Erin Mallon is a skilled narrator of over 150 audiobooks who loves working in the Romance and Young Adult genres. Some authors whose work she has been lucky enough to narrate include: Kristen Ashley, Heather Demetrios, Wendy Higgins, Rae Carson, Mia Sheridan and Jana Aston. Erin is also an accomplished NYC actor, playwright and producer and a proud member of Romancenarrators.com.
How did you get started narrating audiobooks?
I have been acting in theater since I was fifteen and started doing commercial voiceovers when I was out of college. I found that I loved the technical aspects of recording and being in the booth and obviously I already loved the creative journey of acting, so I figured what could be better than acting every role in a 10-hour audiobook? I pursued it like crazy: taking all the classes, going to all the workshops, listening to all the great narrators, making all the demos etc. The booth is my happy place!
You focus on narrating romance and Young Adult fiction. What draws you to those genres, and what makes you really good at them?
Emotion! As actors, most of us crave conflict and emotion (in our work, not our lives ☺). You find a whole lot of both in those genres. As for what makes me good at them? Not sure I can answer that, but I do know that I love the highs and lows you get to ride in romance and young adult books. What’s more tumultuous than young love??
You write plays. Does that influence your reading of books? Does your reading influence your playwriting?
My plays are mostly comedies, so when I get to narrate for an author who dives into humor and writes great, biting dialogue I get excited. At this point, I haven’t noticed that narrating influences my playwriting, although I have been daydreaming lately about writing my own novel. Maybe (hopefully) I’ve picked up a thing or two working with all these amazing writers? I guess we’ll see!
How do you prepare to narrate a book? What kinds of notes do you make in the text?
I always do a full first read of the book at home, making notes on the characters’ descriptions and tendencies. I keep a running list of all words I come across that are unfamiliar to me and look up their definitions/pronunciations. If there are any accents involved in the book that I haven’t exercised in a while, I make sure to brush up on them so I don’t have to think about it too much during the actual recording. Then, the morning before I hop into the booth I do a speed-read of the chapters I’m going to hit that day. With all that initial work done ahead of time, ideally the actual recording is spent really living through the story moment by moment and creating an experience for the listener.
How do you decide which voices to use for each of your characters? And how do you keep them straight as you go?
Most audiobook directors and coaches will tell you that it is far more important to focus on the character’s point of view than on how he or she “sounds.” That aspect of narration is no different than when you’re working on stage or in film. Listeners (and audience members) want to experience you living out the story. That’s far more interesting than an actor trying to make cool sounds☺. That said, authors leave all kinds of clues on how they “hear” the characters’ voices in their heads (ex. “Her voice had that sexy scratch to it,” “His words oozed like melting chocolate” etc.) so you do want to do your best to honor their intentions and be consistent about it. There are lots of technical ways to work with your voice to achieve a different sound: tone, register, cadence, rhythm, facial expressions, posture etc. But rule #1 is to be in the moment and focus on character intention.
How many audiobooks have you narrated, and how long has it taken you to get this far?
I recorded my first audiobook in 2010, then it took a few years for me to build some momentum. Happily, I’m at around 170 books now with 10 more in the works for this summer. Should I have a 200 books party this winter?
How do you keep yourself from laughing or crying when you get to especially funny or sad parts during your narration?
Haha, I don’t! I’ve been known to cry a tear or two in the booth. You can’t get sloppy about it though (no one wants to hear blubbering and sniffling through their headphones). I’m usually pretty good about holding back laughter, but every once in a while you get to say a real doozy so those are good moments to press pause on recording, get your giggle on and collect yourself before proceeding.
Many books have a lot of accents in them. How do you learn to use all the different styles?
Most trained actors have studied accents and dialects pretty extensively in school, so I did plenty of that, but you always need to brush up and stay flexible with them. I find the best thing to do is listen to native speakers as much as you can. International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) is a great resource for that. www.dialectsarchive.com
What is your favorite part about narrating audiobooks?
You get to play SO many roles you’d never be cast in onstage! Sure, I almost always narrate books with a female protagonist in her teens through 30s (because that’s where my voice naturally lies), but along the way, that protagonist encounters characters of all different ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. . . and the narrator gets to play them all. It’s a total blast.