Today at Speaking of Audiobooks, we are hosting our first live Narrators Forum.  It’s an event structured for narrators to come together and discuss pertinent issues in their industry as well as provide listeners with a glimpse into their world of bringing multiple characters to life.  Once the live portion of the forum is over, those involved want to hear from you.  Your feedback is important to them.

When I first started writing about audiobooks, I envisioned those reading to me in a studio surrounded by a director, producer, and recording technician.  My mind saw the director instructing a narrator to stop occasionally and try a line again or explain a needed change.  I guess I imagined something similar to a movie set with only one actor sitting in a sound booth performing all of the characters.  However, after visiting with a number of narrators this past year, I understand just how inaccurate that vision was.  Now that home studios are becoming more commonplace, narrators often operate alone and in somewhat of a vacuum.  There just aren’t that many opportunities to get together and talk about what they do day in and day out.

Meet the Narrators

Six highly talented narrators are joining us today and I couldn’t be more pleased with the group we’ve assembled for our first forum.  As I introduce each of our participating narrators, you’ll see a partial list of their romance narrations.

Justine EyreJustine Eyre – There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Justine’s past romance narrations but I must start with one yet to be released – Connie Brockway’s highly anticipated The Other Guy’s Bride(release scheduled for 12/22/11).  Justine is well known for her narration of Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter Series with listeners marking both Angel’s Blood and the most recent of the series, Archangel’s Blade, as not-to-be-missed right along with me.  Justine’s other romance narrations include Cynthia Eden’s Deadly Series, Sabrina Jeffries’ School for Heiresses Series, Karen Robards’ Scandalous, Keri Arthur’s Full Moon Rising, and Julia London’s The Year of Living Scandalously.

Phil Gigante head shotPhil Gigante – Voted Favorite Male Narrator and Best Male/Female Dual Romance Narration in our 2011 Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll, Phil is best known around here for his rollicking narration of Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander Series, the male roles in Karen Marie Moning’s Dreamfever and Shadowfever (yeah, I’m talking Jericho Barrons), Linda Howard’s Dream Man, Nora Roberts’ Blood Brothers, and a number of both Christine Feehan and Diana Palmer titles.  Regularly performing in a variety of genres, romance listeners eagerly await Phil’s new romance narrations and it’s always duly noted when he makes a return!

Tavia GilbertTavia Gilbert – Tavia’s narration of Jeaniene Frost’s One Foot in the Grave tied for first in our Favorite Urban Fantasy with Romance Thread category of our Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll earlier this year.  She’s best known around here for her narration of Frost’s Night Huntress and Night Huntress World Series, while other regulars rave about her performance of Karen Rose’s Die for Me, Scream for Me, and Kill for Me.  Sarah McCarthy’s Shadow Wrangler Series was released this fall with Tavia’s narration making the series a hit in audio.  She’s also performed titles by Suzanne Enoch, Heather Graham, Jordan Dane, and Debbie Macomber.

Renee Black (Raudman)Renee Raudman – Narrating the works of numerous well known romance authors, Renee has proven repeatedly that she definitely knows how to perform romance.  Her narration of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels Series has earned great praise with Magic Bleeds earning the Favorite 2010 Romance Audiobook category and Magic Strikes tying for first in our Favorite Urban Fantasy with Romance Thread category in our recent Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll.  Renee’s just wrapped up the third in Ilona Andrews’ The Edge Series, Fate’s Edge, which is set for release November 29th.  And on a personal note, I must mention Lisa Kleypas’ Blue-Eyed Devil.  Renee’s depiction of the abused heroine Haven was nothing less than stunning.

Xe SandsXe Sands – New to the scene but quickly making a name for herself, Xe also won a place in our Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll with the Favorite Debut Romance Narrator award.  I was completely impressed when I first heard Xe as she narrated Anne Stuart’s Fire and Ice.  She has scored big with Jacqueline Frank’s Nightwalker Series as well and those who have listened to even one in the series can’t quit raving about her performance.  Xe will soon be narrating Jordan Dane’s Evil Without a Face.

