“The beginning of a beautiful friendship”: The intimacy of narrating memoirs

If you become an audiobook narrator, prepare yourself to have some sort of relationship with the author – especially if it’s a memoir. This can be imagined (especially if the author is no longer living, duh), supported with visuals and audio (you’ve done some research on YouTube, etc.) or, sometimes, it becomes a collaboration with a sharing of ideas as the project takes shape.

It’s really fun pretending to “be” someone else in the memoir – especially if the author approves of how you have brought her words to life. It can add that extra layer of satisfaction – and, sometimes, you meet a new friend.

casablanca

“The beginning of a beautiful friendship” – could be!

One of my favorite things about being an actor/voice talent/audiobook narrator is that I get to pretend to be someone else. Sometimes it’s a doctor (as in “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV…” ok, well, in an audiobook…), sometimes a psychologist (I do a lot of self-help titles), and other times the main character in a first-person piece of fiction.  

That’s really fun! But, unlike playing a part on TV – or on stage, or in a film – we voice talents are often pretending all alone. No other actors, no audience, often no director. That’s different – and, often, let’s face it, kinda lonely. (Insert sigh here)

So – when I get booked to voice a memoir (especially of a living person), it really helps to research its author. What does she look like? Sound like? Why did she write the book? And then it feels like she is with me when I voice the story in her persona. That’s a bit better.

But sometimes, the partnership goes even farther than my own imagination. On rare occasions, I get to actually collaborate with the author, and we start to form a virtual friendship. She has trusted me with her story, and I take that responsibility very seriously.

Today the memoir “Shift Happens: Breakdowns During Life’s Long Hauls” was released on audible as an audiobook download. The author, Margot Genger, and I are thrilled! And we plan to help each other get the word out about her wonderful story.

ShiftHappens

This happens less often in audiobooks than you might think. When working with an audiobook publisher, the narrator doesn’t often get to (or be allowed to) chat with the author. The publisher acts as go-between for questions, etc. This often protects both the author and the narrator. I get it.

Sometimes, though, the author reaches out. Syl Tang, author of Disrobed, -How Clothing Predicts Economic Cycles, Saves Lives, and Determines the Future (Tantor Audio) , e-mailed me and invited me to her book launch. What a pleasure to meet her! We met for lunch the next week (turns out we shared a print publisher!), and are still in touch.

And then there are the projects you create yourself (e.g. spokenrealms.com), or the ones you book through websites like ACX. There, it’s usually a direct path from author to narrator (who is often also the producer). And, once in a while, the project clicks and you both feel like it was “meant to be.”

That’s how it has been with Margot.  I generally don’t search for royalty share titles to narrate on ACX, as I am busy with “fee paid” work, but sometimes I do audition for a quick how-to title (like how to Potty Train your child….figured I could refresh my memory!). This time, though, the author contacted me, based on my samples, and asked me to voice her memoir.  I took a look – and Margot so impressed me with her story, her writing, and her plans for PR, that I said yes –  to a 10+ finished hour project.

Trust me, that represents a lot of hours of work. But I’m glad I did!

Margot’s story is so compelling that I was proud to “be” her while narrating this journey through alcoholism, mental illness, and family dysfunction to self-discovery, recovery, acceptance, and love – centered around  the true story of her 18-month employment as a female long-haul truck driver c1980.

Road patrol Police inspects stopped long-haul big rig semi truck with reefer trailer stopped on winter highway

Wow! I had never known what the life of a trucker was like – and now I got to live it for awhile! Her road trip taught me to look at the trucks on the road with new respect and understanding .

But  wait there’s more! (have voiced too many ads with that line, sorry…)

Margot also beautifully describes her bipolar disorder, her mental breakdown and resulting psychiatric hospitalization from her internal point of view – and it opened my eyes to my own son’s inner world. He, too, has had public breakdowns. He, too, has had to redefine his life. Through Margot’s words, I could understand more fully what my son’s experience might have felt like to him.

The e-mails, author to narrator, flew back and forth. Margot then read my memoir, Ben Behind His Voices, and recommended it to many families going through mental illness challenges.

We bonded over our stories, and are supporting each other in publicizing this book and audiobook. We plan a video together, and to help this title reach as many people as possible.

I have never met Margot in person (at least not yet), but I know that when I do, it will feel like running into an old friend. We have experienced each others’ stories, and are creating a partnership to build awareness of her book/audiobook – and the challenges and adventures inside.

Hey Reese Witherspoon – snap up the film rights. This is a cool story!

Margot Genger, so pleased to know you through living your words. The “beginning of a beautiful friendship” – and partnership – indeed. 

What an honor we voice talents have, to help tell stories.

 

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1 Comment

Filed under Voiceover, Voice Talent, Voice Acting

One response to ““The beginning of a beautiful friendship”: The intimacy of narrating memoirs

  1. Margot Genger

    Thank you, Randye. Without writing a spoiler, I need to add that you made me burst out laughing when I heard you narrate an old friend’s voice. You totally nailed him! (Reese Witherspoon… that’s funny!) Margot

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