LORELEI KING is an actress who has appeared in films such as Notting Hill, The Saint and House of Mirth. She is the voice of Muthur in the recently released Alien: Covenant. She has played regular and recurring characters in popular British television shows such as Chef, Cold Feet, and Emmerdale. A multi-award-winning narrator, she has recorded over 200 audio books, and – once described as “the best known American voice on Radio 4” – Lorelei has also recorded more than 200 programs for the BBC. She is co-founder of the digital publishing company, Creative Content Ltd.
How did you get started performing audiobooks and what were your earliest days recording them like?
I was in London working in animation, voicing cartoons, and one of the guys I worked for was producing an audiobook of American short stories. I was his American-of-the-moment, so he asked me to do it. I loved it, and discovered I had a knack for it – of course it helped that they were horror stories. That’s one of my favorite genres. The main difference between recording then and recording now is technology: digital has made things so much easier. In those days it was tape, and if you made a mistake they’d have to stop and literally roll the tape back to do it again. Digital saves time.
You have experience performing on television, in movies, in cartoons, and on the radio, as well as performing audiobooks. Which draws you to different genres, audiobooks in particular?
You left out theatre! I love working in all media, and they all offer different things. I think what I particularly like about audiobooks is the intimacy and the control. You get to play all the characters – a 7 year old girl, an 80 year old man, whatever. Those are not roles you’d normally get to play in any of the visual media, and it’s nice to stretch yourself that way.
You have received a number of awards for your audio performances. Which are most meaningful to you?
Of course it’s thrilling to receive an Audie (our industry’s equivalent of the Oscars) or an Earphones (issued by Audiofile magazine) and I am very honoured to have done so, but what means even more than awards is feedback from listeners: when you get a message from someone telling you that you helped them get through a painful time in their lives, or that you’ve touched them or kept them from feeling alone, it means more than any award ever could.
You have narrated books from many genres, such as children’s, YA, detective, romance, non fiction, and other fiction. How does the experience of narrating the different genres vary based upon genre?
If you’re asking about style, I think the differences are subtle, and may be more about interpreting the writer’s “voice” than about genre. For example, if something is written in the first-person, I treat it more as a theatrical monologue. If it’s third-person, I might keep the narration more neutral and go a bit further with the characterisations. With most books, the words know how they want to be said – you just have to pay attention.
I think the biggest difference in narration style is between fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction is particularly challenging because you don’t have characters and dialogue to keep things zipping along, yet you have to keep it engaging. I’ve recently done a purely academic book (Trade and Taboo by Sarah Bond), which was a very interesting experience, and quite different from anything I’ve done before, so I had to put some real thought into my approach.
You have 86 books in your list of Janet Evanovich titles that you have narrated. When you are reading something as humorous as Evanovich’s writing, how do keep from laughing as you read?
The short answer is, I don’t! There’s always at least one moment where we have to stop recording because I’m laughing too much. Eventually I get it out of my system and we carry on.
How do you create the voices of your characters and how do you keep them straight as you read?
I have a pretty solid background in radio drama and animation, which has stood me in good stead as regards coming up with voices for audiobooks. The author will often give you clues as to the kind of voice a character should have, which is great. If there are no clues, I use my imagination – and my ears are always on alert. If a friend or acquaintance has an unusual or quirky voice, they’re bound to turn up in one of my readings sooner or later! Keeping the voices straight is surprisingly easy – but I do also write down a ‘cast list’ with brief notes about the voices I’ve chosen for characters in case I need to refresh my memory.
You live and do your acting and radio work in London. Is the system for recording audiobooks the same in England as in the U.S.?
I record in both countries, and in studio I find the systems pretty much the same – though, in my opinion, US and UK audio publishers go for slightly different “styles.” I think narrator home studios are much more prevalent in the US – though I expect we’ll catch up here!
In your wide audiobook narration career, what books stand out the most in your memory as remarkable?
For me, the Janet Evanovich books will always have the most special place in my heart. I love those characters as though they were my own family. I think the most beautiful book I’ve ever recorded was the fairy-tale-like The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rukoski. Gorgeous. And I hadn’t read much YA before recording Darynda Jones’ Darklight series (whose heroine is my name-baby Lorelei!) and Amalie Jahn’s The Clay Lion – but now I love it! And finally, I don’t know about “remarkable,” but The Stranger Beside Me, a non-fiction book about serial killer Ted Bundy, was definitely the most disturbing book I’ve ever recorded. It haunted me for a long time.
Do you think an audiobook narrator needs to enjoy the book she or he is performing? Could you make a book you truly hated seem likeable to an audience?
This is a great question! It’s great when you really like the book you’re narrating, but at the end of the day, narration is a job, and your responsibility as a narrator is to deliver the material as well as you can, even if it’s not to your taste or particular interests. Having said that, I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve loved almost all the books I’ve ever recorded – there’s always something to enjoy or to learn, or a character that’s really fun to play.
What is your favorite part about being an audiobook narrator?
Two things, really. Firstly, I love being a part of people’s everyday lives, knowing that they’re listening to me while they’re driving or working or relaxing. It makes me happy to feel I have that connection to listeners. Secondly, I love that I can go to work even if I have messy hair and no make-up!
You can follow Lorelei at the following sites: