Audiobooks discussion

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message 1: by Xe (new)

Xe Sands (xesands) | 358 comments Hi All! I'd like to start a thread for narrators to query listeners on various topics, if y'all would be game. I could start a thread for a specific question as it comes to mind, but thought this might be an easy and fun way to interact and get a lively discussion going.

For example, something that I've been curious about for a while...

When listening to a fiction book that is set entirely in another country, do you expect the characters to speak with the accent of the region, or because it's set entirely elsewhere, does it not matter? What about the occasional character whose accent is called out because they are from outside that region?

Here's an example...The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, narrated expertly by the late Robin Sachs. The novel is set almost entirely in Oslo (and surrounding areas), and Sachs does not employ any particular accents for the majority of characters. This worked perfectly for me, although I'll admit that a British narrator already has a leg up in my book on this count.

How about you? Do you expect to hear accents throughout such a listen?


message 2: by Sandra (new)

Sandra  (sleo) | 575 comments Xe wrote: "Hi All! I'd like to start a thread for narrators to query listeners on various topics, if y'all would be game. I could start a thread for a specific question as it comes to mind, but thought this m..."

I also listened to The Snowman, in fact have listened to most of Nesbo's books, and it never occurred to me that it should be read in Scandinavian accents. That would seem silly.


message 3: by MissSusie (new)

MissSusie | 2001 comments I used to feel like anything set anywhere in Europe especially historical fiction that the narrator should have a British accent but then I listened to The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by, CW Gortner narrated by Cassandra Campbell but she changed my view on that because her narration was so well done that it worked so well!


message 4: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 1583 comments I think it depends on the POV the story is being told from - if it is set in Sweden, with only swedish characters than I wouldn't expect accents, because the "person" wouldn't hear them - however, if its set in Sweden/Swedish POV, and one of the characters is American (for example), then i would expect an american accent because the character would hear it - does that make sense?


message 5: by Xe (new)

Xe Sands (xesands) | 358 comments Sandra - I agree! I would have been quite strange. Glad to know that at least here, we're all on the same page.

MissSusie - you know, I'll confess it right now: I give a total pass to British narrators. I blame this on both Americans' collective fascination with all things British, and many historical drama films, which no matter where they seem to be set, simply feature British actors and call it good :)

Dee - totally makes sense! That's been my assumptions and the direction I've been given in the past. But occasionally, I see a comment go by from a listener who wondered why accents weren't used...so I thought I'd throw it to this group :)


message 6: by MissSusie (new)

MissSusie | 2001 comments Xe wrote: "Sandra - I agree! I would have been quite strange. Glad to know that at least here, we're all on the same page.

MissSusie - you know, I'll confess it right now: I give a total pass to British narr..."


I agree I think that is the reason for me too!


message 7: by Jeanie (new)

Jeanie | 3649 comments I agree that accents in non-English speaking countries shouldn't have a narrator attempting the regional accent. Simon Vance's narration of the Milennium Trilogy was another perfect example of how it should be done. I do want accents when the characters are speaking English but with a specific accent--Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Australian, and US Southern accents for example. Sam Dastor also does a great job with the various accents in India. This might be an exception to the rule though. I'm assuming that the Vish Puri series he reads has the characters speaking in English rather than Hindi or other language. Now that I think of it I have listened to books such as "Kim" where the rhythms of the Indian dialect are used even though the characters are speaking to each other in a language other than English and it worked very well. I also recently reread "Across the Nightingale Floor" where a light alteration in rhythms suggested the Japanese language even though the text was in English. Perhaps it's mostly the European accents that I don't want to hear imitated. Give me Tolstoy read by a Brit, but for heavens sake don't have anyone try to give the characters Russian accents!


message 8: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly (poweki) | 136 comments I've recently finished Dead I Well May Be narrated brilliantly in a mostly Irish accent by Gerard Doyle and Shantaram narrated expertly and in many accents by Humphrey Bower.

