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 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. Soon after I narrated my own novel, The English American, (Simon and Schuster and Audible 2008), 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.
Years ago, before I moved to America and became a stand-up comic/voiceartist/novelist/screenwriter, 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 R.S.C.
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, New Zealand or European accent. So audiobook narration was right up my alley.
“What’s an earphones award?’ my English mother said over the phone when Brilliance 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 from Audiofile and then I got a call from Tantor.”
“Tantor the elephant?” my English father said.
“No,” I said, “the audiobook company.”
A wonderful woman called Hilary from Tantor had called out of the blue and asked me if I’d like to narrate at least a dozen books for them in a variety of genres over the next year. From home. What? No driving? I was delighted.
The first book Tantor sent me was a witty, delightful Regency romance called The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne. Two weeks later I was in modern day London narrating What The Nanny Saw. Then, in June, Tantor said, “Would you like to narrate a steam punk romance?” “Steam punk?” I said. “What’s that?” They sent me Meljean Brook’s Riveted. And I was.
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. And I love playing my part in ensuring the listener has to drive around the block a few more times because she has to know what happens next.
Plus I never – ever – have to brush my hair.
In the 60 plus books I’ve narrated 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 superb 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 Garden.
I’ve been to a haunted English house with Edith Wharton in Ghosts, I’ve fallen in love with dashing heroes and witty heroines in the charming historical romances The Autumn Bride and Loving Lady Marcia. And I’ve been to London, Oxford, Croatia and beyond with the heroine’s and villains in Tily Bagshawe’s glamorous, sexy blockbusters Fame, Scandalous and Flawless.
I’ve watched a young English woman fight mythical vampires in the Oklahoma desert with She Returns From War. I spent two months in Tudor England with King Henry the V111th narrating all five novels in Kate Emerson’s superb five book series for Audible Ink – Secrets of the Tudor Court. And I was privileged to narrate all 31 hours and 15 minutes of the first Gothic novel – Ann Radcliffe’s great classic The Mysteries of Udolpho.
Last month I was transported to Scotland while narrating the hugely entertaining romantic Duchess Diaries series starting with To Capture a Countess and then to futuristic London where vampires vie with metal men who are only half human in Bec McMaster’s haunting, sexy new London steampunk series Kiss of Steel and Heart of Iron
When I say I’ve been to these places – click here for a longer list – 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.
Sometimes – as in Sunday Times columnist Bee Wilson’s Consider The Fork which won an Audiofile Best non-fiction award for 2012 – it’s a non-fiction journey and I learn about something I never thought I’d be interested in – in this case, the history of kitchen implements. Not being a great cook it’s not a book I’d have rushed out to buy myself. But in Bee Wilson’s witty, delightful hands, the subject is really fascinating.
As I was making plans to head off to the Audio Publisher’s Association Conference in New York last week I had a call from London asking me to give notes on the latest draft of the screenplay of The English American.
“The script is almost ready to go out to stars,” the producers said.
“Do you need me?”
“Yes, but not for long.”
Oh good, I thought, sighing with relief. I wouldn’t want anything to take me away from my audiobook narration. I’m excited about the year ahead. This one is here to stay.