Behind the scenes with EMILY WOO ZELLER and a GIVEAWAY!

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.) 

And the winners are…

  • Madison Cassidy, who started reading the series in middle school and is now a freshman in college
  • Sam, who confessed to feeling “unnaturally excited for this book” (there’s no such thing, Sam, I assure you)!
  • Olivia, who almost hyperventilated when she heard there was going to be a 7th book

Congratulations, everyone! Each of you won an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CAMP, which will be published in May. Check your email inboxes for official notification, as I’ll be contacting you directly soon to get your mailing information.

MDBC 7 front cover

Thanks to all of you who entered this giveaway — OVER TWO HUNDRED OF YOU, I might add! Wowza! That’s a record for this blog, I think. I sure wish I had enough ARCs to send to all of you, but I’m sending my love and thanks, that’s for sure. Enthusiastic and supportive readers like you make all the hard work worthwhile.

Stay tuned, because I have several more giveaways up my sleeve, as the rest of the audio books in the MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB series have been released and we need to celebrate that, plus there’s a branch new paperback version of ABSOLUTELY TRULY! Lots of fun ahead!

 

Lookee what I’ve got!

MDBC 7 ARCS

They’re here! They’re here!  Advance reader copies of MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CAMP! 

HUZZAH!!  

:: tosses confetti  ::

:: makes embarrassing squealing sounds ::

:: does the HAPPY FEET dance ::

HUZZAH AGAIN!!

It’s starting to feel real, at last! And for those of you who have been asking (OK, begging), YES, the sneak preview will be posting VERY SOON! Like any day now.

I apologize for the delay, but there has been a lot going on aboard the Good Ship Frederick these days, including a cross-country move. I barely know which end is up! To make up for it, how about we have a GIVEAWAY?!?

I have THREE advance reader copies to share with a handful of you. As you know from reading this blog regularly, these copies are printed up before the final edits are made, so there will be some slight changes between this version and the final book published in May. But I’m guessing that’s not going to deter anyone from entering our giveaway contest…

To enter, leave a comment below, telling us what you’re most grateful for this Thanksgiving.

The winner will be chosen at random at midnight on December 6, 2015. 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.) 

And the winner is…

Natalie Nichols!

Congratulations on winning the audiobook version of MUCH ADO ABOUT ANNE!

MUCH ADO AUDIO

You’re going to love it — I sure did!

Congratulations, Natalie! Check your email inbox for official notification, as I’ll be contacting you directly soon to get your mailing information.

Thanks to all of you who entered this giveaway — and look for another giveaway coming next month, to celebrate the release of the audio version of the third book in the MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB series, DEAR PEN PAL!

 

Audio version of MUCH ADO ABOUT ANNE giveaway

MUCH ADO AUDIO

Woo hoo!  MUCH ADO ABOUT ANNE is now available in audio! And as was the case with THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB, the first book in the series, it’s FABULOUS, as Wolfgang would say!

Produced by Ideal Audiobooks, this recording’s stellar cast includes Amy Rubinate, Cris Dukehart, Kate Rudd, and Emily Woo Zeller. I’m truly honored to have these four AMAZING voice actors playing the parts of Emma, Jess, Cassidy, and Megan (soon to be five, with the addition of Shannon McManus as 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.

Let’s celebrate with a giveaway, shall we?

One of you will receive a free download of the new audio version of MUCH ADO ABOUT ANNE. All you have to do is comment below, telling us which character you’d like to play, if you were an audio narrator.

The winner will be chosen at random at midnight on October 6, 2015. 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.) 

And the winners are ….

Eunice, Asmanaz, and Alexi W!

Congratulations on winning an autographed jacket of MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CAMP, along with the MDBC paperback book of your choice. Wheee!

MDBC 7 front cover

Eunice’s favorite memory of summer camp is playing flute at an orchestra camp. (Hey, I played the flute once up on a time, too!)

Asmanaz hasn’t been to camp yet, but imagines staying up late talking to her friends in their cabin (definitely one of the best things about camp, Asmanaz!).

Alexi W. shared a story about playing Espionage (a game I don’t know), which apparently involves running around in the dark searching for clues and trying not to get caught. The penalty if they did? Being sprayed with shaving cream and glitter. Sounds like summer camp to me!

