Narrator Spotlight: Jill Melancon

Posted by Holly Simpson on April 3.

The Narrator Spotlight feature ListenUp’s fabulous narrators, one at a time. Get to know a little more about the voice behind the story and see what else your favorite narrators are up to!

This week, Narrator Spotlight features Jill Melancon, who, if you live in Atlanta, you’ve probably heard on your radio. She’s been a DJ on 99x and Dave-FM and is currently doing traffic with All News 106.7. You can also hear her as the voice of “Holiday” in the upcoming video game, Revolution 60.


How long have you been narrating audiobooks?
Officially for about 3 years.  But as a former English teacher, I’ve been reading out loud for a long time.

Of the books that you’ve narrated, which is your favorite?
Firecracker by Charles Verhey.  It was the first one I ever narrated, so I’ll always remember it fondly 🙂  It is the story of a young girl who has “special” powers and has to learn to control them.

What do you do to prepare before narrating an audiobook?
It may sound like common sense, but first and foremost–read the whole book!  There is nothing worse than getting deep into the recording and suddenly realizing one of the characters has an accent you should have been using all along.  It is also good in helping to provide background for the characters to help with characterization.  Next, I look up any unfamiliar words and/or pronunciations.  I keep a notebook for each project with character bios, etc. to keep me on track.
How do you create different character voices?
I have an extensive background in theatre, which has been indispensable for doing audiobooks.  I’ve been involved in theatre (acting, directing, music direction, and technical) since I was seven.  I try to find the one thing in each character’s story that helps me find the tone of their voice.

What is the funniest thing to happen while recording a book?
Early on, when I did my own “engineering,” I got all the way through a particularly long chapter, then realized I hadn’t hit the “record” button and had to do it all over again 😦  But it wasn’t funny at the time!

What is something people might be surprised to know about the job of an audiobook narrator?
I have a lot of friends who tell me they want to get into doing audiobooks.  I tell them to pull a book off the shelf, and start reading it out loud and not stop for at least 2 hours.  If they still want to do it after that, then they should be okay.  But a lot of people discover it is much harder than they thought.  I discovered that after about 3 hours, my voice starts cracking, so I can’t narrate for longer periods…I have to break it up into chunks.

If you could narrate any book, what would be your dream audiobook?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Or if Tina Fey hadn’t already done it herself, Bossypants.
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Narrator Spotlight: Carolyn Cook

 

Posted by Holly Simpson on March 10

The Narrator Spotlight feature ListenUp’s fabulous narrators, one at a time. Get to know a little more about the voice behind the story and see what else your favorite narrators are up to!

This week’s Narrator Spotlight features one of our newest narrators, Carolyn Cook!

 Carolyn,_Spring_2013_Profile

How long have you been narrating audiobooks?
I’ve been doing this professionally for less than a year, but I’ve worked in radio and voice-over, and I’ve been an actor for most of my adult life. I spent many years acting on stage and then coming home to read bedtime stories to my daughter. I was thrilled when I got the chance to begin working as an audiobook narrator, because it seemed like a natural extension of my life as an actor and a mom. Best of all, my daughter has started narrating audiobooks herself, so I guess all those bedtime stories paid off!

Of the books that you’ve narrated, which is your favorite?
My favorite fiction book so far is a collection of short stories by Elizabeth Spencer called Starting Over. Each story ends just at the point where life breaks down and something new is about to happen to the main character, so you have a sense of expectation, of wondering what’s next (in a good way), at the end. My favorite non-fiction is a World War II memoir called Sins of the Innocent. It’s by a French woman, Mireille Marokvia, who married a German man in Paris before the war and lived through the war years in Germany. I had never read anything from that perspective, and I found it fascinating

What do you do to prepare before narrating an audiobook?
I go through the book to make sure I know who the characters are and how to pronounce any names or foreign words I’m unfamiliar with. I do funny-looking facial warm-ups on the way to the studio, to get my mouth ready to articulate. Then it’s just a matter of committing to the story, keeping my voice in good shape, and drinking plenty of water!

How do you create different character voices?
I play around with the different elements of speech: pitch, breathiness, speed, accent, energy, nasality, and so on. Different combinations work for different characters. A squeaky, nasal, high-pitched voice is totally different from a low-pitched, breathy, slow and sultry one. I love the challenge of making each character sound unique.

What is something people might be surprised to know about the job of an audiobook narrator?
When I was a kid, I always pictured radio announcers at fancy desks, wearing suits and ties and being formal. Then I worked in radio and found out how casual and scruffy you can be when nobody sees you all day. It’s the same with audiobooks. I think people would be surprised to see us in the studio in sweats and fuzzy slippers.

If you could narrate any book, what would be your dream audiobook?
Definitely one of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis! I read those books so many times when I was growing up, I felt like I lived in Narnia.  I think my favorite is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, so as long as I’m dreaming, I’ll pick that.  Or maybe The Horse and His Boy.  Oh forget it, it’s too hard to choose.  I’ll do the whole set.

This month, you can see Carolyn in Nearly New Festival in March with Theatre du Reve. Next month, you can see her in a workshop production of a new play called Blackberry Winter with Out of Hand Theater Next fall she’ll be in  Detroit with Horizon Theatre.

Narrator Spotlight: Topher Payne

This Narrator Spotlight features Topher Payne! Topher has been named Best Local Playwright by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Sunday Paper, Creative Loafing, David Magazine, and The GA Voice. He won the Gene-Gabriel Moore Playwriting Award at the 2013 Suzi Bass Awards and he one of our newest narrators.

How long have you been narrating audiobooks?
Just started last year.

Of the books that you’ve narrated, which is your favorite?
Well, that’s just an evil unfair question. See, a funny thing happens when you’re given the responsibility of being the voice of a book- you can’t help but take a certain ownership of it. So I’ve got a great deal of affection for each one, and I spend more time than I probably should afterwards hoping that I’ve honored the author’s intent.

