Narrating Audio Books by Katie Rudd
Hi guys, I asked the lovely Kate Rudd to write me a guest post as to what it was like recording an audio book. I love this. Enjoy. (original post from 2010 is here, but it has been horribly hacked and is almost unreadable)
True story: a few days ago I had oral surgery, and as I emerged from the heavy fog of sedation, one of my very first delirious utterances was, I love my job… There were other odd moments soon to follow (What if I took off all my clothes? Would that be funnny? and, personal fave, to old man entering surgery clinic, shouted from my mother’s car as we pulled away, Don’t go INN there! Don’t DOOO it!!) But I digress. The point is, I do love my job…I’m still surprised at how much. Even my subconscious, apparently, wants the world to know.
It was close to a year ago that I auditioned for Brilliance Audio and began work on my first project. I was hooked on the process from the first day, and still can’t believe I’m being paid to have this much fun. When they offer me a book, the scenario goes something like this: I blurt out, YES! about three seconds earlier than a normal human would, pick up the script, usually a week before recording, and begin reading. And reading. And more, you guessed it, reading.
I read each book, on average, three times before performing. Each narrator has their own approach to script preparation, and I am very new to this craft, so my approach is sort of always changing right now. I try to read the book for the first time as anyone would, entering the story and finding connection with the characters as well as the author’s voice. I simply read for pleasure and enjoy being surprised by how the story reveals itself.
The second time I begin at page one and highlight every bit of dialogue in the book – each character in their own color, and create a reference card for use in the studio should I forget who is Hot Pink and who is Electric Orange. During this read-through I tend to look like a crazy woman in local coffee shops and libraries: ultra-focused squinty eyes, occasional muttering when Lime Green ends up where Azure should be…and around a dozen highlighters propped between my fingers, behind my ears, clenched in teeth. The third time I work through the text is for margin notes regarding volume, expression, mood – anything I may find helpful to know about a paragraph or two before they occur in the story.
All I knew when I accepted the chance to perform the Moorehawke Trilogy was that it would take about three weeks of studio time with a week of preparation beforehand. I was sure it would be a challenging task for my voice; previous projects have taken, at most, three recording days to complete. The day I picked up my scripts (all three giant volumes, totaling nearly 1500 pages, if memory serves) I laughed out loud. I could not WAIT to get started.
Of course, this is a business and there are deadlines to be met… so to complicate matters a bit, we recorded the books out of order: The Poison Throne, The Rebel Prince, and lastly The Crowded Shadows. Annnnd I needed to read all three books before recording the first one. For the next week I was completely immersed in the Moorehawke world, full of rich personalities, subtly sinister political dynamics, and complicated friendships. I became so attached to each character, totally wrapped up in their conflicts, and found myself rooting for the three wayward friends and their tricky dealings. Don’t even get me started on how much I loved the Merron.
When I finished the third book with more than a day to spare, I went straight back to the beginning and started again.
A typical day in the studio begins at 8:30am and ends at 5pm. The narrators spend most of that time in a soundproof recording room, with an audio engineer and director on the other side of a window making it all work (translation: catching your funky mistakes and crazy body sounds you never knew you made – seriously, one must sit still as a statue).
The Irish (Merron) bits were truly challenging and unbelievably fun – thanks to Celine’s generous help and patient coaching (between bouts of raucous laughter – because, folks, this lady’s not just a fabulous writer – she is hil-fricking-arious!). I recorded our ‘lessons’ via Skype, and practiced with them constantly while in the car, picking up kids from school, making dinner, falling asleep, later using the audio files for reference in studio which proved invaluable. I’d often ask to re-record a sentence or phrase repeatedly until it felt right (a thousand thanks to stellar director Kevin Yon, who is a delight to work with, incredibly patient, and put his whole heart into this project). I’ve always felt the Irish language is an achingly beautiful one, and I took the honor of being trusted with these words very seriously – not being a native speaker, I knew my pronunciation would be less than ideal but gave it my best shot.
Oddly enough, recording out of order worked out very well. The Poison Throne offered a chance to really explore the relationship between Wynter and Lorcan; one of my favorite elements of the Moorehawke plot. The tears heard in the more painful scenes were real – we had to pause recording on more than one occasion so I could pull myself together!
The Rebel Prince presented a particular vocal challenge: men, lots of men, taunting, sparring, angry men…even bellowing men! I needed more frequent breaks to untie all the knots in my throat and have a good laugh at myself (and, of course, at MEN…) By saving The Crowded Shadows for last, we were able to prepare more fully for the Merron/Irish dialogue, which is featured most prominently in that book.
There was something quite lovely about spending a month on one project, getting to know the characters very well; having the guidance and availability of both an amazing director and remarkable author. Being new to this industry, I feel scandalously fortunate to have been given such a unique opportunity early on, and it’s one I’ll never forget.
If you’d like to hear samples of Kate’s work on Moorehawke you can so HERE (best listened to with headphones imho)