Take a listen. These are just a few of the audiobooks Valerie Gilbert has produced.
Thank you, Valerie for coming back to Booktalk with Eileen. It’s always a pleasure having you.
What turned you on to narrating?
This was work I never sought out. I don’t even listen to audiobooks! Although, I must admit, I worked at HarperCollins years ago, and when I spied the recording booth for their audio production I got very excited, and offered my acting services to the audio technician. He dismissed me brusquely and said, “I already have talent.” The only audios I listened to when I worked there were Marianne Williamson’s spiritual lectures which I found both powerful and entertaining.
As a member of SAG/AFTRA, a huge union where only 1% of the members support themselves by acting (where does that leave the rest of the members?) the union offers many seminars to help members get work. Their audio book seminar sounded like dullsville to me, but I had nothing better to do, so I went, and was electrified as soon as I got there. I loved the producer from Audible and his 2-star narrators. I knew immediately that I could do this work, and more important, that I wanted to. The problem was that Audible was encouraging actors to set up their own home studios and that was something I knew I could not do. However, everyone in attendance got an audition at Audible HQ, so I knew that was my “in.”
I know how difficult it was setting up your own studio and the stumbling blocks you had getting it to work. Can you tell the readers about it?
You’ve heard that necessity is the mother of invention? When my first book, RAVING VIOLET, came out, I asked my publisher if I could narrate it if there was an audio version. My publisher said, “Sure, go ahead, narrate it.” “Uh, I don’t know how to do that.” This was before I went to the SAG/AFTRA/AUDIBLE seminar in NYC. I had a Mac laptop with GarageBand recording software. It was New Years, and NYC was actually quiet for a few days as a result. I recorded for 4 days straight and completed the book. An accomplishment! With minor editing on the backend by my publisher, the audio was released on 6 (?!) CDs.
Months later, in need of work, and with no calls from Audible (who promised they’d hire me after I auditioned for them, ha!) I finally responded to Audible and Amazon’s hybrid online audio production website ACX’s constant invitations to audition for new titles (with self-published authors, there’s a glut of publications on the market). I had absolutely nothing to lose by submitting bad auditions. I had no work as it was. So, I fearlessly, boldly, almost vehemently, set out to audition for things. I didn’t care what anyone thought, and there’s tremendous power in that abandon. I still couldn’t edit.
As I did reading after reading, I started to get into it, and enjoy myself. I started to hit my stride. I submitted a total of 12 lousy auditions. For the next few weeks I got rejection after rejection. After rejection. Then I got, sigh…another rejection, but before deleting this computer generated notice, I glanced at it. It was a job offer. I couldn’t believe it. And not only was it a job offer, but the author LOVED ME!. She wrote “WOW!” She was so sick of monotone narrators (she writes romances) and she loved my wildness and abandon!
Ednah Walters is her pen name, she writes very popular romances, and she hired me for five books. But I had to learn as I went. I was on the phone with Apple customer service (for software support) ACX’s customer support (for technical support) and Sweetwater’s (the company where I bought my recording equipment) customer support to learn about the microphone, headphones, interface, power conditioner, cable, mic stand, and pop guard) I’d bought sight unseen with their guidance. I was talked down from the ceiling by kind experts who helped me figure out what was going on. I did this all alone, from home.
I flew by the seat of my pants as I booked title after title, I became very popular very quickly and was always working, always trouble-shooting, dealing with problem after problem, issue after issue, and always improving my skills, my home studio, my work habits and techniques along the way. I can honestly say I’m proud as heck of the quality I’m producing today, and might cringe if I had to listen to my earlier titles. In fact, my original RAVING VIOLET sounded like I was talking into a tin can, so I re-recorded it when I was up and running recording for other authors with a full digital audio workstation (DAW). While I might wish to erase some of my past recordings, they represented my training ground, and I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t there first. You don’t start out perfect. You learn, you improve, and you grow if you’re worth your salt. But you have to start somewhere.
I go into detail in one of my books (I think it’s my 3rd book, Swami Soup) about all the hilarious stumbling blocks I encountered trying to record (from grumbling stomachs, neighbor’s flushing toilets, to honking horns in NYC).
What type of prep work do you do before you actually push the button to record?
I make sure I’m relaxed and energetic and that my voice sounds decent. Then I let it rip.
Do you have a ‘bag’ of voices at your disposal? As you continue your career in narrating, do you add to this ‘bag’, if you will? What makes you decide the usage of one voice over another?
I’m very instinctive, but obviously I have to take what the author’s written and interpret it somehow. There’s no right or wrong. I think growing as a person only helps my talent and insight as a performer. I’ve always had a good ear for dialects, and character voices.
