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Monday, September 30, 2013

Welcome Audiobook Producer - Stevie Zimmerman!


Today it’s my pleasure to welcome audiobook producer Stevie Zimmerman to Lady Scribes! I have been fortunate enough to have Stevie produce/narrate all of the books in my Scandalous Series. (She’s currently hard at work on A Scandalous Past as we speak.) And I could not be happier. Stevie has such a wonderful voice and hearing her narrate my stories always brings a smile to my face. It’s been so long ago that I wrote the Scandalous Series, and hearing her retell the story reminds me how much I loved writing those books.

My good friends Deb Marlowe and Rose Gordon have also worked with Stevie on some audiobooks, and we thought it might be fun to have a little “chat” between the four of us.  So without further ado, please welcome Stevie Zimmerman!

AVA: Hi, Stevie, thank you so much for being with us today. I was hoping you could tell everyone how you became a voice talent and how you started producing audiobooks.

STEVIE: Hello everyone. Lovely to be here!

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Well, I got started quite by chance really. I took an evening class several years ago that turned out to be a thinly disguised sales pitch for a company making demos. I decided to ignore their expensive plans for me but was intrigued at the idea that there might be a niche for my accent in the US market. I found someone else to make a demo with and then contacted some local studios (in Hartford, CT) and got a few radio ads. My first job was doing 10 second ads for Hartford itself – promoting the things there were to do in town that summer. I think they wanted me because the spots were so short and my accent at least sounded different in the crowded radio noise. That started getting me some attention and I was hired to do a lot of e-learning narrations for companies that needed a voice that would work in lots of different markets and countries. My natural accent is perceived as sort of neutral by multi-national companies. I enjoyed the long-form much more than the quick commercials and so I started trying to find audiobook work.  Ava’s  “A Scandalous Wife” was my first ever book!

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ROSE: What is your typical day like recording?

STEVIE: I work from home so a lot depends on what is going on with the rest of the world – it needs to be quiet, undisturbed, focused time. Not always the easiest thing in the world. I have an ancient cat who thinks she should be part of the action quite often! But ordinarily I try to record several chapters at a go and then return to edit them later. That way I get more of a flow to the narration and consistency in the tone and feel of the story and characters.

DEB: Do you read the whole book before you start recording or do you read them a chapter at a time as you record?

STEVIE: I read one chapter at a time. I like to get some sense of discovering the story along with the reader. I don’t want to know ahead of time that at the end of the story the bad guy turns out to be the hero and have that affect how I read him earlier in the story. Going chapter to chapter allows me to be part of the unfolding, the journey, not some omniscient presence. Perhaps I would have a different approach with a different type of book, but the novels I have done so far have all had an element of romantic suspense to them which I want to keep immediate.

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AVA: When I do a search for your name at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, it seems you have become quite the star of Regency Romance audiobooks. Was that by chance? Or was it a genre you were looking for? (And since you ARE English, do you find it odd the number of American writers who focus on that specific time period of British history?)

STEVIE: Thanks for the ‘star’! When I started auditioning for audiobooks the authors looking specifically for English accents were all Regency Romance authors.  You were the first person to offer me an opportunity and it grew from there. So yes,  quite by chance.

I do find it amusing how popular the time period is over here – the popularity of Jane Austen on TV and in movies has always amazed me. Not because I don’t absolutely love Jane Austen – when I got married I made it a stipulation that my husband read “Persuasion” on our honeymoon! But because it always seemed to me her ironic commentary on England’s class structure and social rules and restrictions would be lost on a country which so prides itself on inclusiveness and the possibility of everyone ‘making it’. But the romance of that era is undeniable, and I see in my daughter, who is all-American, that there is still a real desire to be swept off your feet by a gallant hero. And there are nasty gossipmongers and rakes and cads everywhere. Pretty Little Liars is Regency Romance in modern clothes…

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DEB: I adored how you gave life to the different classes (from guttersnipes to dukes!) in The Love List, as well as the different nationalities.  Do you enjoy the different accents?  Or are they difficult?

STEVIE: I love doing the accents. It’s one of my favourite parts of the job. And “The Love List” has a great cast of characters to convey. I don’t have an endless supply, but when it’s called for it’s a really fun thing to do. I wanted to be an actress from the age of about 5 and, although I realized when I was in college that I didn’t have “it”, I am still very involved in theatre as a director in the DC area. The audiobooks allow me to still do a bit of acting!

ROSE: Be honest, did you imagine yourself as the heroine as you read the book?

STEVIE: Honestly, no!  I identify with the longing the women in all the books feel for romance, for independence within a strong and protective relationship, for the feeling of being adored and longed for. But since every heroine is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, and I’m well into my twentieth year of marriage, that’s about as far as it goes. I did recognize some of the frustrations she feels (in “Her Reluctrant Groom”) dealing with such a reluctant and recalcitrant hero, especially when their mutual attraction is so obvious.

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AVA: As romance authors, I know I’ve gotten the “look” from people who find out what I write. Do you experience the same thing when people find out you’re narrating romance?

STEVIE: I think most people I work with in the theatre understand that all story-telling is valid. It may not be their choice of genre, but ultimately that’s what all actors and directors and designers are doing. Years ago I had the privilege of meeting Patrick Stewart, a great Shakespearean actor who had just taken on the reboot of Star Trek. He was being given a lot of grief about that but his view was that had Shakespeare been alive, he’d have been writing just the type of stories Star Trek told every week. Great story telling is nothing to do with the snobbish values some people want to put on it. Having said that, there are probably some people I actually haven’t told about this aspect of my work because it would change how they perceive me!

DEB: So, how do you feel about reading those sex scenes?  :-)

STEVIE: Well, I must admit I was a bit surprised when I came upon them in “A Scandalous Wife” only because I hadn’t expected it. I am no prude but reading them out loud took a little doing, and I had to make sure no one was eavesdropping!  It’s kind of like eating chocolate though – part of the fun is in the sinning…….

ROSE: Was there a part where you had to record it more than once so you could keep a straight face and a steady tone?

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STEVIE: So far no. I have narrated one book that was so sexually focused - and different from the rest of the books I have done -  that I decided to put it under a different name. I didn’t realize going in what kind of book it was, and then I was committed. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed, although I didn’t get it quite, but that I didn’t want to put listeners off books such as “The Love List”, “Her Reluctant Groom”, and the Scandalous series by association with something honestly rather kinky. I hope listeners enjoy my narration enough to seek out other books I have done, but I also hope I can stay out of the way enough to allow them to have their own fantasy moments through those scenes.

AVA: Well, we know you are busy working on several projects, Stevie, but we really appreciate you taking the time to be here with us today and for answering our questions. And we’d also like to thank you for doing such an excellent job producing our books!

STEVIE: It’s been great having this chance to talk about the work! It can feel a little isolated sometimes, sitting reading into my microphone so it is great to have this chance to connect with all of you, and your readers. Cheers!

AVA: You are all in luck! I talked Stevie into stopping by some today to answer any questions readers or authors might have about all things audibooks. And I'll select one commenter to win a free Audible copy of A SCANDALOUS WIFE today. I am curious...Are you a reader or a listener or both? And have you listened to any of Stevie's awesome narrations? 

23 comments:

  1. Welcome, Stevie! We are so glad to have you visit today!

    I cannot tell you how many times I have had compliments on the audio version of The Love List. I always tell readers how fabulous you are!

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  2. I'll be blushing the rest of the day over the fact that Stevie wasn't expecting a sex scene and then got one in A Scandalous Wife, I hope I didn't shock her too badly. ;)

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    1. Recently readers told me if I was blushing when writing a sex scene, it meant I was doing it right. I think you can apply the same rule in this situation. ;)

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  3. Rose, Ava and Deb are three of my favorite authors. I have never had an audiobook, but would love to start with one of theirs!!

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  4. I have just started looking into the auidobook world. To date I haven't listened to one yet, but can see the convenience it must offer. Being able to work and drive while listening to your favorite story!

    How fun it must be to bring the characters alive in this new way!

    So glad to read this interview ladies! Good luck to all of you one your future work!

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  5. Had a question on my FB for you Stevie! The lovely Brain Waves had difficulty posting here, so I'm copying from FB.

    I do not think my question posted...I wondered if Stevie ever turned down an audio opportunity? Also, does she attend your writing conferences?

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    1. Thank you so very much for posting this. I think I figured out the glitch, and am going to post this to both express my appreciation for Deb Marlowe's help and to test out my fix...crossing fingers!

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    2. Hello all - sorry for being absent for a bit. I was in my studio - recording!
      Yes, I have turned down a couple of recording opportunities. One was for a book on economics which I just didn't fancy - not having much interest in the subject, but I also thought it wouldn't sell. The other one was just too weird - kinky yes, but also set in some crazy invented alternate universe. I didn't think I'd be able to get through it without feeling like I had sold out!

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  6. Stevie, do you do Scottish accents?

    I love listening to audiobooks, but I also am putting several of my books in audiobook form. Will have to check out your audio samples!

    Thanks, Ava, great interview! I so agree with you and how much fun it is hearing the books come to life! :)

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    1. Terry, Stevie can answer this too, but she might not rave as much as I will on her behalf. She does AMAZING Scottish accents!

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    2. Thanks, Ava! I LOVE Scottish accents. And English accents!

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    3. Aw gee shucks Ava - thanks for that!
      I really enjoy doing the Scots accent. I try to channel my inner Maggie Smith. Since I was a child I've enjoyed her acting and especially when she plays a Scot - way before Harry Potter. Check out the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

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  7. Well... JERRICA is STILL without internet. What is up with that???? But from her iphone she sent this question and asked me to post it...

    "Welcome to Lady Scribes, Stevie!! I'm so excited to have you narrating my Daring Debutante series! :) And it was awesome getting to know you better!

    My question is this...we writers are a tight-knit group, and the writing world is very small. I'm curious if the narrating world is similar? Have you connected with other narrators of Regency Romance novels?

    Great interview, ladies!"

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    1. Sadly no! Not yet. As I mentioned in the interview, it can be a lonely business, sitting in your studio with your headphones on, talking effectively to yourself. In fact, before I started doing audiobooks I talked to someone who made a living doing it and he said "If you think you want to try this, go into your closet, close the door and talk to yourself for four hours straight. If that doesn't make you crazy maybe you can do it."
      Having said all that, I would love to connect with other narrators at some point. I recently found out that a childhood friend who I haven't seen for forty years is doing them too, completely coincidentally. But she is American doing them in London. Weird little flipped over world.

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    2. I'm loving getting to know the authors though. Even though you all write in a similar genre, there are real differences in style and manner, and in my direct interactions with you all as we get the books out there.

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  8. What a great interview! I can't wait to hear one of the books you've done, Stevie! I have to admit I haven't listened to an audio book in years but this has really sparked my interest!

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  9. Hi, Stevie! Welcome to Lady Scribes. :)
    I find your process interesting. I like that you go chapter by chapter. It never occurred to me the narrator might become biased toward a character and read the person different.

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    1. Thank you!
      I hadn't really thought about it until I started doing the work. I had an amazing experience a few years ago. My husband (mentioned before, re. Persuasion) had never read Pride and Prejudice! and we started watching the amazing Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth BBC series. And my husband, week after week, is saying 'oh he's horrible, she won't end up with him'. Which made me realise what a treasure it was to see that series NOT knowing the outcome. It would be like going to see Romeo and Juliet without knowing the ending. And I thought how I should not give readers (listeners) any hint of what might be to come and the best way I could think to do that was to not know myself.

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  10. I have never tried an audio book. I guess I am old fashioned that I like to read the book, but I would like to give it a try

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  11. Congratulations Sharon Fournier! My son drew your name out of a hat. Email me at ava@avastoneauthor.com for the audiobook code.

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