Alison in Audiobook Land

“Alison where have you been. I haven’t heard from you in months,” my friend says.

“I’ve been traveling,” I say.

Which is true. Technically speaking.

Since I started working pretty much full time as an audiobook narrator almost two years ago I’ve traveled across continents and through time. All without having to stand in line at the airport or leave my home studio – aka The Tardis.

Here’s how it happened. Three months before my own novel The English American was published (Simon and Schuster 2008), Greg Voynow at Audible called. Someone on his board had seen me perform the autobiographical one woman show from which The English American sprang, had since read the novel and thought it would make a great audiobook. Would I like to narrate it? I’d heard that Audible feed their narrators bagels and cream cheese for breakfast –  so I said yes.

To my surprise and delight The English American –  a novel about England, America and an adopted English woman who finds her birth parents and her ‘self’ in the U.S. – made Audible’s list of top ten best author narrated audiobooks of all time.  After that the folks at Audible asked me if I’d like to narrate all twelve books in Arthur Ransome’s classic British children’s series, starting with Swallows and Amazons.

To quote Dorothy Parker “I hate writing. I love having written.” So I was delighted to be offered an absorbing distraction.

By the time I’d finished narrating the last novel in Arthur Ransome’s series – see blog – I knew I’d found something new that I truly love to do.

Then a wonderful woman called Hilary from Tantor called and said that if I could guarantee them twelve book narrations  a year they’d set me up with a home studio. What? No driving? I was in.

Years ago, before I moved to America, found my birth mother and became a stand-up comic/voiceartist/novelist/screenwriter/mother of two, I trained as a classical actress at the Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London. I’d acted with the Royal National Theater on Broadway and with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

And although I secretly preferred stand-up comedy, because you can change the lines every night if you want – woe betide the classical actor who does that – I missed acting. And I missed voice work – before moving East to raise my kids, I’d spent six years in LA voicing cartoons, movies, cd roms, anything with a British, Australian, South African or European accent. So audiobook narration was right up my alley.

“What’s an earphones award?’ my English mother asked when Brilliance audio released the audiobook of The English American on cd in April 2012 and I told her I’d been given one.

“Well,” I said, looking out the window of my New England farmhouse, “it’s when someone walks up the drive carrying a pair of earphones on a red velvet cushion, solemnly praising my narration.”

“Really?” my mother said.

“No,” I said. “But I did get a certificate and a lovely review.”.

I think one of the reasons I love narrating audiobooks is because it’s impossible to get bored. Each world I’m asked to enter is different. I love it for many reasons – not least because I never – ever – have to brush my hair.

In the 60 plus books I’ve narrated for since I began working as an audiobook narrator I’ve been to New Zealand with the Booker Prize nominated novel The Forrests, Australia with the Magic or Madness Y/A series for young adults , War torn Guernsey with the lovely literary novel The Soldier’s Wife. I’ve been mesmerized by the supernatural in Tudor England as a mystery and manuscript are uncovered in The Serpent GardenAnd I was thrilled to narrate all 31 hours and of Audible’s production of the first Gothic novel – Ann Radcliffe’s great classic The Mysteries of Udolpho.

I’ve fallen in love with dashing heroes and witty heroines in charming historical romance series by top New York times bestelling novelists Katie MacAlister, Connie Brockway and Robyn Carr. I’ve been to London, Oxford, Croatia and beyond with the heroine’s and villains in Tilly Bagshawe’s sexy blockbusters FameScandalous and  Flawless

When I say I’ve been to these places I mean it. Because my job is to read every single word, telling the story as if it’s really happening, I feel everything each character thinks and feels as the story goes along. The journey can be funny, harrowing, exciting, disturbing, educational – sometimes all of these things at the same time.

Recently I was transported to Dickensian England in NY Times bestselling novelist John Boyne’s chilling novel This House is Haunted and to 1930’s Egypt in Kate Furnivall’s rollicking adventure Shadows on the Nile.

The day after I finished Shadows in the Nile, I started thinking about my next audiobook – Pride and Prejudice – the 200th Anniversary Audio Edition, a book I’ve loved since I was fifteen. 

As I re-acquainted myself with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, I thought about all the people who have read Jane Austen’s most famous novel since it first came out two hundred years go. It was still as popular in the 1930’s as it is today.

As I make the transition from narrating a book set in1930’s Egypt to Jane Austens’ England, I imagine I’m a young woman escaping from the British Embassy party in Cairo in Shadows on the Nile by pretending to have a headache. I don’t have a headache at all – I just want to get back to the book I’m reading – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. 

With the music of The Lonely Ash Grove  coming up from the party below, I get into bed and reach under the mosquito net for the leatherbound copy of Pride and Prejudice that my grandmother gave me for my birthday.  I want to find out if the hero and heroine, who dislike each other at first, will come to realize, by the end of the book, that they have already found true love.

And I read all night because, as is always the case with a marvelous book, I just HAVE to know what happens next. 

To listen to sample chapter of Pride and Prejudice – the 200th anniversary audio book click here.

For more information about Alison Larkin go to 

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