Now, I know Sapphic Fiction February has so far been full of author interviews, but today we’re doing something a little different! Ana Clements is not an author, but an audiobook narrator! You’ll have likely heard her voice narrating Sapphic stories such as Lise Gold’s series ‘The Resort’, ‘That Certain Something’ by Clare Ashton and a multitude by Emma Nichols, including ‘Elodie’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me Who To Love’.
With that in mind, I had to adjust the questions for this interview slightly. I was so fascinated by what Ana had to say about being a narrator, and I know you’ll enjoy reading about it too!
Hi Ana! Tell us a little bit about you – who are you and what do you do?
HI! I am a bilingual audiobook narrator. I had always wanted to be a singer. My family didn't know how to support the idea, so I studied economics and had a good career in finance. After working in an office environment for 20 years, I had a mid life career change and have now found an industry that supports me and my life goals - I feel very lucky.
How did you get into being a narrator?
Mid-life I felt as though life was passing me by. I began with weekly piano lessons, which became singing lessons, exams, feed-back, charity concerts and then taking leads in musicals at provincial theatres. This encouraged my creative drive and lead to me buying a microphone to record my singing at home. I soon became fascinated by sound and spent two years studying acoustic treatment and sound recording. I was then able to transfer across into a part time job as a voice artist. A couple of years into corporate video and e-learning, I discovered audiobooks. Six years ago I went full time and haven't looked back.
Tell me something about being an audiobook narrator that would surprise me.
The part where I get to narrate is perhaps 30% of my job. There is pre-reading, research, networking, outsourcing, emails, accounts, marketing - the list goes on. We wear many different hats in the booth - narrator, engineer, director. Outside the booth we are freelance artists, so we head up the marketing, personnel, purchasing, R&D and finance divisions of our own business. I'm glad I had an administrative and financial background as some of the new narrators I work with are taken by surprise by all the extra requirements.
If you’re really not feeling a project, how do you get it done?
My job as a narrator is to share the author's words. Someone else poured their heart and soul into this book and I get to perform it in audio. When the author was writing the book, they stuck with it because of the passion they felt for the project. I channel that passion, that drive and fascination with the text. It's not my job to be excited by the text but to deliver the author's passion so that the listener is entertained.
How do you not cry while reading sad scenes?
I do cry! There is a line between delivering lines on a sob and sobbing. Sometimes I have to leave the booth and take a walk. I always remind myself that the listener doesn't care how I feel, they want to feel the words, they want to live the moment and I am there to deliver it.
Are there any genres you would absolutely never narrate?
Rather than a genre, I find gratuitous sex scenes grating and I do not narrate non-consensual sex scenes. There are genres my voice is better suited to and the market tends to decide where we fall within genres. Repeat work is the sign that you have placed yourself well within the industry and I am really happy with my work.
Does anyone you know in real life listen to your narrations?
When I first started I was eager for my family to listen and thought they would want to hear the stories I narrate. Nothing could be farther from the truth, although my youngest still talks about the time she was home from school and lay on the sofa listening to me narrate a children's mystery. I now speak at author conferences, about how they might produce audiobooks, and have been lucky enough to have people approach me who have listened to my narration and are pleased to meet me. It's lovely to know that people enjoy my work.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given with regards to being a narrator?
Run your own race. It's actually advice I had to give myself and that I share with others. We spend a lot of our time comparing and harshly, judging ourselves against others. I know that I am better each day than I was the day before, and that is what I strive for.
How about in general life?
Do what makes you happy and remember that failure isn't fatal. I spent a lot of my life attempting to appease or impress others, setting my bar by their standards. It has taken a long time to acknowledge what I really want and how to go about it. Jim Carey quotes his father's life choices, "you can fail at what you don't want so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love" and that really struck a chord with me.
What is a motto you live by?
For the first 40 years of my life it was, 'treat others as you would be treated'. Until I realised that nobody else was playing :-) People act from their own place of thoughtfulness and you can't make people treat you well just by example. So my motto now is, surround yourself with good, supportive people.
How can people connect with you?
Finally a light-hearted question! If you were a sandwich, what sandwich would you be?
I'm a Turkey Club sandwich, a little fancy but a classic. I'm an open book and you know exactly what you are going to get.
If you enjoyed this interview, then make sure you’re following my social media accounts (@kblakemanwriter on Twitter and @katherineblakemanwriter on Instagram) to get all the latest updates! And if you want to support my own Sapphic Fiction journey while you’re here, my new novel The Summer We’ve Had is available now!