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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Audiobook Reader/Performer Tavia Gilbert and Giveaway of The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher



I'm thrilled to have audiobook reader Tavia Gilbert on the blog today! When I heard that The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher would be made into an audiobook by Dreamscape, I was thrilled, and the moment I heard Tavia Gilbert's audio sample, I knew that she was the perfect choice to bring my story to life. She's a truly gifted performer and I'm so very grateful that she wanted to become the voice of my version of Becky Thatcher. Dreamscape has generously offered to provide a copy of the audiobook for a special giveaway; just leave a comment on this post and you'll be entered! UPDATE: Random.org has spoken and the winner is KENDA TURNER! And there's another chance to win over at Tavia's blog!

Tavia is an award-winning narrator with nearly 300 audiobooks under her belt. Contemporary and literary fiction, biography and memoir, fantasy, romance, children’s literature, science, religion, and more. Tavia’s range of genres is a direct result of her intuitive interpretation, clever diction and pacing, and sensitivity to each author’s or publisher’s needs.

Tell us briefly how you started narrating/performing audiobooks.

My lifelong dream has always been to be a professional actor, and I studied theater in college, earning a BFA in Acting from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. About a year after graduation I moved to Portland, Maine, for what I planned would be about six months, to attend the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, immersing myself in learning the craft of documentary radio. Sound had always been a passion — I’d sung all my life in choirs and loved radio, was passionate about voice studies at Cornish, and had listened to a few magnificent audiobooks.

When the time drew near for me to return to Washington, I met someone and began an important, long-term relationship, and soon realized that Maine was going to be in my life much longer than I’d anticipated. I did commercial work and professional theater in Portland, but still had to rely on a day job, and that was not the dream. Voice acting was the only obvious path to being a self-supporting, full-time, professional actor even from a small market like New England. I set my sights on audiobooks, listened voraciously to the best narrators, took classes, got individual coaching, joined the professional trade organization that organizes the audiobook industry, worked toward breaking in for a couple years, and have now been a full-time narrator for seven years, with about 300 books recorded.

How do you find out about different book jobs that are available?

Most often publishers contact me and assign a book that they think is well suited to my particular voice and acting skills and experience. Or I’ll be given the opportunity to audition for a project, and sometimes I book the job, sometimes not. (Your book was one that I auditioned for, and I wanted it so much it almost hurt, actually! Usually I try to forget about the things I audition for, so if someone else is cast I’m not too disappointed, but I couldn’t manage to do that with Becky Thatcher.) Increasingly, writers contact me directly with projects that they’d like me to work on. Occasionally I’ll pursue a book or a writer’s work that I’m personally interested in. However they come, I’m very grateful!

Do you do different voices? What is your process for developing character voices?

I do do character voices, and I really love vocally creating distinct personalities. That’s one of my strengths, I think — managing the demands of differentiating great numbers of people of various ages, races, genders, attitudes, classes, and dialects. I’m not a master at precise dialect — some I do better than others — but I do create a cinematic landscape successfully, so that the listener always knows who is speaking and the characters remain specific and individual. I don’t actually have much of a process, to be honest with you! I should develop one, probably. I just read the book and take into consideration what the characters say about themselves and each other, and then I act in the present moment, tweak if I need to, take notes so that I can remain consistent throughout a book or a series, and always let the words on the page guide the performance.

Are narrations of books always done word-for-word as written, or are there adaptions needed in some cases to make the spoken version make more sense or flow more clearly?

Narrations are and should be word for word. Narrating an audiobook reveals writing weaknesses quickly. Many skilled writers read their work aloud as they draft and revise, because they know that the rhythm and sensibility, the poetry and lyricism of language can be highlighted when words are brought off the page. If the language is clunky or awkward aurally, it should be rewritten so that it flows, whether it’s going to be read or listened to. 

Your writing was lovely to read. Truly — it is a great pleasure to narrate beautifully- written work. It’s not only a great pleasure — it’s almost always easy and even relaxing to read well-crafted literature. There are exceptions — Annie Dillard is brilliant, but really challenging to voice — but most often, the better the writing, the easier my job. When it’s great, the story almost reads itself.

What are the special considerations an audiobook narrator has when taking care of his/her voice?

I stay very hydrated, drinking water and a combination of Throat Coat and Breathe Right tea throughout the day. I don’t smoke or spend time in smoky environments, only drink with moderation, and would be reluctant to go to an event or a gathering where I had to yell or raise my voice to be heard for a long period of time. I exercise and stay fit and strong so that I’m supporting my voice with as healthy a back, neck, and shoulders, and core as I can. I try to get a lot of sleep. It’s everything, my voice. So I try to take good care of it.

What do you like to read/listen to in your free time?

