The first time I heard Jayne's narrative voice was in her reading of Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I loved the book, and then had a chance to listen to the audiobook--and I was captivated by Jayne's amazing talent.
Since then, I've listened to all of Jayne's recordings of the books in the wonderful Flavia de Luce series. Each time, I'm completely enchanted and thoroughly entertained -- whether I've read the book previously or it's a fresh listen.
Part of that delight is due to Alan Bradley's fabulous Flavia, a wonderful character--an 11-year-old genius, she's brilliant, mischievous, imaginative, whimsical and innocent--and part is due to Jayne Entwistle's exceptional, equally whimsical and beautifully nuanced readings. In any book she narrates, regardless of the author, Jayne brings the characters and stories to vivid, immediate life.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
I Am Half-SIck of Shadows by Alan Bradley
I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
And now let's talk to Jayne!
Jayne Entwistle: When I moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco, I had some voice over experience but I wanted certain VO skills and experiences that would lead to more work. Narration was a skill I would see listed all the time in the breakdowns (audition notices) so I started scouring Craigslist for student projects that would provide me with that experience.
I saw an audition notice on Craigslist looking for a native of the UK who was both an actress and a voice over artist, someone who could effectively portray an 11 year old girl. Thinking I was responding to a student ad, I left a voice message. The following morning Janet Stark, Random House Producer and Director of the first two Flavia books, called asking me to come in immediately.When I arrived at the huge Books on Tape/Random House facility, I was shocked and terrified. This was no student gig! I did the audition and was immediately hooked on The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I secretly hoped I would book the job just so I could finish reading the book!
Narrating audiobooks is the one of the best jobs I have ever had -- and to think I found it on Craigslist! Janet later told me that they had never advertised on Craigslist as they have a strong talent pool but Flavia was such a unique character, they needed to look farther afield. In regard to being busy, Los Angeles is an odd duck -- when it rains it pours with work but then, being the desert it is, things can dry up in a flash. Never have I had to practice letting go and riding an unpredictable current like I have here.
Susan: You sound as if you're having so much fun when you read the Flavia books. You and Flavia are a match made in heaven. What do you like best about narrating Alan Bradley's books?
Jayne: Oh my goodness, where do I start? I fell in love with Flavia in the first sentence! I couldn’t put the book down, often forgetting “this is work!” When I read anything, be it work or not, I get absorbed into the World of the book. I see every landscape, every detail. It plays out before me like a movie. Alan Bradley’s writing is exquisitely rich. The characters and worlds he creates are so vivid that I don’t feel I am just reading them, I’m living them.
Flavia is wickedly smart, precocious, inquisitive, stubborn and hilarious. She makes me laugh and, especially with the last two books, makes me cry. Sometimes I will be at the store, day dreaming in the cheese aisle (I love cheese!) wondering how Mrs. Mullet is doing when I am disappointed to remember that she doesn’t really exist. I feel relieved when I open a new Flavia book, settle back into Bishops Lacy and feel like, “Hello old friends, Oh how I’ve missed you!”
Susan: Can you tell us something about your process for narrating a book? Do you record in a studio or in a set-up at home? Do you read the books first and work out what to do? And how do you keep track of all the accents and voice variations that you do?
Jayne: The turnaround time for narration is fairly quick. Once the “approved for recording” draft is sent to me, I only have time to read the book once through. I love love love to read, so getting that manuscript delivered to my door is thrilling. I pack up my various highlighters, pencils and notebooks and settle myself into a coffee shop where there are ironically less distractions.
I highlight in the manuscript where a character first appears and then mark it in a notebook so I can easily reference that character. I also highlight any words I don’t know how to pronounce. My lists are very long with the Alan Bradley books. First, there are all the scientific terms I haven’t a clue at how to pronounce. Then there are the numerous references to musicians, wars, artists, scientists, historical events. The Crimean War, for example. Not a word I typically bandy about. Flavia is decidedly smarter than I am! I’m learning, however. I now know a thing or two about arsenic!
We record in a studio at the Random House facility. Each book is assigned a Producer/Director who not only handles the technical aspect of recording the sessions but also takes their own notes, researches words, liaises with the authors and provides direction. In regards to the various accents and characters, I practice voices out loud in the car and this being L.A, there is ample opportunity for that. Some of the characters talk out of a certain part of their mouth. Mr. De Luce sits up ram-rod straight with his hand on his left knee. Daphne De Luce sucks in her cheeks and bites down on her tongue. Mrs. Mullet talks out of the front of her mouth which is where Northerners tend to speak from whereas other characters pull their mouths down at the sides to give it that aristocratic feel.
Susan: I love your descriptions of the characters! Are there some books you like to narrate and some you don't care to do? And what would be your dream narration assignment -- something you would love to read in audio?
Jayne: I haven’t met an audiobook I didn’t like. I tend to like the books that have rich and varied characters. The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade were challenging and the stories were gripping. I loved being on the dark side of Victorian England. I did two books in the series and wanted them to keep going forever.
I imagine I would be well challenged by a non-fiction book as I couldn’t rely on characterization but would have to pay more attention to delivery, tone and evenness of speech.
Susan: What are some of your favorite books? Do you prefer reading, or do you listen to audiobooks yourself? (And do you read passages out loud when you're reading for pleasure?)
Jayne: I usually only read fiction. I had my fill of non-fiction in graduate school. Some of my favourite authors are Ann Patchett, Kent Haruf, Kate Morton, Salman Rushdie and Annie Proulx. I need to have that book in my hand as opposed to hearing it. I like historical fiction and I read some historical romance, too. I love to learn some truths about the world while being transported into a fictitious world at the same time.
I read voraciously as a child, inhaling books like Nancy Drew. I was inconsolable at the end of Heidi, feeling as if I had lost a best friend. I remember sobbing into my pillow with my poor Dad trying to assure me that Heidi would be fine even though the book was over. I credit this love of reading at an early age with my ability to narrate audiobooks now. And yes, I will read passages out loud because I love literature and language and the melody of words and well . . . my own voice!
Susan: What's your next narration project? (I can't wait to hear it!)
Jayne: I never know what projects are on the horizon. I am usually pleasantly surprised by the sudden announcement of a new book for me to narrate. The one book I am waiting for with bated breath is The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, the sixth book in the Flavia de Luce series!
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I told my friends with almost a sense of heartbreak that, “I just want to read. Oh, if only I could get paid to do that!” They teased me for being so dramatic. As hokey as it sounds, it really has been a dream come true!
Susan: A dream come true and a dream job - it doesn't get much better than that in the working world. Jayne, it's so fascinating to chat with you. Thank you for visiting the Word Wenches!
Do you all listen to audiobooks? Are you a fan of Alan Bradley's mysteries, Sophie Kinsella, Arthur Slade -- and Jayne Entwistle's narrations?
Most of us who hang around this blog cannot live without books -- and I know some of you cannot live without audiobooks either. I'm listening to audiobooks more often than I used to, now that I've discovered the fun of Jayne's readings.
Questions and comments welcome! :)