Jean Oram's Books

Interview with Audiobook Narrator Cris Dukehart

Who is the voice behind the audiobook version of Champagne and Lemon Drops? Cris Dukehart!

She graciously allowed me to interview her and here’s the behind-the-scenes scoop on narrating an audiobook as well as what it was like immersing herself in Blueberry Springs as she recorded Champagne and Lemon Drops.

Cris Dukehart

Who was your favourite Blueberry Springs character?

EEEP! That’s so HARD! What is that saying? That picking a favorite character is like picking a favorite child?

CrisDukehartHeadshotNOW… if you had asked my favorite character to VOICE… that one’s a little easier. Ever since I was cast, in 4th grade, as one of Cinderella’s evil stepsisters and after a brief but VERY dramatic period of grieving and lamentation at NOT being cast as the sweetly chirping, lovely (BLONDE!) heroine, realized how much more FUN it was to PLAY BAD… to rip a dress to shreds without consequence (EVEN TO CHEERS)… to walk with an exaggerated hip sway and nasty sneer (knowing that after the show Cinderella was coming over to spend the night)… to give mean looks and be applauded for them rather than promptly deposited in time out… I have, more oft than not, positively celebrated the antagonist.

It follows then, that my favorite characters to voice (so far) in Blueberry Springs are Mandy, our gal Beth’s perceived nemesis and Oz’s mother, Angelica.

 

Do voices just ‘come to you’ when you are preparing to narrate or is there research you find you need to do?

Oz_ChampagneandLemonDrops2Both, sort of. Part of my process as a narrator is to “pre-read” the story. I’m not really reading for content in those first moments, but rather for clues to voice and character… I’m sort of researching within the story itself. I gather and horde, like some hobbitty thing, any and all textual hints from the author, scribbling each character in a note pad as well as their history, appearance, habits and traits. And then, when I have a chance, I pick the author’s noggin. 😉

If a character has a lisp or chews gum… is bold or hesitant… has a back story that will sound in their voice or is, in Mary Alice’s case, the wonderful sage-like busybody everyone adores… these things are as integral to me in developing a character’s voice as the actual textual clues of timbre and tone and depth.

Accents, particularly those of places I have yet to travel to, often find me youtubing, or calling hotels and libraries in the area (if it isn’t a fictional location) and even, in some cases, enlisting the assistance of one of a few websites designed for dialects of the English language, or a dialect coach.

 

Briefly, what is the process of recording an audiobook? I know you do a read through of the book before you start. What sort of notes do you make for yourself to help along the process of recording the book?

Oz_ChampagneandLemonDrops3Yes, there’s the pre-read where I make notes on characters and voices as well as any words or concepts I am unfamiliar with…

Then I set up my gear (audiobooks require different recording settings than say… commercial audio… due to the varied tones, and volumes and voices required in an audiobook…)

I go put the tea kettle on for my “Throat Coat” tea (I sip it through the read to help with voice fatigue), grab a Granny Smith apple from the fridge (a small nibble helps with mouth smackiness and icky noisy sounds that my lips, teeth, and gums make… noises I was, prior to spending long hours talking into an extremely sensitive microphone, blissfully unaware I made but that I am now HYPER sensitive to… BLE-ARG) … put on my “quiet clothes” if I am not already wearing them (it is ASTOUNDING how LOUD some shirts are and jewelry… FORGET IT!) and hole up in my little padded room to talk to myself for a few hours. (*giggle*snort*)

 

How long does it take to create a 9 hour audiobook?

ChampagneLemonDrops518KIt typically takes me a ratio of 2:1 to record… give or take a bit… so for every 1 hour of audio, equates to 2 hours in the booth, accounting for stumbles and voice cracks, stomach grumblings, small children howling “MOOOOOM, I NEED…”(well… you name it… when I get in my booth, they need it), and any other myriad noises that interrupt recording.

After I record, there is a whole process of audio magic that happens, where the audio is reviewed, edited, mistakes are caught, I re-record the mistakes and then there is “mastering” and quality control… all of it, I would estimate, adds up to somewhere between 5-7 hours/1hour of finished audio.

So… if my math is correct (and it should be because I am using a calculator (giggle*snort*), that’s about 63 hours for a nine hour audiobook.

