You may have caught some of my Author Interviews recently, but today I’m hosting an interview with the narrator of my paranormal thriller “Familiar“.
Please join me in welcoming Amanda Parrott for my blog’s first narrator Q&A!
About Amanda Parrott
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Amanda Parrott and I’m a narrator and producer of audiobooks.
I was born and grew up in Liverpool and I now live near Cheltenham in the Cotswolds with my husband, children and two crazy Labradors.
My two big passions are literature and theatre. In September I’m starting a Masters course in Creative and Critical writing, which I am really excited about.
What made you become a narrator and voice artist?
I’ve got a background in Performing Arts and took part in lots of productions when I was growing up. I also adore literature in all its forms and have a degree in French and European Literature.
My own performing took a back seat as my children were growing up, but they are all heavily involved in drama and being back in that world as a parent made me keen to dig out my own acting experience. If you add in my love of literature, narrating and voiceover was the perfect career choice for me.
What does it take to become a narrator like yourself?
Time – in terms of both the learning period and the time to physically produce a book.
When I was starting out, I would read advice from experienced narrators about how long a book should take – the industry average is 6 hours work for every finished hour of audio – but at the beginning I was putting in at least twice that long. I’ve learned a huge amount since then and am working with better equipment, but I am very self-critical and find myself re-recording chapters until I’m happy with them so there is still a little bit of me that can’t quite believe how long it takes!
I’d also advise anyone considering narrating to make use of all the fantastic guidance out there from experienced narrators and coaches on both the performance and technical sides. When I deliver a book it has to be completely ready for the listener, which includes the whole editing and mastering process. This aspect, especially, was a very steep learning curve for me and not something I would ever have been able to figure out for myself. I’m still learning all the time and constantly check back with more experienced narrators for advice.
Finally, listening to lots of great narration. In the same way that authors need to read to learn their craft, narrators need to listen.
What has your narrating history been to date?
I started with some small voiceover jobs through my son’s Talent Agent and then became interested in narration, so the next step was to invest in some equipment and set up my home studio.
I spent a long time recording samples and learning how to process them, as well as learning how to use my voice for different genres. Then I did some voluntary work narrating individual chapters for free audiobooks before I felt ready to audition for professional narration projects, and even then, it took a good few months before I was offered a project.
Since then, I’ve narrated and produced fiction by indie authors for Audible and I’m now lucky enough to be in a position where I have projects booked in advance rather than searching for my next book.
What would you like to do in the future in terms of narration?
Something I haven’t had the opportunity to do yet is to narrate a children’s book. I’d love to do that as I think there is a huge market for audiobooks for children and young adults, which would be great fun to narrate. I’d also like to work with one of the big publishers and learn about their production processes.
A dream come true would be to narrate my own book; I’ve always written and am currently working on a middle grade novel that I would love to publish and narrate.
Do you have another job full time? If so, what?
Until the end of last year I was a teacher. I taught French and Spanish for over 25 years in both primary and secondary schools and I also ran Performing Arts clubs. I loved every minute of my teaching career, but last year as my narration work was increasing, it felt like the right time to take the plunge and leave teaching to narrate full time.
My two younger children are still at home, so I do have ‘mummy duties’, but I’m loving being able to disappear into my studio in the morning and really focus on what I am doing for the whole day. Between narrating and writing, my life revolves around books; what could be better?
How do you prepare to narrate for a book? Do you have a process?
Great question! As soon as I accept a project I’m itching to see the whole manuscript. I read it from start to finish as any other reader would, to get to know the story. Then I re-read it with a focus on the characters, ending up with a list of main characters and a little bio for each to help me to decide on voices and a tone for each section.
Sometimes, as with my current book, there are pronunciation questions to consider so that goes into the preparation too. I have heard a few horror stories from narrators who have started recording without having read to the end of the book, only to find that the character they have recorded hours of light, high-pitched dialogue for, is described in the final chapter as having a ‘rasping, low voice from years of heavy smoking’!
Then it’s time to start recording, which is my favourite part. I send the completed first 15 minutes to the author to listen to, and there’s often a dialogue about how they imagine their characters to sound. I love hearing about authors’ ‘pictures’ of the characters they have created and I feel very honoured that they are willing to trust me with their labour of love!
I tend to record in the morning and edit in the afternoon to save me from the monotony of editing for the whole day, since that’s the least enjoyable step of the process for me.
Once the book is completed, it goes firstly to the author for approval, and then onto Audible for release.
Seeing the book up for sale and being enjoyed by listeners is the icing on the cake, but I really enjoy the whole process.
About narrating “Familiar“
Why did you want to narrate “Familiar“?
The first thing that drew me to Familiar was the cover art; I loved it and was immediately intrigued. Then the audition script was just as tempting, with tension, jeopardy and the promise of a really enthralling main character, packed into a couple of short excerpts. So it was a very easy decision to audition, and I was delighted when I heard I’d been successful.
