While reading is addictive, sometimes we have to put the book down and do other things like clean, fold clothes, iron (do people still do that???) and drive places. And sometimes our eyes and heads just can’t look at the print a moment longer. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a great story at the same time. Yay for audiobooks! I personally listen to them while giving myself mani/pedis.
EM: I often hear actors talking about how they “fell into” audiobooks. That wasn’t the case with me. It was something I 100% sought out. I’d been doing a solid amount of theater and voiceover work in NYC and I had this strong feeling I’d have a knack for audiobook narration (which is in many ways a blending of both skills). It took several years of recording and sending out demos, learning about the industry, and above all… listening to and learning from narrators who are at the top of their game before I really found my foothold. I’m so glad I kept at it, since I’ve totally fallen in love with the whole process.
KC: If you weren’t a professional narrator, what would you be doing? What are some other jobs you’ve held?
EM: I’ve known since I was fifteen that I wanted to be an actor. While now I happily spend most of my mornings in the recording booth and most nights rehearsing and performing plays, I had to do a lot of waiting tables and teaching yoga classes before things started to shift. I remember a wonderful old theater director sitting me down several years ago and saying “You must find a way to make $100,000 a year in your chosen profession, you hear me?” I stared back at him wide-eyed and silent. Most people I knew in the theater talked about how “hard” things were. Not this guy. He seemed to imply I could make a go of it. I opened my mouth to respond and he interrupted. “Nope. Don’t wanna hear it. Just figure it out.”
Since then I’ve been hard at work “figuring it out” and I’ve discovered that despite the many challenges of the actor’s life, there really are many ways to make a living doing this thing so many of us love. It may take a hefty amount of digging and persevering, but you can get there, and the reward of living life on your own terms is pretty huge.
KC: How do you prepare for a new project? Do you read the book first or fly by the seat of your pants?
EM: I would never dream of stepping into the booth without reading the book. Twice. Wonderful writers like you spend months, often years creating these amazing worlds, so the way I see it, if I hope to be the listeners’ tour guide of sorts, I’d better be well-acquainted with the terrain. During my first read I try to approach the book as any other reader would and just enjoy the unfolding of the story (“try” is the operative word here. I can’t really resist getting excited and taking notes as ideas come to me). During the second read I take a lot of character notes and make decisions on “voices.” The more prepared I am ahead of time, the more playful and present I can be while in the booth, which is always my goal in acting no matter what the medium.
KC: I’ve been getting lots of compliments of how you do the different characters’ voices in Promise. How do you choose what voice to use for each character? Is it hard to remember the voice if a lot of pages come between occurrences?
EM: I’m so happy to hear that! The most important thing I utilize is the abundance of clues great writers like you pepper throughout the book. “Promise” is full of rich voice descriptions! Take Vanessa for example. You describe her voice as “a flutter of wind chimes.” That certainly gives you a ballpark of where to go with her! Alexis calls Tristan’s voice “deep”,“silky”, “sexy.” My female vocal chords do the best they can with that one! Rina’s voice is described as “smooth and luxurious like velvet.” I keep track of all these clues as I read, and the decisions sort of make themselves!
In some cases, while their voices may not be explicitly described, the way characters behave and speak can be so darn juicy that again, the decisions get made for me. Take Owen. A guy who seems to “belong in California hanging out with the surfers” and says things like “good morning little dudette” can probably carry a casual, fun-loving air to his voice. While exploring Sophia, I discovered a warmth and a groundedness in everything she says and does, hence, I felt that quality should come across in her voice as well.
This is all the kind of work I do beforehand, so that while I’m recording I’m not thinking “Wait – how does he sound again?” but rather, I can speak freely from the character’s point of view and the “voices” naturally flow out. That’s when things get really fun!If you are diligent about doing your homework, it’s rare you would have trouble remembering a voice, no matter how many pages go by between occurrences.
KC: Is there one character that you’ve related to more than others? Who and why?