Congratulations, ladies! Check your email inbox for official notification, as I’ll be contacting you directly soon to get your mailing information and book preference.

Thanks to all of you who entered this giveaway — wow, we had 80 entries! Look for another giveaway coming soon, as we celebrate the release of the audio version of MUCH ADO ABOUT ANNE!

 

 

 

MDBC #7 cover reveal & giveaway!

Let’s start the week off with something fun, shall we?

How about a publication date for MDBC #7 — aka MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CAMP!

Yes, my friends, we have lift-off! Coming soon(ish) to a bookstore or library near you! Mark your calendars for May 2, 2016.

As if that’s not enough cause for celebration, how about a sneak peek at the cover?

MDBC 7 front cover

Ta da! That’s the front, of course. And in case you’re wondering (which I know you are), that’s Emma under the canoe. Here’s the back cover …

MDBC 7 back cover

… which features Jess.

I love love LOVE this cover! It totally captures the breezy spirit of the book. Once again, Lucy Ruth Cummins, the MDBC’s fabulous art director at Simon & Schuster, has knocked it out of the park!

(Lucy, by the way, has two new publications of her own to celebrate, first and foremost an adorable new BABY BOY, and second, A HUNGRY LION …

A HUNGRY LION

… her picture book which will be released in March, and which is available for pre-order now. I can’t wait to read it!)

What’s that you say? What’s MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CAMP about? So glad you asked. Here’s the answer:

MDBC 7 jacket flap

 

Click on the picture to enlarge it. Otherwise you’ll be squinting, which isn’t very attractive plus your face could get stuck that way.

Ha!

Can you tell I’m in high spirits? Oh yes I am.

 

Hang on, where are you going? We’re not done celebrating yet!

:: balloons! ::     :: confetti! ::     :: fireworks! ::

Plus, I think we need a giveaway, don’t you? Three of you are going to be very happy campers (sorry, couldn’t resist) because I have three autographed MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CAMP covers to give away, along with an autographed copy of the paperback MDBC of your choice. That’s right — any one of the first six titles in the series that you want. Maybe you need one to round out your collection or maybe you want to give one to a friend. It’s up to you!

All you need to do is leave a comment below, telling us about a favorite summer camp memory. If you’ve never been to camp, tell us the one thing you’d most want to do if you did go, OK? 

Winners will be chosen at random at midnight on September 15th, 2015. US and Canada only, please. Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, 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.) 

 

And the winner is…

Stephanie, whose favorite character is Jess!

Congratulations on winning an audiobook version of THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB!

Mother-Daughter-final-600x600

(Check your email inbox for official notification from me, OK?)

Thanks to all of you who entered this giveaway — wow, we had 80 entries! Look for another giveaway coming soon, as soon as the audio version of MUCH ADO ABOUT ANNE is available. Click here to stay up-to-date on all the latest audio news, including notification as each of the audiobooks in the series are released.

And meanwhile, I hope you’ll all rush out and listen to THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB. It totally rocks!

 

 

It’s here! It’s here! Audio MDBC & a giveaway

Mother-Daughter-final-600x600

Looks familiar, doesn’t it? But can you spot what’s new?  Yup. Those two magical little words “READ BY.”

It’s the AUDIO VERSION of THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB! And it’s fantastic.

Produced by Ideal Audiobooks, this recording’s stellar cast includes Amy Rubinate, Cris Dukehart, Kate Rudd, and Emily Woo Zeller. I’m truly honored to have these four AMAZING voice actors playing the parts of Emma, Jess, Cassidy, and Megan! 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.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Q&A with each of these talented women.

Meanwhile, though, we need to celebrate, right?

:: balloons! ::

:: confetti! ::

:: fireworks! ::

Oh come on, let’s REALLY celebrate — let’s have a giveaway!

One of you will receive a free download of the new audio version of THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB! All you have to do is comment below, telling us either a) who your favorite character is in THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB series, or b) what book you’d have a mother-daughter book club read, if you were in one.

Winners will be chosen at random at midnight on August 15th, 2015. 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.) 

 

Ideal Audiobooks & a giveaway

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.

 

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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…

 

Amy Rubinate

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.

 

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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! ::