Interview: Successful Narrator Lorelei King

Excited doesn't even begin to explain my reaction to Lorelei King welcoming an interview from The Bookie Monster. Having just reviewed Janet Evanovich's Takedown Twenty and guest posting about my love for audiobooks on The Dynamic Ram, this interview is a bit of kismet.

LORELEI KING is an actress who has appeared in films such as 'Notting Hill', 'The Saint' and 'House of Mirth'. She has played regular and recurring characters in popular British television shows such as Chef, Cold Feet, and Emmerdale.

A multi-award-winning narrator, she has recorded over 200 audio books, and - once described as 'the best known American voice on Radio 4’ - Lorelei has also recorded more than 200 programs for the BBC. She is co-founder of the digital publishing company, Creative Content Ltd. 

Hey, Lorelei! Let me just say how excited I am that you agreed to be interviewed by The Bookie Monster. After we spoke, I literally ran into my husband’s office and jumped around his room doing the happy dance. You made this Monster’s day! Let’s get down to brass tacks. I've been dying to ask you some questions. Be glad that I edited them down…I had over 50! 

You’re so sweet! :D

You give listeners such an amazing range of character voices. It utterly amazes me how spot on you are. How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound? 

Wow! What a nice thing to say.  Thank you!  Playing lots of characters is one of my favorite parts of the job. Clarity for the listener is of the utmost importance, so voices have to be distinguishable from each other. But some books might have as many as a hundred speaking characters – and that can be challenging! I have a pretty solid background in radio drama and I do a fair bit of animation, which helps. I think the trick to doing character voices is to not be afraid of making a fool of yourself! You have to try things to see what works. The author will often specify an accent or voice quality, which helps, but if not – I just hear a voice in my head for that character, or I construct one using a technique I invented for myself called ‘layering’.  It’s a method of putting vocal elements together in a way that gives me a wide range of voices. 

What character has given you the most grief? 

Any character who speaks with a Scottish accent is bound to reduce me to tears.

What’s your usual process for narration? Do you read the book first to get a feel for it then dive in? Do you read chapters in an entire sitting or do you break it up?  

Over the years I've developed a system that works for me. I read the book through once, making a cast list and a words-to-be-looked-up-for-pronunciation list as I go – things like medical terms, place names and so on. I do very little marking up of the script itself, unless there’s a particularly tricky passage where the word stress isn't obvious. If there’s a ‘stage direction’ – for example, ‘he said angrily’ – I’ll circle that adverb so that I see it and know what the delivery should be before I say the line. I’ll do anything to avoid retakes! These days I read from my iPad and mark up the script using iAnnotate, the best app ever.

How do you stop yourself from laughing at some of the things Janet Evanovich writes? Some of her books have had my laughing so hard out loud that I nearly cried! 

Tell me about it! The short answer is: I don’t stop myself. I just laugh hysterically and the patient engineer stops the recording and we resume once we've both gotten it out of our systems! :D Sometimes I keep getting the giggles and we have to repeat the process several times. Grandma Mazur being described as a soup chicken was one such occasion. Hilarious.

How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks? 

Serendipity! Someone who had employed me as a dubber in the past needed a female US narrator for a book of short stories – turned out I absolutely loved it and had a bit of a knack for it.

It’s no big secret that you are The Bookie Monsters favorite narrator. But do you have a list of your own favorites? 

Oh, that’s made my day. Thank you so much! Yes, I am in awe of loads of narrators: I love Dan Stevens – such an intelligent reader! - Steven Pacey, Barbara Rosenblat and Adjoa Andoh, to name but a few.

Do you usually get feedback from an author of how they envision their characters sounding? 

The author will usually give clues in the writing as to how the character should sound. I don’t recall a writer ever saying to me, ‘Oh, you should do so-and-so this way.’ Usually they leave the narrator to interpret. Having said that, I have once or twice asked for clarification from a writer as to whether a character should have a certain accent or not.

The first six books were narrated by C.J. Critt, Debi Mazar and Lori Petty. In fact, the first four have multiple releases. If memory serves, you took the reins at number seven. How did you get approached to take over? 