Karen WhiteKaren White – After nine years of narrating genres other than romance, Karen exploded into the romance genre and won our hearts with her narration of Julie James’ Just the Sexiest Man Alive.  She has since recorded a number of romance audiobooks including Kristina Douglas’ (Anne Stuart) Fallen Series, Susan Krinard’s Bride of the Wolf, and Cindy Proctor-King’s Head Over Heels.  Coming out soon are two titles I know will be big hits – Jill Shalvis’ Animal Magnetismand Animal Attraction.  Karen also just finished up her first Steampunk, Stacy Gail’s Crime Wave in a Corset.

How the Forum Works

At 11:00 eastern time today (November 14th), the live forum will begin in the discussion area immediately below this column.   During this live portion, only the narrators participating in the forum will post entries as they answer questions and talk with one another.  As moderator, I’ll ask a question and each narrator will answer and then discuss the issue between themselves before we move on to the next question.

We ask all of our listeners/readers to refrain from posting until the forum is complete. At that time, I’ll announce that the discussion is open for all.  I know that Karen, Xe, Renee, Tavia, Phil, and Justine are all eager to hear from you as well – both your observations and questions.

If you are unable to attend the actual event, you can read the discussion after the fact and, of course, we’ll be accepting comments from you, our listeners, for days.

A transcript of the narrators’ discussion will be available next week.  Let me know if you are interested in a copy.

Today’s Discussion Questions

To assist you in knowing the direction of the dialogue, I’m including the list of questions we will be utilizing as a framework for today’s discussion.

  • Those of us who have ardently listened to fictional audiobooks over the past ten – fifteen years have noticed a change in the method of delivery.  The art of narration now seems to require more intensity and attention to detail.  Where it may have been acceptable to simply read a book with a touch of dramatic flair at one time, listeners now expect narrators to perform.  Have you seen a gradual shift in the role of the narrator over the past fifteen years?
  • In discussions here at Speaking of Audiobooks, it’s clear that we see narrators as actors – the better the actor, the better the narration.  Since your audio listeners can’t see your body language or emotional expressions as they would on stage or in film, how do you perform your characters audibly?  And since you are required to portray more than one character, what are methods you use to differentiate your characters?
  • How do you convey emotion beyond the written word?  Do you shout if a character is shouting or just read the passage wherein the author is telling his/her audience about the action?  Do you perform a character crying if they are written as such?  Or do you literally laugh if the character is described as doing so?
  • A pure audiobook success for me is Anna Fields’ narration of Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  I didn’t care much for the heroine Blue in print as I found her testy and ungrateful and therefore wasn’t too crazy about the book.  But I gave it another shot in audio and saw another Blue entirely.  Fields’ interpretation was a good humored, self deprecating character and Natural Born Charmer moved into my favorites relisten file.
  • Most dedicated audiobook fans can name books where the narrator’s interpretation of a character – the voice used, the attitude portrayed, the mood the narrator set – changed the written word from okay to a favorite re-listen or better, turned a good book into a brilliant audiobook.  Along that same line of thought, what influences the choices you make when preparing to record?  In addition to the author’s words, what inspires you to portray a character one way or another?
  • Does the romance genre demand a different approach from narrators than other forms of fiction?  Do you feel the need to differentiate your characters more for the romance genre or do you differentiate equally for all genres?

I want to give special thanks to Karen White for encouraging me to put together today’s forum.  It is something I’ve had in the back of my mind for more than a year and have discussed with a few narrators.  Karen pulled me out of thinking and into action.

Speaking of Audiobooks plans to host a Narrators Forum every few months with a new set of discussion questions each time.  We’ll invite other narrators to participate as well as ask these to return.  A number of future topics are already in the works.

Now for the live forum!  It starts shortly – 11:00 eastern standard time.  Come watch the interaction, learn, enjoy, and then share with us!

– Lea Hensley