Interview With Tavia Gilbert, Voice for Audio Books


TS.  I have used a narrator for many of my own books and know what an integral part they play in the success of an audio book.  Tavia is one of the best out there!

Q. Tell us about your acting/voice career.

A. I work as a full-time audio book narrator, recording primarily in my home studio in Brooklyn, New York. I’ve been passionate about sound, voice, and story all my life, and it’s been exciting to see where my career takes me. I graduated from Cornish College in Seattle with a BFA in Acting, with a concentration in Original Works. Soon after graduation I moved to Portland, Maine to study documentary audio storytelling at the Salt Institute. I worked in Portland as a commercial and theater actor, before focusing on audio book narration. I began working full-time as an audio book narrator in 2007, and in these eight years I’ve recorded more than 400 books for virtually every publisher, in virtually every genre. When I completed my MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from Vermont College a few years ago I moved from Maine to Brooklyn, to further develop my work as a performer, producer, and publisher.

Q. What led you to start a narration career?

A. I was born with deformed feet and have had more than a dozen corrective foot surgeries since I was seven months old. I remember an intense yearning to be an actress as early as about four years old, and I did theater in my hometown when I was growing up with dreams of working as a performing artist and living in a New York City apartment with a fire escape (and now I have my very own fire escape!). But I struggled somewhat in college, with another surgery that required time away from school, and later with the physical demands of the actor conditioning program at Cornish. I’m so grateful that Cornish pushed me as hard as it did physically, because I came to understand that I was stronger and more capable than I thought, though I was dealing with — and still do — some quite serious physical challenges. Once I decided to stay permanently in Maine (I lived there for 12 years), I realized that there would not be enough professional commercial or theater work to sustain a career from Maine. Just at that time the voice-over and narration industries were beginning to transition to home studios, so I set my sights on narration. I was an avid listener, and realized that narration work would allow me to draw on all the technique and training I’d invested in, grow a business that was entrepreneurial and self directed, and enrich my relationship with language, contemplation, and writing craft. It was truly the perfect career for me.

Q. Can you tell us about your process when you begin to narrate a book?

A. I’m sent a digital manuscript of the print book by an audio book publisher, and I open the manuscript in iAnnotate on my iPad. I read the manuscript closely, marking the script carefully with various highlighters and underline tools; I mark every unfamiliar word or term I need to research in red. Every new character is highlighted in purple. Every bit of character description is marked in orange. Chapter headings are marked in yellow. In a scene with various characters in dialogue, especially those without attributions (“Jane said,” “Richard answered”), each character’s line of dialogue will be underlined in a different color, so I can visually track the flow of the back and forth of the conversation without missing a beat.

my dear parents, and my brother, Cy, at the dinner on the beach, in Mazatlan
Dialogue direction (“he growled,” “she hissed,” “she shouted”) is marked in green, so that I can deliver the dialogue with a touch of that suggestion. Character’s specific vocal qualities are marked in blue (“his textured baritone,” “her adenoidal squeak”), so that I know what the writer has offered for vocal characterizations. I research all the red terms, often in partnership with the writer. If the book has many characters, I’ll make a character chart where I break out different aspects of characterization, like attitude/emotion, tempo, pitch, placement (does the voice come from her chest? his throat? his stomach?), so that I can frequently refer to the chart throughout recording to ensure that the many characters are differentiated and consistent. The book I’m recording now — Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night — has taxed me more than any other project. I’ve recorded a series of lines in dialogue in Lithuanian dialect, researched the Welsh and Polish dialects, recorded native Welsh and Polish speakers…

Drop in February 22nd for the conclusion!

More info about her narrative services:

DON’T MISS BLOGS featuring INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!       Julia London, Matt Jorgenson, MJ Mooresand actor/narrator Tavia Gilbert.  March’s featured author is Susie Drougas and long awaited interview with Kathleen Grissom (The Kitchen House) in April.

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