Narrator Interview: Marie Rose

What were you like at school?

A daydreamer and always very much a member of the drama club or my nose in the book. We moved around a lot because my father was in the military. Army brats learn how to entertain themselves a lot until we have the chance to make friends in whatever new town we’re stationed in.

Were you good at English?

Honors English all the way, baby! I can diagram a mean sentence.

What are your ambitions for your narrating career?

Honestly, narrating is one piece of the voice acting pie. I have an agent and audition for voice over commercials daily in my home booth. I’ve done voice over for films and I’d love to work in voicing animation, say, for Disney!

Which narrators inspire you?

I don’t get my inspiration from other actors. My inspiration comes when I’m reading a potential work piece that offers characterization so strong I can actually hear the characters in my head, or when I’m working on characters for a finely written piece of commercial audition copy. So you could say it’s the writers who inspire me. The good ones, anyway, although I believe I’ve learned some things from bad writing, too. Like what not to do.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment, my partner and I are working on a dual read for a motorcycle club romance, a la Sons of Anarchy, but with strong romance elements and an HEA… also a very high heat level, so we’re using our pseudonyms for that one… and the one we’re contracted to voice after that, too!

Give us an insight into your life. What’s your process when starting to narrate a new book?

I love narrating in my own home studio. I live in Los Angeles, and trust me the traffic here is every bit as bad as you’ve probably heard. So I wake up, roll out of bed and, boom, I’m at work. I usually have a steamy shower to clear my pipes and some nice, warm herbal tea to loosen my throat. I like to warm up by tackling any short auditions before I begin voicing my daily pages for whatever project I’m working on at the time. I read the story all the way through, of course, but I color-code the different lines and narrative descriptions as I go along so that I can easily differentiate the various character voices I need to voice as I go along. I’m very speedy when it comes to deciphering story and character breakdown; not only am I lifelong bookworm but my “other” job is reading screenplays and books for major motion picture studios in L.A. After you’ve read in excess of six thousand screenplays you became very fast and accurate at predicting character reveals and plot points.

What sub-genre are your stories/novels that you narrate, and is this a personal preference?

I think romance sells very well and I’m a romance gal at heart since it’s my favorite genre to write and to read, so I do tend to look for the good sellars on Amazon when I’m selecting the next book I’d like to produce. I also enjoy comedy, thrillers, paranormal, historical, romance, sci-fi, drama… really all genres, if they are well written with rich characters and interesting plotting and world-building.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent narration if it went that far?

Me! Pick me!

How much research do you do before you audition, and afterwards?

Not much, really, unless there is a tricky pronounciation of a name or word I don’t know. If there is an accent I’m not naturally proficient at I will look for YouTube to hear native speakers’ accents. If I have any questions, I just the writer directly… after all, they are the top experts on their own stories!

Have you written a novel yourself? Would you like to?

Yes, I’m a published author with several WIPs (Works in Progress) on the drawing board. I’ve published 2 children’s books and voiced on of them on Audible. I’ve also written a host of short story romances that I contribute to romance anthologies for a romance writing group I belong to and we indie publish on Amazon with great success. Now I’m trying to find time to flesh out some novel length projects, both mainstream and romance genres, but the narrating is paying the bills at the moment.

When did you decide to become a narrator?

It was a recent, natural progression that stemmed from my other commercial voice over work in the industry, especially once the boom in digital audio books from places like Amazon’s Audible started flowing. Suddenly, authors and voice artists had a direct conduit to start partnering up to produce indie audio books. I have a lot of writer friends in the entertainment industry and my first audio book offer fell into my lap that way (I love it when things are that easy!) The main difference between short form and long form recording is that, instead of only have to record one character for a 30 to 60 second radio or television spot, audiobooks can be 50k to 171+k word marathons that can include many, many characters and accents. Audio books are, quite simply, more laborious efforts for the voice artist. Especially since we are responsible for all the editing, mastering, bouncing of files to Audible specifications, etc.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start narration?

The short answer is money. I was offered a gig narrating an audiobook for Audible and there’s a deadline attached to that, so, yeah, I got right down to the business of voicing. And I got hooked after that. I love creating vocal characters, and it comes somewhat easily to me. My first audio book had over twenty-five (25!) speaking characters with accents ranging from British gay man to Scottish reincarnated witch, to an elderly ghost from the Midwest and even a tribal African male.

Do you have a special time to narrate, how is your day structured?