In both of these cases, my enjoyment with the book was markedly enhanced by the accented narration.


message 9: by Janice (last edited Mar 19, 2013 08:14PM) (new)

Janice (jamasc) | 958 comments If the narrator is fabulous, as Robin Sachs was in The Snowman and The Leopard, I enjoy the performance regardless of the accent. If a narrator is capable of doing the accents (think Humphrey Bower and Paul Michael), that works for me too. I just finished listening to The Three Musketeers narrated by John Lee and his Scottish accent didn't detract from the fact that the vast majority of characters were French.


message 10: by Vic (new)

Vic (vicaet) | 49 comments As an American - I totally agree with these opinions. Would be curious to hear the folks from everywhere else chime in. I heard audios where I thought the accent was spot on or perfect for me but read comments from folks not from the US who were totally annoyed / unhappy. But, again, I'm with most folks commenting that a British accent can be passed off as "European" easily for me.


message 11: by Xe (new)

Xe Sands (xesands) | 358 comments So many of these responses beg the question: can an American also be given that pass? Case in point: I narrated a book recently set entirely in France (Provence and Paris). Direction given was not to do any accents as every character would have one. But sadly, I'm not British!

Only book I remember getting negative feedback on in terms of not doing an accent when listener expected one was when the character was from Australia (although not much is made of this in the text).

Vic - that's so interesting! I think you're on to something...the only listeners who've mentioned pronunciation issues have been Europeans, who very well might have a more discerning ear as they are perhaps more likely to be acquainted with various authentic European accents.


message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 19, 2013 09:51PM) (new)

Fifteen, twenty years ago, when the narrator pool was much smaller and there not as many native narrators, it was perfectly acceptable for an American narrator to read a whole book in another accent. As the industry has grown, there are now more native narrators and it is preferred that a narrator as close as possible to the voice of the book be found. Case in point: When Life of Pi was produced, Jeff Woodman used an Indian accent (you'll note that it is strong in the opening chapters and then he dials back a bit as the story progresses.) Now, if the book were to be produced, it would be more likely that an Indian narrator would read the book.

In the case of Swedish novels, it's tricky. If you were to use a Swedish accent and somehow manage not to sound like the Muppets' Swedish Chef, it would still be difficult for the American ear to assimilate. Americans are used to Bjorn Borg being pronounced as b(e)yorn borg whereas in Sweden there are more syllables involved. When narrating, you have to consider the audience and weigh it against authenticity.

More to the point of your original post, you'll note that in the US version of The Millenium Trilogy, when Elisabeth goes to the Caribbean, she does not have an accent; but in the UK version, she has a Swedish accent. It's a difference in approach and neither is incorrect.

Interestingly, there is enough of a difference between a true British narrating and British-American narrating so that often, Americans will complain that the true British accent is unintelligible whereas the British market will complain that the British-American accents have been bastardized. You see it at American Shakespeare stages as well: you rarely see an actual British actor perform alongside and American actor, even if the American actor is British-American!

I would like to point out that in the case of Shantaram, Humphrey Bower isn't really using an accent per se as the story is told from the point of view of Lin, an Australian and Humphrey Bower is Australian and; Gerard Doyle is about as Irish as they come without actually living in Belfast! In The Dead Trilogy, when it comes to the Irish-American and Boston accents, he is not as strong. I'm not sure how Gerard Doyle has managed to prevent his accent from being diluted!

Right now, I'm listening to Paul Boehmer narrated Bangkok Tattoo (by John Burdett.) He is doing a yeoman's job of it (good thing): The book is set in Thailand. Rather than try and narrate the book with a Thai accent, he has chosen to flavor his reading by slightly slowing his pace and enunciating a bit more clearly. It works, though there are still critics :-/

The most challenging accents in audiobook production are Chinese, Japanese, Guernsey (British dialect,) Brummie (British dialect)... No one is ever happy when it comes up :-/


message 13: by Jeanie (new)

Jeanie | 3649 comments The first Erast Fandoren book, "The Winter Queen", was narrated by an American--can't remember the name but it was a well-known male--and it worked just fine with American accents all the way through. Eduardo Ballerini did a fantastic job on "Beautiful Ruins" and he gave distinctive Italian accents to the Italian characters. This worked, I think, because he did a great job on the accent--his Italian was great too--and there were numerous other accents and some Italian characters spoke English too.

I don't think I'd have a problem with a French book read by an American--or any of the countries on the European continent, But I hate it when books by British authors are read by Americans. I mean, I want to cry when I hear Jane Austen read with anything other than a proper English accent.

