Previously in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | UK Editor | Library Assistant | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager |Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor | Journalist | US Editor | Scholastic Book Fair Product Manager | MG/YA Author
Last week I interviewed Catherine Doyle, and this week I have another special guest on the blog – the narrator of the audiobook for The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Lauren Ezzo. This is my first English-language audiobook (I do have one in German), so I am incredibly excited to listen to my book spoken out loud. I’m anticipating that it’ll be a strange but wonderful experience.
I was given the choice of a few different narrators by HarperCollins, and I chose Lauren because her sample sounded like Romy in my head – she perfectly captured the mix of confidence and naivety that Romy has. If you’d like to listen to Lauren’s version of Romy (and, of course, buy it!), there’s a sample on the Audible page and another on soundcloud here.
With that, onto the interview!
How did you become an audiobook narrator? Did you do any work experience
In college, I majored in Theatre/English — which was, in retrospect, a pretty great setup! I was hired for my first title by Brilliance Publishing — a friend of mine from school was working there and happened to know they were hiring new narrators. I went in with copies of ‘Love Wins’, by Rob Bell, ‘Fragile Things’ by Neil Gaiman, and ‘Twilight’ (maybe you’ve heard of that one). The rest is history!
What books have you worked on in the past?
Several!! At this writing, I’ve narrated over a hundred, hooray!! Some favorites or notables include “The Last to See Me”, by M. Dressler, “Rules for Werewolves”, by Kirk Lynn, “The Butterfly Garden”, by Dot Hutchison, “Kill All Happies”, by Rachel Cohn, “The Hundredth Queen” by Emily R. King, and, sincerely, “The Loneliest Girl in the Universe”. [All of the books narrated by Lauren on Audible are here]
Ahh, thank you so much! How long does it take to record a book?
It depends on the title — the general formula I use is about two minutes per page — so for a 300 page book, I’d budget 10ish hours. “Loneliest Girl” was a bit different since many of the ‘chapters’ are so short — less than a page sometimes, so she took about 6 hours!
Do you do it in one sitting?
I do and don’t record all in one sitting — usually I like to work in sort of standard business days — 9ish to 5ish, with breaks and lunch — to keep easy track of my progress and keep things expedient. If I were able to record all in one go, though, I think I would….to stay in storyteller brain for that long would be great for me and the book.
Do you work from home? What kind of equipment do you need?
I do! I have a custom built isolation sound building courtesy of my loving father, and when I do record at home — a la “Loneliest Girl” — that’s where I’ll be! Pared down as simply as possible, all you need to record is a good space, a microphone, an interface (a machine which converts soundwaves captured by the mic into binary for the computer to read), and a computer, and I have all of these — but of course things get a bit more complicated and technical than that.
I also have a lot of filthy tea mugs and cookie crumbs in there, but you don’t really NEED those….
How do you choose voices for characters? Do you take notes in advance of a recording session?
Ooof, good question. Not enough people ask this one! First I look at my ability. When the text says something to the effect of. ‘ the deepest, rumbliest voice EVER’, I look to see what my version of that can be that will fit the tone of the story — sincere? comic? scary
Secondly, I look to see what my author wants or needs — so, with “Loneliest Girl”, I knew Romy should sound a little like the main protagonist from ‘Hundredth Queen’, since that’s what you (Lauren) listened to!
Then I go to my text — what descriptors am I given? Pitch, accents, even body characteristics– does this character have jowls, or big teeth? Are they painfully shy? And I let all those things sort of percolate in my brain, along with the theme and feel I get from the book.
For Romy, I knew what my base voice was, but I thought it was also important that she’s a little immature — not her personality, but the fact that her adolescence has taken place in isolation. She has no peers to mimic or bounce her thoughts off of, and no adults on which to model her behavior, other than what she sees through her messages and downloaded media.
So I tried to err on the side of youth, enthusiasm, when we first meet her, and then adjusted accordingly as the plot proceeded. There’s also a lot of ‘me’ voice in Romy, since she’s so relateable — a lot of her reactions and syncopations are mine.
J, Loch, and Ness I had fun with — these are all characters whose voices we hear through Romy. Her brain and emotions ‘distort’ them. I wanted Loch and Ness to be a little overdone, overdramatic — Romy’s ideals. And J…without giving too much away, I wanted to sound a bit like the ‘best friend’ — the guy everyone falls in love with.
