Andi naturally came into VO / Narration after years of extensive work in both theatre and public radio. She taught acting and Voice for the Stage at James Madison University for 12 years and has been an actor, producer, director and vocal coach for full productions of live theatre including drama, comedy, musicals and staged readings. To strengthen her teaching skills, she took the month-long Intensive at Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires, where she learned about Kristin Linklater’s method of voice study. Andi then trained to teach Linklater’s method for several years, creating a solid foundation of technique that has served her narration work – and ever-increasing list of happy clients – incredibly well.
Now, on with the interview...
ME: What is your favorite childhood book?
ANDI: I probably read Alice in Wonderland the most, but I also loved a book called The Flying Hockey Stick . I actually just gave a talk to my local library at their staff development day, mentioned this book and they sent it to me as a thank you, which was the coolest thing!
ME: What is the first book that made you cry?
ANDI: A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry. I noticed it wasn’t in audio, mentioned it to a publisher I narrate for, and a few weeks later they sent me the PDF and said “here you go, we’d like you to narrate it!” Which NEVER happens. And I cried in the exact same spot that got me when I was 12. It’s the first book I ever encountered as a kid where everything doesn’t turn out okay, and that was powerful.
ME: Tell us a bit about your background and how you got started as an audiobook narrator?
ANDI: I have a background in theatre and radio, so it’s kind of a natural combination. When my kids were really little I had time to think about what I’d like to do when I went back to work, and I decided voice-over would be fun and also flexible. Once I found a way to get into the very tight audiobook world, starting as a proof-listener and eventually moving into narration, I felt like I’d truly found my “tribe” and now I do about 95% audiobook-related work. I love it.
ME: Do you work from a home studio, or in a more formal set-up?
ANDI: I have a home studio. I’ve recorded two titles elsewhere, one in Maine (Nine Inches by Tom Perrotta) and one in NYC (Marriage Games by CD Reiss).
ME: Given you’re a very established narrator, do projects generally find their
way to you, or is there an audition process?
ANDI: I still have to audition sometimes, in fact I just did yesterday for a publisher I’ve never worked with before. Most of the time though, the authors, production companies and publishers I already work for will just email me with an offer of a project and ask whether I’m available to record it in time for their release date. I’m very grateful to be in that situation, took years to get there.
ME: What is the funniest thing that’s happened while recording?
ANDI: Oh, bloopers and typos will often make me laugh, but I don’t really have a super-funny story…yet. My dog will sometimes sit immediately outside the full-length window in the door to my booth and just stare at me while I’m trying to record intimate scenes, which makes it pretty hard to concentrate!
ME: LOL. That would be rather disconcerting. So let's talk about your process for a bit. How, typically, do you prepare for a narration?
ANDI: I have a script prep process that helps me nail down accents, pronunciations of names and place names, and understanding who the characters are and where they’re going as the story unfolds. If the author is new to me, I’ll sometimes go to Goodreads and their website / social media to get a sense of their style and what their fans like about their books. I love it when an author makes a Spotify playlist for a book, because music puts me in really specific moods and can help a lot.
ME: You’ve narrated things from Disney’s Frozen to EK Blair’s Black Lotus series,
why do you think your talent lends so well to so many genres?
ANDI: If you look at the sound / vocal type called for across the books I’ve done, it’s actually fairly consistent. I tend to be cast for projects where the main character is
younger / youthful, and I often get the comment that my voice comes across as having a “clear” quality and a certain calm energy level as sort of a baseline. From there I can go playful for Kylie Scott or intense for CD Reiss or storyteller for Frozen. I am an omnivore so I love all types of fiction and non-fiction. That said, there are plenty of things I tend not to get cast for because my voice doesn’t really fit the genre or the book’s mood. For example, I’ve been well-received for my work on Julia Dahl’s fantastic
Rebekah Roberts books, which have a crime solving / mystery / thriller element, but the main character is young, new to her profession, smart but often finds herself out of her element, and I think my voice lends itself to that character. I narrated a different police-procedural for a pretty highprofile author in that genre, and people thought I sounded far too young and naive to be the experienced, more hard-bitten / cynical cop in that one.
ME: As we are a romance event, I’m wondering how you got into narrating romance audiobooks specifically, and if you find yourself doing anything differently in terms of your preparation for or performance of romance than for other genres?