More than anything I've noticed that a good reader who handles both the prose and characters well can make me believe in the story regardless of the accent--even Jane Austen if needs must. And, most importantly, it's far better to use no accent at all than to attempt one and do it badly. I can get used to even an American accent in the wrong context, unless the narrator jars me out of the story with a bad imitation of any kind of accent.


Tensy (bookdoyen) (tensy) | 72 comments I am currently listening to Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity and the narrator is doing a wonderful job with the Indian accents (he is Indian) and I don't think I would be as engaged in the story without his phenomenal narration using accented Indian English. Behind the Beautiful Forevers Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo


message 15: by Xe (new)

Xe Sands (xesands) | 358 comments Just loving this discussion - exactly what I hoped for when I started this thread!

Potentially up for an other book set entirely in another country (save for two characters) and would definitely read all (except the British characters whose accents are specifically mentioned as being odd to everyone else) without a particular accent. If I do the project, will be interesting to see what feedback there is on the lack of accents. When I did By Cecile, no one seemed bothered that an American narrator was reading a book set in France, without giving the characters accents.

I think that many of you make the same excellent point: that in the end, the adept handling of text, characterization and pacing is what matters most to your ears - not whether or not accents were employed...followed by a second excellent point: that if accents ARE used, they best be well performed!


message 16: by Lupdilup (new)

Lupdilup | 22 comments I'm only critical of a foreign accent when it seems forced and unnatural, except for my own accent (Spanish) them my ears demand accuracy, mostly geographically because it's what I know. I imagine that's the case with all my southern friends; they always criticize the southern accents in audio books, but to me, they sound perfect...most of the time.


message 17: by Xe (new)

Xe Sands (xesands) | 358 comments Lupdilup - You're not alone there! I definitely see plenty of commentary from Americans of American narrators (unsuccessfully) attempting regional American accents, so imagine it's the same for any listener when their country/region/neighborhood is inaccurately represented.


message 18: by MissSusie (new)

MissSusie | 2001 comments I agree with Tanya on a Swedish accent going into the Swedish Chef territory it could happen easily.

Also a French accent can easily become Pepe Lepew

I listened to 2 hours of The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great and the narrator had a very very strong Russian accent that was too much for me to listen to. I would have much rather had someone like Rosalyn Landor with her somewhat haughty accent, I think she would have been a perfect fit for that book!


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Southern accents will always get the most criticism because there simply aren't enough native narrators to cover all the regional dialects that are produced in audiobooks. Even with research and audio clips, the risk of "mispronunciation" or inaccuracy is higher.

One of my favorite audiobooks of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird (by Harper Lee; narrated by Sissy Spacek.) Critics complain that narrator isn't from Alabama, much less Maycomb and is therefore less authentic than the voice of the book demands. To that I say, :-P Sissy Spacek's East Texas accent simply doesn't get in the way of the narration or detract from the book.


message 20: by Xe (new)

Xe Sands (xesands) | 358 comments With you, Tanya!


message 21: by HJ (new)

HJ How interesting to see this discussion, as I have been complaining in another group about this very topic. My view is the same as Tanya's:

"Fifteen, twenty years ago, when the narrator pool was much smaller and there not as many native narrators, it was perfectly acceptable for an American narrator to read a whole book in another accent. As the industry has grown, there are now more native narrators and it is preferred that a narrator as close as possible to the voice of the book be found."

I bought an audio of a book which is not only set in England but which is by an author who always writes characters who are quintessentially British. (It has only just been published, and I was keen to read to, so stupidly didn't check the sample.) The main character is a normal, middle-class man who went to Cambridge University and is now living in London. The other MC was a Victorian cockney (the story involved time travel).

I was horrified to find that the narrator was American. He did what I suspect many Americans might think is an English accent, but to an English person it sounded all wrong. It was received pronunciation as it used to be in the 1930s-1950s, the kind we laugh at now when we watch old newsreels from that period. I thought at first that he was doing it because the book was set in that period, but it soon became clear that it is set in the present day. Funnily enough, his cockney accent was more successful; he didn't go over-the-top but hinted at it very well.

This seriously interfered with my enjoyment of the book. If I wasn't such a fan of the author I doubt if I would have persisted, as all the time I was distracted by how the narrator was saying things rather than focussing on what he was saying. And he even mispronounced some place names - such as Holborn and Reading - which really should have been checked.

