All proceeds will goto the Reach Out and Read literacy advocacy organization. As a "Thank you!" to listeners, stories will be available to listen to online for one week following their release. The full schedule of story release dates and narrator appearances is available at Going Public.
I'm very happy to be hosting narrator Jo Anna Perrin, who is reading "A Society," by Virginia Woolf. After listening to her performance, I have a few questions for Jo Anna and she has a great giveaway opportunity for you!
I imagine it's not often that narrators have the chance to select what they'd like to perform. What drew you to A Society and why did you decided to narrate this particular story?
No, that’s quite true Susan. Generally someone else casts us for a particular audio book based on their assumptions of our expertise in a genre or style, and we gratefully accept, but we don’t have input into the selection. I think that was one of the reasons, aside from the obvious one of giving back to the community, that this project attracted so many of us. Essentially, the Public Domain world was our audio oyster! An exciting and overwhelming prospect when you consider the surplus of literature out there that is in the ever growing Public Domain arena. I actually stumbled upon A Society accidentally. I had no idea that Virgina Woolf was available as an option until I discovered
a list of authors who had entered the Public Domain in 2012.
I was familiar with Woolf’s modernist writing and arty style from reading the usual cast of suspects such as A Room of One’s Own, and To the Lighthouse. However, I was unfamiliar with her short stories, and when I found her first collection, Monday or Tuesday, I was pleasantly surprised by A Society. It was written in a thoroughly modern style, but without Woolf’s usual winding prose or deep psychological meanderings. It had a light-hearted touch, a phrase that certainly doesn’t leap to the forefront in conjunction with Virgina Woolf! The story has a comic sense that seemed foreign to my usual encounters with her work. She starts off with a good-humored take on social commentary and the meaning of Art, seduces us in with gender-bending and double entendres until, true to her writer’s nature, she ends on a more somber note of the loss and inevitability of war. The moment I read it, I was hooked.
When preparing to narrate, does a short story require a different approach than a novel? Do some things made a short story more difficult to narrate. For example, does less character development make it harder to decide on how to voice characters? Is pacing different?
I don’t think the narrator’s approach or preparation is any different toward a short story. At least it’s not for me. My job is still to be true to the text and the author in as honest a way as I can. In terms of pacing, regardless of the length of a narration, I see a novel or a short story in the same way I visualize a play. There are three acts. The first act is the call to action, the second act the journey along the way, and the third act the reward or in some situations the punishment, but in any case, the wrap up. Obviously in a short story the acts and their beats are shorter, and arrive faster, but they are still there in the bone structure of the narrative. So the pacing, if you are true to each “act” sho uld just flow naturally. In terms of characters, I guess the one caveat about voicing characters, is that you have less time to convey them or endear them to your audience, so an annoying voice choice might seem amplified over a shorter time span; if you have the character sporadically over 300 pages, it’s not as grating!
How did you become interested in narrating audiobooks?
I became interested in audio books in a kind of non-linear fashion. I am an avid reader and I always thought that nothing could compete with my own reading. However, as my fiancé is a narrator, it was pretty hard to avoid them. So slowly I began to pick them up and listen. And, soon I picked up a few more from other narrators and I began to realize there were voices out there that could actually give my own reading, my own imagination, a run for my money! I’m an actor and a voice actor; I’ve done commercial, documentary and even film voice-over work, but I had never done an audio book. I guess the seed was planted in the back of my brain, you know, maybe I can do this?
You are also a professional photographer, even lending your talents to take a picture of some good lookin' legs for the kickoff post of Going Public...In Shorts. Would you share a little about your photography interests?
Yes, those were quite the gams! I certainly had fun with that…as soon as the guys asked me to drop in, that little montage was fixed in my head.
My main interest in photography is really two-fold. Firstly, I enjoy photographing people, and in a non studio, organic environment. I’m intrigued by faces and expressions, and there is a moment when you are shooting, when someone’s eyes, the inner and the outer, discover the sweet spot on a camera, and the machine and the person connect. You can actually see that connection in the finished picture. I’m not even sure I have anything to do with that connection, other than knowing the moment to snap the picture. If I have talent, knowing the moment to take the shot may in fact be that talent.
We’ve all heard the story that primitive tribes, when faced with a camera for the first time, will fear having their picture taken, because they really feel the camera will steal from them, actually rob them of their souls. I think that connection moment you can see in a person’s face, is where that fear stems from. It is quite dynamic.
My other favorite project is abstracts. Photographing things you pass by everyday without a second look, and isolating parts of those things so that they lose their sense of familiarity, and acquire a kind of beauty. I’ve been working on a theme of wheels, doorways and staircases for longer than I can remember. Someday, I hope to get it right.
What do you enjoy most about narrating audiobooks?
Wow! I think just the idea that I can. I get to perform, for better or worse, and do it for a living. It doesn’t get any better than that. I get to read books, one of my favorite pastimes, and I get to act and hone my skills. It’s also the challenge that I appreciate. I record a lot from my own home studio which is very different from being in a studio with a director and/or engineer. There is no one to bounce ideas off of or brainstorm with, so you have to make choices on your own. That is the hard part. Sometimes those choices work, and sometimes they may fall flatter than the proverbial pan-cake. The reward is in the trying, the striving, to get it right.
What's one of the most difficult things about audiobook narration?
Well, going back to the home studio theme, the isolation is difficult. It’s always more fun to be with at least another ear nearby. There is also the irritation of noise. I live in NYC so noise is a big factor. Plus, I have to narrate, direct, and, be my own engineer.
Those are all technical issues though. The hardest part of audiobook narration is making the right choices, the honest choices for each book and each character. Even if your character is the author in a non-fiction book, that person has a personality that shines through in their writing, and you have to grasp what kind of delivery, what sort of tone and pace that speaker will have for the audio book. Going back to the play and three act theme, you have to remember that you have to be present from the curtain to the curtain. That is the hardest part.
Can you tell us about any projects you're currently working on? Or interesting works you've recently completed?
I just finished an eye-opening book on the economy post-recession by Meredith Whitney, Fate of the States: The New Geography of the American Prosperity, through Tantor Audio. It is due out later this month.
Just prior to that, I had the pleasure of working on Back in the Fight: The Explosive Memoir of a Special Operator Who Never Gave Up by Joseph Kapacziewski and Charles W. Sasser with narrator Johnny Heller – our fifth audio book collaboration by the way - for Macmillan Audio.
And, I was part of a wonderful collection of mystery short stories for Blackstone Audio, Mystery Writers of America Presents The Mystery Box. I was tasked with a very funny story by Karin Slaughter that takes place in the swamps of Okefenokee. Suffice it to say that it’s not the type of narration I usually get, and I had a ball doing it.
And on that note, Susan, you and I are doing a giveaway of The Mystery Box. We have been given, through the generosity of Michele Cobb, AudioGo, Blackstone Audio and Downpour - and thanks to Bryan Barney of Blackstone Audio who steered us in the right direction - three digital copies of this enjoyable mystery short-story compilation.
There are 21 stories by many well known writers of the mystery genre, and 17 different narrators are onboard—so if my voice sounds like chalk on a blackboard to you, you still have 16 other wonderful voices to buoy you on! And, as an added bonus, some of the narrators on this collection are also available on Going Public…In Shorts: Robert Fass, Paul Michael Garcia, Hillary Huber, John McLain, Simon Vance, Adam Verner and Karen White. Once the winners have been decided, I will personally email you with a special one-time promo code so that you can download your copy from Blackstone’s audio download site, Downpour. Enter the drawing here!
The Going Public…in Shorts project is a giving back to the community, an offering from we narrato rs, and we hope you will join in, give a listen, and if possible, take a cyber-walk over to Downpour and donate by purchasing a story or two. So, if you too have a hankering to give back, please join in with us now, and all month, during June. And remember, June is Audio Book Month, so get out there and listen.
Thanks Jo Anna - and an easy way to take her advice is to purchase this title directly from Downpour. Then take a look at the blog posts appearing before and after this post - Books, Personally and My Books, My Life. The full compilation will be for sale beginning June 30th. Engineering and mastering provided by Jeffrey Kafer and SpringBrook Audio. GraphicGraphic design provided by f power design. Published by Blackstone Audio. Project corrdination and executive production provided by Xe Sands.