October/November 2019

Discover the World of Audiobooks

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AudioFile's Josephine Reed spoke with Golden Voice narrator January LaVoy about acting, her love of books and reading, and the human need to tell stories. This is an excerpt— hear their full conversation in a bonus episode of our podcast, "Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine." Josephine Reed: How did you get started in audiobooks? January LaVoy: It was actually through my stage work. I was doing an August Wilson play at the Signature Theatre in 2007, and there were two other actors in the show who had the same voice-over agent. And I didn't have a commercial agent, I didn't have voice- over representation, I had never done it, so when these agents came to see the show, we all went out for drinks after- wards, and I hit it off with them. And one of them was the amazing Shari Hoffman, who represents lots of narrators. So I start- ed doing commercial voice-over through them, and it was at least a year, maybe two, into my time with them that the first audiobook audition came along. And I had never listened to an audiobook, I mean other than the sort of picture-book, read-along children's stuff. I had never listened to one as an adult. So Shari called me and she said, "We have this audition for an audiobook. Are you inter- ested?" And I said, "Does it pay actual money?" Is that a thing?" And she said, "Yes." And I said, "Sure." JR: And the rest, as they say, is history. So what was that transition like, moving from theater or television where there's a cast, where there's a crew, to being by yourself with microphone and pages? JL: I love books. I started reading at a very young age. I'm never without a book of some sort. So I don't think I thought of it as a performer transition as much as I thought of it as an extension of the reader in me and being able to take the sort of organic person who is happiest with a book and bring it into a different environ- ment. When I first started narrating, I was very concerned with technical proficiency, and I was nervous about getting it wrong. And then after a while, I think I was able to relax into the mindset of, if I'm enjoying it, then chances are the listener is going to enjoy it. So that's in a sense my philos- ophy about it. And that is performative in a sense, but I don't approach it a product-oriented way. I approach it in an experiential kind of way, I guess. JR: You are a master at characterization. I feel like I'm listening to 20 people, 20 different actors, a multicast production. And I always come back to: Wait, wait, no, it's one person. It's one person. JL: I'm so glad that's the experience because I really enjoy doing that work. JR: How do you develop those characters? JL: Whenever I'm talking about charac- ters, I tend to start with a discussion about The Diviners. Because Libba Bray, who wrote those books, has many gifts. She's an extraordinary prose writer. She is an extraordinary researcher. But one of her greatest gifts, in my opinion, is her char- acterizations. And she uses language in such a way that you know who the person is by how they speak, the words they choose, the slang they use, the rhythm and cadences built into the dialogue. She taught me who those characters were. I recognized them the first time. I had to audition for the first Diviners book, and David Rapkin and Dan Zitt had the whole thing set up so that we all had to read chapters from six different characters' perspectives. And I'd never seen the book before, but here I was sitting at Random House reading these pages going, "Oh, I know who this is. I know who this is. Oh, I hear her." So I suppose there's some overlap and affinity, perhaps, for the things that Libba and I enjoy. And that's what makes us a good match in that regard, but also it's the way that Narrator January LaVoy Photo by Todd Cerveri 26 n AudioFile/ podcast Behind the Mic with January LaVoy

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