Narrator Interview: Holly Adams

What are your ambitions for your narrating career?
Being an audiobook narrator is part of who I am as a performer, so I want to grow in the same ways I want to grow in other aspects of my performance--- one is always striving to become better, and the better I am, the more joy I can bring people. I totally suck at marketing, though, so an ambition might be to reach out more effectively and expand the genres I narrate and the companies I work for.

Which narrators inspire you?
Oh gosh, so so many!! Twenty years ago when I first started listening to audiobooks, Barbara Rosenblat and Rob Ingles wear shining beacons of what was possible, and glorious in what was then a new genre. Their incredible work inspired me to think, "Someday..." and to move in that direction. Now, so many of my contemporaries are brilliant, I feel surrounded by role models. It's a wonderful time to be an audiobook narrator.

What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished up performing in "Henry V" and am now narrating some short stories for "The Secret King" by Dawn Chapman!!!

I am also narrating the "Guardian" series by Jacqueline Rhoades, and working on a number of arts education/arts in community projects including arts-based academic learning for the Hangar Theatre in some 4th grades and helping foster a young performance based health-education initiative in Balan, Haiti. My physical theatre company has a couple shows coming up, and I am in a regional theatre's next stage play and an independent film. And gardening, since spring is coming!!

What's your process like when starting to narrate a new book?
I begin by reading it as a consumer, trying to notice how it makes me feel, who the reader/listener likes or dislikes, trying to capture the tone and feel of what the impact is on the receiving end. Then I make copious notes, very similar notes to the kind I make for a play. What are the arcs of the story, of the characters? What do they want? How does that change? What are the relationships? And so on. I also note place names, character names and any regionalisms I need to research, any cultural references I need to understand more deeply. And of course, I make notes about the characters that I can translate into vocal markers--how old are they? Who do they remind me (or the author, if I have the luxury of asking them) of? Would their speech paterns be quick or slow, where is the sound in their mouth, do they think about what they are saying? Are they tense, are they predatory are they blustery, dorky, suave, snakelike doglike birdlike? And so on.

What genres do you narrate?
I am interested in nearly everything, so although I mostly narrate paranormal, romance, mystery and now sci-fi, I look forward to expanding!

Have you written a novel, would you like to?
I have created/written a number of performance pieces and have dabbled in mystery writing. I am gently growing that skill set with the thought that someday i will be able to sit still long enough to write for several hours a day.... but that day is not here yet. I am such a wriggly being!

On becoming a narrator, when did you sit down and start narrating?
As an actress, a part of what I have done is live radio plays, which I still do with John Hertzler and the New Mercury Theatre of NY. LOADS of fun. That led to being invited to audition for a project with Full Cast Audio, and I did maybe 15 titles with them as a cast member before taking the plunge, joining APA and beginning to shop around an audition tape for single-narrator projects with publishing houses. I worked hard to translate my skills and am happy that my learning curve has been pretty steep, but I continue to work on improving, like all actors do!

Do you narrate every day? Do you have a set structure?
It depends. I like the variety of performance forms in my life, and I feel like for me, having that variety means that each project informs and grows every other project...so I am always working on several genres simultaneously. That means that my schedule is constantly changing...and I thrive on that. So, yes, I do something audiobook related everyday, but it might not be recording (if for example, I am on set all day, my voice is very tired, so i will do marketing, promoting, or sound-file editing).

Tell us about your booth.
I love my booth! It is a converted closet with high-end acoustic foam on every surface , including the ceiling, and I covered the surfaces with comforters before attaching the foam, just for good measure. I have the best cables you can buy, and the low end of the better/best preamp and mic. I record into my MacBook Pro. Someday, yes, I would like to upgrade to a Mac mini with a separate screen and keyboard, and upgrade my mic, but it is very very good so I am happy.

The hardest thing about narrating my latest book?
Much of it has words from an invented language, and there are multiple people on the creative team (including another narrator) and we all have to be speaking from the same agreed upon 'oral paradigm' as it were. Establishing those parameters and figuring out what/where the variations can be takes time ....it is even hard to figure out what questions to ask sometimes!

What is the hardest/easiest thing about narrating?
As an actor, I am committed to making the book and the characters come to life, but i such a way that the story goes right from the author's heart into the listener's mind, so perfectly it feels almost like I am not there. I LOVE that. It is a challenge, but it is also what I am trained to do....so I prostrate myself at the altar of the story and character gods each and every time, and dedicate myself to breathing life into the tale, and working to make it take flight. Easy, hard, impossible, challenging, glorious! I wouldn't trade jobs with anyone.

How much time goes into creating a finished hour for you?
It varies. Doing a book with multiple accents or locations/phrases in other languages takes longer, because you don't have to just say it right, you have to say it without thinking about it, just focusing on the intention of the character, speaking their subtext. I would say, including research, recording samples, and doing pickups, 5ish (sometimes 6 hours). But that's not counting the time the sound engineer needs to QC and master the project. By the way, I do proof my work, but just like writers, it is important to have an outside eye, because something is always missed!

I will let Dawn tell you about The Secret King !!
Personally, I love narrating series. You get to really watch the characters grow and change over time, and become a part of an whole other world.

Do you like to read?
I love, love, love to read.

I read eBooks, paperbacks, hardcovers, magazines, plays, scripts... I would fill a tub with stories if I could and BATHE in it! I read from 2 magazines and two novels daily, plus whatever I am working on.

What are are your views on social media for marketing?
It is soooooo necessary!

What works best for me is a combination of social networks. I feel like each serves a different function and accesses a different group. I use Linked In, a personal and professional Facebook page, lots of Facebook groups and Facebook events, Twitter, Pinterest, and a website!

Tips?
One way to help your narrator is to read ( or have someone else read) your work outloud. It will help reveal tiny errors, help you discover what might read well but isn't quite right for listening, and any questions like "who is speaking?"

Trailers?
I think trailers are a GREAT way to give people a taste of your book and whet their whistle!

Does giving away free books work?
I think it is different for books than audiobooks. I have heard from writers that 99 cents is better than free. For audiobooks, however, I have found that you can weed out the deadwood as it were, and that mostly people do give reviews or become fans!

How do you relax?
Walks, sword fighting, bird watching, reading, cooking, cuddling with my sweetheart while watching a movie.... Making up clown shows is relaxing too because it is so much fun.

If I could have been the original narrator, I would pick Treasure Island! I love pirates and swashbuckling and delicious chewable writing! That being said, I don't think I would be better than some of the versions I have heard.

Any advice to aspiring narrators?
Keep growing your craft (I know that sounds lame, but really, I think all performers are always reaching and striving and growing... And that is really the best thing any of us can do for ourselves)

Anything else to add?
I have so much respect for authors! Keep dreaming, keep weaving the stories that enrich our lives and help us make it through the day.

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