I looked up the narrator and he's well-known and well-regarded. Fine - but he should stick to reading books set in America and only do an English accent when an English character wonders into the book.

I came across another horror - this time I listened to the sample first. Another British writer of a book set very definitely in the North-East. The Geordie accent was painfully bad. I heard two sentences and stopped. Yet again it was an American!

Why do they do this? (The publishers who organise the audiobooks.) There are so many perfectly capable English actors who could do the job extremely well.

Needless to say, I'd feel the same about a British actor reading a book set in America with American characters.


message 22: by Xe (new)

Xe Sands (xesands) | 358 comments I completely understand, HJ and as a narrator, and a bit surprised that a non-British narrator was cast. Further, I'm surprised that the narrator wasn't given the same direction I usually am: if it's third person fiction, set all in one place, no need for the accents during dialog (or, goodness forbid, during straight narration).

So what about an American reading a book that is set entirely in France or Germany or Turkey or China, etc.? Would you be looking for a native speaker to narrate those, or would it be acceptable for a non-native narrator to narrate them sans any accents?


message 23: by HJ (last edited Mar 20, 2013 02:29PM) (new)

HJ To go back to the example Xe mentioned at the start of this discussion - a novel set almost entirely in Oslo (and surrounding areas) - I would not expect a narrator to read in English with a Swedish accent. In fact, I would find that odd. If the book is written or translated into English then the main narration should be in English with only characters foreign to Sweden having another accent (e.g. French). If the foreigner was English I suppose the narrator would have to use a different voice or intonation to distinguish him!

Instinctively I'd probably prefer it read by a Brit rather than an American (perhaps based on the European theory) although so long as the American narrator just read in his normal accent that would be fine. And I would be happy with an American reading a book set entirely in France without accents, too!

I just want the narrator to sound natural and do a good job, so that the narration doesn't intrude and interfere.

As Xe says "the adept handling of text, characterization and pacing is what matters most to your ears - not whether or not accents were employed...followed by a second excellent point: that if accents ARE used, they best be well performed!"

My caveat - the accents should only be for dialogue of certain characters, and not the narration itself.


message 24: by Xe (new)

Xe Sands (xesands) | 358 comments Ha! We're crossing in cyberspace, HJ! You just answered all my questions :)


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Hj wrote: "Why do they do this? (The publishers who organise the audiobooks.) There are so many perfectly capable English actors who could do the job extremely well."

Audiobook companies as a rule don't do this; but I know of two British fakes who have somehow managed to slip through the nets. It drives me crazy so you can imagine how peeved their British and British-American narrator "peers" are!


message 26: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 81 comments I'm currently listening to A Farewell to Arms read by John Slattery. In addition to the first person narrator's American accent, he uses an Italian accent for the Italian characters (it is clear from the text that these characters are speaking Italian and not English) and acceptable (although not fabulous) English and Scottish accents for other characters. I think that this works well in a novel where the English speaking characters are from different countries and there needs to be some way of denoting non-English speaking characters speaking their own language.

I agree with others that it would be silly to use a French accent for a book entirely set in France or a Scandinavian accent for a book set in a Scandinavian country.


message 27: by Coleen (new)

Coleen Marlo | 1 comments Thank you for starting this thread Xe! I love the idea of being able to interact with our listeners and our publishers! So many beautifully stated points have been shared here already!


message 28: by Xe (new)

Xe Sands (xesands) | 358 comments Coleen wrote: "Thank you for starting this thread Xe! I love the idea of being able to interact with our listeners and our publishers! So many beautifully stated points have been shared here already!"

Thanks, Coleen! I love the interaction as well and hope other narrators jump in with whatever's on their mind.


message 29: by Karen (last edited Mar 21, 2013 09:30AM) (new)

Karen Commins (karencommins) | 75 comments Xe, thanks for starting this most interesting and useful discussion!

I want to say a few words in defense of the narrator who does a book outside of their native accent.

I recently narrated Lizzie and the Guernsey Gang , a wonderful YA title set in Guernsey, UK at the start of the German occupation in WWII. I admit that I felt trepidation about doing this book. After all, I haven't been a young girl for a long time, and I've never been British.