That said, my favorite experience of recording a book was Edward Swift’s Splendora. It takes place in a small Texas town, with nearly fifty characters- male, female, young, old, and all points in between, but they all have the same accent. I sat around the house talking to myself for a couple days, finding new places my voice could go. It was like Narrator Boot Camp, and I think I came out of it better at my job.

What do you do to prepare before narrating an audiobook?
I read it, and make notes as I go along, vital statistics for each of the characters, clues which would inform the performance. If there’s more than a handful of speaking roles, I use PDF Annotator to highlight each one in a different color, so they don’t sneak up on me. Group scenes end up looking like rainbow sprinkles on a birthday cake. If this all sounds really nerdy and detail-obsessed, it’s because it is. And then I get a good night’s sleep. If you don’t rest your voice the night before, you will absolutely regret it in the studio.

How do you create different character voices?
Oh, it’s very simple. You talk to yourself like a lunatic. I read aloud and keep testing the water ‘til eventually something emerges that makes me say, “Oh, there you are.” For shorthand, I’ll form a distinct mental image, of someone I’ve known, or somebody famous. Make no mistake, my impressions are shockingly bad. What I call “Katharine Hepburn” sounds absolutely nothing like Katharine Hepburn, but it helps me stay consistent.

What is the funniest thing to happen while recording a book?
Occasionally there’ll be a typo in a book that wasn’t caught in the editing process, and we’ll correct it in the audio version. So, I was recording a love scene in a romance novel. The line was something like, “He felt the hot steam on his face, and he loved it.” Only it didn’t say “steam.” It said “steak.” “He felt the hot steak on his face.” We had to take a break from recording because I could not stop laughing. I just kept picturing this guy getting slapped in the face with a Porterhouse.
And loving it.

What is something people might be surprised to know about the job of an audiobook narrator?
The variety of noises your stomach and mouth make, independently of your influence. Your growling belly quickly becomes your mortal enemy, because the microphones are very sensitive, and it’ll sound like there’s a bulldog having a very vivid dream nearby.

If you could narrate any book, what would be your dream audiobook?
Something Southern and funny and weird. Eudora Welty, Truman Capote. Sheri Joseph’s Bear Me Safely Over would be amazing. But Mark Childress’s Crazy in Alabama would probably be my dream book. If you only know that title from the Melanie Griffith movie, do yourself a favor and seek out the book. And then maybe picture me reading it to you.

Make sure to check out Topher’s play Lakebottom Prime, which has its Atlanta premiere in April, produced by The Process Theatre Company. As an actor, he can be seen this month on HBO in the film Identity Theif.

Narrator Spotlight: Casey Holloway

This week’s Narrator Spotlight features Casey Holloway, who was recently nominated for an Audie for her performance in Pure, by Julianna Baggott.

How long have you been narrating audiobooks?Casey Holloway

I have been narrating for about two and a half years.

Of the books that you’ve narrated, which is your favorite?

Oooh! That is a tough one because I have loved a lot!  I’ll give you my top 3.  Pure By Julianna Baggott, How to Rock Braces and Glasses By Meg Haston, and Touched By Caroline Haynes

I loved Pure because I love post apocalyptic stories!  Who doesn’t?  I am a big fan of the Hunger Games series and Pure falls into that Genre for me.  It’s a take on the post apocalyptic genre that I haven’t seen before which is what made it so compelling for me.  I narrated the part of Lyda within the 4 narrator ensemble.  I really identified with Lyda which also made her more fun to narrate.  Whenever you connect with a character like that you are going to feel attached to them as thought they are a part of you now or as though part of yourself now resides in them.

How to Rock Braces and Glasses was fun because I got to relive my pre-teen years and all the ups and downs that go along with growing up.   Plus the main characters name is Kacey!  Not the same spelling as mine but still the same name!  Also How to Rock is now a TV show on Nickelodeon so its fun to see it come to life.

I loved Touched because it was so emotionally captivating for me.  It is a haunting story about life in a way-too-small town, making friends into family, how religion can be taken to an extreme in order to justify actions, and getting out of a life in which the main character finds herself stuck.  There is a little bit of a supernatural element which I always love.  I also got to play with  quite a few character voices which is always fun.

What do you do to prepare before narrating an audiobook?

Well, the first thing I do is read the book.  I also research the author to get a sense of the types of books they write.  Every day before I start I do mouth and vocal exercises.  Narrating is an endurance test and I have to keep those mouth and facial muscles in good shape.  By the end of the day sometimes you feel like your tongue doesn’t move like it supposed to, to form certain sounds because its just worn out.  It’s a muscle just like any other in the body.  It gets tired.

How do you create different character voices?

As an actor, character voices are something that I have running through my head 24hrs a day.  I am constantly creating new voices.  I have created weird and silly voices since I was a kid…yeah I was THAT kid.  I also use any description of the character within the book to create the voice.  I base the voices on who the people are inside and out.  I work on it until I have that “oh there he/she is” moment.

If you could narrate any book, what would be your dream audiobook?  

Well, again I can’t pick just one so this time I have two.  First of all the Harry Potter series because I am a HUGE fan of the books.  I’m talking BIG FAT HARRY POTTER GEEK, and proud of it.  In my opinion J.K. Rowling masterfully created characters that will go down in history alongside the greats!  I believe the books will stand the test of time and eventually become beloved classics.  So yeah that would be a dream audiobook.

The other would be any book by Jane Austen.  I adore her novels and her writing style.

When I’m not narrating I work as an actor, voice over artist, and sketch comedian.  I perform and teach at Sketchworks Theatre.  I teach adults and kids.  I love what I do!