Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Secrets of an Audiobook Narrator: Renée Raudman

A Note from Mrs Mommy Booknerd:  As many of you know, I have now grown my book obsession to audiobooks too!  Now I am always reading one title and listening to another!  Double the books I can get through!!!  I was so excited to feature Renée Raudman on my blog...what an honor to have her here!!!  

Q.  What inspired your career in audio book narration?

A.  Hi Emily!  First, thank you so much for your invitation to participate in this forum.  It’s great to be here! 

My path to audiobooks actually started when I was very little (although I did not know it at the time). When I was in 3rd grade, I had a little cassette recorder that I would take into the bathroom (no one would bother me and it had great acoustics!) and act out the people I had learned about in history class. I gave each person a different voice and would make up stories about Eli Whitney and the cotton gin, the Hopi Indians, etc. I was only 7 and I was already recording and acting out stories with different voices!

However, when I first decided to move to Hollywood, it was for acting and entertainment, and I hadn’t even thought about voiceover work. While I was fortunate enough to have landed roles in a broad range, one day my commercial on-camera agent asked if I would audition for a radio spot. I got the job! Then he asked about a TV spot, I booked that one, too! After I booked a national campaign on my third audition, a whole new world opened up to me: Voiceover!

I became fairly successful in the Voiceover world (with hundreds of radio and TV commercials under my belt, as well as cartoons, videogames and the like), but it wasn’t until about 7 years ago that I transition into audiobook narration.
At this time, I met Scott Brick (who was, at the time, dating my sister). He was/is THE male voice in audiobooks. I have always loved audiobooks, so I was fascinated with the industry. Scott and I agreed to trade information about our respective voiceover realms, and well, the rest is history! He helped me put together a demo that I sent out to 7 companies, to have 4 get back to me within the month (unheard of)! Plus, I already had my own home studio (which was rare in 2006), which allowed me to work from home for several different publishers and ultimately allowed me to work in every genre of audiobook.

In a way, it’s a right place/right time kind of story. The audiobook world was just beginning to explode with “digital downloads,” and narrators were beginning to get to work from their own home studios.
Amazingly, this series of events led me to be able to make a living at something that I not only had a passion for, but seemed to be destined to do from such an early age. 

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being a narrator?

A. I think it has to be that I can create a multitude of characters in that little booth, that I would never be hired to do in front of the camera. 

Too, my goal is to create a movie for your mind. I hope you forget there’s just one person reading a story to you and you’re able to enjoy the author’s words and stories in a way, you might never experience by reading the book. That’s very exciting to me.

Q.  What is the toughest part of being a narrator?

A. Without a doubt, the schedule. I like to compare audiobook narration to running a marathon. While cartoon and radio spots can take anywhere from an hour to ½ a day with multiple people speaking, book narration takes multiple days to prepare (finding pronunciations and making notes in the books) and then record. Usually, I am the sole performer from 8am until 5pm every day. I get one 20-minute break twice a day, and a lunch hour. 

I’m not complaining, as there are other jobs that are truly backbreaking and hard work!  But let’s just say I’m not much of a conversationalist right after a long day of recording.  J

Q.  If you could not be narrator, what would you do/be?

A.  Hmmm… I think I would either be an interior decorator, a personal organizer, or personal shopper.  If you’ll let me into your closet, perhaps I could be all three?  I love making women’s closets feel like a beautiful boutique.  It makes picking out the day’s outfit so much fun! Like shopping!  Without spending any money (maybe this is because I never get to go to the mall?)

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?

A.  A Series of Left Turns.  OR.  Act Like It: Bringing The Stage to Life.

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?

A. Oh boy… I’m terrible with ‘favorites.’  I honestly can’t answer that.  I don’t have a favorite color, or song or movie or book, etc… it depends on what that day holds, or what mood I’m in.  There are certainly colors and songs and books I don’t like.  But so many of the books I’ve read and performed can touch or move me deeply, depending on whether or not I need a hearty laugh or a good cry or a lift of inspiration. 

Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?

A. I’m not sure if I’m most like them, but I would LIKE to be most like:  The wise-cracking, smart, funny and yet still feminine and vulnerable female characters I have played (Lucky O’Toole, by Deborah Coonts, Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews, Niki Harper, by Cheryl Crane, etc.).

Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?

A. Interesting question Emily!  Hmmm…. I’m definitely a pushover for a great romance.  I’ve had the opportunity to narrate so many wonderful novels. Let’s see… I wouldn’t mind being in the middle of Napa Valley’s wine-country romance series, St. Helena’s Vineyard, by Marina Adair; or living the glamorous and glitzy life at Las Vegas newest Mega Resort, The Babylon, that Deborah Coonts so wonderfully portrays in her Lucky O’Toole series or perhaps as a young “Gallagher” girl in the young-adult Spy Academy novels by Ally Carter.  I think I could escape with any of those for a while. 

Q.  What is your favorite season?

A. Er… Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall…  J

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while narrating a book.

A. Gosh, I do have a story, and I promise, not one bit of this is embellished: 
I had recorded a novel a few years back called Eat the Dark, by Joe Schreiber.  At this time, I was living in a small town called Ojai, about 85 miles north of Los Angeles, CA.  The town was located in a quiet valley, and the guest-house I was renting was in the middle of 3 acres.  Three, very quiet, desolate acres (which was perfect for having a home recording studio!).

Most of my visitors were deer, rabbits, bobcats and coyotes. But having narrated Joe’s prior book, Chasing The Dead, (which we won a Publisher’s Weekly Annual, Listen Up award in the Thriller category) I knew to expect something really, really scary. 

Now I might have recorded this book during the day, to help keep my wits about me.  But due to the temperatures we were having (it had been a 114 degrees that day), I had to record at night, when it was cooler, in the dark, with very few lights on, except those to read the script by and my computer.

I’m getting so wrapped up in the story, which takes place in (you guessed it) an insane asylum which has closed its doors for the last time, I’ve worked myself into an absolute frenzy.  I was getting goosebumps from head to toe.  And of course my mind starts playing tricks on me, like I’m hearing little noises.  I’m at the point in the book where our protagonist, Mike, notices dried bloodied footsteps on the floor.  And he’s trying to figure out how a recent explosion occurred and who wants him dead and why.  I’m narrating Mike’s thoughts as he slowly walks through the empty, echoing halls of the hospital:

Someone was watching him.
He stopped, jerked his head around and looked back up the long vacant hall.  On either side, the doors of the ER rooms gaped stupidly open.  Overhead, one of the light tubes flickered and WENT OUT-

In the SPLIT second I finished recording that line… ALL MY ELECTRICITY GOES OUT!!!!  EVERYTHING WENT BLACK. 


As it turns out, the 114 degree weather had taken its toll on the electrical grids.  But in that moment, I was convinced it was curtains for me!

(Funny enough, after I shared this story with the author, he told me it inspired him to want to write a book about an audiobook narrator who lives alone in the middle of nowhere, and a prison inmate begins to stalk her, because he’s listened to her voice for so long he becomes obsessed with finding the real person!)

Q.  Are you working on something new?

A. I’m so fortunate to get to work in a variety of genres.  Last month, they just released a sweet memoir-type audiobook I recorded, from Danielle Steel called Pure Joy. About her doggies…Danielle has so much heart! In addition, I also just finished another installment (for romance lovers) from the St Helena Vineyard series (Marina Adair) entitled Be Mine Forever.

We just confirmed I’ll be narrating a feisty and candid memoir; Pigs Can’t Swim, (A Merloyd Lawrence Book)… and sadly, I just finished the conclusion in a series of young-adult books I’ve come to grow so incredibly fond of:  The Gallagher Girls:  United We Spy (Ally Carter).  I’ll miss those spy girls!!!!

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A.  I can’t thank you enough for all the support you’ve given my work!  I absolutely love what I do, and I get to keep doing it because of all of you!  Thank you!  And thank you, Emily, for hosting me on your blog today.  I appreciate it more than you know!

Renée Raudman Biography
She's the voice in your ear and the voice in your car. She's the voice of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanova, Anne of Green Gables and Alice in Wonderland, and who Danielle Steel, the 4th bestselling author of all time (800 million copies sold) handpicked for her latest book release.  Meet Renée Raudman, the most famous voice you've heard, but never heard of. 