I tend to voice in late day and into the evening when my voice is warmed up from being up and active all late morning and early afternoon. It’s also quieter in the evening, less traffic, no garbage trucks or neighborhood leaf blowers interrupting my recording. I have a very solid booth that keeps my recordings very quiet, but it’s not Fort Knox… a low flying plane or the 24/7 happy yappy poodle next door can mess up recording schedule. I and my partner edit during the morning times, when noise factors aren’t so important.

Do you narrate every day, 5 days a week, or as and when?

When we’re on deadline, unless we have a cold or something (Gasp! Tragedy!), we voice and edit every day. Deadlines are king and they dictate the work schedule. There’s a formula I use to create our “day out of days” as we say in production. It breaks down to how many pages in the whole project divided by how many days we have to voice before deadline. The sum of that equation lets us know how many pages per day we have to voice to stay on schedule.

Do you have a miss matched set of equipment, while you save for better?

My partner, Chris, just happened to have a high end mic… it’s a very great mic for production shooting but it’s a “shotgun” mic, meaning you have to have your mouth dead center on the tip of that pointy mic or else your voice in recording sounds “off center of mic” and the quality isn’t as good. We’d like to get a multi-directional mic like a Neumann. The problem is that we are booked on back to back voice productions until late summer and you don’t want to change microphones mid-way through a project in case the sound differential is too noticeable.

What would be your ideal set up for a narration booth?

We have one! I love it! It could double as a bomb shelter, it’s so solid. My partner has a strong background in building and construction, which is fortunate, and we were able to build our own at a fraction of the cost a lot of narrators have to pay out of pocket. Here’s a link to a little short film of how we made it… and by “we” I actually mean Chris. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A82xhlboaxQ

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

When I write, I work from a loose outline, and then see where the idea takes me. I usually know the beginning and the end and the title from the beginning. The middle bridge is where things get “interesting” for me as a writer.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively as an actress?

I think with more and more experience I’ve gotten faster at creating characters on the fly. Deadlines are a time pressure business and necessity is the mother of invention… and new voices!

What is the hardest thing about narration?

I don’t find narrating to be difficult at all. Occasionally, the auditions are laborious and take a lot of time out of the day if you don’t win it. But all actors must audition to continue expanding their list of credits as well as their wallets.

What was the hardest thing about narrating your latest book?

There are many, many female and even kid voices for me to create. At a certain point, with only one set of vocal chords, it does become a challenge creating enough vocal differences among the various characters so that the audience of listeners can easily tell them all apart. That’s crucial for a listener/reader. Another difficult aspect is that we have to edit in all those voices on their own tracks and that can be like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.

What is the easiest thing about narrating?

It’s fun! So it never feels like work.

How long on average does it take you to narrate a book? We hear of a Finished hour, but what is your time that goes into one?

It really depends on the complexity of the read. It can take anywhere from 5 to 7 man hours to create a “finished hour” in a retail quality read, including all of the editing phases, not just the recording time that go into it.

If your latest book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?

The book we’re currently working on is the first in a planned series… the second book is due out soon. If all goes well, we’ll be re-visiting this set of characters again soon.
What are your thoughts on narrating a book series?

It can be a beneficial thing for both author and narrator, if the series is a good one. A mutually beneficial partnership can spring up around a series if the two parties can come to fair terms for the second book, especially if the first one is a success. Reader/listeners of audiobooks don’t tend to take it well when there is a change of narrator(s) after the first book because they become invested in the voice characters the narrator(s) creates.

Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

I used to read omnivoraciously for pleasure but when you read for a living it tends to ruin pleasure reading a bit because you feel you’re working and you find your mind over-analyzing the plot and characters. But when I get the chance to get into a book just for myself I love classic Jayne Ann Krentz and the classics - Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen are my favorites.

For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

As an Army brat I had to move every 1.5 to two years and I was responsible for packing up and moving my own girlhood room each time, including the scores of books I’d collected and could not bear to part with as a lifelong bookworm. I can tell you this from experience: Books are HEAVY. So, eBooks all the way, especially on a trip, because I love to pack light. I find I disappear into a story just as easily on my Kindle as I do with a traditional book. Plus I can read in the dark. But not really the Jacuzzi. Trade off!

What book(s) are you reading at present?

The one I’m narrating, ha! It’s really good!

Do you proofread/edit all your own narration, or outsource to a producer?