HJ pointed out that plenty of capable English actors could do the job. I agree, but perhaps they were all busy at the time this book was produced, or perhaps it didn't have a large enough budget to gain their interest.

As an aside, several months before I was contracted for Lizzie, a well-known producer told me that I have an earnestness to my sound that would work well with YA and faith-based titles. Lizzie is both of those things.

Perhaps it was my earnestness rather than an authentic accent which made Lizzie's producer choose me for this project. Perhaps it was because the author also lives in Georgia as I do. Whatever the reason that I was chosen, I wanted to the best possible job on it, as I do with all my books.

As Tanya noted above, the true Guernsey accent is difficult to achieve, especially with limited preparation time. However, the producer and I felt that some sort of passable British accent was needed to truly convey the author's intent. It wouldn't sound right to have an American accent speaking to her "mum" or using some of the other British-isms in the book. Since the book was written in first person, the narration had to be British as well.

Recording the book was a very difficult experience, but I'm proud of the outcome. I'm sure the book has some inconsistencies, and maybe even the casual listener would discern that I'm not British. Still, I believe I told a good story.

It's interesting to me to see Tanya's other remarks about Southern accents. I'm an Atlanta native, so I have grown up with these accents and hear a lot of them every day. I've done 7 books (#8 is being edited as I type) set in the South. Regardless of any accent, though, it seems that people love or hate any narration based on their feelings about the book.

Oh, and Xe, I'm so glad to see that you used the apostrophe correctly in Y'ALL. You wouldn't believe how many people -- even Southerners who should know better -- type it as YA'LL. :)

One question that I would like to ask listeners is about using accents in non-fiction. I have been taught that the narrator doesn't use accents in non-fiction because then the narration becomes more about you the actor instead of the author's words and intent.

However, I just finished listening to The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America which was wonderfully narrated by R. C. Bray. Bray acted out all of the parts, and I thought he really brought history to life. Since a lot of the book contained trial testimony, the book may have been difficult to follow without vocal differentiation. The reviews and ratings on this book show that many other people agree with this assessment.

So, what do you think? Are accents in non-fiction an absolute no-no or sometimes appropriate depending on the book?


Cordially,
Karen Commins


message 30: by Xe (new)

Xe Sands (xesands) | 358 comments Karen wrote: "One question that I would like to ask listeners is about using accents in non-fiction. I have been taught that the narrator doesn't use accents in non-fiction because it then the narration becomes more about you the actor instead of the author's words and intent."

Thanks for sharing your experience, Karen. Your question just came up this morning, so I'm very curious as to listener opinions on the performance of nonfiction.


message 31: by Paul (new)

Paul Ruben | 14 comments Dear Members

What lively and interesting conversation. Just an observation about accents and Jeff Woodman. No, if I were producing Life of Pi today, I'd still cast Jeff, unless I found a south Asian actor with Jeff's storytelling acuity. From there, I'll argue the following: if the narrator is emotionally engaging the listener, he or she is likely doing their job. If accents distract, if they are unrealistic to the degree the listener is aware of the accent, the narrator has failed because the listener is no longer emotionally connected to the narrative.

Finally, another observation regarding accents and non-fiction: Yes, it may be fun to affect character voices and accents but I'll argue that the non-fiction author is far more interested in educating the listener about the story than wishing for various characters in the book to be "acted." It may be fun, perhaps engaging to a degree, but isn't where the eggs are, i think.


message 32: by MissSusie (new)

MissSusie | 2001 comments I am listening to a book right now and thought this would be a good place to ask this question.

This book has a male and female narrator but the odd thing is All Female voices are done by female narrator and All Male done by male narrator. The male narrator is amazing and has some great very different voices and dialects so am just a bit confused why he wouldn't do the female voices too. It is odd when he asks say as an example his secretary or a waitress and this female voice answers with a simple yes then goes back to the regular male narration.

So I guess my question is Why the female narrator was added he is great at so many different voices that I am so curious if he isn’t comfortable doing female voices? Is he bad at them? Which I honestly can’t imagine because all his different voices are pretty darn impressive.

PS the female narrator is male narrators wife (if that has anything to do with it)


message 33: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 1583 comments That was kind of how I felt abt the fever books - where Phil Gigante only did Barron's voices - it was a bit disconcerting


message 34: by Paul (new)

Paul Ruben | 14 comments Perhaps ask the question as follows: Are you emotionally involved in the story with the two voices, or does the second, female voice, sort of remove you from the story, make you wonder why it's even there?

