Behind the scenes with Shannon McManus … and a giveaway!

You all thought I’d forgotten about Becca, didn’t you?

Not a chance.

This brings to a close my blog interviews with the five amazingly talented voice actors behind the audio versions of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series (brought to you by Ideal Audiobooks — three cheers for Ideal!). You’ve heard from Emma (Amy Rubinate), Jess (Cris Dukehart), Cassidy (Kate Rudd), and Megan (Emily Woo Zeller), and today you finally get to hear from Becca Chadwick … the stunning and stellar Shannon McManus!

Welcome, Becca — I mean Shannon! Can you share with us a bit about how you got into audio work? I’d love to hear about your career path…

I got into this amazing field by chance. I’m an actor and I’ve always done regional theatre, indie films, and commercials but I’d never considered voice or audiobook work. I’m not the best singer so it never really occurred to me! My friend Scott Brick held a contest along with for new narrators and I placed as a finalist. Random House auditioned me for a young adult short story and I’ve been working ever since. Thank you, Scott! Audiobooks have provided a wonderful creative avenue to explore that informs my other work in theatre and film.

What kind of preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to be an audio narrator/voice actor?

I would advise anyone who wants to become a narrator to listen first, listen A LOT. Even if you’re an experienced performer it might not be the right fit for you. Audiobooks really are marathons in terms of vocal work, and I know a lot of talented voiceover artists who don’t have the stamina for it. This medium also demands a broad range in terms of characterization and accents. Start developing those tools, listen to talented narrators who are working in the genre you think your voice fits in, and get in front of the mic first chance you get!

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

Some narrators make copious notes right from the start but I tend to just curl up on the couch and dive in. Reading is an intimate experience and so is narrating. I like for my first read to be organic, just imagining what the characters sound like and look like in my head as I flow along with the narrative. If something jumps out at me I will make a note, but I usually go back and do that after I’ve read most, if not all, of the book. I use iAnnotate to prep on an iPad. Then I work on accents and pronunciations, etc.

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

I don’t really have a typical day. If I’m recording I take care not to have late night dinners with friends! Loud conversation, talking over music, or yelling at a baseball game can strain your voice and/or change your tone. Taking care of your vocal instrument is VERY important. I juggle auditioning, rehearsals (if I’m doing a play), audiobooks, prepping audio and, if I’m lucky, a film or commercial shoot. 

What are the best parts of the job? Worst parts?

The best part for me is that you get to voice characters you’d never be cast for otherwise. I narrated a terrific supernatural series in which I got to play a 70-year-old African-American voodoo queen from Savannah, Georgia. So fun! I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to narrate fiction that really moves me. There’s no audience and no fourth wall in a recording booth so the performance experience is very intimate and emotional. Sometimes I get choked up and I have to take a moment. That doesn’t happen on stage! 

That reminds me of the story about E. B. White recording the audio version of his incomparable Charlotte’s Web. It took him SEVENTEEN takes to get through the scene where Charlotte dies. He told the producer, “It’s ridiculous, a grown man reading a book that he wrote, and being unable to read it aloud because of tears.” Don’t you just love that? (By the way, I learned this from “Some Writer!” by Melissa Sweet, one of my favorite books of 2016.) 

But I digress. Any funny anecdotes to share from your recording experiences?

I always like it when my engineers really get into the book. They don’t read the book before the recording session and sometimes they get so worked up. They’ll say “I can’t believe that just happened!” And I’m like, “Wait till we get to chapter 5! It’s a real doozy!”

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 did not listen to audiobooks when I was growing up, although I was an avid reader. I started listening when I lived on the east coast and I had to commute between Washington, D.C., where I was attending an acting conservatory, and Philadelphia. Audiobooks are life savers for commuters. Now, I always have one going and I switch between fiction and non-fiction. I think good narration adds layers to characters and nuances to the narrative that you might have missed when reading from the page. Plus, there’s just something about listening to a native accent when the action takes place elsewhere. It can just put you right in the moment.

Turning to Home for the Holidays, did you find any connections between yourself and the character that you narrated?  

Definitely! Becca is forthright, adventurous, and goes after what she wants and I respect that. I remember going through my own Becca/Rebecca phase when I was around her age. There’s a certain vulnerability beneath her snarky, confident exterior and I think she matures a lot through the course of Home for the Holidays. 

Any fun facts about yourself that you might like to share with my young readers?

Fun facts … I love skating (longboard), archery (recurve), and live band karaoke. I was a flight attendant for three years after college and that was fun. And I once got lost on the moors in northern England which was not fun but very, very cold. Heathcliff was apparently engaged elsewhere… 😉

I love how adventurous you are, Shannon, in addition to being multi-talented! Thank you so much for visiting with us — you brought so much to the table in the role of Becca in THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB audiobooks — my readers and I will eagerly watch to see what you have in store for listeners in the future! 

For more information on Shannon McManus’s and her work, click here to visit her website. 

And now for a giveaway! One of you will receive a free download of the audio version of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. All you have to do is comment below, telling us about your favorite scene (in any of the MDBC books) with Becca Chadwick …

The winner will be chosen at random at midnight on January 24, 2017. Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest 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.)  Have fun!

28 thoughts on “Behind the scenes with Shannon McManus … and a giveaway!”

  1. My favorite scene from MDBC with Becca in it is the fight at the pancake breakfast in the 1st book. I remember in 4th grade we had to get in groups and each one of us pick a favorite scene from a book, and then us act them out. I picked this scene with Becca in it and everyone in the class loved it and thought it was hilarious even though no one but me had read the book. Thank you Heather for putting such silly joy in each of our lives every day:)

  2. My favorite scene with Becca when she is spying on Theo Rochester, to see why there is a glow in his room, and why he is up so late at night. To find out he has snakes! 🙂

  3. Whenever I think of Becca Chadwick, I think of the scene when she really shows how nasty and snarky but brave she is…

    -Becca reading Emma’s “Zach Attack” poem out loud at the hockey tryouts

    Becca has always been my 2nd favorite (2nd to Cassidy) even from book #1 when she wasn’t the nicest….i dont know why)


  4. Hello Mrs. Fredrick, my favorite scene with Becca Chadwick is when she was at her grandmother’s house and she stayed up all night to figure out what her grandmother’s friend son was doing by spying on him while he was in his room with red lights mysteriously on. I also want to know how many books are going to be in the absolutely truly series?

    • Hi Skye — I had fun writing that scene! As for the Pumpkin Falls mysteries, I have no idea how many there will be. I’m at work writing the third one now…

  5. I love the scene with the secret santas when the moms banish all the girls to the turret and they have to work out what happened!

  6. My favorite scene with Becca was when her grandma showed her around when she came to visit and Becca thinks about the idea of being an architect. I liked this part because it showed a different side of Becca and I got to know more about her creative side:)

  7. Hi Mrs. Frederick,
    My favorite scene from MDBC with Becca is when she convinces her grandma to go on the roller coaster in Mall of America. I love that she is adventurous and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks.

  8. I love the scene in #7 where Becca warns one of her campers not to make fun of one of the newer, more vulnerable campers. It really shows how far she’s come since the “Zach Attack” scene.

  9. Hello Mrs. Frederick,
    My favorite would have to be the fight in the pancake breakfast from the very first book!! Thanks for this opportunity and ALWAYS keep writing!! I went to the library a day or two after the announcement of Yours Truly and put the book on hold!! I totally cannot wait! Thanks again!! And I hope the pumpkin falls series never ends and question, just checking but is Calhoun I mean Romeo going to be in Yours truly?

  10. My favorite scene of Becca is, oh well I can’t name one. There’s way too many. It was so hard letting go after reading and getting so attached to the series. I loved Becca’s attitude and personality, it’s different from the rest and kind of makes her seem like the boss but she changed and at the same time she’s more of a follower. I guess my favorite time would be her reading out Emma’s poem. It just made me visualize her character being alive and so mean. Her rancor for Emma was truly understood during that scene but its due to your writing skills 🙂 -Amoolya

  11. My favorite scene with Becca would probably have to be when she first meets Theo and all she can think about is how cute he is. This is so much like Becca it just makes me laugh because I have had friends like this it just makes me crack up. 🙂

  12. I liked in #7 when she was talking to one of her campers about helping the new campers out. It really shows how far she’s come, just like Sabina said.

  13. I loved the part when Becca was being a cheerleader at the homecoming football game! I used to be a cheerleader too! Becca is one of my favorite characters for this reason (next to Gigi of course)! 🙂

  14. My favourite scene with Becca is from “Wish You Were Eyre”, when she prepares dinner for her family after returning home from “Pies and Prejudice”. It shows how much Becca has matured over the books, and it makes me happy to see how much kinder and considerate she has become.

    Also, Shannon is absolutely gorgeous 🙂

    I will definitely let me other friends know about this giveaway…they will be delighted to hear the good news 🙂

  15. I loved the scene where Becca read the “Zach Attack” poem. Even though it wasn’t good for Emma, it was hilarious to read!

    You’re a great author, Ms. Fredrick!!! Keep writing!

  16. Heather,for my social studies project i am researching Henry David Thoreau, all thanks to you and the MDBC books! Just another excuse for me to read Much Ado About Anne again!!

    • Oh how fun, Emily! He’s a fascinating man — you’ll enjoy learning more about him. (And yay for a re-read of MAAA!!!)

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