June is Audiobook Month! To celebrate, we’re sitting 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. Check back each week to hear from a new narrator and listen to excerpts from audiobooks they’ve recorded for Macmillan Audio.
This week, we’re talking audiobooks with Barrie Kreinik. Barrie is an award-winning narrator, as well as an actor, singer, writer, and acting/dialect coach. She recently played the lead role of Fiona in the Off Broadway production of Sharman Macdonald’s When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout.
Q: What’s the best part of being a narrator?
I love the joy and challenge of creating an entire world using only my voice. That includes playing characters in books that I’d never get to play onstage—people from other countries and cultures… even other planets! Also, dialects and accents are my specialty, so I enjoy the opportunity to use them in my narration work. I’ve done as many as ten different accents in a single book.
Q: Do you retain all the books you narrate?
I don’t [keep copies of the CDs], but my dad does! He calls it my Audio Book Library.
Q: Do you feel nervous before recording?
Occasionally, but not often. It’s not like a live performance, in which an actor might get nervous about being in front of an audience, where anything can happen. In the studio, if you make a mistake, you just go back and fix it.
Q: What’s your favorite audiobook that you have recorded?
It’s hard to choose just one! I think my favorite of the moment is The Two-Family House, which I recorded for Macmillan earlier this year. The characters were deeply familiar to me—I loved the way their intertwined stories unfolded. And you can’t go wrong with an old-fashioned New York accent.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of being a narrator?
Maintaining stamina. Though it might seem static, it’s actually a physically demanding job: you literally talk for six, seven, eight hours a day. It requires deep reserves of energy and good vocal use. A narrator has to have a strong vocal technique and a keen knowledge of her instrument in order to work in a healthy, productive way.
Q: Do you ever listen to audiobooks that you have recorded once the program has been edited?
Only for the purpose of creating samples of my work. I flag a specific section of a book while I’m recording it, and once I have the finished product, I take that section and edit it into a demo. But I’ve never listened to one of my books from start to finish.
Q: Does your voice sound the way you perceive it sounds when you hear yourself on an audiobook?
For the most part, yes… although I’ve found that the adjustments I make to my voice when creating characters sound more extreme in my head than they do on tape. Subtle shifts in pitch and resonance can go a long way toward conveying character, but sometimes I have to stretch those shifts farther in order for the listener to hear a significant difference. Creating character voices is one of my favorite aspects of narration, so I’m continually honing that ability.
Q: Do you have any dream books or authors that are on your wishlist to record in the future?
I’d love to record more historical fiction and mystery novels. Those are my two favorite genres to read, and I know I’d enjoy narrating them as well.
Q: What’s something about narrators that listeners might not already know?
Narration is not just reading aloud—it’s acting. Many narrators are also actors: we perform in plays, TV shows, films, voiceovers, and other media. So the voice that’s reading your favorite book might very well belong to that actor you just saw on Law & Order!
Listen to an excerpt of Barrie reading one of her latest narration projects, Lynda Cohen Loigman’s The Two-Family House: