When I went searching for a narrator for HEARTFIRE, a sweet but sensual romance about family, it was my 16th audiobook to put into production. This time, instead of listening to hundreds of samples, I listened to an audiobook a friend had developed and asked her about her narrator. She recommended Alexandra Haag highly on all levels of production from the technical to the professional working relationship. I asked Alexandra to audition and her voice was perfect for all my characters. She does a wonderful job of distinguishing voices as well as with all the technical aspects of production. I'm so pleased to introduce her to my readers and other authors so you can learn a bit about her and the process. Our interview is detailed so I'm doing a Part 1 and Part 2 blog of it. I will post the second installment next week.
From Alexandra Haag--
Tell us a little about your background: Where are you from?
I was born in Central California, spent my school years in the Midwest, and my college and adult years in Southern California. I like to say I'm a California girl with good Midwestern values.
What was your schooling?
I have a BA from UCLA in English/American Studies and an MA from San Diego State University in Education/Educational Technology.
How do you train to become a narrator?
An acting background is very important, but narration is even more specific, so it's essential to find a coach who can guide you through the skills peculiar to this very intimate medium.
What's been your experience with narrating so far?
I found that audiobook narration has a very steep learning curve and I'm amazed by how many have taken on the challenge. I produce my own work as well, so there is a lot of technical knowledge that goes into the actual recording, editing and mastering of the finished audio. It's a challenge, but deeply rewarding when an author is pleased with the results, and listeners and fans respond positively to the audio presentation.
What genre do you like to narrate the best?
I've enjoyed all of the genres that I've voiced, which include non-fiction, memoirs, young adult, science fiction, historical fiction, and romances. My little secret, though, is how much I enjoy the romances. I've been lucky enough to narrate romances with themes that generally reflect my own values and I appreciate how the authors can marry traditional values with some pretty hot intimate scenes!
Did you read a lot as a kid? As an adult?
Throughout my life I've been a voracious reader and have great respect for writers. I know the challenge of the writing process and, when I narrate, I do my best to honor the author's words and intent.
Why did you decide to begin narrating audiobooks?
For several years I read the local paper on our local PBS radio station as a service to the sight impaired, and I also facilitated a neighborhood book club. One month we read a book that I thought should be available on audio and I contacted the author/publisher. While they ultimately never made an audio of that book, I did record it for a friend of mine with macular degeneration. From there, I decided that I'd commit myself to exploring and honing this craft. I feel that it's the highest privilege to be invited by listeners to spend extended times with them, speaking in their ears and telling them a story, and I've studied and worked at this craft in order to offer a performance worthy of their trust.
How do you know what voice to use for each character?
When preparing the book, I try to gather as much information from the text as I can about the physical and emotional makeup of each character. I try to make the voice reflect all of that information so that when you hear the voice, you can picture him or her in your mind.
How do you keep the voices straight?
It can be a real challenge to remember how each character sounds. In my mind I have a kind of visual map as to where the voice is coming from (high/low, thin/fat, breathy/gravelly, etc.). Sometimes I realize that I don't like my initial choice of voice for a character and then must go back and re-record.
Read Part 2 of my interview with Alexandra next week.
©2014 Karen Rose Smith