How much back-and-forth work do you do with the author to get the voices right? Or do they get involved with that?
It’s not advisable for the author to get involved in directing. If someone feels that I’m way off with a particular character (this has happened only twice) I’ll certainly accommodate them with a shift. But they hire me because they like my take on things. I’m the director, producer, narrator, editor, and audio engineer. A screenwriter doesn’t hang around a movie set and tell the director and actors what to do.
As well, no character voice is 100% consistent. Your voice changes throughout the day, and throughout the weeks. The body is variable. So, you have to stick with intention. I keep notes on my more complicated titles (with many characters). I’ll indicate whether a pitch is higher, lower, or other distinguishing vocal characteristics. But most important is WHO the character is. That should lead the voice. You’ll watch characters on TV change over time, as the actors develop the character. Homer Simpson’s voice in the first few episodes was different from how it is now. I’m pretty sure Bugs Bunny’s was, too. Characters evolve over time.
This I have got to ask! When recording how do you know when to change your voice? Always the planner, I came up with my idea how you might keep it all straight. I’d use highlighters, a different color for a different character. Am I close?
This is where it helps to be intuitive, creative, and know how to improvise. You really have to think on your feet! A theatre director told me I cold read a play better than some actors perform during a show. That’s instinct, and it serves me well in audio work.
I auditioned for a book today with a southern narrator, southern characters, and an English character. I did have to stop and start, reboot, and found it challenging to go between English and the American South (some accents are easier to go between, like male and female, English and French, etc.) I know some narrators prep their e-books with “i-annotate” software that allows you to highlight electronically, but prepping that way would take me a year. But even if I highlighted the heroine pink and the hero blue, there are a ton of other characters in some books. You’d have to remember who was green, and what green meant! Too complicated. If I screw up or get confused, I go back and re-read a section to get who’s who straight. Occasionally I’ll read the wrong character in dialogue, but that’s because the author didn’t specify who was who in the back and forth, and I just had to give it my best guess. Obviously, I fix that when the author realizes what happened.
I have a quick eye, a good ear, and a sharp mind, and that helps me sort it all out. With lots of dialogue and lots of different characters, yes, there’s a lot of stopping and starting to get it all sorted out. That’s when I’m relieved to see a long stretch of pure narrative, no dialogue!
I know you’ve done scads of narration. Is there any one genre you prefer doing over the other?
I actually relish having a variety to choose from! I had 14 books in production at one time (phew!) and I would switch from one book to another like switching channels on a TV. Sometimes I wanted comedy, other times romance, then doing non-fiction would be a relief. They’re all different skill sets, and it’s nice to be able to switch it up.
The most important thing is to “click” with the author’s words. You get a feel for this when you audition. If the text is hard to read and dialogue heavy, (an endless volley of “he said” “she said,” or, worse, ten people talking in a scene) I won’t even audition. I’ve done quite a few non-fiction personal development titles because that’s of interest to me, and I think most people need some kind of insight and help. They’re also generally a straightforward read, no muss, no fuss, and I like that.
It really boils down to chemistry with specific authors within the genres I’m drawn to. I adored Christine Pope’s “Dragon Rose” (fantasy/romance) and R.K.Ryal’s “Mark of the Mage” scifi trilogy. Recently, I did an incredibly fun series starting with “The Key to Savannah” by Hope Callaghan, a cozy mystery series stylistically a cross between “Married to the Mob” and “Fried Green Tomatoes”. “Fill The Sky” by Katherine Sherbrooke is a novel about 3 adult female friends who go to Ecuador for healing physically, spiritually, and mentally. “Grounded” by G.P. Ching is young adult scifi, riveting and really well written. “Time Travel Trailer” by Karen Musser Nortman, and sequel “Trailer On The Fly” were also a pleasure to narrate. “Sin City Goddess” by Barbra Annino was sassy, saucy and great fun, bringing a Greek Fury on assignment to Las Vegas.
On that note, I’d like to announce the publication of my fourth book, BRILLIANCE BREWING, just released by my publisher, Black Opal Books. All four of my books are non-fiction memoir, but each chapter is a stand-alone short story. I used to write and perform one-woman shows and participate in storytelling competitions in NYC, and those performances translated easily into written text. I’m an irreverent mystic and metaphysician, and am growing into my psychic, mediumistic, channeling and healing abilities. I write about this process in BRILLIANCE BREWING, and about my interest in those topics in all four of my books. Because of my spunky personality and sense of humor, I like to think that my books, like Marianne Williamson’s lectures, are both powerful and entertaining.
I will be recording BRILLIANCE BREWING in the next few months, so the audio should be out by end of year, latest. If anyone here is interested in listening to some of my 115 titles, including the three books I wrote, just say the word and I will give you a code or two to listen for free, if you’d just be so kind as to leave a review on AUDIBLE when you’re done! Just leave your request in the comment section of the blog.
Valerie Gilbert’s Audio Book Discography
Raving Violet by Valerie Gilbert
Memories, Dreams and Deflections: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion
by Valerie Gilbert
Swami Soup by Valerie Gilbert
My Life with Bonnie and Clyde by Blanche Caldwell Barrow
Healer: The Pioneer Nutritionist & Prophet Dr. Hazel Parcells in Her Own Words at Age 106 by Joseph Dispenza
Starved by Anne McTiernan
Fill The Sky by Katherine Sherbrooke
Glorious Spitfire: A Symbol of Hope in the Dark Days of Conflict by Les Perera
Conspiracy Fact: Human Experimentation in the United States Declassified, Book 1 by Kate Marcello
Conspiracy Fact: MKULTRA and Mind Control in the United States Book 2 by Kate Marcello
It’s Not Your Fault: True Stories of Abused Women by William H. Joiner Jr.
What My Dog Means to Me: Real People And The Dogs Who Own Them by William H. Joiner Jr.
Minimalism: Reduce Stress, Increase Productivity, Change Your Life by Poppi Edwards
Walking with Familes through the Dying Process by Patricia M. Robertson (late August)
Walking with Familes through the Grief Process by Patricia M. Robertson (Sept. 2017)
Behind The Therapy Door: Simple Strategies to Transform Your Life by Randy Kamen
Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine, and Ours by Nancy Van Dyken (releasing September 2017)
Loneliness: 30 Ways to Cope with Loneliness by Rita Chester
Vegan: The Vegan’s Guide to Thriving and Surviving by Mary Thibodeau
Vegan: Healthy Dump Dinner Recipes on a Budget by Charlotte Moyer
Why He Never Called Back: How Women Can Easily Attract Compatible Men by Chase Gill
Paris: Freebies and Discounts Travel Guide by Sarah Retter
Icons of Fashion by Hilary Brown
So, You Want to Work in Medical Records? By Jane B. Night
6 Questions About Medical Records Answered by Jane B. Night
Clinton’s Comeback: Hillary Clinton by Bern Bolo
Grounded by G.P. Ching
The Time Travel Trailer by Karen Musser Nortman
Trailer on the Fly by Karen Musser Nortman
Ice Wolf by J.R. Rain, H.P. Mallory
Rebel Lexis by Paul Alan
Mark of the Mage (The Scribes of Medeisia, Volume 1) by R.K. Ryals
Tempest (The Scribes of Medeisia, Volume 2) by R.K. Ryals
Fist of the Furor (The Scribes of Medeisia, Volume 3) by R.K. Ryals
Dragon Rose (Tales of the Latter Kingdoms) by Christine Pope
Ashes of Roses (Tales of the Latter Kingdoms) by Christine Pope
The Gaia Gambit (The Gaian Consortium Series, Volume 4) by Christine Pope
Embers At Galdrilene: Dragon’s Call Book 1 by A.D. Trosper
Tears of War: Dragon’s Call Book 2 by A.D. Trosper
The Rescue by Rebecca Vickery
Daughters of the Dragon: A Comfort Woman’s Story by William Andrews
Journey of Hope: A Novel of Triumph and Heartbreak on the Oregon Trail in 1852 by Victoria Murata
Sin City Goddess by Barbra Annino
The Alpha’s Choice (The Wolvers) by Jacqueline Rhoades
Element 63: The TaP Team by L. j. Charles
Shadowlove-Stalkers (Shadow Vampire Series, Book 1) by Claudy Conn
Shadowheart-Slayer (Shadow Vampire Series, Book 2) by Claudy Conn
Shadowlife-Hybrid (Shadow Vampire Series, Book 3) by Claudy Conn
Raven’s Tale: Stained Series Novella by Jessica McBrayer
Stained (Volume 1) by Jessica McBrayer
A Murder of Crows (Stained Series, Book 2) by Jessica McBrayer
Sucking in San Francisco: (Vampires of San Francisco book 1) by Jessica McBrayer
Hell Hounds Are For Suckers (Vampires of San Francisco book 2) by Jessica McBrayer
Sucking Bites (Vampires of San Francisco book 3) by Jessica McBrayer
Suckers Go To Hell (Vampires of San Francisco book 4) by Jessica McBrayer
Bound by Blood (Cauld Ane Series) by Tracey Jane Jackson
Parts & Wreck (Entangled Covet) by Mark Henry
Jackal by Heather Gray
Blackmailed Beauty by Ilene Withers
To Release an Earl by Ilene Withers
The Sweetest Kiss (Sons of Worthington Series, Book 1) by Marie Higgins
Oh, Cherry Ripe by Claudy Conn
Carson Hill Ranch Box Set Books 1-3 (Contemporary Cowboy Romance) by Amelia Rose
Carson Hill Ranch Box Set – Books 4-6 (Contemporary Cowboy Romance) by Amelia Rose
Learning to Love Book 1 (Contemporary Cowboy Romance) by Amelia Rose
Searching for Love Carson Hill Ranch Book 2, (Contemporary Cowboy Romance) by Amelia Rose
Counting on Love Carson Hill Ranch Book 3, (Contemporary Cowboy Romance) by Amelia Rose
Fighting for Love Carson Hill Ranch Book 4 (Contemporary Cowboy Romance) by Amelia Rose
Wishing for Love Carson Hill Ranch Book 5 (Contemporary Cowboy Romance) by Amelia Rose
Dying for Love Carson Hill Ranch Book 6, (Contemporary Cowboy Romance) by Amelia Rose
Beyond Doubt by Karice Bolton
No More Wasted Time (The Mathews Family Book 1) by Beverly Preston
Obsessed: A Dark Romance by Terry Towers
Pointe of Breaking by Amy Daws and Sarah Pepper
A Perfect Fit (The DiCarlo Brides, Volume 1) by Heather Tullis
SEALed With Love (The DiCarlo Brides, Volume 2) by Heather Tullis
Reclaiming His Bride (The DiCarlo Brides, Volume 3) by Heather Tullis
Family Matters (The DiCarlo Brides, Volume 4) by Heather Tullis
Wild Hearts (The DiCarlo Brides Volume 5) by Heather Tullis
The Last Bride (The DiCarlo Brides Volume 6) by Heather Tullis
Sticky Notes (Clean romance, Ethel King series volume 1) by Sherri S. Murray
The Sticky Buns Challenge (Clean romance, Ethel King book 2) by Sherri S. Murray
Zane & Lucky’s First Christmas (Forever Love, #5) by J.S. Cooper
Shades of Gray by Carol A. Spradling
Brazos Bride (Men of Stone Mountain) by Caroline Clemmons
Banished Threads by Kaylin McFarren
The Deadline 1 by Lorhainne Eckhart
The Price to Love 2 by Lorhainne Eckhart
The Reunion 1 by Lorhainne Eckhart
The Bloodline 2 by Lorhainne Eckhart
The Promise 3 by Lorhainne Eckhart
The Business Plan 4 by Lorhainne Eckhart
The Decision 5 by Lorhainne Eckhart
The Friessens 1-5 Box Set by Lorhainne Eckhart
If Memory Serves (Dr. Tara Ross Series, Volume 1) by Tanya Goodwin
Kiss Me Crazy (The Fitzgerald Family) by E.B. Walters
Mine Until Dawn (The Fitzgerald Family) by E.B. Walters
Forever Hers (The Fitzgerald Family) by E.B. Walters
Dangerous Love (The Fitzgerald Family) by E.B. Walters
Grounded by G.P. Ching
Planet Urth: The Savage Lands (Book 2) by Jennifer and Christopher Martucci
The Key to Savannah by Hope Callaghan
The Road to Savannah by Hope Callaghan
Justice in Savannah by Hope Callaghan
That House on Dakota Street by Rae T. Alexander
That Girl with the Red Hair by Rae T. Alexander
Behind The Therapy Door by Randy Kamen
Meditation Made Stupid Simple by Betty Johnson
The Effect ADHD Has On Marriage: Fostering A Strong Relationship by Terence Williams
A Beginner’s Guide to Masturbation for Women by Jacqueline Donne
Detox Cleanse Starts with the Colon Cleanse: Simple Steps to Colon Cleansing by Mary Edwin
Is Biocentrism Dead? Understanding the Universe and Nature by Raj Bogle
Becoming “Mom”: My Fight Against Infertility by Bianca Clovis
Bianca’s Guide to Raising Twins: Pregnancy by Bianca Clovis
11 Mistakes Couples Make During Deployments by Bianca Clovis
A Little Benedictine Oblate Manual by James Nugent
Without Speech by James Nugent
The Cottage at Bantry Bay by Hilda Van Stockum (1938, Ireland)
How the Dragons Got Their Colors by Cheryl Matthynssens
Not an Egg! by Cheryl Matthynssens