Currently, we don’t outsource. When we get super busy enough to justify the (tax deductible) expense, we are looking forward to it, because we like to voice a lot more than editing. But we’ve learned how to edit very well to keep quality high. And we’re picky about what we approve to upload to the author, so it’s best we do it ourselves for now so we don’t drive some poor editor nuts with our high quality expectations.

Do you think that a cover plays an important part in the buying process, even for an audio book?

Oh, absolutely. People DO judge a book by its cover and covers are the number one cited reason readers list for buying (or not buying) a book. If I’m considering narrating a book, even I look at the cover to see if the author has any sense of marketing or not. A cover, even for an audiobook, is the first exposure a reader has to the material. If it’s not eye-catching, in a saturated marketplace that reader may not even pause to listen to the narrator’s retail sample but instead will click “Next!”

Any amusing stories about narrating books that happened to you?

I am a natural born mimic. I can’t help it. When I am on the hunt for a accent or dialect I listen carefully to people around me. At the store, at parties. At one party I was listening to a man born and raised in Ireland and his lilting accent was very interesting to me. The more I conversed with him the more I started speaking back to him in his exact Irish brogue without even meaning to! I suddenly realized what I was doing and it was getting a little weird so I had to stop and explain what I do for a living. Luckily, he was flattered and laughed along with me. And my Irish accent improved after that!

What are your views on social media for marketing?

A very necessary evil.

Which social network worked best for you?

I use Facebook and Twitter. I also blog, although I have a hard time thinking of topics to blog about.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do?

Don’t assume that because people have told you that you have a nice voice that that is all it takes to succeed in this business. It takes the investment of time and money for training and equipment to be competitive in any creative art, especially performing.

What do you think of “trailers” for books?

Well, my partner and I make them, so I think they are swell! A well-made one, that is. A bad one can turn readers off.

Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book(s)?

Yes, my partner and I make them, as I mentioned, and I am the voice for all of them.

Here’s one for my children’s book, ZWOOSH!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stUzowELqEc
My partner and I also made ZWOOSH! into an interactive animated book app for the Apple App Store ~ here’s the trailer for that:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xppHhHxvO8A
And here are a couple of romance book trailers we did for clients:
Naughty List: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk9YTXIRPco
And Enchanted Eternally: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1Z3b5JGH3Q

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

Free sales or giving away copies to reviewers in exchange for their honest opinions can be beneficial. Free giveaways allow new readers to discover an author or narrator and their backlist.

How do you relax?

Watch my favorite TV shows, go to the cinema, dinners out with friends, I love to play chess with my partner during breaks and meals that I cook at home for fun. I have a 13 year old cat that I adore and he adores that I adore Him. I love to travel but so far I can’t figure out a way to make a portable booth so I’m tied to home during deadlines.

If you could have been the original narrator of any book, what would it have been and why?

Well, the Harry Potter, 50 Shades of Gray, Twilight, or Game of Thrones franchises were probably lucrative books of which to get in on the ground floor. I wish I could have voiced The Martian, but I’m a chick and the hero is not. So.

What advice would you give to aspiring narrators?

Training, training, training. Find a way to get training. And then get your own booth. And also become a writer so when times are slow and you aren’t winning many auditions, you can write your own intellectual property and voice it, too!

Where do you see narration going in the future?

I think dual read male/female teams are the immediate way of the future. I think listeners enjoy hearing a man voice the male parts and a woman voice the female parts. Especially in romance. It lends more realism and “theatricality” that way. Authors are responding most favorably to the auditions my partner and I are turning in, to the point where they are no longer considering single narrators.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

I’m happy to gift my audio books (ZWOOSH! SOMEBODY TELL AUNT TILLIE SHE’S DEAD, or SHORT ANSWERS TO THE TOUGH QUESTIONS – readers’ pick!) for FREE to randomly selected commenters below to make a relevant comment!

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Book Links: (* American, UK, etc.)

Comments  

#5 PandaJ 2016-05-02 10:30
Brilliant interview, I have had some audio work done for promotion work, it would be very interesting to see how you fair with comedy scifi. :)
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#4 Pauline Challand 2016-03-21 08:09
You sound very interesting and committed and your very lucky to have work you enjoy
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#3 Richard Southworth 2016-03-20 09:53
I definitely enjoyed reading this interview. I'm developing my own narration skills at the moment so it's very interesting to see the perspective and approach of someone very experienced.
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#2 kanundra 2016-03-20 03:42
A great insight into narration :)
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#1 Jason Brown 2016-03-19 16:46
Great interview!
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