about each character, much as you would if you’re prepping for a play. I note physical characteristics, what the character says about him or herself as well as what others say about them. I keep it all verbatim and add nothing so as not to embellish. I note who has dialogue together in a scene. After reading the book, I have a pretty good idea about each character but having those notes is very handy.
How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?:
I have to visualize the character – physically. Make them walk in my mind. Imagine them in relationship with each other, their comfort level in life. Then I try out some lines for each character in the studio to make sure they will be distinct in dialogue. I place each character’s voice in my body and make a note about it, (e.g. Ramos – in the gut, open throat, vibration, Shelby – in the chest, free flowing, always yes, Blake – grainy, Tennessee, guarded.) Some voices just come to me. That’s the puppetry training. Some I have to invent.
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?:
I had a small modest commercial studio in the SOMA district of San Francisco near the SF Giants ballpark. The booth was custom built and quite roomy. It was a great place. But there were so many conditions to deal with; construction outside, a print shop downstairs, neighbors running machinery. I recorded at night a lot. Now I have a small modular Studiobricks booth in my home in Buffalo. My house is an old tudor but the studio is in a modern extension with skylights and a tall ceiling. It is full of light and energy. I live in a quiet neighborhood. It’s great. Aside from lawn mowing… I can work when I want!
What is the atmosphere like in your studio when you record. What’s it like, and are things very serious or not very serious?:
Of course it depends on the book. When I was recording A Time of Demons and Angels for Kathryn Meyer Griffith, I was deadly serious (so to speak) of everything. My tone was subdued. I embraced that dark side and have had some great feedback on my performance of it. But most of the books I do dwell in a cozy and lively atmosphere.
What is your favorite genre to narrate? Why?:
I had never read a romance novel before narrating A Soft Place to Fall for Barbara Bretton. She made me a big fan of the genre. Good things happen. There’s food and dogs and mysterious men. They’re just fun to read. Warning: to this day I have yet to find blueberry waffles as good as Linda’s!
How do you stop yourself from laughing or crying at some of the things authors write?:
Since I prep the book, I don’t interrupt myself with laughter. I am a comedic actress so I know how to handle that sort of thing. But crying is another story altogether. After my mother passed, I had a lot of trouble with anything that touched that nerve. I would just take a break and cry it out. I found that when I went back to re-record that passage, there would be a lot depth to it. So in a way, it was very therapeutic. I still have trouble with some scenes when they are very touching but that’s why we do this. To feel something!
I have heard that many in the industry dislike the term narrator. What do you prefer and why?:
I don’t get hung up on terms. Call me a narrator, a reader, a voice. Call me.
How do you view audiobook narration/production: Art or Science?:
Audiobook production combines my engineering and acting skills and is a perfect vocation for me.
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 read the New York Review of Books. It makes me smarter. From there I find books that interest me.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring narrators?:
Listen to great narrators. Find one that resonates with your voice and listen to everything he or she has done. My muse was Kate Fleming who so sadly passed away tragically in 06. Alyssa Bresnahan is my muse now.
Do you believe that listening to an audiobook should be considered reading? Why or why not?:
Absolutely. I do not see the difference. I mean I cannot speak to a difference. I mean… are you hearing me? What is the difference? You have experienced every word of the book.
Are you working on any special projects?:
I have a found-sound archive that I’ve been building with a field recorder. I make soundscapes out of it. Some day soon, I will create a soundscape blog from found-sounds and narration outtakes. It’s one of those projects that has been swimming in my head over the years. Much like the giant 5 foot square potholder I thought about for 2 years and then constructed in a month.
Have you ever gotten a poor review on your narration? What do you do with such reviews?:
I curl up under a big down comforter and imagine myself 95 years old laughing at myself for caring.
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