Renée Raudman is an award-winning audio book narrator who has performed in film and television radio and on stage. During the past seven years, she has used her signature dulcet tones and versatile acting technique to build a large and loyal audience for the nearly 300 books that she has narrated - many of them bestsellers.

Publishers and authors of modern fiction, non-fiction, and YA (young adult) trust in Renée’s honed skills for conveying their story to avid listeners. She has recorded for some of the best known authors in the world, including Catherine Coulter and Suzanne Brockmann. Among her latest work is Danielle Steel's latest novel, "Pure Joy," due on the bookshelves October 29. And, her work recently was listed several times (in several different categories) in one of the romance bibles of the audiobook industry, "The Audiogals Guide to Romance - The Classics.”

Renée is lauded by critics for her commitment to story, her differentiation of characters, and her ability to convey emotion and the writer's intent on every page -  whether it be fiction, non-fiction, memoir or young adult. She is known for her strong voicing of both her female and male characters. But she is particularly hailed for her love scenes! Indeed, recently some of her fan base had an uprising when an author team, whom she had narrated many books in their series, changed audio publishers. Their scores of comments, posted in social media, convinced the new audio publisher to hire only Renée to continue the series. 

Prior to her career in book narration, she was a successful television actress with credits that included the recurring role of Jordon, on ABC’s "One Life To Live," Phyllis on NBC’s "Passions," in addition to guest-starring in roles on "3rd Rock from the Sun," "The Drew Carey Show," "Hercules: The Legendary Journey" and more.  She voiced characters on Fox's "The Simpsons,” can be heard on Cartoon Network as Miss Butterbean on "The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy” and is the voice of the narrator on the E! Entertainment’s series "Starmaps."
For the past seven years, however, she has been laser focused on audiobooks, with her own career expanding exponentially as audiobooks became a $13 billion-a-year industry.  In fact, her narrative audio style helped influenced and established the trend widely used now, creating a more fully theatrical and character rich audio experience.
"When audiobooks were first being produced for a more mass market, the trend was toward a ‘single-voiced’ read with, at most, subtle changes for each different character. However, I didn’t know that when I narrated my first audiobook.  I just assumed the approach I took – voicing a distinctive personality for each major character - would be best suited for this medium as well,” she says. 

When it came to fiction, she says that she used her acting background to fully commit to every scene and the specifics for each character, whether male or female, human or monster.  This included action sequences as well as love scenes. 

“My goal was to make a movie for the mind,” she explained.
Her media partners are the top English-language audiobook publishers in the world, including Audible.com, Blackstone Audio, Brilliance Audio, Books On Tape, Echristian.com, Harper Audio (Harper Collins), Listening Library, Oasis Audio, Penguin Group Audio, Random House Audio, Tantor Media and Zondervan.

She has earned several Earphone Awards from Audiofile magazine from a variety of genres.  She was awarded Publisher's Weekly "Listen UP" award, as well as many "Starred Reviews" by Publishers' Weekly for her works. In recent years, she has been selected by The Library Journal and the ALA (American Library Association) as having narrated one of their top audiobooks for the year. Nominated for several Audie Awards (the audiobook's version of the Academy Award), she was nominated in the same category with Oscar-winning actor Johnny Depp. She has taught both acting and audiobook narration and directed celebrity clients in audiobooks, including Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Sorbo.

In addition to audiobooks, her voice appears on several video games including the bestselling titles "Metal Gear Solid,"  "Everquest II," "So Com II," "Buraiden," "Gungrave OD," and "Pursuit Force."  And if that isn’t enough, Renée has recorded hundreds of voice-overs for TV and radio commercials, including a two-year run as the voice of the Target retail stores, and voicing major political campaigns.
Recently, she embarked upon a new role as an entrepreneur and producer. Her own production company hires other narrators to voice technically rich audio text-books for colleges and universities - a niche that is expected to explode in the coming years with the popularization of online colleges and universities.  These higher-education audio textbooks allow all students (including those with vision or reading disabilities) to study and review from their iPods, cell phones or laptops and tablets.
Renée lives in the Westlake Village community of Los Angeles and recently became engaged. In her spare time, she does not pick up a book.

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