Friday, 31 December 2010

My year in audio books...

I love this time of year – not only to make plans for the next year, but to review the year that’s gone.

In terms of audiobook narration, 2010 was great fun, with a lot of variety.

I started the year with number 5 in the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, Silver Borne. I absolutely love this series and the characters are starting to feel like family. If you like well-written paranormal romance with a feisty, charismatic heroine, give this series a read or a listen.

I followed that with The Group by Mary McCarthy for BBC Audiobooks (now AudioGO). I’d read it when I was a teen, and it was great to revisit it. It’s a fascinating period piece that follows the lives of eight Vassar graduates (class of ’33) – largely set in my favourite city, New York.

It wasn’t long before I was back in Bath again, recording Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell. I’m still really fond of the characters, but there’s no doubt the series has turned more psychological and introspective. If I’m honest, I miss the action and forensic detail of the earlier books.

And of course I did some work for the digital publishing company I own with Ali Muirden, Creative Content Ltd., presenting (with uber-talented VO Trevor White) two of our business titles, The Lowdown: Doing Business in Mexico and The Lowdown: Business Etiquette – Japan. Narrating non-fiction is very different from narrating fiction – it has its challenges, but I really enjoy it.

Speaking of non-fiction, I really enjoyed doing a meditation title for Heavy Entertainment. A very relaxing job! (I wouldn’t like to relax to the sound of my own voice, but I’ve been taking full advantage of Creative Content’s new series of guided visualisations – DreamCatching – which we’re publishing in January. They’re written and narrated by VO goddess Maria Darling – I could listen to her voice for hours!).

Spring wouldn’t be spring without my annual trip to New York to record the latest Stephanie Plum, Sizzling Sixteen. And there was bonus this year - I was lucky enough to record the first in Janet Evanovich’s new series based on the seven deadly sins. Wicked Appetite was great fun – set in Boston, with a whole new cast of the zany characters Janet does so well. And speaking of zany – someone sent me a link to a video an Evanovich audiobook fan posted on YouTube. If you want a laugh, have a look...

Back up to Bath (really, I should just buy a season ticket) to record The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, a moving tale that weaves together the stories of three women during WW2. Loved it.

A book that had me salivating with its gorgeous descriptions of French food and wine was The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle. I recorded it for Quercus Books, with Ali Muirden – one of the best audio producers in the business – directing. If you love wine, I think you’ll enjoy this light-hearted romp.

I hope I earned some Brownie points in heaven by contributing some readings to A Child’s Book of Prayer for Macmillan Audio – I love reading prayers and poems, but rarely have the opportunity, so this was a real treat.

Then it was a Book at Bedtime for the BBC – the quirky Alex y Robert, by Wena Poon, directed by the wonderful Karen Rose. I touched on this job in a previous blog, ‘Accent-uate the Positive.'

It’s always exciting to be involved in narrating a new series – and I was thrilled to be asked to record ‘First Grave on the Right’ by Darynda Jones  – it’s a really fun mix of comedy, romance and the paranormal. It has lots of twists and turns to keep you interested, and it’s well-written and sexy. I recommend it!

I’ve just rounded off the year with a trip down to Bath to record ‘Play to Kill’ for AudioGO. Author P.J. Tracy (a mother/daughter team) was new to me, but I loved the cast of maverick computer geniuses, and I hope to have the chance to read more.

So I hope I haven’t forgotten any - I’ve enjoyed recording all of them – and am so very grateful to be able to do something I love. I thank you for listening and would especially like to thank those of you who’ve taken the trouble to write, tweet, Facebook message and email to tell me when you’ve enjoyed a title. That’s what keeps me going!

I hope you all have a fabulous 2011!

Friday, 12 November 2010


Headphones or not? It all depends...

I’ve just been recording ‘First Grave on the Right’ by Darynda Jones  – a really fun mix of comedy, romance and the paranormal. I recommend it!