EM: Alexis for sure! Part of the joy of working in audiobooks – in addition to getting to explore a whole cast of characters in one project- is discovering the narrator’s voice. This is especially fun for me when books are written in first person (as Promise is) since I essentially get to play the main character twice. Narrating Promise, I was never separated from “Alexis the storyteller” as she is the one weaving the whole tale, and then there was also “Alexis the character” as she operates in the scenes and dialogue (audiobooks are trippy). 🙂 So I ended up feeling really connected to her.
I think Alexis’ experience was particularly potent for me since so many secrets are first kept from her, and then slowly revealed to her throughout the story. This puts her in constant discovery mode, which is an exciting thing for an actor to play. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the kick I got out of Ian. I mean, what’s more fun than playing an ogre-like demon with an Irish accent?
KC: Without spoiling anything, what was your favorite part of narrating Promise?
EM: Well, I realized how much I adored your writing during my initial read when I took in the description of Alexis and Tristan’s first kiss on the beach (that doesn’t spoil anything right? Surely people assume they’ll kiss?). That scene is just so beautiful. Time seemed to slow down for me and the writing put me right in that space of being a heart-fluttery teenager again. Completely gorgeous.
I also remember loving narrating the bathroom scene after the crash at the bookstore. Alexis goes through so many conflicting emotions there – pain, humiliation, panic, fear, shock – it was really fun to take that ride with her.
KC: Have you ever met any of the authors you’ve worked with?
EM: Yes! I recently went out to lunch with the author of a 4-book romance series I narrated about a family of cowboys. We instantly felt like old friends even though it was the first time we laid eyes on each other. It’s wild how close you feel to someone after spending hours upon hours with their writing, speaking their words aloud as if they were your own.
Actually, I’m in the process of narrating Purpose right now (SO much fun!!!) and – hopefully this doesn’t freak you out– after a particularly intense or emotional scene I have found myself saying things like “Oh Kristie….” out loud, as if you were there in the booth with me, which in a way, I suppose you are. I’d be psyched if you and I got to meet in person someday too! Come to NYC, why don’t ya.
KC: In your free time, do you prefer reading, listening to audiobooks or doing something completely different? If books, what’s on your To Be Read and To Listen To lists?
EM: I actually do read a ton (I do my fair share of writing too!), though with all the plays, romance novels and YA fantasy books I read for work, I suppose my imagination is well cared for, because when it comes to straight up pleasure reading I seem to crave non-fiction. I just finished Danielle LaPorte’s “The Fire Starter Sessions” which really knocked me out (think a bad-ass “The Artist’s Way”) and I’m about to dive into “A Course in Miracles” which has long been on my list. A few Joseph Campbell books are also making eyes at me from my nightstand.
KC: Can you share what up-coming projects you’ve been working on or will be soon?
EM: Yes! I’m thrilled to be in workshops for a one-person play by the amazing Mac Wellman (I swear I don’t always act by myself!) called “Horrocks (and Toutatis too)” and I’m also in rehearsals for a dark and funny new play by Eric John Meyer called “The Sister” performing with Dutch Kills Theater in NYC March 20th through April 13th. In audiobook-land, “Purpose” and “Devotion” are underway (woohoo!), as is your friend Brenda Pandos’ wonderful book “The Onyx Talisman.” The amount of fun I am having is probably illegal.
KC: Don’t we have the best jobs? 🙂 Anything else you’d like to share?
EM: Just that it was such a treat to work on a book I literally couldn’t put down. When I have material this good in my hands, work feels very much like play, so thank you – for your boundless creativity and for inviting me to be a part of it. It’s clear to me why you have so many enthusiastic, faithful readers. You can consider me a forever fan now too.
Lovelies, if you have a question for Erin, feel free to ask in the comments. And if you haven’t listened to her narrate Promise, go do it! (BTW, if you already have Promise for the Kindle, the audiobook is super-cheap – only $1.99!)