ANDI: I love narrating romance, and the romance author and fan community have certainly welcomed me with open arms. The first romance I did was actually a pair of backlist titles by Debbie Macomber that were light, fun, very sweet. I really enjoyed them, so when the producer came to me with more, I said yeah sure! Looking back at my early books, I just saw that the fifth romance I did was Pulled by A.L. Jackson—I have been with her for so long now, narrating and producing for her, it’s really special. Then in 2014, Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive series started with Lick, and that’s when things really took off. In 2015, I was recognized as an AudioFile Magazine Best Romance Narrator of the Year for another awesome Australian author, Leisa Rayven (Bad Romeo / Broken Juliet ). As far as prep goes, it’s really no different, other than sometimes needing to decide whether a book would be more appropriately narrated under my pseudonym, Elena Wolfe. As one of my colleagues so aptly put it, the characters in a story don’t know they’re in a story, or in a particular genre; they’re in their lives, and those lives deserve to be fully fleshed out in keeping with the author’s voice and point of view.
ME: That's cool. Bad Romeo was actually the first audiobook I ever listened to, and your narration and Leisa's writing got me hooked on audio. How easy do you find it to “rediscover” the voices of characters who have appeared previously? Do you go back and listen to previous recordings to keep yourself on track?
ANDI: I’ve started to make myself a voice message at the end of books that are in a series. When Kylie Scott’s Dive Bar series began, she gave me the character traits that would show up across all four books, so I don’t use a voice in an early book that would be better saved for a later book. After I did Twist, I left myself a voice memo about all the characters and the way they are, the way they talk, so I can just listen to that before I jump into Chaser next year. The tricky part sometimes is when you don’t know beforehand (and the author may not either) that a book is going to become a series. That’s when I go digging into my audio archive to listen back to characters I’ve already done.
ME: The Beneath series by Meghan March is seven books long and you performed
that entire series. What’s it like being with the characters over that many
ANDI: I like the way characters from other books make cameo appearances in other books, because I do sit there going oh yeah, I remember what it was like being in their story, hey, how are they doing? I can picture them, their environments, their presence. It’s fun to live in a series for a while. And then for the new series it’s been fun to introduce new narrators to her work. She is so great to narrate for, great plots and characters, such good energy, and a total pro as a business woman.
ME: How does it feel to say goodbye to these characters?
ANDI: When they’ve had a satisfying story, and it’s come to its conclusion, I finish the book, send the raw files off for editing, and have a glass of wine on my back porch to celebrate. I like being “BB”—between books, though these days that is usually only about a 12-hour period unless I take vacation!
ME: Other than that, though, is there anything you find particularly challenging
about narrating romances?
ANDI: Once I’m narrating, not really, but behind the scenes, it’s hard for me to turn down books that I don’t feel I’m right for, because I know how much heart and soul the author has put into the book. I hate writing those emails! On the other hand when I hear from a new-to-me author and I click with her writing style, those days are great days.
ME: Time to talk "favorites". Who is one of your favorite narrators?
ANDI: I loved the four narrators who worked on The Mare by Mary Gaitskill, my favorite audiobook of 2016. Nicol Zanzarella, Christa Lewis, Kyla Garcia and Sean Allen Pratt did such a fantastic job on that beautiful book - highly recommend.
ME: What is your favorite role you ever narrated?
ANDI: I really love Kylie Scott’s books, and I think she and I both know that Mal from Play is the most fun. I tried not to look too many words ahead in his scenes, because it came out the best when I just let things pop out of nowhere. (Bread?!)
ME: BAHAHAH, I love Mal (but seriously, who doesn't). What was your favorite scene in the book to narrate?
ANDI: I love the scene where Anne is at work and Mal is going through stuff in her apartment and texting her stuff like “Your taste in music is for shit. I’m fixing it.” He just totally upends her life in the best way. I think I’m sort of an Anne in my relationships so maybe I just “get” her, you know?
ME: LOL. What is your favorite book or series you worked on?
ANDI: Impossible question - when I am working on a series, it’s everything, I’m
immered. I will say I love that Leisa Rayven’s books are set in the theatre world, which is a very familiar one for me, and her observations about that world and that life are
spot-on. Can’t wait to read for her again.
ME: What do you like to do when you’re not prepping or working?
ANDI: Anything that involves going outside and moving my body! Sitting still in an isolation booth definitely needs to be balanced by taking long walks, puttering around in the yard, going out to hear music, those kinds of things. I’m looking forward to some sightseeing during my time in Australia for sure!
ME: Thank you so much for your time, Andi. We can't wait to see you in at RTC2018, I know you'll love all the sights :)