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 Audible.com 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!