Colby: We are excited to feature Tara Sands in this edition of our Narrator of the Month Series. If you listened to Season 2 of The Yarn, you may remember hearing a clip of Tara reading the first chapter of Gertie’s Leap To Greatness at the end of Episode Four. You’ll find an interview I did with Tara below. Just for fun, I sprinkled in some clips of her audiobook work.
How did you become an audiobook narrator?
I started doing voice overs when I was in high school….mostly commercials where I’d just say a line or two. One of the auditions I went on was for the audiobooks of The Babysitters Club books. This was so exciting because it was the first opportunity I saw for a long-form type of voice over job where I could really feel like an actor. Luckily, I booked the job and had a blast recording it!
How do you prepare for a recording?
I read the book and make a list of all the characters and any personality or vocal notes the author gives about them. Some authors are amazing at this and the character’s voices are immediately clear to me. Other times, there are no descriptors. Or, what is even harder, is when the descriptors of one character contradict each other! Or when several characters voices are described in a very similar way…..that actually happens a lot!
What type of books do you read for pleasure?
I read so much fiction for work that I tend to read non-fiction or biographies for fun. Right now I am reading Judd Apatow’s book Sick in the Head, where he interviews lots of different comedians and comic actors.
Do you do different voices for all the characters? How do you keep them straight?
It all goes back to that list! I have a few keywords that I put next to the character’s name that remind me what they sound like. But the most crucial thing is to (sorry if this is too technical) put a marker in pro tools or a time code where they first speak, so that I can go back and refer to their voices. When there are tons of characters in a book, it is nearly impossible to keep them all straight without the help of technology.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve had to do as a narrator? (Singing? Sounds? etc.)
The weirdest thing for me is when I have to speak lyrics to songs. We don’t have the legal rights to the music, so I can’t sing them. Even if the character is singing the lyrics, I have to find a rhythmic way to say them so that we don’t break any copyright rules, but that you still feel the effects of it being a song! The rap songs I had to do were definitely tricky!
Do you narrate things other than audiobooks?
Not necessarily narration, but I do lots of other voice over work. Cartoons, commercials, industrials, video games, etc.
What is something that narrators know about getting a story across that the general public might not know?
Wow. Hmmmmmm. I guess I would say that you have to think about who you are talking to. Sometimes I’ll picture someone driving in their car and needing this audiobook to get through their commute. I try to imagine who would enjoy this story and envisioning them helps me in telling it. It’s especially helpful with children’s books. I want to tell it in a way that kids will like it and parents won’t mind listening to it with them.
Is there a word you feel everyone pronounces incorrectly?
Great question. SO MANY!!! I was just watching the news and the anchor kept pronouncing “Arctic” as “Artic.” It made my skin crawl!!!
Be sure to check out our first Narrator of the Month feature with Mark Turetsky.