I have a special treat for you on this beautiful Friday! Not only am I reviewing the long awaited final book in Rebecca Zanetti’s SIN BROTHERS series, but the author AND the narrator are here to share with you all of the juicy details. Audible has kindly offered up a giveaway too!
Thanks so much for having us here today!
01. How much collaboration goes on between the author and narrator while recording an audiobook?
Rebecca: This is such a fun question! Karen and I talked about each book in general and then more specifically about character accents and themes. She also asked about the pronunciation of names, words in other languages, and words I’d made up. Once she had that information, she went ahead and did her magic. The final results are phenomenal.
Karen: It really depends on the author, but Rebecca has been very accessible and willing to help on both series. At a minimum it can be invaluable to get pronunciation guidance (not just when words are made up, but because authors often use friends and family names in their books). Since the Dark Protectors series was complete when I started recording, Rebecca was able to give me some valuable insight about where characters were heading in their journeys. For instance Jase, the youngest Kayrs brother, is a charming, carefree risk taker in the first few books, but later is forced down a dark path. It was important to Rebecca that he start out really easy going so there’d be contrast.
02. What goes into the making of an audiobook from an author’s perspective? And, from a narrator’s?
Rebecca: From an author’s perspective, I think just being available to the narrator if she has any questions is my main job when an audiobook is made. In our case, Karen is excellent at pacing, plot, and infliction, so she really didn’t need my input on any of that. I’m basically just here if she has questions about my books.
Karen: I think one of the most important things for me is a strong preparation. I read each book at least a week before I start recording and highlight pertinent information as I go. Then I go through those and make notes about all the characters and make a list for pronunciation research. Then when I start recording I have my research complete and a clear picture of each character in my head.
I work from home in a studio built by my husband (who is a sound engineer) that’s hidden behind a linen closet (I don’t know what future owners of this house will think when they discover it!) I record chapter by chapter, and I’ve learned to make a little mp3 sound sample of every character’s voice as I go, which I save in a folder on the computer. Then, when those seemingly small characters come back later, I have examples to keep them consistent (like Max in the Dark Protectors, just be a bodyguard who is willing to play Go Fish with a four year old in book one, but then ends up with his own novella).
I have software that allows me to edit as I go, so at the end of each day I upload nearly complete audio files to the publisher or audiobook production company I’m working with. Within a few weeks of my initial recording, after someone has listened to what I’ve sent while reading the manuscript to catch any errors (we call this proofing or QC), I’ll get back a list of “corrections” or “pickups”. I re-record those and upload them. Then the post-production people do some magical stuff to it to make it sound even better and ready it for retail sale in the various formats. Meanwhile, I’m on to the next book!
03. How dependent is an audiobook’s success on the writing? The narration?
Rebecca: I’d have to say they’re about equal. The book has to be good and interesting in the first place, and the narrator has to be engaging and true to the original book to keep people listening.
Karen: I would agree with Rebecca’s thoughts. From my listening experience and from reviews I’ve read, there are times when a dynamic narrator can lift mediocre writing to create a good listen, and there are times when an unskilled or miscast reader can ruin excellent writing and send a listener back to the print version. But when the writing is good and the narrator is experienced and well cast, you can get a collaboration that is better than the sum of its parts!
04. How does releasing a title through a traditional publisher (like Hachette) differ from a full service site (like Audible)?
Rebecca: Well, one difference is that with Audible, my agent was involved in the contract negotiations, whereas with Hachette, we’d already sold those rights, so Hachette negotiated with Audible and I wasn’t involved. At that point, the process was the same for me. I spoke with Karen, we emailed back and forth, and then she sat down and narrated the books.
Karen: Almost all narrators are independent contractors that are hired either directly by the publisher (as with Audible – they produce, publish and sell the audiobooks) or an audiobook producer that works for a publisher (as with Hachette – they are the print and audio publisher, but subcontract the actual making of the book to someone else). My work stays pretty much the same for each though, no matter the type of company.
05. What’s it like hearing your words brought to life?
Rebecca: When the narration is well done, it’s awesome. When the narration is off, it’s cringe-worthy. So I can tell you that working with Karen has been wonderful, and I love the way she brings the books to life. Thank goodness!
06. How are narrators selected for a specific project?
Karen: I think you’d have to talk to someone on the publisher or producer side to get a clear picture on that, and I’m sure each one has their own process. From my point of view, I get an email asking if I’m interested and available for a certain book on a certain schedule. Sometimes I’ll be asked to record a short audition, sometimes the producer will just send samples of previous work to either the agent or author if they have narrator choice in their contract. I do try to keep up a relationship with authors when I enjoy recording their books (Rebecca and I were able to meet in person at RWA 2014), and that often leads to a request to continue, even when they switch publishers.
07. Has Karen ever taken one of your characters in a direction that you didn’t expect just with her tone and pitch?
Rebecca: I think that she’s brought them to life in a way that’s beyond what I could’ve imagined. Her tone and pitch are so much fun, and I really enjoy what she’s accomplished with these characters.
08. How do you stay ‘in the zone’ while in studio?
Karen: Great question! Full time narrators record long days – usually 5 to 6 hours a day sitting and acting out our little one person shows in a very small room. Although my acting and voice training background is vital to the work, my yoga and meditation studies and practice have become essential, too. I’ve also directed other narrators, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that you can hear when a narrator is no longer present – the words are all there and you can make sense of them, but they’ve lost their connection to the story. Since I work on my own, I have to pay attention to that myself, and my yoga practice really helps prepare me to stay present with the words and in my body. When I lose it, I relax into the chair and take a cleansing breath, and start again. On a side note, I love that Janie in the Dark Protectors series has a meditation practice that she uses to drop into her special dream world! I think of it as part of her super powers.
09. How did your first audiobook come to be? Did you always intend to go this route, or did you sort of stumble into it?
Rebecca: I’m laughing a little bit here because I seem to stumble into a lot of situations. For the Sin Brothers, my publisher took care of the audio rights, so I wasn’t really involved. Then with the Dark Protectors, my agent sent the books out on proposal, we had a few offers, and we went with Audible. When we were negotiating the Dark Protectors, Karen and I were talking on the side, and she mentioned that sometimes an author could request a narrator for a series. Since she’d done such an amazing job on the Sin Brothers, I requested her once the contract was signed, and Audible worked with us. I always thought the books would be available as audio books, so I’m thankful it has all worked out.
10. In your opinion, are certain titles better suited for audio? Why?
Karen: I do a lot of non-fiction as well as fiction, and there are some books that are chock-full of charts and graphs – with those I think you do lose a lot in the audio format (though often the publisher will provide a PDF with those graphs). Sometimes if there is repetitive material that you could skip over in print you’ll see complaints that it doesn’t work in audio. But honestly, I think people who like to listen are pretty willing to adapt in their heads as needed.
11. Have you ever been inspired to change an element in one of your books because of Karen’s performance? Or written a scene in a future installment as a result of an idea that came to you while listening?
Rebecca: You know, so far, we’ve pretty much worked with finished series. I hope we get the chance to work together on a couple of the new series I have coming up, and it’ll be interesting to answer that question at that point.
12. How do you choose what voice / accent you’re going to use for each character?
Karen: In my prep read and note-making process, I include any details an author might include about a characters accent or vocal characteristics. I try to only use an accent when it’s indicated, but sometimes it does help to add differentiation or “local color”. In the Sin Brothers series, all the brothers have a Tennessee accent that Rebecca indicates that they slip into in certain moments. What I got from the story as a whole was that they were trained by the Commander and Matt to suppress what was their native accent, as a part of being undercover soldiers. I saw Nate as the biggest rebel among them, so I made the choice that he’d use the accent more freely, as a sort of “F– you” to the Commander.
An interesting thing in the Dark Protectors, is that there are flashback scenes where the Kayrs brothers are essentially early immigrants to the American Colonies, and Rebecca writes the dialogue with some British-isms. So I used an older British accent for them in those scenes, but figured that 300 years later, they’d adapted to occasional interactions with modern American humans, so they have general American accents. This made sense to me – I hope it does to listeners!
13. What do you look for in a good narrator? How did you know that Karen was the one?
Rebecca: Well, to be honest, I lucked out with Karen for the Sin Brothers because I wasn’t involved until she was already contracted to narrate. Then after I heard her work on those books, and after working with her so easily, I really wanted her to narrate the Dark Protectors. She does such an amazing job, and I really appreciate how she works with the author to get the narration just right. Also, she’s very energetic and hard-working when it comes to the promotional side of the business, and that’s awesome.
14. Have you ever co-narrated an audiobook? What was that like?
Karen: I have a few times, with books that are written in first person, with alternating narrators. Since these have all been with narrators who are working in other parts of the country, I’ve learned to communicate beforehand to discuss tone and character choices, and even to send each other samples of character choices, so that we’re basically on the same page. (When I didn’t do this, it was kind of a disaster and listeners complained that the switch back and forth was jarring, so I learned my lesson!)
15. You’re the (future) voice of two of Zanetti’s series; what are the difference between reading Romantic Suspense and Paranormal Romance?
Karen: Well, both the Sin Brothers and Dark Protectors series have a LOT of action – both between lovers and in the many battle scenes. So those challenges of pacing and intensity are pretty much the same. The biggest challenge in paranormal for me is creating character voices for the various super-human or monster types. A great example: Rebecca describes her demon characters (the purebreds, anyway) as having “mangled vocal cords”. It was a very interesting challenge to find something that would suggest that without destroying my voice!
One unexpected but fun challenge from Dark Protectors was following several characters as they grew up – in particular, Janie, who goes from an impish four year old in Book one to a 25-year old with a lover and an onus to save the world in Book seven! It was interesting to keep her energy somewhat consistent while gradually aging her voice.
Thanks so much for having us over for an interview!
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Rebecca Zanetti has worked as an art curator, Senate aide, lawyer, college professor, and a hearing examiner – only to culminate it all in stories about Alpha males and the women who claim them. She writes dark paranormals, romantic suspense, and sexy contemporary romances.
Growing up amid the glorious backdrops and winter wonderlands of the Pacific Northwest has given Rebecca fantastic scenery and adventures to weave into her stories. She resides in the wild north with her husband, children, and extended family who inspire her every day–or at the very least give her plenty of characters to write about.
Karen White is a classically trained actress who has been recording audio books since 1999 and has well over 150 books to her credit and is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA. Honored to be included in Audiofile’s Best Voices 2010 and 2011, she’s also an Audie Finalist and Best Audiobook of the Year winner for 2009, 2010 and 2011 (The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon Reed, Too Good to be True by Erin Arvedlund, and Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor) and she has earned multiple Audiofile Earphones Awards, recently for and You Had Me at Woof by Julie Klam and Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. Publishers Weekly says of Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, “Karen White delivers a stunning reading, her character interpretations are confident and well-rounded, and she forges a strong bond with the audience.” Speaking of Audiobooks says of her, “Karen is one of my auto-buy narrators – if I think a book may interest me, her narration will sway me to give it a try.”
Piper Oliver knows she can't trust him. They warned her that the tall, dark, and sexy black-ops soldier Jory Dean would try to win her over with his steel-gray eyes and deadly charm, but she won't be conned by this man they call a traitor. All she has to do is figure out the science necessary to save his life, and she's done. Something isn't adding up, though, and she won't rest until she uncovers the truth-even if it's buried in his deep, dangerous kiss.
A passion she can't resist . . .
Jory will do anything to reunite with and save his brothers-even kidnap the gorgeous woman who's working to deactivate the deadly chip in their spines. But the forces determined to destroy his family won't let them go so easily. Keeping Piper alive is more than he bargained for-and so is his burning desire for her. But with every second bringing him closer to certain death, can he afford to lose himself in her hot and willing embrace?
After three hair-raising installments of wondering whether the fourth Dean brother was alive, or not, we finally have our answer, however their reunion might be short lived because D-Day is upon them. This series has been one gigantic adrenaline rush, and Rebecca Zanetti doesn’t hold back in TOTAL SURRENDER; in fact, she severs the brakes, and pushes listeners off the largest hill she can find with an evil grin plastered on her face. This audiobook didn’t just get an emotional reaction out of me, but a physical one too, and Karen White led the charge with her narration.
This series is a great example of nature vs. nurture in that all of the SIN BROTHERS were test tube babies, and received near identical upbringings, and yet they couldn’t be more different. Jory has the highest IQ ever recorded, and Piper is a gifted hacker, so I totally geeked-out over these two protagonists. I also loved that the author filled in the remainder of the gaps by sharing minor details like how the siblings got their last name, and major ones such as who shot the youngest Dean. You might want to strap on a helmet because the blindsides just keep on coming!
I’ve heard of close calls, but apparently down to the wire just didn’t cut it for Zanetti because she left no room for error when the deadline on the kill chips was up. Thanks for the gray hairs! I went into this installment thinking that it was the last one, however when Chance & co. showed up, I began to have doubts. I was excited at the prospect of more volumes, although the idea of the Commander living to fight another day brought on a fit of rage. Ultimately, I was satisfied on both fronts, and even more so by the closing chapters, along with each brother’s mini HEA.
The blame for my newly found heart condition doesn’t rest solely on the author’s shoulders because even though she brought the grenade, it was Karen White who pulled the pin with her narration. There were so many voices in this audiobook because all of the characters were in it, and yet the reader conquered every single one of them as though it were child’s play. My only beef with this novel was the overuse of the word ‘intense’; I’m tempted to buy the eBook edition so that I can run a search, and tally it up. Nevertheless, Zanite and Romantic Suspense go together like chocolate & strawberries!
Sticking with the food theme, TOTAL SURRENDER was the cherry on top of the SIN BROTHERS sundae.
Was this review helpful? If so, please consider liking it on GoodReads or voting on Amazon!