Hello! I have a new audiobook out and I’m so excited for you to hear my wonderful narrator, Denice Stradling! I had a blast working with Denice and listening in as she progressed through the book. At times, I found myself laughing and hanging on the edge of my chair, even though I wrote those words! She really brought the work to life.
I thought you might appreciate learning more about how Denice produces audiobooks. I know I had a lot of questions!
So, lets meet Denice!
How did you get into this type of work? What is your background? How long have you been producing audiobooks? How many books have you done, and what are the types of projects you’ve worked on?
First, Ellie, thank you so much for this opportunity! So, I remember sitting in my car about ten years ago, listening to my first fiction audiobook—I had only listened to a few self-help ones before that. I said out loud, “I want to do that!” Right away, I started doing volunteer work with Learning Ally, formerly Reading for the Blind, and taking classes. Home studios were just getting started then, so I proceeded in that direction and was soon recording for Librivox. Soon, other professional work started coming my way, both in my home studio and also through studios audiobook publishers here in Southern California.
I have a 30+ year history as an actor in theatre, film, and television. It’s my passion for theatre and reading in general that have really fueled my passion for audiobooks! I’ve recorded about 25 books. I didn’t come to this work full-time until a few months ago, when I was finally able to quit my ‘day job’ and focus on audiobook narration and writing. I’ve worked on fiction—romance, mysteries, thrillers, young adult—and also non-fiction health and spiritual.
What do you look for in an audiobook project?
A good story, written well—it’s just that simple. A Good Kind of Trouble had my attention, just reading the audition piece! With non-fiction, it’s the same thing—with the added benefit of learning something new.
Do you have certain genres that you enjoy doing or that you feel your voice and talents are best suited for?
Hmmm … I would say, women’s fiction, romance, mystery (definitely!). I’ve done some Young Adult, which I love. And I’ve done non-fiction which I do also really love—there’s always something to learn!
Is it like acting out a movie, except that you have to play every role? How exhausting is that? How long can you work in one session?
It’s not exhausting at all—it’s thrilling and challenging and fun and creative! In my home studio, I usually work about three hours a day at narration, and longer if I’m really under the gun. I find that three hours is about where my focus and concentration seem to lag when I’m at home. And if I’m going to lose any of those, including energy—I’m going to stop! When I’m at a studio—it’s much different. The collaboration of working with a director and/or an engineer really feeds my energy, and I don’t want the day to end!
What is your process for creating an audiobook?
I will pre-read the book, hopefully and when time allows, more than once. The first time is to just absorb the story. The second time, I will make notes on different aspects—characters, attitudes, what their voices might sound like, an overall ‘feeling’ of the story (which will change if it’s first or third person), how a character changes or doesn’t, how the characters react to each other—basically, what I would do if I were working in a play. I’ll also try to make notes about any lines of dialogue that might not be what they seem. ‘“And get out of my office!” His tone was quiet, and he sat down with a sigh.’ I might start to read that angrily, but then the next line shows that it isn’t, so I’d want to catch that beforehand if I can—that sort of thing.
How do you decide voice changes for different characters? And does the author have a say in it?
I don’t really have to…if the book is fiction, and there are descriptions of the main characters, that gives me what I need to know. From there, it’s just finding that voice in me that fits those characteristics. (Ellie, you do a great job with that!) The main thing, for me, is to be as realistic as possible and find a voice that I can sustain, and one that doesn’t take the listener out of the story.
How many times do you read the book before beginning?
At least once, and twice, if I have the time. I love the ability to just lose myself in a story, like any other reader, and it helps my narration. But if that’s not possible, I’ll read it once and do all my ‘work stuff’ then.
Any advice on the business side for authors who are considering having an audiobook produced? What should authors look for in a narrator, and what should they expect?
I’m not really knowledgeable about the business side for authors, except that ACX seems to be a very good platform in terms of getting one’s book into audio. As a narrator, I know that it offers an excellent way to break into narration, and to then continue one’s career. So, I would say the same as a writer, including self-published writers. I’ve worked for some smaller ones in the past, but ACX is the major player at this point. An internet search would be a good place to research this.
Regarding the creative side of production, what advice would you give an author?
This is propinquitous—just this morning, while reading about Dylan Thomas, I read that “…[p]erhaps because his broadcasting experience had attuned his inner ear to his outer ear … he wrote a poem (“Do not go gentle into that good night) tenfold more powerful when channeled through the human voice than when read in the contemplative silence of the mind’s eye.”—James Laughlin. So, yes, read your work out loud! I would say, start when you’re writing your book—read it out loud to yourself, or record it, or read it to a friend, and see how it sounds. If something sounds awkward, it’s so easy to fix it at the start. I would also say, listen to audiobooks of authors in your genre.
What can authors do to improve their books’ conversion to audio?
Write the best book you can. If the writing is good and the story is good, it will have no problem converting into audio.
What do you wish authors would do (or not do) that would make their books better for audio production? (Any single tip, or pet peeve?)
I don’t really have any pet peeves, but again, in my opinion, it all comes down to the writing. A well-written book is such a joy to narrate. A book that’s awkward in structure and story takes a lot of work to sound good!
Do you listen to audiobooks in your own time, or is that too much like work?
Are you kidding?! I’m ALWAYS listening to audiobooks—I have two going right now. I listen to my favorite narrators to help me improve my skills, and to my favorite authors for the joy of it…although, of course it’s also a total joy to be learning from my fellow narrators!
Thank you, Denice!
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