Elizabeth Wiley is a voiceover artist, seasoned actor, dialect coach, and theatre professor at the College of William & Mary. Elizabeth has brought to life numerous women from history in The Idea of America, Colonial Williamsburg/Pearson’s virtual learning curriculum; she gives voice to Lady Macbeth in Paul Meier’s eTextbook Speaking Shakespeare, and her voice travels the world, modeling US-English on Rosetta Stone e-learning products. She believes that her 25-plus-year journey in the performing arts was all along leading to audiobook narration, now her passion and focus! Check out her website at www.alwayswiley.com.
Angela: First of all, I just want to thank you for the amazing job you did narrating CRY WOLF for Audible. I’ve had a subscription to Audible for years and, in my opinion, you’re one of the best narrators I’ve heard on the site. I consider myself to be very lucky to have snagged you. It seems CRY WOLF was your first narrating job for Audible? How did you get the job?
Elizabeth: Thank you, Angela - that's pretty high praise! I'm so glad you liked what I did with your creation. It's my responsibility to serve the writer and her work. I try to pay heed to every clue an author gives me about the characters and their world, and then to tell the story from the inside, riding out the experience with the characters, through their eyes.
Cry Wolf was not only my first gig for Audible, but my first audiobook! (I think that's pretty cool that you and I had our "firsts" together.) How did I get into it? A few years back, Scott Brick hosted a "Share The Experience" Contest for aspiring narrators. At the time, I was expanding into voiceover work and really wanted to get into audiobook narration. I entered the contest with a passage from A Hatful of Sky, a YA novel by Terry Pratchett, and ended up tying for third place. Scott's judges were a good handful of the top audiobook producer/publishers that he's worked with, so that was a fabulous boost. I then registered for one of Pat Fraley's "Billion Dollar Read" audiobook workshops - this one was in New York, and Pat had Scott Brick and Katy Kellgren teaching with him. Best investment. So worth it. And then, it's all about pounding the virtual pavement, sending demos, following through on connections, and being gently persistent. I am so grateful to Mike Charzuk at Audible for giving me my first gig (yours!).
Angela: What is the process for narrating a book? For example, do you have to read it beforehand numerous times before you get to the studio or do you go into the studio and just start reading? (If you had to read CRY WOLF numerous times, I’m very, very sorry.)
Elizabeth: (LOL!) I would dread going into the studio cold, without reading the book first. You can be sure that about two-thirds of the way through, you'd find out something essential about a character's speech or tone that you hadn't incorporated up to that point. My preparation is to read a book once through thoroughly, annotating as I go. So that research means: making character notes, looking up pronunciations when needed, finding references for places, names, colloquialisms or expressions that I may need to clarify, etc. Oh - and highlighting all the characters using different colors. My first two books I used paper copies, but now I read off my iPad and use an annotation App, which not only makes for silent page turning, but is very green!
Angela: Here’s a CRY WOLF-specific question in honor of the book's sort-of birthday. Do you remember: Which character in CRY WOLF was your favorite to find a voice for? (FYI: I loved your representation of Charlie, the animal control officer :).
Elizabeth: Yes, I'll admit Charlie was fun. I relish voicing the characters who are 'characters' - because of age, or dialect, or quirkiness. It was a good challenge to try to find the dialect or degree of southern for your characters, based on their background and life experience. I love that.
Angela: How long does it take, on average, to record an audiobook?
Elizabeth: Well, I recorded Cry Wolf at Audible's studios in Newark with an engineer, so that 9-hour book took three days to record, 6 hours a day. That's the ideal. Mostly, though, since I live in Williamsburg, Virginia, I am recording from my home studio and sending the sound files to the audiobook publisher for proofing and mastering. That takes a lot longer, since I am being my own engineer, doing the initial edits myself, and so on. And I am NOT an audio engineer! It's been a steep learning curve, and I am learning more every day, but still a long way from that 2:1 ratio (2 hours in the studio per 1 finished hour of audiobook). It probably takes me more like ten days to do a book from my studio. But hey, you always gotta have something to work toward, right?
Angela: What’s the hardest part of narrating a story?
Elizabeth: The editing! In addition to the technical challenges, I find that I get overly nit-picky in editing my own work.
Angela: You’re listed for several audiobooks on Audible now, so it seems you’ve gained a good bit of experience doing it. What advice would you give to anyone interested in reading books for Audible?
Elizabeth: If you already have acting experience and training, great. If not, that's where you need to start. Do a lot of listening to a variety of narrators -- that's a big part of your research, as you hear what works and discover your own preferences. Practice reading aloud for extended periods of time. If you've read aloud numerous book series to your kids, then good on ya! Take a workshop from a well-reputed coach. As I mentioned, Pat Fraley is terrific, and there are others out there too. That's where you begin to build a network of people in the business - other narrators, coaches, authors, publishers, producers. Go to the annual Audiobook Publishers Association Conference where you can attend valuable sessions and meet other folks in the business. Join online discussion groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, for example. I could go on and on, but that's good for a start, eh?
Angela: Let’s get to know Elizabeth, the person. I know you’ve done a lot of acting throughout the years. What’s been your favorite acting experience?
Elizabeth: I've been acting and teaching acting and voice at the college level for more years than I care to admit! My performing experience ranges from musical theatre to Shakespeare and everything in between. But I can pinpoint two shows that were the most gratifying for me, and they both were 3-person plays. One was Harold Pinter's Old Times, which I did at the Jungle Theatre in Minneapolis, and the other was a production of Copenhagen by Michael Frayn that was produced here in Virginia. Both are very intense plays with complicated relationships and deliciously intriguing stories. The kind of plays where audience members needed to go have a drink afterward so they could continue to wrestle with what they had just seen.
Angela: What types of books do you like to read?
Elizabeth: I have been fortunate in that I've really enjoyed all the books I've narrated. I do tend to lean toward historical fiction, though, given the choice.
Angela: What’s the last great book you read that you’d recommend?
Elizabeth: Lately I'm so busy with narrating (happily) that all my reading/listening for pleasure occurs while I'm driving or working out. I always have an audiobook going! (Currently listening to Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, narrated by Eduardo Ballerini.) When I think of hard copy books I've read relatively recently, Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell -- a mystery that toys with the question of Shakespearean authorship, jumping back and forth from 1613 to 2004 -- really appealed to the actor and professor in me.
Angela: What’s your favorite movie?
Elizabeth: This marvelous little gem of a French film made in 1966 - The King of Hearts (Le Roi de Cœur).
Elizabeth: I love making music. I am often discovered humming without even realizing I'm doing it. It drives my family crazy. ("Are you really singing K's cell phone ring tone?") But I did make a music CD a few years ago to satisfy that itch. The CD is called Voice of the Goddess and features 4 female singer/songwriters. If blog readers feel so inclined to look it up on iTunes, check out my rendition of "Witches' Reel," a haunting chant from 16th century Scotland. Perfect for this time of year!
Angela: Elizabeth, you are an awesomely talented and well-rounded person. Thank you again for agreeing to be my guest today!
Elizabeth: Thanks so much for asking me to be a guest on your blog, Angela. Happy Birthday to Cry Wolf and congrats!