Behind the scenes with EMILY WOO ZELLER and a GIVEAWAY!

January 25th, 2016

Oh my goodness! Life got away from me here — I’m in the middle of a cross-country move (more on that in another post) and things are topsy-turvy and I have sorely neglected this blog as a consequence.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series has been released in audio! Which means we have some catching up to do with spotlight interviews and giveaways!

Let’s start with DEAR PEN PAL, shall we?

DPP Audio

I am having SO MUCH FUN listening to these books. It’s almost like I didn’t write them. Seriously! Listening to a story is just a completely different (though equally wonderful) experience from reading one.

And I have been enormously blessed with a FANTASTIC cast of actors reading the parts of my book club girls. Wow, is all I can say!  The audio versions are produced by Ideal Audiobooks, and the stellar cast includes Amy Rubinate, Cris Dukehart, Kate Rudd, Emily Woo Zeller, and Shannon McManus. I’m truly honored to have these five AMAZING voice actors playing the parts of Emma, Jess, Cassidy, Megan, and Becca!  When you listen, I hope you’ll agree that they’ve beautifully captured the girls’ individual characters, which spring to life in a new way in their excellent hands … er, voices.

In past posts, I spoke with Amy Rubinate, the voice of Emma Hawthorne; Cris Dukehart, the voice of Jess Delaney; and Kate Rudd, the voice of Cassidy Sloane. Today, we’re going to meet Emily Woo Zeller!

Emily Woo Zeller

I’m just bowled over not only by Emily’s voice, but also by her grace and beauty and TALENT! In addition to her work as an audiobook narrator (Audiofile Magazine named her one of the “Best Voices of 2015” — go, Emily!), she’s an actor, singer, dancer, and choreographer.

So Emily, how did you get into audio work? We’d love to hear about your career path.

My performance training started when I was very young, in dance and in music, and eventually theater.  I’ve also always been a big reader. I just love getting caught up in a story that I can read or listen to. While watching movies is fun and great in its own way, there’s something special about reading or listening to or acting out a story. Anyway, I’m getting distracted!

I started full time voiceover work in Hong Kong when I moved there after I got my B.A. I was dubbing film and television in Hong Kong. It was primarily animation, but we sometimes did live action films or series. I loved getting to play so many different characters and having fun with lots of different voices and emotions. When I moved back to the U.S. in 2008, I sent an audition in to what was then BBC Audiobooks America, when I heard that they were looking for people – and I auditioned and booked my first book in 2009! From there, it was a slow progression of training and doing the best work I could do and being connected to others doing the same. Even though both types of voiceover really use a range of characters, one of the ways animation is different from audiobook recording is that in animation, you can be expected to go really far with one character and bring it to a cartoonish level immediately. With audiobooks, characters are of course important but telling the whole story – communicating all the narrative parts in between character lines – is usually the bulk of the job.

What’s your process in preparing to record/read a book aloud?

Always read the book first. I take notes about characters, dialects, accents, unknown words, and the author’s and/or character’s personality. Over the years and certainly to this day, I am always working on improving my skills and adding different characters to my repertoire.  I take notes because I usually have more than one book going at one time. 

What does a typical day look like for you? (if there is such a thing!)

There is no real typical day for me overall. I run my own business so I wear many hats. Always, I am striving to eat well and get enough sleep and rest so that I can have my brain and body working optimally. I learned the hard way that my body needs a break. If I don’t take care of myself, I get sick … and then I can’t work! While the bulk of the work is recording, I spend a time reading the stories and preparing them, sometimes I take care of the business side of things, sometimes I spend time connecting with the audiobook community, such as getting to connect with you!

 On a typical recording day, which can be for many, many days in a row, I make sure I am extra hydrated the day before, and during the recording day, I stay hydrated and drink herbal tea that soothes the throat. I eat foods that won’t make my tummy grumbly or my mouth dry.  I give myself a little time in the morning for my body to wake up and I do a vocal warmup before I get into the booth. The hours are long in there when you’re recording books and it can be very taxing in both the short and long term.  I sit on a yoga ball in my booth to help me keep good posture and keep up the energy while recording.

Did you listen to audio books growing up?  Do you listen to them now? How does the experience differ for you from reading the printed word?

I didn’t listen to audiobooks much when I was a kid, but they weren’t as popular or available as they are now. I do remember listening to and loving Danny Glover reading “Brer Rabbit and the Wonderful Tar Baby.” I certainly listen to audiobooks now. It helps me to learn more about the industry and enjoy more books when my eyes are busy or I’m on a crowded subway and can’t hold up a book. Audio has a lot of possibilities.  How different is it to hear someone tell you a story? There are so many thoughts and experiences we have that are triggered by sound, but there’s still plenty of space for imagination and I think that’s really great. Actually, I can’t do anything that requires much concentration when I’m listening because I get totally absorbed!

Turning to “The Mother-Daughter Book Club,” did you find any connections between yourself and the character that you narrated?  

Megan is a really interesting character for me. She’s helped me to grow as a person! I never really paid any attention to fashion but seeing it through her eyes, as a way to connect to people and see as an expression of personality and form, has made me appreciate it more. It’s great that she offers her talent to her friends. Certainly, as an artist, I understand her passion and her need to participate in the world through her medium.

I love seeing her grow through the series. She was a bit of a mean girl at first but she’s slowly learning that you can still do what you love without putting anyone else down and that her awesome friends, all of whom have at least one trait I connect to, have something to offer to her and to the world. It’s so great seeing them all grow up and have fun doing it, even if it is hard sometimes.

I also love her grandma, Gigi. She totally reminds me of someone I know (I won’t say their name here!). And Megan’s mom really makes me think of what I might be like as a mom because I love eating healthy and philanthropy and have strong political opinions. It made me consider how that might be difficult if I had a kid like Megan, and think about how I would make space for someone like Megan to be herself and grow, and also let her know that I love her.

Any fun facts about yourself that you might like to share with us?

I was trained as a kid first in Chinese Folk Dance and eventually moved into Chinese martial arts in college.

I haven’t done as many triathlons as Cris Dukehart [the voice of Jess Delaney], but I have done one and I loved it!

I play the piano and a little guitar.

I dye my hair with a streak of purple because I like the look and I never dyed my hair as a kid.  See? Fashion expression!

I love the color purple.

EmilyWooZeller purple

I told you she was fabulous! Thanks so much for visiting with us, Emily. I’m so thrilled that you agreed to play the role of Megan in THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB audiobooks — your wonderful narration brought her to life for me in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. My readers and I can’t wait to hear what else you have in store for us in the future! 

For more information on Emily and her stellar work, click here to visit her website. 

Now, how about that giveaway?  

One of you will receive a free download of the new audio version of DEAR PEN PAL. All you have to do is comment below, telling us if you’re a fashionista like Megan, or a fashion faux pas like me!

The winner will be chosen at random at midnight on February 1, 2016. Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook or Twitter or other social media for additional entries. (If you share on social media, please leave a link in the comments below so I can assign you an extra entry.) 

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