But before we started the record, the engineer asked if I wanted cans or not. In case you’re not familiar with the term, ‘cans’ are earphones – or sometimes ‘desperates’ in London (which is Cockney rhyming slang  – ‘Desperate Dans’ = ‘cans’ – don’t ask! :oD). I instinctively decided not to use cans for this particular record.

And that got me thinking ‘why’?

I came to this conclusion: if there is comedy in a story, or a lot of action, I work without cans, as I think the tone is more ‘extrovert’, because you unconsciously project that little bit more. Yet for something like ‘Tallgrass’ by Sandra Dallas, I chose to use cans, as I thought the tone required something more intimate.

What do you think? If you’re a voiceover, how do you prefer to work? And do you think it makes a difference?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Is there a VOctor in the house?

I’ve got a stinking cold. 

It’s the first one I’ve had in a long time – and a cold isn’t really a big deal... unless you’re a voiceover!

Many years ago, when I worked in an office, a cold wasn’t a problem. I either stayed home with chicken soup and daytime TV, or I went in and snuffled my way through the day.

It’s not even that big a problem when I’m voice directing. I might feel lousy, but I can still do my job (although voice artists are rarely thrilled to be sharing studio air with someone horking up a lung).

But for a voiceover – a cold is a disaster. Unless jobs can be rescheduled, it often means losing work. 

So it’s no wonder that mythical ‘voice restoring’ remedies abound! I thought I’d list a few of them here:

Floradix: This tonic was recommended to me by chocolate-and-honey-voiced Colin McFarlane – and as a preventative, I think it works. I started taking it daily two years ago, and this is the first cold I’ve had since then (whereas I normally get about three a year – hazard of the profession!).

Pineapple: Great for cutting through gunk (sorry!), particularly bronchial stuff. I live on the stuff, fresh and juiced, if I have a cold.

Raw garlic: Great. Just hope you’re not sharing the booth with anyone!

Onions: Baked with olive oil and salt, or a little honey, this is said to be a great for the voice. Delicious, but I have my doubts as to the therapeutic effects...

Tabasco: The late, great Bill Hootkins swore by this. He’d keep a little bottle with him whenever he was recording, and every so often would have a couple of drops in a glass of water. I’ve not tried this one yet – but next week could be the time!

What about you – any remedies to share?

Photo by Cavin

Friday, 8 October 2010

Accent-uate the positive....

You may as well know that I am so lazy that I am recycling this blog that I wrote for our Creative Content blog, CCTheLowdown....

I was recently lucky enough to record Alex y Robert (by Wena Poon) as a Book at Bedtime for the BBC. It’s a wonderful book – but it threw up a problem that comes up from time to time for narrators.

The heroine is an American girl, fluent in Spanish, who wants to be a bullfighter, like her grandfather. She goes to Spain and fulfils her dream.

So far so good! The story is written in third person narrative and the character of Alex was no problem – but once she got to Spain and met Roberto and lots of other Spanish characters, I had a bit of a stumble. When Alex is in Spain, she is speaking Spanish, as are the other characters. But it is written in English. And occasionally the Spanish characters break into English. What to do? Accent? No accent? No accent for the Spanish characters when they’re speaking Spanish, but give them an accent when they’re speaking English? Give nobody accents? Give everybody accents? It’s a minefield!

Ultimately I think it’s about making things as clear as possible for the listener. So although it might be very clever to switch back and forth from accented to unaccented, depending on what language the character was supposed to be speaking, it would be incredibly confusing for the listener.

Therefore my policy is to give a character one voice and one accent – an accent that is the same, no matter what language they’re speaking. 

In the case of Alex y Robert, that could’ve meant giving the Spanish characters no accent – or perhaps more accurately, to give them an American accent like mine.  But that didn’t seem right either.

Part of the charm of the story is this very American girl finding herself in a very different world with an ancient tradition very different from anything in her world. In order to convey that sense of ‘otherness,’ I chose to give the Spanish characters Spanish accents – even when they were supposed to be speaking their own language.

What do you think? I’d love to know how other narrators handle this problem! - LK