We sit down with narrators to give you the scoop on everything you want to know (and didn’t know you wanted to know!) about recording an audiobook. Today, we chatted with Andi Arndt, the acclaimed narrator of audiobooks by everyone from Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts to Kylie Scott and Tom Perrotta.
1. How did you get into audiobook narration?
Very intentionally. When I started, I was also teaching acting and voice part-time for the James Madison University School of Theatre and Dance. I had been working in a lot of different genres of VO and narration to see which I liked best, and audiobook narration seemed to offer everything I was looking for. I knew it was a very competitive milieu, so I spent a lot of time paying attention to that world, what the important workshops and conferences were, that kind of thing. I spent a couple of years as an audiobook proof-listener and learned a ton of dos and don’ts that way, and the company I proofed for ended up giving me my first paid narration job in the fall of 2011.
2. What was the first audiobook you ever narrated?
I self-published Lucy Corin’s Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls in 2010 after making arrangements directly with the author and with Audible. I had met Lucy Corin when she was on the faculty at JMU and she was kind enough to put me in touch with her publisher. The first audiobook I was *hired* to narrate was Pamela Sargent’s Venus Trilogy—69 hours of narration across the three books! To this day, those are the longest books I’ve ever narrated.
3. What’s your favorite genre to read and why?
I’m an omnivore, and always find something to love and/or learn with every new book. My favorite thing, no matter the genre, is when I click with an author’s phrasing and word choice intuitively, and get the sense that we think along similar lines, that I know what the next word in a sentence is going to be before I turn the page, that we almost breathe together. Sarah Bannan (Weightless) is that way for me, and when I shared that with her, she admitted that when she is writing, she reads aloud as she goes, to see if she likes what she’s written. I wasn’t surprised at all; it really felt that way. I was so moved by her story, I definitely had to stop a few times to compose myself.
I’ve been quite busy with contemporary romance, of course, with recent series by Kylie Scott and Leisa Rayven. Their books deal with the tension between the onstage and offstage lives of musicians and actors, respectively. I know my way around a green room, so those are especially fun assignments.
4. Are there any particular words or phrases that trip you up again and again?
I loathe words that begin with “sl” because there’s something in the architecture of my mouth that catches air bubbles near the back of my tongue and cheeks, and it makes the grossest sound, I have to stop and re-record. Other than that, though, if I’m having trouble with a phrase for whatever reason, usually I find that just altering the rhythm of the sentence ever so slightly will get me over the speed bump.
5. What’s your go-to meal before recording?
A light meal, first of all, so all the blood doesn’t rush to my stomach when I need it for my brain. Salads, clear-broth soups (I love hot & sour soup from Chinese takeout) and little nibbles. No dairy on recording days.
6. What’s the hardest part of narrating?
Being so sedentary can be rough on the body, especially the back.
7. What’s the best part of narrating?
Being connected to a book, author, series that people love and want to talk about is very rewarding. I always like when reviewers and readers talk about the content of an audiobook because it means they heard the book through me, and weren’t distracted by my performance. And of course the ultimate is when I get a note from an author saying they were pleased with the audiobook. That’s what it’s all about.