A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Audible: The Journey, Part 1

Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

TODAY'S POST: I-Spy: Audible: The Journey, Part 1

Many of you know that my background is in show business. I studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and worked as an actor and dialogue coach for many years. Though I’ve spent a lot of time on sets, the most amount of time I spent in a studio (specifically for voice overs) was for my Tide commercials in the 90s. The reason I bring all this up is because I’m going to ask you a question…

Do you want to know how you can narrate your own book?
I can tell you, you’re not going to like my answer. You need to have a background in performing. If you don’t and if you’re not famous, you have two chances of a company letting you narrate your own book. Slim and none. Of course, just about anything is possible anywhere. I think writers like to make the improbable happen and generally tend to sell it, so if you have an amazing voice and the ability to keep dozens of different voices straight in your head and you can convince the powers that be to give you an audition, then anything is possible.

Here is how it began for me.
When I discovered my first book, Dangerous Race, had been picked up by Audible, the book had already been narrated. Yes, I was thrilled, but the performer in me said, “Hey, wait a minute! I want to narrate my book!” I will be the first to tell you that I don’t have a spectacular Kathleen Turner voice. The thing about narrating is that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can deliver my books the way I intend people to hear them.  I don’t care if my voice isn’t the best, because my delivery is what matters to me. (And, FWIW, I worked really hard in school to lose my (Texas) accent and bring my pitch down as I spoke in a much higher register when I moved to LA, but I digress…)

As soon as I found out Danger Zone had been picked up by Audible, I immediately found out who I needed to call about narrating. Mike, the man in charge, was probably about to tell me that just because I wrote the book didn’t mean I could narrate it, but I didn’t give him a chance. I told him I had been an actor for twenty years, had both my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) cards and spent a ton of time in the studio during my Tide years. That caught his attention. He also asked where I lived because finding a studio was another obstacle if I didn’t live near the Audible studios in New Jersey. The conversation went a little something like this:

“Why don’t read something for me?” he said.
It was about 7:30 a.m. Los Angeles time and he was calling from New Jersey.
“You mean now?” I asked, heading quickly for my office and computer to pull up the book and thinking how low my morning voice was (which was probably a good thing).
“Sure. Just read me the opening of the book,” he said.
“Okay.” I scrolled to the first page and took a deep breath, trying not to think how much depended on this spur of the moment audition. Because that’s what I was doing…auditioning to narrate my own book. I dove in, didn’t even get through the first paragraph.
He stopped me after about three or four sentences. “Oh, that’s fine. You’re fine. You can do it.”

Wha-Hoo! Yes, I was hugely excited, but managed to keep my elation under wraps. Had to keep it professional, you know. <G>

Now I had a ton of work to do. Sure, I wrote the book, but I can’t say that I’d ever read the whole thing aloud. You can guess what came next. I started reading aloud. Did I mention this book is about 114K ? No short novella for me. Have any of you talked for nearly six hours straight every day for about a week? I never had. My sessions in the studio before this hadn’t gone longer than three or four hours max. I had to seriously train to do this job! The first couple of days, by the time I hit the three hour mark, my voice was raw. I got the job in October and we scheduled the narrating session for November. I had about a month to get my voice ready. I think I got up to about four and a half hours a couple of times before my first day in the studio.

I was a little nervous about a few things. First, I’m a fast reader. (I knew the director would help me with that, which he did.) Next, it was imperative that I kept all the voices straight. I had about thirty overall characters to execute. (Not execute as in “kill” but as in perform. <G>) Oh, and BTW, the director was a man and I had some seriously steamy sex scenes to read. <um-yikes>

Day one: I sat down in my tiny padded booth and read the opening so the guys could test my level. I got my first note. Slow down. Yep. I saw that coming. (I was proud that in the forty-one pages I read, the director only stopped me three times to slow down. I was expecting much more.)

I also discovered during this time that I had good “mic technique.” That just means I’m able to keep my mouth the same distance from the mic no matter where I’m reading on the page. People can tend to move their mouth away from the mic as they move their face, so you have to keep your head centered – for the most part – and move (just) your eyes to read.

When it finally came to start for real, I found myself running out of air because I simply wasn’t breathing. Not good, let me tell you. The further into the book I got, the better I read it. Or maybe I should say, the more comfortable I was reading it. I learned how to breathe which really went a long way in keeping me alive. LOL.

I marked my script with notes (and a highlighter) and color-coded all the voices so I wouldn’t accidentally slip into the wrong voice during dialogue with multiple characters. (Basically, I knew before I got to a voice who it was by color.)

After five hours we ended the day and my throat was rough. I kept tea, water and a granny smith apple next to me the whole day. I’ll tell you why I had the apple tomorrow!

So... whatcha thinking so far? Does it sound like something you'd want to do?


Dee J. Adams has been writing romantic suspense for over a decade. Her Adrenaline Highs series is published through Carina Press and her debut novel, Dangerous Race was a finalist for Best First Book in the 2012 Golden Quill Awards. The third book in the series, Dangerously Close, was released 7/23/12. She's been married to the love of her life for 22 years and has one remarkable daughter.


FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!


Cathy Perkins said...

Interesting insight into the process, Dee. As much as I would love to narrate my stories, clearly I don't have the background or experience. Looking forward to hearing your story - in your voice.

Robena Grant said...

No way would I want to do that!!! In fact my voice will fade when I read just from one person's viewpoint. You are awesome Dee J, and I loved the insight into that side of the biz.

Dee J. said...

Hi Cathy,
It is a very interesting process. I think it's much tougher than most people might imagine. I know I'm very lucky to be able to bring my books to life. I'm not taking that fact for granted.

Hi Robena,
YOU are the awesome one! I'm still so proud of your GH nomination and my throat was raw on Saturday night from cheering you on. Glad you liked the insight into the biz!

Anne Marie Becker said...

Fascinating information, Dee. I never thought about the distance between mouth and mic...the things you learn! :)

Marcelle Dubé said...

Cool stuff, Dee. Thanks for illuminating the process, and convincing me I would not want to do this!

Julie G. said...

Wow Dee,
I used to sing for a living, and typically did four hours a night, five nights a week, so I know how strenuous it can be on your voice. However, talking is even more damaging to the vocal cords, so I can't imagine HOW you were still able to manage it. But, you sound GREAT, and I am so happy that you did it! It must be quite a thrill to be able to narrate your own books! Congratulations - can't wait for the next one!

Dee J. said...

Hi Anne Marie,
It's so true! The little things you might not think about are important. Whenever I got louder, I had to lean away from the mic so I wouldn't blow Paul, the director, away.

Hi Marcelle,
LOL. It's definitely not for everyone. The fact is, it's just super important to have someone who's going to put heart and soul into the narration and it takes training for that. Glad you feel illuminated and thanks for stoppin in.

Clare London said...

I would LOVE to narrate my own books - though it's not likely in m/m romance :(. I have great admiration for those narrators who can make a story come alive and make all the hard work and technical expertise invisible to us listeners!

Shelley Munro said...

This was really interesting learning about the behind the scenes stuff. I'm curious about the apple.

Dee J. said...

Hi Julie!
Your post snuck by me! Not sure how that happened. But thank you! You know I love you for all those kind words.

Hi Clare,
Oh man... I hear ya. I think in some cases it would be great to let authors read their own books because who hears the characters better than the people who wrote them? It's just a whole other business altogether and they stick with the performers they know. (I'm still thrilled that I passed the test!)

Hi Shelley,
Glad you found it interesting! (I think it is, but I'm partial to the biz. LOL.) Apple teaser is answered first thing tomorrow.

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