Good Afternoon everyone,
I’ve started listening to the Wardrobe Series by Don Jacobson last year, and the first novel, Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, was even one of my 2019 favourites. As I continued listening to these books, I started to get very curious about the narrator Don Jacobson choose for these books. Each of these novels has many different characters from all around europe, and the narrator did a great job with all the different accents, so I wanted to know more about her. Today I am pleased to share with you the outcome of the interview we did 🙂
I hope you enjoy to get to know Amanda berry a little better, and don’t forget to comment and let us know which audiobook you’d like to win 🙂
Welcome to From Pemberley to Milton Amanda, it is a real pleasure to have you here discussing your work on Austenesque audiobooks. I discovered your work with The Wardrobe Series from Don Jacobson, and I thought your interpretation of the characters was spot on. Was this your first contact with JAFF literature?
Thank you so much! Yes, this was my first contact with JAFF. Of course I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, but I had no idea that this lovely community existed. Since narrating Don’s books I’ve come to find I have a lot of friends who love this genre and at least one friend who loved The Bennet Wardrobe Series before I had ever heard of it!
If this was your first contact with JAFF, what captivated you in the Wardrobe Series to make you want to narrate it?
I first auditioned for the second book – The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Epoque – and it was the scene where Kitty meets Renoir’s wife, Aline Charigot. I studied French for a decade and love Paris and that time period in particular, so I was predisposed to connect with Kitty in that instant. I remember being so excited by Don’s depiction of Kitty being captivated by Manet’s Olympia, as well as the interaction between this familiar character and historical persons – Don is truly amazing with the history of the settings of his books.
I’ve listened to the first 3 books in the series, and what amazed me the most was your ability to portray flawlessly all types of accents. Do you speak all these languages or do you use other people or characters as accent inspirations?
I so appreciate this comment. I word really hard on the accents. I’m American and I only really speak French and English (and I’m very out of practice with my French!) but I’ve loved doing accents since I was a kid. I went to theater school and I learned accents there – particularly the accent I use for my narrator voice and most of the English characters. I’ve also learned something called the International Phonetic Alphabet. Basically, there’s a symbol for every sound, and that helps a lot with transcribing accents and sound changes, but it means a lot of research and writing notes in the digital manuscript. I pray listeners will give me some leeway when I inevitably get things wrong! I definitely use people from movies and TV for character and accent inspiration. For a character in the latest book – The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion, I used a modified Dame Maggie Smith impersonation! Shocked that didn’t come to me earlier.
That’s really interesting Amanda! Apart from the phonetics, how did you prepare for the narration of these books? Did you discuss each character with the author before starting the narration of a novel?
I read through each book initially and make notes about characters, questions I have for Don, and words I don’t know how to pronounce. I pay attention to each character and how Don describes them for notes about their personality that will influence the voice I choose. Each character gets a different highlighter color. For the initial books I discussed a lot of character choices with Don. Now there are so many characters that feel second nature to me and so many new characters that I just make decisions on my end and if Don doesn’t like something then I change it!
Which of Don’s books was hardest to narrate and why?
Well I don’t want to give away too much, but anything having to do with Kitty’s arc just takes it out of me. She experiences so much pain that when her moments of triumph and love surface, it’s like finally exhaling after holding your breath underwater for minutes. For those familiar with the books, I think about her seeing her father (The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn) after her trip in the wardrobe a lot.
Kitty’s story is definitely a tragic, but I’m sure you can also tell us a fun story that might have occured while narrating these books.
Well I don’t know if it’s funny to Don, but I am frequently forced to confront my own dunderheadness on a regular basis. The second book I narrated was Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess and I did the entire book and I send it to Don and he goes: “Maggie’s Cockney.” I had unthinkingly given her this very proper accent and completely missed all the cues Don had given in the book, so I had to re-record all her speaking parts. Taught me a lesson!
You’ve mentioned the accents, but do you need to take any special care with your voice too?
I do! Particularly with Thomas Bennet. I decided early on to give him this gruff voice that I love – not knowing he’d have his own book later! It’s very hard to read long passages like that so I have to break it up. I also warm up every day and drink a lot of tea.
Is narration your main job? Or do you have another occupation?
I do a lot of different types of voice over actually. Don’s are the only books I’ve narrated thus far but I definitely want to do more. It was a steep learning curve and I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it. Hats off to other narrators who do this full time – it’s hard!
What is the main difference between doing a voice over and the narration of the book? Which is more challenging?
The main difference is the length. You have to do the same work for either project – whether it’s a corporate narration, animation, or an advertisement: who are you talking to? Who is doing the talking? In an advertisement, you’re playing a character too. Am I a concerned mom trying to figure out how to protect my kids? Am I a nurse speaking to patients about a new breakthrough therapy? Am I a business executive speaking to other business execs about a new platform to work on? For nonfiction books, you invest more in each character as far as differentiating them, but mainly the difference is you’re running a marathon and not the 100-yard dash. I find connecting with narration easier, but the sheer volume of work is much, much more.
Do you have any preference for any specific sub genre you’d like to narrate after the Wardrobe series? What do you imagine yourself narrating in the future?
I would love to narrate romances and mysteries. The characters are so vivid and heightened that I think it would be a ton of fun! I love guiding the listener through a rollercoaster of a story arc.
Do you have a website where other writers can find you if they want to hire you as their narrator?
Absolutely! All my contact info is at amandaberryvo.com
Thank you so much for your thoughtful questions, Rita! This was a lot of fun for me and I hope more people discover the Wardrobe through it 🙂
Amanda Berry would like to offer one of my readers one audiobook of the Wardrobe Series. Readers may choose the audiobook of their preference, and to apply to the giveaway all you have to do is comment on this post and let us know which audiobook you’d like to receive. The giveaway is open for users of audible US and is open until the 4th of April.
If you have any question you’d like to ask to Amanda, please feel free to do so, I’m sure she’ll be happy to answer all of you 🙂
Good Luck everyone!