Greetings, gentle readers!
Audiobooks are delightful, and so are the lovely people who narrate them! I wanted to know a little bit more about Cynthia Hemminger, narrator of Tess Mercury and the Crooked Pink. She most graciously obliged.
- How did you get into narrating audiobooks? I’ve always loved to read aloud, so when I became involved with a group of amateur writers who were interested in having audio versions done of their books, I used that as an opportunity to learn the skills required. It’s a very difficult field to break into, however, so when I discovered ACX where I could connect directly with authors/publishers, everything clicked. I’m about to begin work on my 11th audiobook and I’m loving it!
- What is your favorite genre to narrate? I don’t know if I have a favorite genre, particularly. I would say instead that I’m drawn to books with a lot of dialogue because they allow me to stretch myself into many different character voices. Beyond that, I simply choose to work on books that I would want to read, and my interests are eclectic.
- What drew you to narrate Tess Mercury and the Crooked Pink? I noticed right away that the book was set at least partially in New Mexico, where I’ve lived most of my life. Quickly after that I saw that it was hilariously funny, another BIG plus for me. Once I realized there was a strong, independent female main character (more than one, even!), I was hooked.
- Do you have a “process?” What is it? Ha, I’ve never been quite sure what that word means. I suppose it’s mostly a matter of becoming familiar with the story and the characters. Sometimes if there are a lot of characters, I’ll make notes beforehand, and spend some time practicing different voices, but too much futzing around with the character voices can result in inconsistent or (conversely) stilted outcomes. I like developing the voice as the story develops, if I can.
- How did you get into the characters? For me it’s simply a matter of getting a picture in my mind of who the characters are and putting myself firmly into that character’s head when speaking for them. In fact, I’m speaking *as* them, as much as possible. It’s similar to “method acting.”
- How did you decide on the voices? I did have some input from the author, but otherwise the main character/narrator of any story will always wind up being the one with a voice closest to my own “natural” voice. That’s easier on me. The other characters’ voices will vary depending on their personalities, quirks, appearance, habits, etc. For instance, the last book I did had a character who was a heavy smoker, so I always tried to make his voice sound a bit rough.
- How did you prepare to record? Since I can’t devote myself to producing audiobooks full time (yet!), often this simply means finding time to get into the studio, and making sure my voice is in good condition when I do. I’ll usually go back and listen to what I recorded previously before I start to read, especially if there’s been a significant gap in time between the current session and the last, to help me be consistent over the course of the project.
- Do you record at home or in a studio? Both, actually. I have a small studio in my home. (We don’t talk about its former life as a closet, so as not to hurt its feelings. 😉
- What’s your favorite thing about being a narrator? I dearly love to read aloud, always have. And since I choose to narrate books that I love, there’s a feeling of communication with the listener. It’s hard to describe, but when I’m reading, I’m thinking, “I love this, and I want you to love it as well.” I like to think that comes through in the recording.
- Did anything funny/horrible/interesting happen while you were recording? Oh, man, I wish I had a great story about it. My family and friends rolled their eyes at me a lot when I was practicing Tess’s Southern accent, but that’s about it.
- What was the hardest part about producing the audiobook? I’d have to say differentiating the voices. There are a lot of characters in this book and they all have fantastic quirks and personalities, and I wanted them each to have a unique voice. That was a challenge sometimes, especially when they were all in a scene and talking together.
- Do you have any influences or favorite narrators? I actually don’t listen to audiobooks very much (she said sheepishly). I prefer to read aloud rather than to be read to, for one thing, and I’m also short of time to listen, especially since I spend so much time working on my own audiobooks. (Generally I will have spent about 4 times the running time of s project working on it, i.e., 10 hours of running time = 40 hours of work in editing, mastering, uploading, etc.) There’s also the “professional hyper-critical” factor: I hear mistakes and find myself critiquing other narrators, at the expense of the story. I am currently (slowly, whenever I have significant driving time to fill) listening to “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson, a nonfiction book (I mostly do fiction) which is read by Scott Brick. Brick is a fantastic I’m in awe of his performance.
- What’s been your favorite book you’ve narrated so far? (It’s okay if it isn’t mine!) I love all my audiobook productions; I couldn’t possibly play favorites! J But Tess Mercury is certainly in my top 3. The humor, the great characters, and the opportunity to add to my repertoire of accents made it a blast to do.
- What other projects do you have out/coming up? I’m really excited about my current project, “Security Through Absurdity,” by Rachael L. McIntosh, which is a series of books that are a fictionalized account of the author’s life, starting with her work as a U.S. defense contractor before and after 9/11. Rachael has great storytelling instincts and a funny, well-paced writing style that really drew me in, but it’s also an important work politically for people to read, especially people in the United States. It will definitely open your eyes about some things. The first book in the series, “Little Yellow Stickies,” recently went on sale, available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.
- Any other plugs you want to share? I think that should do it. 🙂
You can find Tess Mercury and the Crooked Pink at Audible here: