An interview with Lorelei King a highly successful audiobook narrator famous for her much loved narrations of best-selling authors Patricia Cornwell, Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton to name but a few.
An accomplished American actress, she has appeared in numerous films such as Notting Hill’ and ‘The Saint.
Lorelei was Born in Pennsylvania and now lives in London with her husband, actor Vincent Marzello.
Q1. How do you prepare for narrating a book?
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!
With a series book (like the one I’m about to record – ‘Wicked Business’, next in Janet Evanovich’s Diesel series), I’ll also dig out my old cast lists to make sure I’m consistent with the character voices.
Q2. How long does it take you to narrate an audio book on average?
How long is a piece of string? It depends – abridged books (rarer in this digital age!) usually take a day. Most unabridged books fall into the 3-to-5 day record category.
Q3. How do you go about preparing for an audio book narration?
As far as the script goes, I’ll prepare it as above. I’ll do any research I need to do for pronunciations or accents. As for preparing myself, I’ll generally clear the decks for the recording period as far as social engagements – no nights out with the girls! – and I’ll make sure I eat regularly and get plenty of rest, as it takes a fair bit of stamina to record several days in a row. You have to look after yourself.
Q4. Do you make many mistakes? Do you have to re-record often? It seems as though it would be difficult to read aloud as flawlessly as you do!
What a lovely thing to say! I only wish I were flawless! Having said that, I think I’m reasonably fluent, which helps in this business; it cuts down on studio and editing time. I think the key to fluency is to be able to ‘read ahead’ – my eyes are always a couple of lines ahead of what my mouth is saying. Some people can do this naturally, but I think it’s a skill that can be learned with practice.
Q5. What’s it like to work with the hilarious Lenny Henry? (From Colin)
Oh, thanks for asking that. Lenny Henry is one of the warmest, kindest, funniest people I’ve ever worked with. I’ll always remember my time on Chef with great fondness – such fun to turn up to work each day! Lenny and Roger Griffiths always made me laugh so much…. They were like the coolest, naughtiest, funniest brothers a girl could have. Everyone got along so well on that show, and I think it was largely down to the atmosphere Lenny created.
Q6. What other work do you do/have you done aside from narrating audiobooks? (Dorothy)
Oh, I’ve done lots of things throughout my life – lots of temping in offices and bar work when I was starting out! I think I now have what’s called a ‘portfolio career’. In addition to acting and voice work, I’m a voice director working in animation and video games, and I work as a writer and script editor on an animated children’s series (Chuggington).
I am also co-owner of a digital publishing company, Creative Content Ltd (www.creativecontentdigital.com). We produce audio book and eBook version of both fiction and non-fiction titles. My business partner is award-winning audio producer Ali Muirden, who was head of audio at Macmillan UK for many years. I LOVE being a publisher – its great fun to work with writers. My dream is to find a writer with a really fresh voice in the crime genre.
Q7. What were the key factors that made you think of changing from “screen” to “audio? (From Colin)
I haven’t actually changed, Colin – like most actors, I’ve always worked in all media – but it’s fair to say that during the past three years I’ve been concentrating primarily on voice work, writing, and my publishing company. I’d love to do some television or film again, but it may have to wait ‘til next year.
Q8. What is the difference in the amount of time you have to contribute to screen acting, radio acting, hosting your own show, and narrating … regarding preparation, performance etc.?” From Colin)
Wow. Good question. For narration and radio drama, the process is similar – preparation involves reading and marking up the script and thinking about the character[s] and voice[s]. Depending on how long the piece is, that can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Performance time is similar too – depends on how long the piece is! A radio play may take a day or two – a radio series can take a week or so. And the same with a book.
I loved hosting my own show (All About Eve for BBC Radio 4), and that took quite a bit of time. The actual recording doesn’t take long, but there’s prep time (getting the background on your guests, preparing the questions and so on) and then post-production time (my producer allowed me lots of input when it came to editing the show, and I was pretty hands-on).
Performing on television or film is more all-consuming. It’s a bit like being on a submarine! You have to immerse yourself in the role and learn your lines. You have costume fittings and hair and make-up tests and rehearsal (if you’re lucky!). It’s hard to think about much of anything else, and filming days tend to be long.
Q9. What is the hardest book you’ve ever had to read?
There’s ‘hard’ (negative) – and then there’s ‘challenging’ (positive)! I think the hardest book I’ve ever had to record was one that was set in the 1800s and that had what seemed like 100 Scottish male characters! I cried more than once recording that one, and I’m sure I was terrible … I’ve blocked the name of it, funnily enough! ‘Challenging’ books, on the other hand, stretch you a bit and take you out of your comfort zone.
I loved doing ‘The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai’. There was a fair bit of Chinese in it – challenging, but I loved it (and my Chinese-speaking niece Kathy was a great help!). I’m sure my Chinese was terrible, but I loved attempting it.
Q10. I’ve heard you like Reality Talent shows so who are you backing on Dancing on Ice? (From Mary)
To my shame, I am ADDICTED to reality shows – I find them so therapeutically relaxing, and I especially love being on Twitter while I’m watching. So much fun! (By the way, my Twitter name is @LoreleiKing, if you want to say ‘hi’!). I didn’t love anyone in particular on Dancing on Ice (in the UK), but think that Matt was a worthy winner. What a great skater!
Q11. How much fun do you have while reading for Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series? You do the voices so well I forget there is only one person narrating! (From Dani)
What a nice thing to say! Thank you. I LOVE recording Janet’s books – they are like a party. The characters are like my own family now, and I always look forward to spending some time with them – especially Lula and Grandma Mazur! Recording Janet Evanovich’s books is one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.
Q12. How do you read Evanovich’s novels without laughing? (Dorothy)
It’s simply not possible! There are always moments in Janet Evanovich’s novels where I just can’t stop laughing. We simply have to stop until I can get control of myself. If it’s REALLY bad, I’ll have to find really sad things to think about. Watching the news usually does the trick.
Q13. Is it difficult to do all of the voices? You really distinguish each character’s voice and inflection in each work.
Thank you! I love playing lots of characters. I have a pretty solid background in radio drama and I do a fair bit of animation, which helps. I played most (or all) of the female characters in cartoon series like Avenger Penguins and Fantomcat and the US version of Bob the Builder – and I worked for the great Dirk Maggs for years doing wonderful radio shows like ‘Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel’, ‘Death Rides the Airwaves’ and his terrific superhero ‘audio movies’.
He’d push me to do loads of voices, so I learned to be inventive! 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. I’m always on the lookout for new character voices – and if a friend or acquaintance has an unusual or quirky voice, they’re bound to turn up in one of my readings sooner or later! I never tell them, of course, because I’ve usually… um… ‘Heightened’ their quirk.
Q14. Do you have a favourite book that you have narrated?
I’ve loved most of the books I’ve recorded, so this is tough! I love the series books by Janet Evanovich, Darynda Jones and Patricia Briggs that I record … and when it comes to individual books, I have a soft spot for ‘Tallgrass’ by Sandra Dallas (we won two Audies for that in 2008 – wonderful writing!), ‘The Cabinet of Wonders’ by Marie Rutkoski (a quirky fairy tale for all ages), and ‘Valley of the Dolls’ by Jacqueline Susann (probably the first bonk buster novel – it captures a certain period of American life so well).
Q15. Do you have a favourite book that you would like to narrate?
YES. I would give just about anything to narrate Geek Love (by Katherine Dunn), but I’m afraid someone beat me to it. And I’d love to do the whole series of Oz books (The Patchwork Girl of Oz is my favourite) – but again, I think someone’s gotten in there already. Coises!
Q16. Are there some genres of books that are more difficult to narrate than others?
Non-fiction is almost always harder to narrate than fiction. I’ve done some business titles and some history titles, and it’s a challenge to keep it lively and fresh without dialogue and characters to carry you along.
Q17. You have done so much; writing, acting, narrating… if you could do anything else, what would it be?
I would love, love, love to be a radio DJ, presenting a show that was a blend of talk and eclectic music…
Q18. Is your preference acting or voice acting?
They both have things to recommend them, and I would find it difficult to say which I liked better. I suppose the advantage to voice work is that you can show up with an inch of black roots and no makeup and it doesn’t really matter.
Visual work requires that you do a certain amount of physical upkeep! Voice work allows you to read from a script, whereas with visual work you usually have to memorise your lines. Voice work can be a bit solitary, whereas visual work tends to be more social. I like them both and think they complement each other well.
Q19. What are some things that we don’t know about you from your public biography?
I love Judge Judy. I hate the taste of liquorice. I successfully completed my Grade 1 roller skating qualification and my Grade 2 flute. I can play the piano. I attended Bartending School. I have read Plato’s ‘Symposium’ in the original Greek. Now if only I could find some way to combine all of those into a career….
Q20. What upcoming projects are you working on?
This year I’m looking forward to recording more Janet Evanovich, Sara Peretsky and Darynda Jones and to scripting and voicing more Chuggington. My digital publishing company, Creative Content Ltd, will keep me busy too – we’re publishing some great audio speech titles this year, and continuing to look for original crime writing!
In the very near future, I’m looking forward to my trip to New York to attend the Audies in June – I’m nominated in two categories, which is lovely. It’s nice to be allowed out of the studio once in a while!
Questions prepared by Pete Markovic, Dorothy Distefano and members of the Audioforbooks community discussions forum.
Narrator Lorelei King the Voice behind Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum