Friday, July 17, 2015

Writing and Narrating Humor :-)

Courtesy of
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An Interview with author, Barbara Venkataraman
 and narrator, Carrie Lee Martz


--You two have eight audiobooks across three different genres, how did you find each other? Carrie, what appealed to you about these stories?
"Barbara actually found me through ACX just 9 days after I created my profile, but I'll let her tell that part of our story. The first book we did was “A Trip to the Hardware Store;” it was just really relatable and quirky, so I knew it’d fun to narrate."

--Barbara, how did you know Carrie was the narrator who could pull off humor AND narrate your mysteries?
I got very lucky! I wanted a narrator with a sense of humor and a range of voices who was willing to work for free. I either had to convince a total stranger to spend hundreds of hours recording my self-published books as unpaid labor, OR, find a narrator through ACX willing to royalty-share (spend hundreds of hours recording my self-published books as unpaid labor AND split any profits, assuming there were any).
Throwing caution to the wind, I posted two projects on ACX simultaneously. After listening to and rejecting many demo recordings, I began to question the whole project, but kept slogging through. Suddenly, the heavens parted and I heard an angel sing, only she wasn't an angel, she was Carrie Lee Martz. Her demo was a voiceover demo in which she showed off her range of voices. She was perfect! I made her an offer for both books and she accepted. We exchanged e-mails and confessed that we'd never done this before, but we were both game and jumped right in. 

--Carrie, as a narrator, how do you approach a humorous work differently?
"I don’t really. Narrating comedy isn’t about telling jokes or trying to be funny. If it were, I’d be in trouble, because I think I’m the least funny person I know and I literally can’t tell a joke to save my life! LOL I think what’s most important is understanding the writer’s sense of humor and being able to fully commit to the characters and the story. If you focus on those things, the funny will automatically shine through."

--Barbara, what advice do you have for authors about writing humor? 
Don't ask me, ask Ellen Degeneres, lol! I think humorous writing is the unexpected combined with the sublime and the ludicrous. It's based on common experiences we've all had (or can easily imagine), and often focuses on the minutiae. Look at the comedian, Jim Gaffigan and how much mileage he's gotten out of mocking Hot Pockets. My advice is to read a lot of humor and try to analyze why it works. There's a lot of timing involved and also a build-up of expectations.

--Carrie, do you have any advice for narrators thinking about trying Audible? Has it met your expectations?
"Go for it! Audible’s ACX program gives new narrators and indie authors a vehicle to break into the audiobook business without the usual constraints. I mean, what have you got to lose!?! I'd never narrated a book before, but my voiceover coach, Amy Hartman, suggested that I create an ACX profile to start practicing and auditioning. I was so excited to have a place to get "real world" experience auditioning for audiobooks, that I didn’t really have any expectations. Given that, the program far exceeded my expectations! With ACX, I get to audition and practice my narration skills on a regular basis and have launched the beginning of my audiobook career, with several books for sell on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.  AMAZING!!!"
--Barbara, do you also recommend Audible?
Definitely! But be prepared to do some serious marketing on your own. Once you and your narrator have exhausted your personal connections, it's time to hit the virtual streets. Get free download codes from ACX and give them away like crazy. When you run out, ask for more. Sadly, we can't all be featured in the New York Times book section.

-- Carrie, how has your acting experience helped you as a narrator?
"Being an actress has taught me how to make strong choices and how to fully commit to those choices, the characters, and the story. This is a really critical skill for actors, but it’s even more important for audiobook narrators! All you’ve got to work with are the characters and the author’s words, so you’ve got to be really clear in your mind about who the characters are and what the words mean. If you stay focused on the characters and have clear intentions for the story when you read, it helps to paint a better picture for the listeners."

--Barbara, What type of feedback have you gotten?
Carrie and I have gotten some wonderful feedback on our audiobooks and Carrie really brings my characters to life. Here are some examples of feedback we've received: you made me laugh, thanks for the chuckles, you almost made me spit my coffee out through my nose! My absolute favorite, though, was the woman who said Carrie did an excellent drunk voice. Carrie and I agreed that when we finally meet, we'll drink some wine and practice our drunk voices together.

--Carrie, have you gotten feedback on your narration & did it surprise you in any way?

"I've gotten quite a lot of feedback actually, which is pretty cool. I’ve had bad and good surprises. The bad – people can be incredibly critical and even a little mean in their reviews – it’s really taught me to “let go” of the negative comments (you just can't please everyone) and to pay special attention to the "constructive criticism" (if you learn to identify it, you can use it to improve and hone your skills). The good – I've had a lot of people say that listening to my narration is like sitting with a good friend while she shares the humorous stories of her life.  WOW – what a great compliment! Since I’m always striving for that kind of intimate experience when I narrate, it's so freaking cool to hear that it comes across that way to listeners!  =D"

How fun to get to know more about 
Barbara and Carrie!

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