From Regency lovers to bees and trolls, Jannie creates their voices!
Jean Gill, the author of Arrows Tipped With Honey, book 2 in the Natural Forces series, which I recorded recently, has asked me to tell you a bit about myself. You can watch this interview on video if you prefer. I did add a little more in the video!
Jannie: I’m Jannie Meisberger, a British voice actor and audiobook narrator living happily in the beautiful Pacific Northwest of America.
Jean: Can you give me a brief picture of your personal journey as a Voice Actor (Kind of work you do? When started?
Jannie: My voice acting journey began 10 years ago, with poetry recordings for LibriVox, a group of worldwide volunteers who record public domain texts, before I moved on to commercial voice work. I started recording audiobooks in 2014. In addition to recording audiobooks, I record on-hold messages and company videos as well as live performance narration of classics like Peter and the Wolf for children’s concerts.
Jean: You usually record Regency romance and fantasy novels. Why did you choose these very different genres?
The majority of the 45 audiobooks I’ve recorded are Regency romance novels.
Jannie: Going to boarding school in Bath, the home of stately Georgian and Regency architecture and culture, was a huge influence not only on the books I read in school, but also much later on the choice of novels I chose to record, which is why the majority of the 45 audiobooks I’ve recorded are Regency romance novels. During a recent visit to Bath I visited the Jane Austen Museum and here’s a photo of me with Mr. Darcy.
Jean: That's an impressive number of audiobooks and an even more impressive claim to fame. I think many of us would like to spend time with Mr Darcy!
Jannie: Unfortunately I’m not properly attired for the occasion but Mr. Darcy didn’t seem to mind! While at school, I learned to play the piano, love drama and absorb several languages, including Latin, French and German, all great resources to draw upon when I’m researching character voices for audiobooks.
My journey into the world of fantasy novels began when I was offered a series which included dwarves, pixies, goblins, even a German baroness and many other characters. The series reminded me of the fairy tales I read to my children and how much fun I had voicing all the characters for them. On the wall behind me I have a Family Circus picture -‘I hope you practiced. This book has a lot of funny voices for you to do.’
Jean: How do you prepare for recording an audiobook?
We are a team. The author’s words are the stars, and I hope my voice allows listeners to be enthralled by the story.
Jannie: I always keep in mind that the author has spent many months, even years researching and crafting each book and it takes a leap of faith to trust a narrator to bring just the right voice to the story. We are a team. The author’s words are the stars, and I hope my voice allows listeners to be enthralled by the story.
As far as the recording process goes, I usually spend 4-8 hours per finished hour of the audiobook. This involves reading the manuscript, listing all the characters and voices for each, as well as making short recordings of each voice for reference, and checking with the author and online resources for pronunciations of names and places before recording and producing the final project.
Jean: I don't think authors realise how much time the preparation takes!
Jean: For the Natural Forces series you had to create voices for bees, evil mages and shape-shifters. Which character/s did you find most challenging and how did you come up with the voice/s?
Jannie: Qingzhao’s voice was the most challenging. I first tried out a couple of voices, which didn’t work. I then researched a huge number of photos of elderly Asian women online, before I found a photo of an elderly Mongolian woman that just drew me into Qingzhao’s personality as described by Jean. Finally I took a long walk, with the photo on my IPhone and talked to myself until I found Qingzhao’s voice.
Jean: For what reasons do you turn books down?
Jannie: When it’s apparent the author does little or no marketing of his/her book, so probably won’t do much for the audiobook version; the cover art isn’t professional; there are grammatical errors in the excerpt provided. And, I have to be excited about the storyline!
Jean: Do you network with other Voice Actors? Are there any sites you’d recommend?
Jannie: I definitely network with other Voice Actors and coaches. The indie (ACX and Others) Audiobook Narrators and Producers Face Book page has a wealth of information: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ACXNarratorsProducers
Karen Commins’ Narrators Road Map is also a treasure trove of helpful advice: https://www.narratorsroadmap.com/
Jean: How can an author help the Voice Actor/ Producer of his/her book?
Jannie: Having a list of characters with their characteristics is so important, as is a pronunciation guide for names and places, especially if the book is a fantasy. Jean also recorded the characters’ names for me, which was a tremendous help.
Jean: Are there ways in which an author can hinder or even spoil the Voice Actor’s recording of a book?
Jannie: In a word - Micromanagement! Wanting input about the recording from friends or family before deciding whether to approve or request changes.
Jean: Tell me about your working day. Do you work to a routine? Do you use a recording studio? Endless cups of coffee or tea?
Jannie: My husband built me a wonderful recording booth and I usually record for an hour or two early in the morning then go for a walk and have lunch before editing the chapters I’ve recorded. I often drink sips of Throat Coat tea with a dollop of honey as well as water while I’m recording.
Jean: Who or what has been the greatest help to you as a Voice Actor?
Jannie: Peer support and encouragement from my fellow Voice Actors as well as excellent instruction from a number of wonderful coaches, both on the creative side of voice acting as well as the technological side has been incredibly helpful.
Jean: What has been the hardest thing for you to overcome in becoming a Voice Actor?
Jannie: The technological side of voice acting. That’s why it took me so long to tackle audiobooks. I’m getting more adept technologically but need to learn more.
Jean: If you could pick one character in one of your audiobooks, to spend some time with, who would it be and why?
Jannie: It would have to be Qingzhao, the ancient beekeeper in Arrows Tipped with Honey. I can imagine enjoying tea and biscuits in her cottage while she sits in her rocker and shares her life story with me. Not only would I learn so much about her life, her children and grandchildren and her tribe as they moved between the natural and manmade worlds, I’d also follow her to the beehives and watch her take care of them. I didn’t know very much about bee-keeping until I recorded Jean’s books so this has been an added bonus.
Jean: Tell me about your latest audiobook and why we should all buy it?
Jannie: Arrows Tipped With Honey is the second in the Natural Forces Series and has intriguing twists and turns which will keep listeners fully engaged. I was always excited to record the next chapter, to find out what would happen next, and I hope listeners will be just as captivated as they listen to the audiobook.
Jean: What are you working on next? Do you have an ambition?
Jannie: I’m about to begin recording The World Beyond the Walls, the final book in Jean Gill’s Natural Forces Series, and I am thrilled to journey again with Mielitta, her bees and all the wonderful characters I’ve met along the way. My ambition is to continue recording many more fantasy and Regency period novels for my authors.
Thank you, Jean, for giving me this opportunity to talk about audiobooks
and also for entrusting your wonderful series to my voice. Thanks also to
everyone who reads this interview or watches the video.
Jean: Jannie, I've learned a lot from your interview and love working with you. Many thanks! And to all my readers, you have to listen to Jannie's voice creation for her favourite character, the aged beekeeper Qingzhao. I think it's brilliant!
Where can we find you?
www.voicebyjannie.com where I’ve included links to my audiobooks.
Contact Website: https://www.voicebyjannie.com
The Indie (ACX and Others) Audiobook Narrators and Producers FB page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ACXNarratorsProducers
Karen Commins’ Narrators Road Map: