I have BIG, EXCITING NEWS to share this morning, and a giveaway to celebrate because … my books are going to be available for the very first time IN AUDIO!
:: throws confetti! ::
:: dances around the room! ::
That’s right, my friends, you’re going to be able to LISTEN to my books in addition to READING them!
:: more confetti! ::
:: more dancing! ::
No, I’m not excited.
Not one bit.
(Liar, liar, pants on fire.)
ABSOLUTELY TRULY has just gone live, thanks to my new friend Amy Rubinate at Ideal Audiobooks.
Next up, releasing in July, is THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB, and there will be a book a month released after that. Stay tuned here for an announcement when each book is available.
I’ve just started listening to ABSOLUTELY TRULY, and boy are you in for a treat. Amy’s a fantastic narrator. She’s also the founder of Ideal Audiobooks, and she’s here today to talk to us about her new venture, and about her career as an audio book narrator. In fact, we’re doing a twin Q&A this morning to kick off our new partnership. Click here to hop on over to Amy’s blog and read what I have to say. Meanwhile, continue reading below for more about Amy and Ideal Audiobooks…
This is Amy. Isn’t she gorgeous?
Q: So first of all, how on earth did you come to be an audio narrator? Tell us about the path that brought you to this profession.
A: I started as a voiceover actor and singer in San Francisco about ten years ago. I was the voice of Tad for LeapFrog toys, and I drove about an hour to LeapFrog twice a week. Then I started doing video games, and went all over the Bay Area for work. It was worth it because once I got there I transformed into a 3-year-old frog, an evil alien queen, an elf, a robot, an angry teenage warrior, and even dogs, cats, chickens, and cows. Once, a director even recorded his dog barking and asked me to mimic the sound! Listening to audio books saved me from being miserable as I drove many hours in a car with no air conditioning. In fact, I couldn’t wait to get in the car to find out what happened next in whatever story I was listening to. Since I had studied reading books aloud and acting onstage in college, I realized that narrating audio books was a perfect fit!
Q: Is there any training for what you do? What kinds of preparation would be helpful for someone who aspires to be a narrator?
A: Acting training and experience is a must. The acting comes first. It’s also important to know how to use your voice safely (the sessions are long and demanding), and to be skilled enough to get the characters exactly right and hit the right tone in the narration. A group of my friends and I studied with acting teacher Pat Fraley. He helped give us our start, and we are all making a living in audio books now. But we also worked together and separately to hone our skills after the class was over. I wouldn’t recommend doing this work without an acting background and many hours spent listening to great narrators and practicing this very specific skill set.
Q: How do you go about preparing to read a book aloud? Any tips you can share with us?
A: I used to sit on my couch juggling a 10-pound paper script and a dozen colored pens. Now, I prepare my books on an iPad. It’s so much easier. You have to read the book before recording. Imagine what would happen if you recorded 200 pages, and then suddenly saw that the author wrote, “he said in his twangy Texan accent?” I also like to mark my script with little notes to myself. When I’m focused on the story, these marks give me a hint of big changes ahead so I don’t roll right over them. I mostly mark sudden shifts that happen without warning, or conversations where it’s not clear who is talking.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A: Sometimes I go to a studio in another city or state to record with a publisher’s director and engineer. At my studio, which I rent so I can have absolute quiet and air-conditioning, I usually start recording at 9:30, and I record in 45 minute sessions until about 3:30 – though sometimes I record late into the evening if I’m on a tight deadline. Some of my friends can record for up to two hours without a break, but I do better with shorter chunks of time. I work with an engineer who is helpful and very funny, and we make each other laugh all day long.
Q: What are the best parts of the job for you? The worst, if any?
A: For me, the best part of the job is when I get a story with a heroine who feels familiar to me in some deep way. I don’t have to think, I just plunge into that character’s story, and I can feel myself turning into her. It’s not always that immediate or that easy, but when it happens, it’s like magic. The worst part of the job is that it’s really hard to sit motionless in a dark room talking to yourself all day long. Having an engineer makes a big difference, because you have someone to act for, but you still have to record alone in your booth. On the other hand, I get to play all the parts!
Q: Do you have any funny stories to share from your experience in recording?
A: I have a weird tendency to mix up body parts when I’m narrating. I don’t know why it happens, but I think it comes from misreading the words “head” and “hand,” which sort of look alike when you’re tired and staring at the page after hours of recording. But it’s really random and funny sometimes. Instead of saying, “The princess lifted the frog up with her hand so he could kiss her on the lips,” I might say, “The princess lifted the frog up with her foot so he could kiss her on the elbow. I always think how lucky it is that I’m not a doctor. Can you imagine? I might operate on the wrong thing!
Q: Did you listen to a lot of audio books growing up? How about now? How does the experience differ for you from reading?
A: It may be hard to imagine, but audio books didn’t exist when I was a kid. We had what were called “story records” of Disney movies. Basically, they were an audio-only version of the movie with character voices and a narrator. I listened to THE RESCUERS hundreds of times, and the character voices and storytelling on it were superb. My sister and I used to spend hours mimicking The Muppets while doing chores. I realize now that when I thought I was having fun, I was actually training for this career. As an adult, I grew to love audio books even more than print books, because it’s soothing to have someone tell you a story, and the actors add something extra to the words on the page. If a story is already great, a good actor can make it even better.
Q: Now let’s talk about Ideal. Tell us about how you came to start this new audio publishing company.
A: I loved audio books so much that I always wanted to be a part of making them from beginning to end. I enjoy narrating audio books and will continue doing that work, but I also wanted to build a collection of books that I found compelling, and hire the perfect narrators to bring them to life. When I discovered your middle-grade books, I knew these were the kind of stories I wanted to publish. I called my business Ideal Audiobooks: Stories with heart, because I wanted to make something wonderful, and I realized that by collaborating with the right authors and narrators, I had the power to do that.
Q: Are there certain kinds of books you’re looking for? Why?
A: I like books that don’t shy away from a sad or difficult story, but that have a sense of hope. I try to choose stories that might acknowledge the darkness around us, but also let in the light. I love authors who lead with humor and wit, and I also enjoy stories that make you feel the main character’s story as if it were your own.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of this venture so far?
A: I found a quote in a magazine ad just before I started my business. I think it was for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. The quote was, “Your story can change someone else’s.” I thought it was the perfect idea to focus on as I built a business based on storytelling. I have loved learning how Ideal Audiobooks has inspired other people to follow their own dreams, or changed their experience in some way. One actor told me, “I am finally narrating a book I can share with my daughters,” and that made me happy.
Q: What do you have up your sleeve for us in the coming months and years?
A: This year, we have some wonderful women’s fiction and young adult books scheduled, as well as a lot of fun, magical children’s books. Check our website for new releases!
Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Amy. I couldn’t be more THRILLED to be working with you!
Visit www.amyrubinate.com for more information about Amy and her impressive career. The audio versions of my books are available through the Ideal Audiobooks website, and also on Audible.com. I hope you’ll listen to them, review them, and most of all ENJOY THEM!
And now, for the giveaway: one of you will receive a free download of the new audio version of ABSOLUTELY TRULY! All you have to do is comment below, telling us about one of your favorite experiences being read to, or reading aloud to someone else.
Winners will be chosen at random at midnight on June 17th. US and Canada only, please. 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.)
:: one last toss of confetti! ::
:: one final whirl of dancing! ::