Edith here, on vacation in Belfast, Maine! Still, the blog must go on.
I met audiobook narrator Kathleen Bond earlier this year, and I thought it was time to wake up our occasional feature called Ask the Expert. She doesn’t narrate any of my audiobooks – yet – but if anyone needs a narrator, I recommend her. You can listen to a clip from one of her books here.
Take it away, Kathleen!
How Did You Get Started in the Business?
Well, through a route that was both circuitous and direct. Quite a few decades ago now, I went to Boston University and studied acting. I received a B.F.A. in it and worked—or tried to– for a number of years. Through a series of events that are too long to go into here, I went back to school and got a master’s degree in historical archaeology and then, some years after that, I went to Harvard Divinity School and studied healthcare chaplaincy.
I worked for about 20 years as a hospital and hospice chaplain. I loved the work I did, helping people as they approached the end of their life and offering care to their loved ones. However, acting and theatre always remained inside of me. I went back to doing theatre part time and then, when the Covid pandemic hit, I thought ‘why not try audiobook narration?’ I yearned for creativity, and narration was something I could do in my home. That was two plus years ago. It has taken a lot of study and work, but I am now part of a wonderful community of narrators.
What Are Three Things We Should Know About Your Area of Expertise?
First and foremost, narrators love books and stories. That is really a prerequisite for an audiobook narrator. Without that, why bother?
Second, audiobook narrators are a diverse group. Many, but not all, have acting training and that is a significant help to get inside and inhabit the characters in a book. However, other narrators come at it from all kinds of backgrounds.
Third, the number of audiobooks has grown tremendously over the last ten years. In fact, the Audio Publishers report the tenth straight year of double-digit growth. According to the Audio Publishers Association’s Sales Survey, nearly 74,000 audiobooks were published in 2021, a 6% increase over 2020. “Science Fiction and Fantasy narrowly edged out Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense as the most popular genre by percentage of sales, with Romance and Fiction following close behind, and increases in Children’s and Young Adult revenue.”
I’m adding a fourth point here because I feel it is so important. Some companies are claiming that they can successfully use artificial intelligence (AI) to narrate books. Do not believe them! There is no way, an AI voice can capture the nuance, the breathing, the life of the characters that live in a book. Narrators are very worried about this—and I hope authors are, too.
Is there a general characteristic that experts in this field all share?
We are an inquisitive bunch. Any narrator worth their salt, wants to know all they can about the world of the book. We do all sorts of research to do it justice: researching pronunciations, studying accents, understanding the time period and/or field or culture. We also don’t mind—maybe even like—often working by ourselves. Plus, we tolerate sitting in a small space or booth for to do the recording!
What do people usually get wrong when writing about your field?
Many people think audiobook narration is easy. They think it is as simple as sitting in front of a computer and speaking into the computer mic, and voila! Nope. It requires a lot of training and special equipment—microphone, software, hardware. Recording needs to be done in as whisper quiet a space as possible, with no outside noise (darn those mowers, construction machinery, helicopters) and the space needs to be acoustically treated, so we don’t sound like we are recording in the Grand Canyon, for example.
What Are You Working on Now?
Right now, I am narrating a cozy mystery called Murder on the Menu: A Silver Sisters Mystery by Morgan St. James and Phyllice Bradner, who are, of course, sisters. It’s one book in a series. There are lots of wonderful, quirky characters, including a famous French-Canadian chef, an up-and-coming young chef, a hippie who travels in a van and two twin sisters—very different in temperament– who are amateur sleuths. It’s so much fun!
Readers: Ask Kathleen your questions!
I hail from New Jersey–southern New Jersey, that is: corn, tomato, and scrapple country. So, I’m a hearty sort, softened by having had a proper British-born mother (yes, I like my tea). I’ve called Boston home for a long time–raised two sons here–after professional theatre stops in Philadelphia and Seattle. I have a B.F.A in acting, loads of professional theatre experience, and master’s degrees in both archaeology and healthcare chaplaincy. I promise you that I am not working my way down the alphabet of careers! I am drawn to these pursuits because–at their heart–they unearth peoples’ lives and tell their stories. I love to narrate audiobooks because it is such an intimate and powerful form of storytelling. Finally, when I am not behind the mic, you will find me in my garden, turning over the soil, planting, and singing. Find me any time at my web site.