I had done (abridged) UK versions of the first seven, and was approached by the publisher to do the US versions for number 7 onwards. It was a normal approach through my agent, as I recall.

Why do you think your narration has had so much more success over the earlier versions? 

Good heavens! I don’t know that it has. I think every narrator brings something special to the party.  I just feel so lucky that I get to record such a great series.

Is there anything in the works for you to go back and complete the first six books? 

Although, as I said, I recorded abridged versions of those first six (in the UK), I've never done the unabridged – but I would love to!

You co-own Creative Content. Tell us about that. What do you look for in the books you publish? 

Ali Muirden (my business partner) and I publish both fiction and non-fiction. In non-fiction, we look for expertise and stylish writing. In fiction, we look for good writing and a great story – like all publishers! We publish terrific crime fiction, which I adore, but I’d also love to find some good romance or paranormal. They’re popular genres.

Do you have submissions from indie authors or through literary agents? 

We've had submissions both ways – and sometimes established authors have approached us directly if they've wanted to try something new that might not have suited a conventional print publisher.

How would someone go about submitting a book to Creative Content? 

In the first instance (for both fiction and non-fiction), I’d suggest contact through the website telling us a bit about who you are and giving the ‘elevator pitch’ – a few lines saying what the book is about. If it sounds interesting, we normally follow that up with an invitation to send a proper synopsis and some sample chapters.

You really are a jack of all trades. What aspect of your career do you enjoy the most? 

The variety! I've always been someone who’s easily bored (is that one of the signs of a psychopath? I can’t remember!), so having lots of different things to do suits me down to the ground.

I’m guessing your talent is in high demand. Heck, I’m trying to figure out how to wrangle you into narrating my book once it’s finished! What is your selection process for choosing books to narrate? 

If the budget is there and I can schedule it in, I try to record most of the books I’m asked to do. Lack of time is usually the culprit if I can’t do something. The only book I thought about quite carefully before recording was ‘The Stranger Beside Me’, a non-fiction book about serial killer Ted Bundy. It was a very good book, and I did it in the end, but I had to think very carefully about having that kind of real-life darkness in my head.

I always purchase the actual book of those I select to go for audio. I read them both and compare. You are by no means “just the narrator” of the books you release. Your efforts have actually increased the likability of many of the books I chose to read in audio form. Do you pay attention to the sales statistics of the books you narrate? If so, how does it make you feel when sales are great, underwhelming? 

First of all, what a lovely thing to say! I’m always happy if people enjoy my interpretation of a book. Although I am obviously thrilled when ‘my’ authors do well in the charts, I don’t really pay attention to the sales stats of the books I narrate – these days the only sales stats that concern me are those of the books we publish at Creative Content!

As a narrator, do you get compensated in a set amount or do you also receive royalties from the individual sales? 

It depends – every contract is different. There are books from which I receive royalties, but these days most books are done on a buyout basis.

If a set amount, is it the same for all books or does it vary based on the author, length, etc… Again, each contract is negotiated differently and depends on a number of factors – but length certainly has an impact. A 12-hour-long book is a lot more work (as regards both preparation and studio time) than a 6-hour -long book, for example, and the fee will be correspondingly higher.

What are you working on now? 

Squeezing in a couple of audio book records before the end of the year, finalizing our Creative Content publishing schedule for the first half of 2014, and doing some writing and voice directing on Chuggington, the preschool TV show I work on.

In ten words or less:

  • How did your husband propose? 
    • On his knees, covered in cat hair. 
  • If you had to choose to become one of the characters you've read, who would it be and why? 
    • Grandma Mazur. Enjoys life to the full and doesn't worry.
  • Worst job ever? 
    • Changing room attendant at a ghastly warehouse-type megastore.
  • Last thing you dressed up as for Halloween? 
    • Medusa.
  • What is the craziest thing you have ever done? 
    • Due to the statute of limitations, I couldn't possibly say.
  • What is your biggest pet peeve? 
    • Sloppy grammar.
  • Zombies – Inevitable outbreak or purely fiction? 
    • Purely fictionaaaAARRRRRGGH! *thump*

Where can readers stalk you?
Creative Content: