Uncommon Stock Version 1.0 by Eliot Peper
Audiobooks hold a special place in my heart. Since I was a kid, I've always loved listening to stories. My parents entranced me with bedtime tales and one baby sitter read me The Hobbit over the course of a number of extended sessions. As I got older, we started to listen to books-on-tape on family road trips. If I came home from school early, my ritual was to munch on chips and salsa while listening to an audiobook borrowed from the Oakland Public Library.
That's why I'm so delighted to share that the audiobook of my first novel, Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0, is now available. You can find it right here:
Audio is becoming a richer format than ever before. Podcasts have exploded in popularity, especially since Serial captured the attention of the nation. Audiobooks have been on the rise and are a big growth factor in the book business as more and more people plug in earbuds to explore new worlds during their commute.
But producing an audiobook takes some doing. Drea and I reviewed over forty auditions from different voice actors and production companies before selecting the narrator who we thought best captured Mara and the spirit of The Uncommon Series. Jennifer O'Donnell did a fabulous job and The Brick Shop in Brooklyn was masterful in post production. Fun fact, it's less entertaining than you might imagine to listen to your own audiobook. I reviewed all the final files myself but I already knew all the spoilers!
Friday, 9 August 2013
The Voice Behind an Audiobook: Julianne
MacLean interviews Narrator, Jennifer O’Donnell
Do you ever wonder what goes into the creation of an audiobook, and how a narrator brings the story to life?
It was all a bit of a mystery to me, until I became involved in the production of my contemporary novel, THE COLOR OF HEAVEN. Through ACX, an Amazon platform that matches rights holders with narrators and producers, I discovered Brick Shop Audio as soon as the auditions started pouring in. All my top choices seemed to come from Brick Shop, and as soon as I heard Jennifer O’Donnell begin to read from my book, I knew immediately that she was the one. Not only did the quality and tones of her voice “fit” the part of my main character, Sophie Duncan, but Jennifer pulled me into the drama instantly, and I found myself riveted with suspense, as if I had never read the book before. And I wrote it!
So here we are at last, with the audiobook completed and available for pre-order at Audible and Itunes. (It releases on August 19, 2013.) My fabulous narrator, Jennifer O’Donnell, has graciously agreed to answer some of my questions about her work on the book.
1. Hi Jennifer! Please tell us, what is your background, and how did this lead you to audiobook narration?
I trained and worked in the theater as an actor and a director throughout most of my 20s. By the time I hit 30 I was a bit burnt out on theater and decided to get an ESL teaching certificate and spend a few years teaching English and traveling. While I was living in Prague, I randomly befriended two guys who ran a film production company. Their company got hired to produce an adult internet video game and they needed a native English speaker to voice the female part. They asked me. I was hesitant because I had never done any voice over work in my life. Plus, the project was racy
and I had a crush on one of the producers and was nervous about moaning and saying the sexy dialogue in front of him. So I turned them down. They held auditions but claimed they couldn't find a better fit. (The pay was low!) After a bit more coercing, I agreed to do it.
It turned out to be a blast. There was something limitless about acting without physical boundaries; just your breath, voice and imagination. And I think I did a pretty good job because the producer I had a crush on asked me out a few days after we finished the project!
When I got back to New York a few years later, I was in The Strand and ran into a friend who I had done summer stock with in the late 90's. He was working as a director for Recorded Books which is one of the original audiobook production studios. He mentioned they were in need of directors. At this point in my life I'd never even heard an audiobook but I had directed several plays and two short films. I went home and spent the weekend downloading and listening to books on Audible. I applied and was hired.
During my years directing at Recorded Books I had the good fortune to listen to and learn from some of the most incredibly talented narrators in the business -Jenny Ikeda, Therese Plummer, Christina Moore, Nicole Poole- to name a few. While working for Recorded Books two seasoned colleagues of mine decided to start their own studio. They were aware of my acting background and asked me to audition as a narrator for them. I started auditioning and booking work as a narrator through Brick Shop Audio Inc.
A little less than a year later I have voiced 13 books. The Color of Heaven makes 14. I work with a coach (an amazing man named Paul Ruben) because I want to keep growing and improving with each project. I've also done a few commercial spots for radio.
2. What do you look for when considering an audition? Are there certain types of stories or characters that attract you, and is that different from what you like to read for pleasure?
I gravitate toward stories that deal with complicated family dynamics, love, loss and hope. I think that is why I enjoyed working on The Color of Heaven so much. It incorporates all of those elements and explores them beautifully.
I also love to read biographies and books on psychology and social science. However, I rarely get hired to narrate those types of books. I guess I don't sound smart enough! One of the many great things about being a narrator is that you are sometimes forced to explore new genres. I recently narrated the second, third and fourth book of the Molly Fyde science fiction series written by Hugh Howey. I think of myself as someone who doesn't like science fiction but I adored these books. They are full of wonderful characters and incredible story lines.
3. How much time do you spend reading the book or thinking about the characters before you go into the studio? Do you rehearse, and if so, what is that process?
I come from a theatre background where you have three weeks to rehearse one part with a director. You have the time to test impulses and ideas and make changes accordingly. With an audiobook you are lucky if you have two weeks before you go into the studio to perform multiple parts of both genders. You are usually dealing with 250 plus pages of material without outside input. I love the rehearsal process so it was an adjustment for me when I started voicing books. My process varies but generally I read the book once thru and break the text into scenes so I remember the shape and arc of the story. I look to the text for direction and character development. I make notes about character voices and try to model the voice after someone I know or a celebrity. I try to let their essence and cadence influence my imagination resisting the urge to do an impression. I practice bits of dialogue out loud until I feel I have a hold on who they are and what they sound like. I'll look up the pronunciation of words I am unsure of and practice a dialect if there is one. The night before I go into the studio, I reread the section I will be working on the next day so it's fresh in my mind. When I get into the studio my goal is to trust the prep work and just jump into the story.
4. How many pages do you record before taking a break, or having to do a retake?
This one is tricky for me (and my director). I stop a lot! I often want to redo a section or to try a different take. I tend to act on impulse and often need toning down. When I get swept up in a story I have a nasty habit of omitting or changing words which will always result in a retake as it is necessary that audiobooks are word perfect. The upshot is I rarely need or want a break. When I am in the booth I can work for 6 hours at a stretch. I enjoy the flow.
5. Do you listen to your audiobook narrations after they are finished?
I didn't at first. It is hard for me to listen to myself because I hear all the things I could have done differently or better. However, I do now because it is a good tool to use to improve my work. It is good to know what the final product sounds like for the listener.
Thank you for answering all my questions, Jennifer, and for providing such a moving performance in the narration of my book.