Last but not least! What a way to close out Audiobook Month, welcome Jo Raylan to The Book Nympho!
Can you walk us through your prep work for a narration project? Do you prepare any notes to help decide the tone and voice to give a character when there’s not a clear description of their voice in the novel (when they do not have a distinct accent)?
I’ll just confess that I don’t take notes – NOT that newer narrators shouldn’t, or that there isn’t value in the process. It’s just not how I internalize or work with the characters – or really anything I do (made college a tag challenging, heh…). Really, I just hear them in my head as I read the book…and, er, occasionally spend time, well, talking with them out loud if I’m having trouble making them happen. Often, their voice isn’t clearly described (aside from “rich baritone, like molten chocolate…), which is sometimes easier as I don’t have to try and match something I might not be hearing in my head. I remember working on this one book in which the vocal description was so antithetical to the rest of the characterization that I had the damnedest time trying to do it. The character sounded a bit ridiculous to my ear, but I had to remain true to the description as much as possible, and in that particular case (not a romance novel), that vocalization disconnect was part of how the author made that character an anathema and disconcerting…still, it was hard to do what was asked because it was so contrary to how I imagined the character sounding prior to the description of the voice.
When there is an accent specified, that can be fabulous because it provide for instant differentiation…provided I can *do* that particular accent, AND provided that character isn’t one of many from the same flippin’ town…er, not that that has happened. Nope. Course not (heh).
So the prep looks pretty simple from the outside: read the book. But internally, much is happening…there is a mental and sometimes spiritual and emotional realignment that happens when I start on the new book. I joke that I’m a method narrator, but it rings true to me – because I take ON that journey with those characters for the time I’m working on the book. This can be pretty devastating when it’s a difficult piece involving tragedy or trauma, but it can also be uplifting and awesome when it’s, say, a romance novel. But either way, there’s a personal investment that happens internally that’s hard to quantify or put down in words, but which is crucial to the way I personally work.
You have worked a few dual narrations projects. How is that process different than a solo project?
Because both narrators are usually recording solo in their respective booths, the mechanics are largely the same. The main difference is that there is usually discussion between us regarding characterization of those characters that we will both voice. For example, just wrapped on Your Alluring Love by Layla Hagen, and co-narrator Ryan Turner and I swapped clips of characters and emails on characterization for the numerous characters that would appear in both sections. For Songs of Submission, Christian Fox and I worked very closely on Jonathan and Monica specifically, because there was such an enthusiastic and committed fan base who had already heard those beloved characters in their heads for years -we knew we’d need to really push ourselves to ensure the closest possible representation of that couple.
You did a bit of singing as Monica in CD Reiss’s Songs of Submission series. Are you a trained singer as well as a narrator?
Oh my – I love that that would even cross your mind! But no, no training. Just come from a musical family (on my Dad’s side). Sometimes, I manage to hit a good singing groove, and for Monica, I had to tap into that with just about each book. It presented a unique challenge, but a welcomed one. I’m just glad that most people seemed to enjoy it, LOL!
You narrate under different names like many narrators, but it amazes me set your self apart (at least for me) on how you can sound so different depending on which pseudonym you use. What is the key to changing your pitch for your working voices?
Well part of that differentiation is the content itself, and that I’ve done most of my work as Jo Raylan for a single author – so that all has a very similar tone, even as the main characters change. But there will always be a tonal difference between, say, a literary fiction book and a romance novel, simply because of the dynamics at play, the author’s overall intent in writing the book, etc. I think that even those who listen to the body of work that I’ve done under a different name would notice a large difference between the cozy supernatural mysteries and the esoteric literary fiction that I’ve done.
Now that said, I’ll confess that Jo is really a whole personality for me, a way for me to experience life in a less inhibited way, I guess. Heh – shouldn’t be a surprise to me that “she” came into being right as I hit midlife and bought a red Ford Mustang (Ruby – since sold, sadly), LOL.
As for the change in pitch and other various vocal tricks and methods, man I wish I could answer that. I think that it’s like any other characterization tool I use – I just let the character inhabit me and try to allow my voice to match their voice that I hear in my head. With male main characters (especially those bad boy alphas, I hear them as pretty dang deep in pitch (which the authors must as well since they never seem to call out his “beautiful clear tenor that rang like diamonds” or some such!), and want to give them the voice they seem to clamor for. It’s not everyone’s cuppa tea, I get that – but it’s what feels most authentic to me in many cases, and what I feel most closely gives voice to the author’s intent. And honestly, I want someone listening to forget it’s just one lone woman sitting in a giant gray box in her jammies, and instead experience the world and characters that the author is creating – I want them to think I dude is here with me, LOL! Of course, if I weren’t an alto in vocal pitch naturally, that would be nigh impossible – so I’ve got Nature on my side too 🙂
What narration job are you currently working on?
I *just* wrapped on Your Alluring Love, by Layla Hagen, a co-narration with Ryan Turner (Tantor Audio), which I really enjoyed. Lots of steam, of course, but it was couched in a realistic plot and progression, in my mind, with a nice foundation of believable emotional development, despite the contracted timeline (often par for the course in romance). And am very much looking forward to working on Queen of Rust for CD Reiss, with *possibly* a cameo appearance in King of Code…y’all will have to stay tuned to see what shakes out with that! And lastly, recently finished up the first three books in Karina Halle’s fab Experiment in Terror series – Darkhouse, Red Fox, and Dead Sky Morning. The series is a slow build in terms of horror and romance, but definitely worth the pay-off…Perry and (especially) Dex are just not your typical romance couple and I love that about that. And Halle isn’t pulling her punches in terms of emotional and mental struggles in both characters’ backstories. In fact, I think we have a little giveaway of a CD set of the first three books, graciously donated by Tantor Audio (open to those in the continental US only, I’m afraid).