There are many formats to tell a story but it's far to argue that a given format becomes invalid when it takes you out of the story, no. That would be my primary measure. Finally, storytelling is conventionally regarded as a 1 person show, so in a real sense, if it ain't broke, why fix it? Of course there are exceptions and that's what makes a horse race.


message 35: by MissSusie (new)

MissSusie | 2001 comments Paul wrote: "Perhaps ask the question as follows: Are you emotionally involved in the story with the two voices, or does the second, female voice, sort of remove you from the story, make you wonder why it's eve..."

Yes Paul it takes me out of the story and yes I am wondering why it's even there!


message 36: by Paul (new)

Paul Ruben | 14 comments Why I don't know. But you've addressed the salient issue and if you're inclined, what publishers can learn from consumers is whether or not their audio programs are emotionally engaging. If not that may dissuade them from adding a second voice for who knows why.


message 37: by MissSusie (new)

MissSusie | 2001 comments Paul wrote: "Why I don't know. But you've addressed the salient issue and if you're inclined, what publishers can learn from consumers is whether or not their audio programs are emotionally engaging. If not tha..."

I agree, I myself enjoy books where there are two main characters voiced by different narrators but this is the first one where every female voice no matter if its a one word answer to a paragraph is voiced its just odd to me.


message 38: by HJ (new)

HJ I've heard books with both male and female narrators, but I think I'm remembering correctly when I say that they switched when the point of view (as written by the author) switched. So for quite a while the male narrator would read, and do all the voices (including female ones), until we started seeing things through the eyes of the other (female) main character. It was a Suzanne Brockmann book.

I'm happy with that, although I wouldn't have minded either one of the narrators performing the whole book. I don't think I'd like to hear dialogue acted out to the extent of switching between narrators by male/female.


message 39: by MissSusie (new)

MissSusie | 2001 comments Hj wrote: "I've heard books with both male and female narrators, but I think I'm remembering correctly when I say that they switched when the point of view (as written by the author) switched. So for quite a..."

Yes that is the usual when I see two narrators, that's why this one is throwing me a bit.


message 40: by HJ (new)

HJ As to non-fiction books - it depends. I can think of some - Bill Bryson comes to mind - which have extensive dialogue which is very funny performed by him when he reads the books! The same goes for Stephen Fry's books. But if it was a more serious, matter-of-fact book, then I wouldn't expect (or want) much of a performance.


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Karen wrote: "So, what do you think? Are accents in non-fiction an absolute no-no or sometimes appropriate depending on the book?"

R.C. Bray is a smart and intuitive narrator and I'm pleased that his choices worked out for him; but that said, he and/or his producer took a big risk in presenting non-fiction as a performance piece. With non-fiction, the voice of the material takes precedence over the people featured within. Non-fiction requires a different approach than fiction: NF is presentational vs F which is more "actorly," if you will. Different skill sets are required for each. If the author were presenting his work, it is unlikely that s/he would mimic the people s/he were quoting. Trends do change though. Maybe in another ten years, people will want and demand more performance-style non-fiction! But for now, the greater successes have been in the more didactic form of presentation.

Recently, I listened to a short non-fiction history title produced in England. It was painful to say the least, not only because the narrator mispronounced a key person's name, but that he imitated many Americans. The narrator made everyone, except John F. Kennedy, sound like a cowboy (and none of the Americans he aped were cowboys) :-/

Hi Paul! I didn't mean to imply that Jeff Woodman isn't great as the narrator for The Life of Pi or that he would automatically be disqualified as a contender just because he wasn't Indian! I only was using it as an example that now, if auditions were to be held, there might be more qualified native Indian narrators to show up in the pool than there were ten years ago and a higher probability (not certainty) that one of them might have been hired. :-)


message 42: by Paul (new)

Paul Ruben | 14 comments I understand, and of course, you're quite right. The pool is larger. I might add, fyi, that my experience even with non-native born actors that are fluent English speakers is the following: Reading is different than speaking and they often stumble over words they easily pronounce. Additionally, their rhythm is different and that often compromises the narration. The problem is, conventionally, we expect non-native English speakers to adopt our rhythm. Almost impossible.