I have far too little time to read for pleasure, which is a shame, because I’ve been an avid reader all my life. But when I do have time, I read literary fiction, memoir, theology and spiritual contemplation, and narrative non-fiction. I listen to audio a lot, when I’m commuting on the subway, exercising, or doing housework, and I listen to the same things I read for pleasure. I also occasionally listen to purely entertaining things like thrillers and mysteries if the narrator is one of my favorites. If I love a particular narrator’s work I’ll listen to anything they perform, because they can make everything they do fantastic! My favorite narrators are Barbara Rosenblat, Davina Porter, Katherine Kellgren, Bernadette Dunne, Carol Monda, Suzanne Toren, Simon Vance, Richard Ferrone, Johnny Heller, George Guidall, Norman Dietz. They’re also some of my favorite people!

What projects do you have coming up next?

Oh, I have such interesting things! I’m doing a biography of Coco Chanel right now, wonderfully researched and written by Rhonda Garelick, the autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt, which is remarkable and inspiring and humbling, and the memoir Not Fade Away by Rebecca Alexander, about the way Rebecca chooses to live with joy and ambition even with the diminishing of her sight and hearing. Narrating the stories of four notable women in a row is just wonderful. Who’s the fourth? Becky Thatcher, of course!

Thank you so much, Tavia, for taking the time to answer my questions. Again, I'm so grateful that you chose to voice Becky T!

LINKS~ Find out more about Tavia here!

taviagilbert.com

twitter.com/taviagilbert

facebook.com/taviagilbertswords


Just leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Dreamscape's audiobook of The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher! A winner will be chosen via Random.org next Wednesday, August 6. UPDATE: Per Random.org, the winner is Kenda Turner!

38 comments:

  1. Congrats on having your book in audio version. So interesting hearing from Tavia. I love audio books but couldn't imagine the work involved to make it sound so perfect. Let someone win the audio book who hasn't read it. It'd be awesome if it gets in a librarians hands.

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    1. Thank you, Natalie~ I loved learning more about the audiobook world as well. Tavia's so talented and I'm thrilled that she's voicing Becky T. :)

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  2. Thanks for the interview, ladies! It was super interesting to learn more about audio books and narrators. And I can imagine that colds are Tavia's arch nemesis! =)

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    1. Ha! Yes, I expect that colds are the devil :)

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  3. Fantastic news Jess. I have always thought that professional readers make such a big difference in audio books. I have suffered through too many probably good books where the author insisted on being his/her own reader.

    Also, I like how Tavia describes good writing for the most part, as being the easiest to work with. I think good writing + talented voice = bring books to a next level. Pure enjoyment for me.

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    1. Tavia is so great~ I love it when audiobook readers do all of the voices and really capture the story and she's a master at those things :)

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  4. I enjoy listening to audiobooks--so to learn more about the process and "meet" an audiobook reader here has been a real treat! Thanks, Tavia, for your insights into the process and your background, and thanks, Jess for hosting :-) Great interview. And congrats, Jess, for having Becky Thatcher chosen for an audiobook! Can't wait to read your book and hear it read!

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    1. Thanks, Kenda! I haven't heard the whole thing yet, so I can't wait to hear it either :)

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  5. I would love to share this with my children at home and students at school!

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    1. Thanks, good luck in the giveaway!

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  6. I know a voice actress who can do an okay Spanish accent. Before she does it, she recites the words "Corinthian leather." If you're old enough, you'll get that.

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  8. What a fascinating job, Tavia! Your work sound fascinating and makes me want to listen to all your audio books. Congrats, Jess, on having your book on audio - I'd love to listen!

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    1. I agree, Amy~ Tavia's career sounds wonderful and challenging.

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  9. So cool! I've never read an interview with an audiobook actor/narrator before. That is one job I WISH I could do, but know I can't... ;/
    And of course I would love to win a copy of the audiobook!

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    1. I wish I could do it, too! Tavia's so talented :)

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  10. So super interesting! I really admire the way Tavia found a way to make her theater training work for her in a place that could have seemed limiting to her career. Don't include me in the drawing, since we already reading BECKY aloud in our house (C is loving it!) - but I already have a library hold on the audio recording so I can hear Tavia's interpretation!

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    1. Glad you placed a library hold! My own library system doesn't have it in stock, but I'm going to try to remedy that :)

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  11. Congrats on the audiobook! I hope my library gets copies. :)

    PS: Don't count me in the giveaway.

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    1. I hope it does, too~ feel free to ask them to order it if they don't :)

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    2. And thank you for the congrats!

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  12. Congrats on the audio from me, too...and yep yep you have an awesome narrator. So cool to learn more about her in this interview. Thanks!

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  13. Wow, can't believe I'm the lucky winner! Thanks so much, Jess :-) I'm looking forward to hearing your book read by Tavia. And I'll be sure to share it with others. It will be a privilege to pass the word along about the wonderful adventures of Becky Thatcher!

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