Ana Clements always nurtured a secret dream to be an actor, but life got in the way and she found herself at university rather than drama school, studying economics rather than acting. After a successful career in finance, she decided to follow her dream; trained as a singer, and spent 6 years working in provincial musical theatre.
Ana’s dream of becoming a performer is now a reality and she works full time from her home studio as a voice talent in audiobooks and corporate narration for clients in the US, Europe and the UK. She has undertaken courses with Sean Pratt, Yvonne Morley, Johnny Heller, and Nancy Wolfson and spent two years studying Sound Engineering and Vocal Production. Fascinated by psychoacoustics, Ana is Spanish by birth, but grew up in London, and is bilingual, which gives her twice as much to say!
How did you get involved in audiobook narration, and what were your earliest experiences recording like?
My early career was in finance. I have a degree in economics and a family that isn’t involved in the arts. I had always enjoyed singing and kept my hand in with leads in local theatre and more recently some professional musical theatre shows. I bought a microphone and became interested in studying sound. There are a lot of online courses available to learn about acoustics and vocal production and a wonderful network of aspiring sound engineers who love to chat about sound. I undertook a masterclass in VO with Gary Terzza, covering all the various genres and it was easy to see where my natural talent lies. Gary introduced me to ACX [Audible’s site to connect authors and narrators] and I jumped in!
With my first book I certainly bit off more than I could chew. I had no idea how much I didn’t know, so my newbie keeness kept me going. I didn’t know about punch and roll, so I would click my fingers when I made a mistake, creating a spike in the audio file, which I would then go back and delete afterwards. It’s laborious and time consuming – but I loved it! It probably took me about 8 hours for every finished hour of audio to create. There was so much to learn about the required specifications and expectations. The knowledge I had acquired studying sound stood me in good stead and there are several Facebook groups that have a plethora of information available – I was very grateful for them.
You narrate books in both English and Spanish. Is there a difference in how you perform in both languages?
I am bilingual, born into a Spanish family but brought up in London. The Spanish language allows for much more passion and warmth, whereas I am quite reserved in English. Being bilingual gives you a real feel for how socially different cultures are and their differing expectations when it comes to language.
What is your process to prepare for narrating each book?
Each book has to be read through. If it’s fiction, I need to know the arc of the story and how the characters interact with one another to help the story fullfil its potential. I make notes on the characters to ensure that I take into account their personality and details about them, that I can then bring to their voice. Particularly in non-fiction, there are sometimes words I need to check pronounciation on, to get a true command of the topic, and so I go through listing those too. Preparation and research are important.
How do the mechanics of recording work once you’re in the studio?
I record with punch and roll, which means as I record, if I make a mistake I can stop, back up and work my voice back in so that I end with a solid run. I record for a couple of hours at a time but stop after 50 minutes or so to stretch and refill my glass – hydration is key!
You do your narration work in the UK. Is there any difference between the UK and the U.S. in the process of recording or getting narration jobs?
The UK still has a very studio based operation. Last year, for example, I read for Harper Collins Publishing and Avon Books at their studios. The very talented sound engineer took care of the hardware and I was able to focus on the performance. We work from 10 to 1 and from 2 to 5 with a break at 11.30 and 3.30. They organise it that way so that each of the studios stops and starts at the same time, minimising noise. When I work in the US, I obviously work from my own professional studio. I record at home and upload the files to them and then they take it from there. That’s the real difference, but ultimately it’s all about networking, making a connection and being memorable. People like to work with people they like.
You performed Did You Hear Me Crying? by Cassie Moore, a book detailing a lifetime of horrific abuse. How did you handle narrating such an intense book about such evil?
It was gruelling. I struggle not to take on the theme of the books I am reading and had to take myself outside for a walk more often than usual. I live the story and there were a lot of times-out for cups of tea with this one. I felt it was an important story, and each time I take on a challenge like this one, I grow as a narrator.
You have a wide range of genres that you perform, including romance, personal enrichment, mystery, and non-fiction. How does your approach to the narration process differ as you perform various genres?
Each book is individual regardless of the genre. I read the book through to get a feel for the characters or the issues, but ultimately the connection is with the authors and their story. My approach to the narration doesn’t differ, but my connection with the author’s voice dictates my energy and vocal choices.
Your background is in music. Do you think that gives you an advantage in your performance of audiobooks?
I have met many narrators who are also singers. There is something about music that allows you to see the ebb and flow of a story in the same way. I think my singing helps with my stamina, and my love of words and language draws me to singing and narration.
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?
There are books I have turned down on moral grounds, but ultimately my job is to BE the author, and as the author I believe in my book completely. That is the job, to perform every book so that it is entertaining to the listener and deliver the author’s message.
What is your favorite part about narrating audiobooks?
I love losing myself in the story. I read The Secret Mandarin by Sara Sheridan and found myself crying when I thought the hero was going to die. I then realised that I had already read the book and knew what was going to happen! I reassured the sound engineer (who was amused) and was able to carry on with the story. It’s lovely when the emotion of the chapter carries you away, and I think the listener gets to enjoy those moments with you.