Did you enjoy narrating it? If so, why?
I loved narrating Familiar and found myself really rooting for Arabella! She’s such a strong character and I enjoyed her right from the start. Some of her circumstances, only revealed towards the end of the book, explain a lot of her earlier decisions so I tried to voice her with an understanding of those circumstances.
Also, I really enjoyed the chance to narrate such a wide variety of characters, from a little boy to an elderly woman.
Were there any similarities between yourself and the lead character, Arabella?
Possibly. Maybe that’s why I liked her so much!
My house is always noisy and full of people, unlike Arabella’s, so I don’t think it’s the kind of place to attract any of her ‘friends’, and I certainly don’t have her ‘gift’.
I would like to think that I’d go out of my way to help someone in distress though, and I definitely share her need to get to the bottom of a good mystery!
If you had Arabella’s ability what would you do?
Aside from meeting lost loved ones, it would be amazing to be able to solve some unanswered questions from history; I might ask William Shakespeare about his writing process. Or maybe I would just get up to mischief and give certain people a good fright!
What did you like about “Familiar”?
I really like the balance that “Familiar” strikes between plot and character. The story is really quite intricate, but the main characters are so rounded that the reader still identifies effortlessly with them and is invested in their fate. As a real ‘character-driven’ reader, that’s important to me. And of course, we all love a good paranormal plot reveal.
Did you guess what was going to happen? Did you work out any of the story before it happened?
I’d love to say I figured it out from the start, but I didn’t, no. On my second read, I spotted the clues that were cleverly scattered, but there were so many possible strands I would never have tied them all together before the truth was revealed.
Would you like to narrate a sequel or prequel to Familiar?
A prequel would be great! I’d love to voice Arabella in her younger years if I could pass for a feisty twenty-something!
When narrating Familiar were you able to enjoy it like a reader or is it hard to when you’re focusing on the narration?
On my first reading, I definitely enjoyed it as a reader. I always know that a second reading, when the work really starts, is to follow, so I can just enjoy the story the first time around.
When I get into recording its more about focusing on how it will sound to a listener and I listen back to check for accuracy and consistency all the time, so that process is more about the end product than losing myself in the story.
How did you get into the mindset of each character?
Arabella came very easily. Perhaps it was because we are a similar age and she is so ‘well-drawn’ that I had a very clear picture of her as a person and also as a performer. In fact, the same is true of all the main characters so it wasn’t too difficult to find their voices, since their speech and actions were perfectly in-keeping with their characters.
Did you struggle to narrate for the living and the ‘friends’ (ghosts) in Familiar?
I loved voicing the ‘friends’. I felt I could give them a slightly stronger characterisation than the living characters, which was great fun. They did have quite a different feel so I tried to make a distinction between ‘down-to-earth’ and ‘ethereal’.
Who is your favourite character in Familiar?
Arabella’s a great character, but I have to confess, I really liked John. I loved his little quirks and I did enjoy the exchanges between the two of them.
What was your favourite scene to narrate? No spoilers please!
Definitely the scene set at Arabella’s show. The anticipation, the emotion of the ‘episodes’ and the electric atmosphere in the theatre made that section a gift to narrate.
What book are you reading currently?
I’m reading two books and have another two that I’m listening to.
I’m reading Joanne Harris’ ‘Five Quarters of the Orange’ and a beautiful book called ‘Before the Coffee Gets Cold’ by the Japanese author Toshikazu Kawaguchi, about a café where people can go to return to the past.
I’m listening to Michelle Obama’s autobiography and ‘Killing Commendatore’ by my favourite author, Haruki Murakami. I have to have lots on the go at once to cover dog walking, waiting around for kids and winding down for sleep.
Do you have a book you’re narrating at the moment?
I do. It’s a very hard-hitting and complex story spanning the life of a Jewish girl from Poland, from her horrific experiences during WW2 in the concentration camps, through her life as a fugitive moving through countless different countries all the way to her final days and some very shocking revelations.
It’s a long book – 16 hours – and I’m needing to use all my language and pronunciation skills, but I am really enjoying it and learning a great deal about 20th century History. That one will be available in June/July.
My latest completed book, ‘You’re All Mine’, a psychological thriller by Ruth Harrow, has just been released on Audible, which is always a really exciting time, so it’s been a busy week.
Thank you so much for your time Amanda, and what an interesting interview. I absolutely loved hearing you speak about Familiar so positively. And I’m so happy you enjoyed narrating it.
I do have to say, Arabella has really stuck with me, so there could be more form her in the future… but that’s all I will say on that for now.
If you would like to listen to Amanda narrate “Familiar”, check it out on Audible.
Did you enjoy that?
Thanks for reading!
There are more Q&A sessions to come, so do subscribe to my blog below and read them as they go live.