Today I am thrilled to welcome Eilidh Beaton to The Reading Closet as part of The Guesthouse At Lobster Bay blog tour. Like writers, narrators work differently from one another and I’m not sure about you but I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know the talented narrators behind our bookish listens. Eilidh narrates many a good books, wonderfully, but she has also narrated the spotlighted book today, The Guesthouse At Lobster Bay, written by Annie Robertson and audiobook published by Isis Audio. If you love gorgeous, uplifting romance novels, please take a look at it here.
So, without further ado, here’s Eilidh’s answers to the questions about her narrator career! What questions would you have asked her?
How did you initially get into voice acting?
I knew I wanted to be an actor from the age of about three, I think! I realised I could mimic people, create voices and do accents very early on and was constantly making radio shows on my beloved yellow ghetto blaster with the all-important record function. I always imagined myself on stage though and spent my teens and early 20s acting in stage productions, first at school, then during and outside my drama degree, at drama school and then professionally. It’s a tough industry though as of course we all know, and I realised I needed to really look at where my strengths lay if I was going to have a fulfilling career.
After much soul searching, realised that audiobooks could be the answer! I love storytelling, I love being able to create full, round characters, I love books – it was perfect! Then of course I had to try it out… I had a voice demo made and approached lots of publishers and studios. WF Howes took a punt on me in 2005 and the rest is history! I loved being in the booth – although it was very different then. It wasn’t digital, I had a director, producer and sound engineer so the booth was rather larger than current ones! Now I narrate two or three, sometimes four books a month, as well as video games, ELT work and corporate jobs.
Do you have a favourite audiobook project?
That is a very difficult question! I’ve now narrated more than 100 audiobooks. The first (Remember Me by Lesley Pearce) was very special because it made me realise this was something I was super keen to do more of, The second was very special because it was with Isis who I now record lots of books for. I also love it when I narrate a series of books or work with the same author on a new book. There’s nothing like revisiting a character you’ve got to know well and a setting you’ve grown to love! The rest have all been super special though because every book I do, without fail, absorbs me completely. I think for an audiobook to be successful, you really need to get into the bones of the story and setting. If you can really feel that and spend a lot of time developing the characters for audio, it should hopefully come across truthfully and hopefully be very entertaining!
How do you get in to the mindset and prepare for audiobook narration?
Preparation is completely vital. I often speak to other narrators about this and we often have slightly different approaches but lots of elements will be similar. I start by reading the book slowly to really get a feel for it. During this time I will write notes about each character – what they say about themselves, what other people say about them, nuanced elements I’ve picked up as a reader – Look up any tricky words or place names, think about appropriate character voices. My mantra is “Assumption is the mother of all mess-ups” so if there’s even the slightest doubt, I’ll look it up. I use an app called iAnnotate which enables me to mark up the text using different colours for different characters. There may be 6 people talking on one page so it can get confusing and delay recording if these aren’t marked up properly. It also enables me to write down pronunciations and even include character voice clips.
For main characters I will really build up everything about them – how they would move physically (people are often surprised by how physicality comes into audiobook narration) how they would brush their teeth or respond to someone getting angry with them etc. For more minor characters, I will have something in my mind to drive me into that character quickly. It might be a lift of the head, a change in oral posture or recalling the look of a person I have based them on. For me, creating character voices for audiobooks is a mixture of deep down character knowledge or sometimes, I might base a character on my auntie Teena, say! I will have voice clips on my phone for each character to further embed those voices. I also love it when authors send me pictures they have used while writing their books.
Then, on the day, I trust that I have put in the work (intense work for three days is often the case but I’ll be absorbed by it most of the time during this period!) and hydration and tummy sound management! Time in the booth is tight so we don’t want to have to stop for stomach gurgles and mouth clicks! I generally drink at least two litres of water a day to keep myself hydrated because leaving this to the last minute can prove fatal! I will have snacks ready so that if I feel a gurgle coming on, I’m prepared! Unfortunately lunch time is very boring for me when I’m narrating… salad and anything really nice and healthy can make my stomach grumble but I know I can always rely on a good old chicken sandwich!
Finally, it’s all about the tongue twisters, sironing and jaw and tongue work. My favourite tongue twister, which I learnt at Drama school many moons ago, and is always enjoyed by producers is, “Are you copper bottoming ‘em, my man? No, I’m aluminiuming ‘em mum.”
Then, after looking through the characters again and thinking about the story, I’m ready!
If the book has some challenging accents, I will start preparation sooner to enable the accents to bed in. I have some brilliant accent apps like The Accent Kit that breaks accents down and enables actors to (hopefully!) authentically create that voice. Or I will chat to a friend who has that accent until I’m comfortable with it. I also have a slightly strangely large bank of accents in my head!
If the book I’m preparing is part of a series, I will listen back to the clips I have for the recurring characters on my phone, or if it’s an Ulverscoft book, I can listen to the book again because they really kindly send physical copies, which is lovely.
Thankyou so much Eilidh for taking the time to answer my questions and sharing everything narrator life with us! I, for one, look forward to future narrations by you!