We’ve been delighted by listening to the audio versions of our books which are available from Audible. All of them have been read by the same talented actress, Laura Darrell. Waverly was curious about how Laura began doing this work and what she enjoyed about it so we interviewed her.
How did you get started reading books for Audible?
My voice and speech teacher Susan Cameron at NYU Tisch thought I would make an excellent narrator so when the school hosted visitors from Audible talking about the process and setting up auditions, she referred me! Shortly thereafter, I took the train to Newark, auditioned for them and they hired me! My first audiobook was an Amish romance!
What are the challenges?
The biggest vocal challenge is of course protecting and taking care of my voice. Since I use it so much as both a narrator and an actor, I have to make sure to stay very hydrated, well rested, and take breaks every hour. The engineers and producers I have worked with have been really good about respecting the need for breaks. On an acting level, the challenge is always differentiating the voices, whether it be pitch, tempo, or just tone of voice so readers don’t have to guess for too long about who’s speaking.
What do you find rewarding about it?
The rewarding part and my favorite part of being a narrator is being able to get lost in a great story. I have always loved reading; I started at a very early age. I remember going into classrooms and reading to the lower grades in grade school, and I absolutely loved it. I love how reading, and reading aloud, allows everyone’s imaginations to really blossom, which gives everyone a unique and personal experience, more so than any other medium in my opinion.
How long does it typically take to read an entire book?
It really depends on the book. How many crazy words or names there are, how well the sentences flow… Every now and then a narrator inevitably stutters or mispronounces something and has to start the phrase or sentence over again, so generally I say about 1.5 times the finished hour.
Do you have to go back and make corrections afterwards?
If I make a mistake, and we’re aware of it, we re-do it right away. That’s why it helps to have a great engineer working with you because they’re an important second set of ears. On rare occasion we might get something back from Audible with a few minor corrections, which of course we attend to right away.
What skills or experiences did you bring to this job?
I would say before I started reading audiobooks, my greatest skill set came from being a theater actor. As an actor who works on stage, I’ve had to focus a lot on articulation, diction, making smart vocal choices, clarity of tone and thought, as well as a lot of character work. It’s the best training in the world!
Do you learn things from this work that you can use elsewhere?
I think since doing a lot of audiobook work, my number of character voices has grown. Before this I never had a Pepe Sullivan voice, but I do now and it’s tons of fun! I think my vocal creativity has also grown. I’m still figuring out new ways of differentiating characters.
We love the way you subtly change voices when reading different characters. Do you have any special techniques you use to get in character?
To me it’s all in the writing. Great writing means vivid characters, and once I have a strong mental image of the character I make quick choices on how they talk, often changing my body posture in the recording studio to help me. For instance, I’ve noticed I lean forward in my seat a lot more when reading Pepe, as opposed to a character who is more languid and laid back. Pepe is usually very high energy and alert so I can’t read him lounging in a recording chair. For me it just doesn’t work.
We know you probably liked our books best, but could you tell me about other books you’ve enjoyed reading?
Your series is absolutely one of my favorites. I love a good mystery and a smart, funny talking dog, even better! I’ve also really enjoyed reading a series of books by Ginger Scott. I just read one called Wild Reckless, and before that was Going Long and Waiting on the Sidelines. Her genre is young adult, teen romance, which I admit I love, and her characters are also so vivid and relatable. There’s tons of humor, a lot of emotional depth in them, and I have a lot of fun digging into my inner teenage angst
What’s your favorite of our books?
Oo, this is a hard one, I don’t know if I could possibly have a favorite! That’s like choosing between my children! I always feel like the last one I read becomes my favorite. I really loved The Silence of the Chihuahuas. Pepe’s blog posts cracked me up and the rehab center freaked me out a little bit in a good way. The Big Chihuahua has stayed with me too. Dogawanda was a lot of fun and extremely memorable. Of course, the dancing with dogs show was a brilliant concept too.
We’re also curious about if you have a favorite character from our books?
My favorite character has to be Pepe Sullivan. There’s simply no one like him. I love his passion, his talent for sniffing out a crime, and his humor is simply the best. I am a proud owner of a mischievously smart mini poodle named Samwise (yes Lord of the Rings fan, I know, I know) and my mother owns a chihuahua named Ella, who is definitely “the queen.” So I have tons of inspiration!
To hear Laura’s interpretation of Geri and Pepe, here’s a link to the Audible version of A Chihuahua in Every Stocking. You can also hear excerpts and purchase the audio versions of Dial C for Chihuahua, Chihuahua Confidential, The Big Chihuahua, The Chihuahua Always Sniffs Twice and The Silence of the Chihuahuas at Audible.
Laura trained as an actress at top drama schools in LA, NY and the UK (BADA), splitting her undergrad between Tisch, NYU and USC in Los Angeles, graduating a Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude scholar. Laura has acted in dozens of independent features and shorts (most notably “Creedmoria” staring Stef Dawson of the “Hunger Games” series) many of which have appeared in major festivals, including Sundance. She has also performed lead roles in theaters off-Broadway, across the country, and internationally (Canada)! In addition to theater and film, she helped raise money for the Maine Children’s Cancer Program with a Maine PBS special, for which she was nominated for a New England/Boston Emmy Award. She also can be heard in an animated feature film, “A Very Wompkee Christmas”, produced by Con Fullam, as well as in several professional video games and audiobooks sold internationally. (From Laura’s IMDB bio which was written by Tsu Tsu Stanton)