 

Do you keep a file of the ‘samples’ of the different book voices? How do you remember what everyone sounds like?

I do keep voice files, though I didn’t (even though it was recommended by any number of experienced narrators) always. One time of having to go back and listen to 18 HOURS of a story, with notepad in hand, in order to “remember” characters in a first book… for a sequel, cured me of THAT SILLINESS!

Oz_ChampagneandLemonDrops4Now, for each book, I make short recordings of each character saying their name as well as speaking a few lines so if and when a sequel happens, I can refer to the files rather than listening to 18 hours before recording.

As for remembering voices while recording… generally when I’m recording, the story plays out in my head as it might on a screen (I just happen to be all of the characters)… snort… THAT sounds like ALL SORTS of work related psychosis, doesn’t it? (laughing)… Like my friends down the street, my sisters, or my children, the characters in the book I’m narrating typically talk all day in my head… like they do for an author I think. They, and the author, provide a running dialog that is sometimes so real to me that upon exiting the “dead quiet” isolation of my booth I am astounded to find that I am still in my little post-it note cottage in rural Pennsylvania and not in coastal France, or Canada, Texas, some as yet undiscovered planet or world or ANYWHERE, USA.

 

Did you have a man you were rooting for—Oz or Nash—in the story?

Oz_ChampagneandLemonDrops1Which chapter? Or even… which page?

(ACK! I am SUCH a fickle fanny!)

For much of the book, I was Team OZ…

I am all about redemption… OH and HANDS!!!

You can tell a world… an absolute WORLD… about a fellow from his hands… and I loved the references to Oz’s.

But… Well… that Paris vacation with Nash… what gal DOESN’T like a little “je ne sais quoi”?

A little “sweep me away” romance?

Plus and also too, I really believe that when a door appears to close, it is only to allow another, more suitable, more DESIRABLE one to open. I really LIKED Nash but… well… he was never really SUITED for our gal Beth… not really.

That door, for him is closed… but… well… there is someone for him though… I feel certain. 😉 (and SQUEEEE if I get to narrate their STORY!!!!)

 

What did you like most about Beth?

Oz_ChampagneandLemonDrops5Beth was REAL.

If she was conflicted, she didn’t pretend otherwise… she invited us into her conflict and perhaps even LARGER… into her resolution process… and she made no excuses for either. It was refreshing and, I felt, inspiring.

In addition, Beth and I share a love of the happily ever after… the fairytale. And I absolutely appreciated that when Beth’s fairytale turned on its end… after consideration and a little fumbling about, she rewrote it to suit.

 

Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog… and to Blueberry Springs.


Take a listen to Cris Dukehart narrating Champagne and Lemon Drops!


Listen to the entire book:

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Audible
iTunes

Psst! Not an Audible member? You can get the first book free when you sign up for a free trial membership.

Not your speed but still want big savings? Snag the ebook on Amazon, THEN upgrade to audio for only a few dollars more! The two are Whispersynced–read and listen and your devices will remembered where you left off!



 

Loved it? Leave a review! Both Cris and I love getting online reviews on our work–it really helps us out. Thank you!



4 Comments

  1. Nice! Cris’s voice is terrific for the book! Loved the insights into the process too – thanks!

    1. Thanks, Jemi!

      Cris is so fun! She really brings the characters to life–I love it!

      🙂

  2. Sarah Jane Huffman

    It is 4:30AM AND four and a half hours into the New Year of 2016. What better way to celebrate than with a lovely read by my favorite voiceover artist, Cris Dukehart! I so enjoyed the interview with her as it renderer a glimpse into the world of a narrator and underscored the unique bond developed between author and narrator. Through this union, voice and life is breathed into each character within the book. I learn more about Cris each time I listen to her read…and I doubted there was little I did not already know about her. Was I ever wrong! It takes a lot for me to admit to this as, you see, I am her proud Mom. I easily see how Cris and Jean have developed such a great relationship. Smooches and kadoos to you both! Have a blessed and productive New Year!

    1. Hi Sarah!

      Thanks for commenting. Cris is amazing! I can’t believe how she brought Blueberry Springs to life–she made it seem so easy. (Even though I most definitely know I do not possess anywhere near the skills to do so!)

      Happy new year!
      XO

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