This week, we’re talking audiobooks with Ilyana Kadushin. Ilyana is an actor, singer, producer, activist and coach. Her narration credits include Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, a collection of Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales novels, and more than 70 other audiobooks.
You narrated your first Pathfinder novel—Bloodbound—in December 2015. What brought you to that project?
I had narrated other titles for Macmillan before and when they approached me with this Sci-Fi Fantasy Series I was game to do it.
Of the three Pathfinder novels you’ve narrated (Bloodbound, HellKnight, and Starspawn) do you have a favorite? What was different about narrating these three?
Each of these books had some pretty cool characters to play with. In Bloodbound there are vampires, vampire hunters and crazy nuns; in HellKnight, I played ghost knights in battle; and in Starspawn, I played a female viking and pirate who leads a whole crew at sea, who are looking for a mysterious island that appears after a Tsunami! This series definitely takes a lot of energy and spirit to perform.
How do you budget your emotional and vocal investments in an action-packed novel like Starspawn? Do you save the best for last within each chapter or at the end of the whole novel?
This is different in each chapter. The emotional and vocal energy is definitely higher during the action sequences on the island and ship scenes. There are also quieter scenes, where the characters are connecting in different ways.
How did you discover your ability to deliver (so many) different voices?
I have always played with voice and making up characters since I was a kid. My parents would walk into my bedroom and catch me on a tape recorder pretending to be a news anchor! I was thrown into the fire landing Twilight Series early on in my career, as I performed so many characters in that! I do love the freedom in narration, I am not limited by gender, age, race etc.
You’ve said in the past that you discover new voices by listening to and practicing imitations of people you hear on the street in New York City or in movies. Can you give us an example of a Pathfinder voice that you discovered in this way?
I would say that I get inspiration for characters by just listening to people talk on the street, on the subway, and at parties. I will often softly mimic the way they are saying something, especially if it’s an interesting accent or cadence. I probably look like a crazy person to anyone looking! 🙂
How did you first get into narrating audiobooks?
My very first audition for an audiobook was for a little ole book called Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. 🙂 I got the gig and the rest is history. I have narrated over 70 titles since then, but narrating the whole Twilight Saga was huge.
What do you consider before deciding to take on a narration project?
Like most narrators I like well-written books with great characters, this makes narrating more of a pleasure than work.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding how to best narrate an audiobook?
Before I had ever narrated an audiobook, I would listen to audiobooks and understood that a great audiobook happens because of the marriage of great writing and great acting. Having an interesting voice is not what it takes, it’s what you do with it!
You’ve said in a previous interview that you usually don’t receive the book more than a few days before it’s time to record, so you can only do one pass-through. What novel led to the craziest crash course before you entered the studio?
That has been true for some of the high profile, commercial books I have narrated (like Twilight Saga with top secret scripts) but with other books, I get plenty of time to read and prepare.
Do you mark up your copy to prepare you for the recording session? For example, do you color code characters so that you know the voice you should be using at a glance?
I do markings for language and pronunciation questions, character switches and any other mark that helps the brain and voice coordinate!
How do you prepare for a recording session?
Besides script work I do a vocal warmup, hydrate and stretch the body.
What advice do you have for narrators who are just starting out?
I always recommend getting some experience reading out loud by volunteering. You can read books to children, the elderly, and the blind and see how feels to do it. And they will appreciate it!
Tell us about your new podcast, “No, I Know.”
Oh, I am having a blast producing and hosting this show. I co-host with my husband, James Harrell. It’s a variety show. We interview awesome people and perform live music. Ultimately it’s about the community at large and how we can teach each other to make life more meaningful. It’s on iTunes and people can subscribe and listen for free! A future episode will be produced about narrating audiobooks.
What’s the one audiobook that you wish you could’ve narrated but that you missed out on?
I would love to narrate a book about Mae West, I wrote a musical about her! I would love to narrate any book with lots of traveling scenes in it, as I love traveling. Any really great book I read I want to narrate.
Listen to an excerpt of Ilyana reading the latest Pathfinder Tales audiobook, Starspawn: