Book 2 in my Romance Reigns series, Marissa: Chosen By A King, has been narrated by the very talented Virginia Ferguson. Read my interview with Virginia below. Listen to a sample and grab your copy on Audible here: bit.ly/marissarr
How did you get involved in audiobook narration?
All my life I have loved reading. My father was a publisher and my mother an avid reader/teacher. My sisters and I all worked in some capacity for publishing companies when we were young. Fast forward decades as an English teacher and actress, and an acting teacher of mine suggested getting involved with ACX, a company that basically puts narrators in touch with authors who want their books read aloud. I knew nothing about the technology but had taken several classes in voice acting for years but was always too busy to get stuck into it and learn the technology. Finally, a few years ago, I sat down with a friend who basically said this was not rocket science and we could do it. We did. I auditioned for my first book, got the job and kept on going from there, becoming more and more technically and artistically improved each time hopefully.
What previous experience do you bring to audiobook performance that you feel enhances your narration style?
The most valuable experience for a narrator of novels is acting experience. Since you have to believably read dialogue, you need to become the characters. The voices are the most challenging part of the job, especially if there are lots of characters. In addition, since my father is English and I've lived in England for long periods, I have what some people call an English accent. In any case, I can do a believable (but not perfect) English accent which many of the Regency Romances and other romances require. Acting in English plays helped, too.
I was so excited to listen to your audition for “Marissa: Chosen By A King” and felt you were a perfect fit for the period and genre. What drew you to audition for it initially?
When I saw Marissa: Chosen By A King, the first thing that drew me to it was the cover art of a beautiful woman and handsome man! I could see it was a romance by the title and picture. Ah, my specialty I said. Then, looking at the audition script which is crucially important in deciding whether to audition for a book or not, I could see that the author had a fluent style and depicted scenes and characters well and engagingly. These characters were likeable. Clearly, the period would be interesting historically, too. The author sounded legit and her background interesting.
What is involved in the recording of an audiobook? Can you explain your process?
Once I get a job, and I try to work continuously, I might ask the author to send me specific information about characters. However, if the novel is well written, an audio reader can pick this up from the manuscript. I try to read as much as I can of the book to prepare and might list the characters on paper and try out voices once I know who they are. I write down little notes to myself like "arrogant, high squeak" or "Think Cary Grant". When I start putting down a chapter, I might even record phrases in a character's dialogue and keep that track on hand so I remember how they spoke if they pop up in ten chapters down the line (which you would know if you can read the entire book first which I do try to do). Basically, I do one chapter at a time and edit it twice. The first time is to edit out mistakes and noise, sometimes re-recording a sentence or two that doesn't sound right or that is framed by a motorbike noise outside the window which I try to block out.
The second time is with the script for accuracy of the author's words. I can pick up one or two misreadings of mine this way. I'm always surprised by mistakes I make!! Then the chapter track is uploaded to ACX for the author to listen to for any further corrections. Editing is not exciting but essential. I usually treat myself to reading two chapters a day which takes about an hour or so, and the rest of the time I am editing. For every one hour of error free recording, an audio narrator puts in at least three hours of work if not more. The goal for all audio narrators is to reduce the editing time.
Are there any lessons learned during your recording of “Marissa: Chosen By A King” that you plan to apply to future projects?
The main lesson from Marissa is to find authors as easy to work with as Sandra! There are lots of lessons I've learned from past books (such as the two edits and recording voices so I can remember them). I believe I am pleased with the outcome of this engaging story and hope that listeners will be pleased, too.
Do you have a “Holy Grail” novel you’d love to narrate/perform?
As for novels I'd love to perform, I had my eye on Sweet Caress by William Boyd and sent him some samples. I never heard back which is not surprising given his publisher no doubt hires top English actors from the stage and screen, plus studio time. But the authors on the ACX site are often just as good and authors can now capitalize on audio rights that belong to them for the time being. Plenty of fantastic voice artists are vying for jobs on ACX as competition is intense.
What’s next on your list?
My present project is interesting - Locket, a novel set during World War II with several interweaving personal stories involving the field hospitals on the front lines and those who work there, the horrific camps run by the Nazis, but also the music and romance of the period where life and death were separated only by luck. I'm up to Chapter 5!
Best of luck with marvelous Marissa and I hope to work with Sandra again someday.