message 43: by Jeanie (new)

Jeanie | 3649 comments As to male/female narrators in the same book, I've had both positive and negative experiences with all variations on this style. I personally liked Phil Gigante in the Fever series even though he does only one male character's dialogue. In Christine feehan's Dark series Gigante and a female narrator trade reading the text narrative as POV changes, but they always voice the same characters regardless of POV. I really liked this and thought it worked well. In other situations I've read books where when the POV changed the male or female read all the lines in that section. My biggest problem with this is that when they voice each other's characters it's as if the character has changed personality and it takes a while to reconnect with that character because the voice is now so different. But this issue does seem to be very much a matter of personal preference. I adored the multiple-narrator format of "American Gods" where each narrator had a specific set of characters to voice--same gender--and one person handled all the narrative. I thought this was great, others hated it. So there you are.

As to non-acted non-fiction... all I can say is that if Simon Vance hadn't varied the reading by giving quoted people different voices, I would never have made it through "English Society of the Eighteenth Century" which could often be as dry as dust. As with fiction, I think using no accent or character voices is better than doing them badly, but some characterization of quoted individuals can liven things up when done well, even if it is non-fiction.

Perhaps my best argument on whether vocal variation is appropriate in non-fiction is my favorite Modern Scholar lecturer, Professor Michael D. C. Drout. Even--or especially--when speaking of grammar, poetry, writing, the history of the English language, the vikings, etc. he varies his speaking voice dramaticly to add life to the lecture. Written scholarship needn't be any different. Obviously any vocal characterizations need to avoid seeming cartoonish in a non-fiction work. Of course, that's true of fiction, too!


message 44: by Tim (new)

Tim | 167 comments I've generally had good experiences with multiple narrators. One example I quite liked was the work done on Robert Sawyer's WWW trilogy (WWW: Wake, WWW: Watch, and WWW: Wonder). It had two main characters and each narrator did the chapter when it was told from that character's POV. My only problem with the narration was that the name Laurier was mispronounced.


message 45: by CatBookMom (last edited Mar 24, 2013 07:09PM) (new)

CatBookMom | 1082 comments Paul (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/18...) asked in the Audible Offers thread about what listeners are looking for. I've linked him to this discussion.

In thinking about the audiobooks I most enjoy, some commonalities come to mind:
- a pleasantly-pitched voice, not a thin, sharp, whiny one (unless this is a single-character voice). The late David Case had a voice I could not listen to, as does Cynthia Holloway, who reads the Vatta's War books from Elizabeth Moon
- lack of mouth noises. The early Dresden Files books read by James Marsters are notorious for these, though as Marsters learned and the techniques (or producers) improved, these went away.
- correct pronunciations, whether of ordinary words or of place or character names. Regional pronunciations can be very difficult, and those can be passed over sometimes, but many of my fellow listeners at Ravelry dot com agree that a good narrator should check with the author if possible or research pronunciations online. But character names? Dictionary words? Sloppy narrating, sloppy producer/editor not to fix these.
- Good choice of voices for various characters. Some narrators are inspired in this way. It must be difficult for female narrators to do good male voices and for men to do good women's voices, but the good narrators seem to find a way that isn't phony. One of the Sherlock Holmes novels I've listened to in the last year (sorry, don't recall the narrator, except not Patrick Tull) used a breathy little-girl sort of voice for Mrs. Watson. It was just jarring, even though there weren't many lines.

These are just a few points, which I hope will help your future projects.

Narrators whose books I will always buy include Susan Ericksen, Grover Gardner, Barbara Rosenblat, Simon Vance, the late Patrick Tull, Stephen Thorne, Martin Jarvis, Simon Prebble, Tony Britton. Stephanie Daniel is doing an excellent job with the Phryne Fisher books from Kerry Greenwood.

My current listen is to a book in the Mercedes Lackey Valdemar fantasy series, which has been long-awaited in audio format. Karen White has a nice voice, but instead of using different voices, she's tending to use different accents (Irish, upper- and lower-class Brit), and some rather old-person voice patterns for quite young or mature adult characters. Perhaps this is part of waiting a long time for books to be published in audio, that readers have well-established ideas of what the characters should sound like.


message 46: by Samyann (last edited Mar 25, 2013 03:02PM) (new)

Samyann | 69 comments I wonder how an author selects a narrator, especially when the dialogue calls for multiple accents. Do they provide the auditioning narrators with a variety of dialogue segments as a 'test'? Do they go by what the narrator has done before? That would probably be the safest way to go, except it would eliminate the possibility of finding that 'magic' narrator. Just curious how it's done.


message 47: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 25, 2013 10:09PM) (new)

Samyann wrote: "I wonder how an author selects a narrator, especially when the dialogue calls for multiple accents. Do they provide the auditioning narrators with a variety of dialogue segments as a 'test'? Do the..."

At the audiobook publishing houses, there are casting agents or studio directors who handle the selection of narrators. Narrators are chosen primarily by appropriateness, availability and costs. That's oversimplfying it to an enormous degree as there are tons of variations and degrees of those three factors, but it's primarily the audiobook publisher who casts the books, not the author.

There are authors who insist on casting their own books and they usually want someone who "matches the voice in their head" even though it is highly unlikely that that voice is actually a narrator :-/ In all fairness, they may have been burnt by an audio publisher who didn't take sufficient care in the past or; they've heard horror stories about miscast titles.

In a variation of the above, there are authors and their agents who insist on final aproval which requires an audition of talent: The audiobook publisher rounds up samples for the author to select from.

It's up to the audiobook publisher's capabilities and/or resources to decide on the degree of support, i.e. providing a director, research, and/or technical assistance.

The search for talent is an ongoing process for any audiobook publisher. In taking on talent, whether "new" or experienced, there is also the responsibility for developing the talent to a certain degree and/or building a relationship with the narrator by casting the narrator properly and providing the kind of support s/he needs. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't and it's really up to the studio director to assess the risks with each casting.


message 48: by Paul (new)

Paul Ruben | 14 comments Casting, from my pov, is a very intuitive process: You hear an actor's voice in your head and sort of match that to the narrative. Of course, much easier if you have an audition from the narrative, but still, you believe rather than know the choice you make is appropriate.

Generally, though not always, authors are not capable of casting their own books particularly well. Performance and writing are aesthetically different to the degree that writing simply doesn't imply casting. What writers hear in their head may, but in my experience, more than likely will not, be useful for casting. Finally, writers tend not to think in "actable" terms, so when they attempt to instruct a director, for example, it's often in non-actable language.


message 49: by Xe (new)

Xe Sands (xesands) | 358 comments Have to say, this is the best listener-industry dialog I've seen - loving it!

Paul & Tanya - thanks so much for jumping in and offering perspective from the casting/publishing side of the equation. I think that is extremely helpful for both narrators and listeners to hear.

CatBookMom - I think we've got the same list of requirements from a good audiobook listen. For me, I'd add that I if my ears identify a particular rhythm or cadence in the narration, it becomes almost impossible for me to continue to listen, as I've become far more aware of the speech than the story - but I am known to be an exceptionally picky listener ;)


message 50: by Jeanie (new)

Jeanie | 3649 comments One thing about choosing the right narrator that can become vital is that, when it is or will be a series, stay with the same narrator/s barring death of the narrator or stupendously bad casting for the first one. And if the narrator is changed, consider re-recording that first bad one! A scheduling problem is not sufficient reason to make a sudden narrator switch--Ask any Dresden Files fan with the "Gost Story" debacle. Much as I'd hate to wait for an audio release once the print book is out, I'd rather wait than endure a narrator switch.

While a great narrator can turn an audiobook into something extra special and even something greater than the sum of its parts, a series relies on the voice of the narrator in a way a one-off work doesn't. For me, Jim Dale was the Harry Potter series in audio, Marsters is Dresden, Nathaniel Parker was Artemus Fowl--another mid-series narrator switch debacle--and I could name many many more. A series narrator becomes those characters and a switch is like suddenly changing the characters' names but leaving everything else the same. The sound of a well-liked series narrator's voice in my ear becomes like listening to the familiar voice of a close friend. I look forward to the new release in a series both to learn more about the stories of the characters and in order to reconnect with that special friend. Sounds a little "imaginary friend", I know, but the relationship between audiobook narrators and the reader is special, even magical at times, and we fans--OK, me--can be avid... even rabid about our audio.


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