As a steadily increasing number of readers supplement their literary diets with audiobooks, they quickly discover the importance of the narrators. Simply put, the voice talent can make or break an audiobook or series.
One of the superstars of audiobook narration is American-born and London-based Lorelei King, whose 400-plus narrations include the “Stephanie Plum” and “Wicked” romantic-adventure series by mega-selling Janet Evanovich, (available on Audible.com), who appeared for the Bee Book Club in 2013. King has also recorded novels by Patricia Cornwell, Michael Connelly and Margaret Atwood.
King has worked in television, radio, video games, onstage and film (“Notting Hill,” “The Saint,” “The House of Mirth”) and won two Audie Awards from the Audio Publishers Association for her recording of Sandra Dallas’ novel “Tallgrass.” She co-founded the digital publishing company Creative Content.
Q: How did you get into the biz?
A: After a bit of restless world-wandering when I was young, I settled in London and kind of fell into (mostly stage) acting. I was approached to record a book of short stories, and recording immediately felt right. I’m at my happiest in front of the microphone.
Q: Narrating audiobooks is really acting, isn’t it?
A: When it comes to fiction, I like to think so, particularly if it’s a book with a lot of dialogue. It’s slightly different with nonfiction. You don’t “perform” in quite the same way, but you still use an actor’s skills for pacing and intonation.
Q: How closely do you identify with the characters you portray?
A: Some characters resonate, and some don’t, but you can’t help having a fondness for each and every one when you’re giving voices to them.
Q: How do you manage to change your voice to characterize female and male characters?
A: It helps to have some vocal flexibility and range, but it’s as much about attitude as pitch. One of the challenges of audiobook narration to be able to subtly change the voice to distinguish characters. In the end, it’s all about clarity for the listeners. They must never be confused about who is speaking.
Q: The wrong narrator can ruin a good audiobook story. How do you manage to consistently be at the top of your game?
A: If you don’t have the ability to read fluently and to “read ahead” of what’s coming out of your mouth, you’ll struggle. Although you can improve this skill with practice and experience, I think it’s something you’re pretty much born with. As for staying on form, the usual rules apply: Look after yourself and your voice.
Q: What’s your most memorable recording experience?
A: I was recording a really difficult book, set in 19th-century South Africa, and the characters in the first third of the book were all male and Scottish. Agony, as I do a lousy Scottish accent. I struggled with it so much.
To make a bad situation even worse, the young engineer made a mistake and lost half a day’s recording. Which meant it all had to be done again. I won’t lie – I cried. The engineer felt so bad that the next day I came in to find she’d covered my desk in bars of white chocolate, which I love. She went on to become a fantastic engineer, and we worked together on many occasions, and we did laugh about it – eventually.