Audiobooks, Voice Acting and the Nuance of Noise

In February 2020, I treated myself to introductory classes at The Voice Actor’s Studio of Las Vegas to explore the craft and perhaps learn how to voice audiobooks—mine in particular, given I had just launched Alienable Rights, first book in my Other Worldly series.

Despite not particularly liking tonal qualities of my voice, I do enjoy public speaking, so I was eager to give this a try. Plus, it got me out and about learning new things and meeting new faces here in Vegas, where I’d resided only four months.

Within a month, COVID caused classes to revert to online, but I persevered, grappled with logistics of Zoom like the rest of the universe, and continued learning about unwanted mouth clicks and necessary mic techniques throughout summer. Eventually I focused on audiobook voicing, aiming to tackle character voices, accents in particular. Yikes.

First, I learned that only one actor performs all voices in a book, and it can seem particularly sadistic for voicers when writers draft scenes with many characters speaking in conversation. Guilty as charged. Also, I introduced character Red MacLeod, debonair man with a heavy Scottish brogue, in Feeling Alienated, published in August.

As a writer, I could hear Red’s cadence in my head when I drafted his lines, but this did not translate well when spoken aloud—by me. And though I learned an audiobook voicer doesn’t have to produce a full-blown accent or turn a hopelessly nasal female voice into a deep male timbre, I began to seriously doubt my ability to pull this off.

It didn’t help that I’d created a protagonist particularly drawn to alien voices. Voices that were supposed to be dreamy and alluring. And perhaps I should have listened to a few audiobooks before I embarked on this journey, something I always thought I’d do if I had another job with a long, stressful commute. Not exactly my current world.

Furthermore, I definitely had doubts about embracing the highly technical aspects of voice recording, not to mention equipment costs. Turning my closet into a sound-insulated “booth” complete with microphone and all necessary accoutrements was looking pretty daunting and sounding downright impossible.

For starters, my noisy neighborhood. Think screaming fighter jets flying too low and loud on any given day at any random hour. Think neighbors evilly enamored of firecrackers, and excruciating decibel levels of what some might call music blaring from already ridiculously loud vehicles. Plus, dogs bark.

Finally, not only do I talk too damn fast (this was also problematic when I read my stuff in writers groups), but when given partial scripts to read aloud for class, everything from commercials to educational materials to book excerpts, my brain inevitably went straight to work editing and rewriting every single blasted word.

Ultimately, I discontinued classes and focused on writing my third book, Aliens Abound (which I also did too fast because despite being done in November, my editor couldn’t take a gander at it until January). It has a crowded party scene that some voice actors might not be jazzed about, and also features more of Red MacLeod’s hearty brogue, with additional Scottish lilts and adventures coming later this year in Being Alien.

But when I’m ready to turn my novels into audiobooks, I know where to find the perfect voice. The friendly, knowledgeable folks at The Voice Actor’s Studio are wickedly talented. Especially audiobook specialists Jack de Golia and Abby Elvidge. Because it will definitely need to be a voicer who doesn’t mind tackling Latin and Gaelic words and phrases.

For now, I’ll put my voice out there through the power of the pen. Because while I might be rightfully accused of talking too much, I still can’t stand the sound of my voice.

At least I don’t have extra-sensory auditory abilities like my protagonist Rowan Layne. Though I’d much prefer hearing alien voices over the thumping base booming from car radios rattling my walls, and my ability to concentrate.