What is the most difficult part of recording books? (mispronouncing things would
DEFINITELY worrying about pronunciation!! And listeners will nail you every time on that! But there are resources to take care of those things, and they’re usally not a huge issue in the end.
I think for me the most challenging aspects are the same for any collaborative artist — I want the work to be good and intriguing, and for my performance to suit it — not just for me, but for its author, its engineer, its publisher, its listener. Audiobooks are NOT an isolated experience. I’m the voice of a given title, but many, many people get to it before and after I do, and the pressure to deliver, for me at least, can be scary.
What’s your favourite part of your job, and what are you proudest of in your
Another really good one!!!! My favorite part of my job is that I get PAID MONEY to ACT and READ. Those are my favorite things in the world. If I can ever get paid to nap and eat, we’ll reevaluate, but that’s the best part. These are the things that make me happiest.
What would be your #4dreamprojects?
Only 4!?!?! Okay.
1. Anything Neil Gaiman. Preferably a title he’s written as a gift to me personally, but really anything of his would do.
2. The “Loneliest Girl” sequel, set after Romy reaches Earth II, chronicling her rise as its first matriarch.
3. A book from my childhood; see below
4. A previously male-narrated classic, a la Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, Remains of the Day, Hero’s Journey…the guys get a lot of good ones.
A Loneliest Girl sequel, huh? Well, we’ll see….. 😉
Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?
Big yes. In the first place, I have less time to do this. In the second, I’ve learned IMMENSE amounts about writing, and what makes effective writing, from all the reading. If you are an author, please, make reading at least some of your work aloud part of your editing process!
I read out loud and it is SO HELPFUL. Especially in later edits, it’s so easy to skim over sentences and reading aloud really catches you up on the clunky things.
What are some of your favourite recent reads from your childhood?
Eeee I love this!! My ‘first’ book was the picture book “Put Me in the Zoo” by Robert Lopshire — the adults in my family had to hide it from me, they got so sick of it.
Other first loves include “Go Dog Go”, The Time-Warp Trio, “His Dark Materials”, Shel Silverstein, “The Hobbit”, “Harry Potter”, numerous Eyewitness books, “The Cricket in Times Square”, “Ender’s Game”, “Walk Two Moons”, “Because of Winn Dixie”, “Belle Prater’s Boy”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, “Pure Dead Magic”, Tamora Pierce, Suzanne Fisher Staples, “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales”, Avi, Magic Treehouse, and really anything if it held still long enough.
Do you have any advice for aspiring narrators?
Acting classes are esential – I’d say at least a year’s worth, of reputable training, but really
that should be continuing as your career progresses. Invest in a quality microphone
within your budget; no USBs should be visible anywhere. Be courteous and kind to
everyone in the industry you come across — you don’t know who they are or who
they’ve worked with, and they deserve a pleasant interaction at the very least. Listen
to other narrators and industry professionals, and decide what is good for you —
there’s a lot of advice. You don’t have to take it all, and it’s not possible anyway. If
it fits you, that’s the best advice. Also brushing your teeth and McDonald’s hashbrowns get rid of mouth noises in situ.
Thank you for the wonderful interview, Lauren! I learnt a lot from this – and now I kind of want to become a narrator too.
Lauren Ezzo is a Chicago based audiobook narrator and commercial voice
talent. A Michigan native and Hope College alumna, at this writing she has
narrated over 100 titles for authors including Catherine Ryan Hyde, Adam
Rapp, M. Dressler, Christopher Rice, Kirk Lynn, Lauren James, & Dot
She has won multiple awards for her narration, including several
“Best of the Year” lists, and several Earphones Awards. In 2016, her
performance of “The Light Fantastic”, by Sarah Combs, co-narrated with
Todd Haberkorn, was named one of AudioFile’s best books of the year. She
was accorded the same honor in 2017 from School Library Journal for her
narration of “To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the
In 2018, she was Audie-nominated as part of a full cast of
narrators for Best Original Work, “Nevertheless We Persisted”, performing
two pieces – one of which she authored. She is a proud member of the Audio
Publishers Association, and a lifelong bookworm. Follow her exploits on
Facebook at @laurenezzoaudiobooks, on Twitter at @SingleWithFries, and
on the web at laurenezzo.com!