I am absolutely delighted to be bringing you something a little different today. One of my superb narrators, Frankie Holland, has graciously agreed to be interrogated about her job for my blog. As an author AND a reader, I’m always fascinated by this side of the business, a side I know very little about, so it’s been fabulous to grill Frankie and find out more.
Please welcome Frankie!
When considering a project, what turns you on to a book, and what turns you off a book?
Would I want to read it myself? Is it something that speaks to me? Have I worked with this author before, so I know I like their writing style? Is the project going to sell well? Do readers like it if the ebook/paper/hardback is already available?
What’s your process when you’ve accepted a new project?
I will always read through the whole book first of all. It’s really important to me that I know the full story that I am going to narrate. I make note of any pronunciations I might need clarification on, and start to form ideas for voices as I get to know the characters in the book. I will ask the author for any direction that they may have for me with regards to pace, tone, style, and any accents/character notes that they feel are important. I then record a sample for the author, and that is where the honing in on what exactly they want, and what my imagination has come up with comes in. Once the sample is nailed down and we are both happy, I get to work!
Describe your recording studio to us—include a photo (or more than one) if you have them.
I have a custom-built home recording vocal booth studio. It is fully acoustic treated which means that my voice doesn’t bounce off the walls and echo, it means my voice will sound much more intimate, like I am right there in the listener’s headphones reading to them!
In my booth I have all the essential technical equipment – microphone, stand, pop shield, interface, headphones, computer, and I also have a comfy chair and cushions, kindle stand, my trusty vocal-zone throat lozenges, a mood lamp as I am without sunlight the whole time I record, and a cushion for my dog when he decides to join me!!
How do you prepare for a recording session?
I start with a vocal warm up, and then a physical warm up. As I am going to be narrating for hours at a time, it is important to make sure I am fully prepared. I have a range of vocal exercises that help get my voice ready for recording. The voice is not just situated in the mouth though, the whole body impacts on your voice, so it is important to move my body, and stretch and warm it up too! I also make sure I have a big glass of water, and normally a mug of earl grey too.
What are the biggest problems you come across in this job?
Probably time management!! When the schools were closed because of COVID19 I was so aware of how key my time management is. It is really important to have boundaries around my work time, I love it so much and if I’m not careful it could eat in to all of my family time too! When my daughter was off school for 6 months, I found it extremely challenging to divide my time between parenting, crisis home-schooling and booth time. Now that my daughter has returned to school it is much easier, but I still have to remember that I only have a specific amount of time in the day that the house is empty and I can be fully dedicated to my work.
What are the biggest positives in your job?
Oh my gosh! That I am living out my actual childhood dreams in reality!! I always wanted to be a voice actress and audiobook narrator. I spent a significant portion of my life being consumed with self doubt, and being far too scared to even attempt to try narration. Now that I live and breathe it, I feel like I have unlocked so much more confidence and happiness and pleasure in the rest of my life too! I get to READ BOOKS for a living!! I literally get to breathe life into stories for listening ears. It is the ultimate honour to be trusted with an author’s work. I feel such gratitude that I am trusted to do their words justice.
Tell us about the relationship between narrator and author when you’re working on their book.
This honestly depends entirely on the author. Some authors have a lot more input, and others leave everything to me. Either way I always keep the channels of communication open, so that no matter who I am working with they know that I value their input, as the book is their creation. That said, all authors respect that once they have approved the sample of the book that the creative process is up to me after that. They have final approval of the book at the end, so it is important that anything that they want to be done differently to my initial interpretation is highlighted to me before I start the lengthy process of recording, so that the final audiobook is true to their vision.
Do you have any favourite audiobooks you’ve worked on?
Oh my goodness, how can I pick a favourite?! For Lucy… probably our very first collaboration – Stately Pleasures. It was so well written, so many fantastic saucy scenes, I absolutely LOVED it! I also really enjoyed Chasing The Chambermaid for Lucy too. I got to bring out my Scottish accent for a few characters, which was fun, and the mystery of the location and relationships was fun to bring to life!
What’s been your most challenging project to date?
I feel like my latest Lucy Felthouse novel – Search and Rescue has been a real challenge actually. This book contains 4 male characters, each with distinctly different voices, and 1 female character. My natural voice is not deep, and so maintaining so many deep voices and accents was quite a challenge, but a challenge I was happy to accept… Let’s hope Lucy and our listeners enjoy it!
Thank you so, so much to Frankie for taking the time to give us a little peep into your world. I’ve found it fascinating, so I hope anyone reading this will, too!
Here’s a list of the audiobooks Frankie has narrated for me. Please do check them out, and also, once you’ve listened, it’d be awesome if you could leave a review – they really help both myself and Frankie out in terms of us being discovered by other listeners.
And, of course, Search and Rescue, which is coming soon. The eagle-eyed amongst you may already have seen a sneak peek in Frankie’s booth photos 😉