Audiobook, Drawn In

Meet the Voice of Rennie! (…And All of Rennie’s Friends)

almond bio

I can’t even tell you how excited I am to make this introduction. Seriously, I feel like this has been years in the making. Everyone… I would like you to meet Almond Eastland. (Everyone: “Hi Almond!”) This is the wonderful lady who has given Rennie (and all of her friends and foes!) a voice. She has brought so much artistry to my little indie book, and I just can’t say enough about how thrilled I am to have her on board. She has brought all of Rennie’s qualities and quirks to full-dimension life and I am ecstatic to share her with you!

FIRST… a quick reminder that we’re doing a GIVEAWAY for a FREE download of the audiobook for Drawn In: Book One of the Paper Dreams Chronicles. For details, see the post from yesterday. To cut to the chase and get your own copy now, click here!

Okay, so a little background on how this partnership came to be… I posted in June about beginning my hunt for auditions on the ACX site. I had never met Almond (still haven’t in person… that seems weird! Haha!), but when I heard her audition, I got goosebumps. It’s hard to describe that moment as an author when you just know that you’re listening to your main character. I mean, Rennie talks to me all the time, so I know what she sounds like (I’m not crazy… it’s an author thing). So long story short, I gathered some great auditions, and weeded through them, and I narrowed it down to my top two. I had them both read one more section, and I knew I had my Rennie. There are so many phrases and sections that she reads which sound exactly like they do in my head; it’s almost freaky.  And there are also a few interpretations which took me off-guard and surprised me. Again, as an author, that’s pretty freaking cool.

So without further ado… meet Almond!

Sioux: Hi Almond! Welcome to my blog; I’m so glad you could join me!

Almond: Hi Sioux! Thank you so much for having me!

S: Before we dive into the art of audiobooks, I have to comment on what a great name you have! As someone who enjoys unusual names, I have to know… is there a story there? 
A: Thank you. You have a pretty cool name, too!
The short version is that my mom was a 19-year-old hippie. The longer version is that she had a vision of me before I was born and “received” the scripture, “the Almond tree shall flourish.”
S: That is so cool! I love that there’s such a unique story behind your unique name.
So now to audiobooks… what made you want to get into narration? 
A: I’ve loved to read for as long as I’ve been able to, and I love audiobooks for letting me read more that I would otherwise be able to, since I can listen while I drive or do other things.
When I was researching college majors, I already had a family to support, and none of the professions that would let me read for a living seemed to offer much in the way of financial security, so I chose to become an accountant.
Once my kids were in college, I began to investigate other career paths that I might find more fulfilling. I heard Carrie Olsen talk about voice over on the Afford Anything podcast, so I started researching it. Audiobook narration is the branch of voice over that “makes my heart sing,” as they say, and now I’m working toward being able to read for a living after all. 
S: You have such a great style and a vast array of vocal traits. I’m betting that didn’t happen overnight! Can you tell us about some of the training you’ve had and the tools you use to build those skills?
A: Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say. Most audiobook narrators are trained actors, so I’ve definitely had a steep learning curve. Fortunately, I love to learn, so I am constantly working to build and grow my skills. That involves everything from listening to a lot of audiobooks (yay!) to taking classes, and working one-on-one with coaches. It is very challenging, and a huge investment, but that’s what it takes to learn a new profession.
One thing that’s pretty cool is that I’ve gotten to work with my youngest son, Ian. He’s a newly-minted drama teacher, and, in my completely unbiased opinion, a great coach. It’s been really neat to be able to learn from him and see him in his professional role. It’s something I think not a lot of parents get to experience.
S: Wow, what a cool experience! So tell me a little about your personal style. Do you have a favorite genre to narrate? 
A: Apparently, I have a young-sounding voice, so I seem to be a good fit for any genre that features a young female lead–all the better if she’s a bit quirky! So far, that’s meant cozy mystery, YA, fantasy, and romance. I guess if I had to choose, I’d go with YA because it can encompass all the other genres.
S: And, of course, I have to ask a few questions about this book, because it’s mine! Haha! What made you audition for Drawn In when you saw it posted on the ACX site?
A: The blurb was immediately intriguing. It sounded like a compelling story that I would enjoy reading–and it was! Then, when I downloaded the audition script, the writing was really strong, and the characters seemed to leap off the page. I try to put auditions out of my mind as soon as I submit them, but this was one I was really hoping I’d get.
S: Was there a particular character who was especially fun or interesting for you? What made him/her stand out to you?
A: Well, I know it’s the obvious answer, but I just loved Rennie. She’s smart and funny and nerdy. I just felt an immediate connection to her. 
S: And that connection definitely shines through when you portray her! Now, without any spoilers, did you have a favorite scene or section?
A: First of all, I love the overall sense of mystery, that “what is going on here?” feeling of the book. (You really need to finish Book 3 so I can find out!) And the contrasting but overlapping settings are great!
Maybe because of that mysterious quality, I was surprised by how sharply the book evoked that “first love” feeling. I met my husband when I was 17, and I found myself thinking a lot about that summer when I was doing my pre-read. So, my favorite scenes are the ones with Rennie and Alex.
S: Haha! I am working on Book 3, I promise! And finally, any advice for people who want to learn to narrate audiobooks? 
A: It’s harder than you think! If you’re interested in narrating audiobooks, first take Sean Pratt’s test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPzPi-_0Xi8. Then, if you’re still interested, be willing to invest in good coaching and tools.
S: Thanks so much for coming on my blog today! You are such a joy to work with, and I love learning more about how you do what you do!
A: Thank you for inviting me, Sioux. It’s been a real pleasure to work with you, too.
So there you have it! Want to learn more about Almond? Check out her sites too!
And her Instagram is here: almond.eastland
Writing

Nerd Girl Problems in the Writing World

katniss-hermione

I love the current fascination with all things Geek. Being called a “Nerd” or a “Geek” used to be an insult. Today, it’s a badge of honour. I was looking for a “Nerd Girl Problem” meme to post (I love the one above – couldn’t resist!), and actually ran into memes and posts about not being enough of a REAL nerd. What?? If someone wants in the club, let them play! Jeez, what’s that about? Anyway…

My current WIP has Geek Chic references throughout, and I love them. That’s an understatement really. I L-O-V-E them. With a  capital LOVE. And while the current debacle over that stupid article about adults reading YA has convinced me whole-heartedly that one NEVER has to apologize for one’s passions (that’s a topic for a whole other post), I do feel a need explain this quirk of my book.

I have already been given a heads-up that my editor will be issuing notes in the not-so-positive form on these references to pop and geek culture, which is what started me thinking about why I need them in the first place. (I hired an editor… have I blogged about that?? I’m really behind.) And it turns out I not only love the references because I think they’re fun and entertaining and just, well, ME. I actually do have reasons behind them. Two pretty good reasons, I happen to think. And they are… ahem…

One) My book involves an element of time travel, which puts my narrative happening in an alternate timeline for a section of the book. Even MORE in the next book. Due to this, I love that my pop culture references pin her down to the current time when she is in the present. I feel like this helps to define BOTH timelines.

And Two) It’s part of my MC’s voice. These things are part of her world, part of her life. I personally don’t go a single day without quoting a movie, or referring to a tv show or book or song. I’m being careful in the book to stay within Public Use guidelines, but I still let her do this. To me that feels authentic to who she is. To remove them entirely or replace them with vague alternatives would be to completely change her voice. And THAT is non-negotiable for me.

So what are your thoughts? Does it take you out of the world you’re reading when you come across a reference like this, or does it further identify that world for you? I’ve heard both opinions… what’s yours?