Amy Tallmadge was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, where she developed a life-long love of reading and performing. After graduating from East Tennessee State University, she traveled around the southeast U.S. working for various family theatre companies such as Theatre IV and the Arkansas Arts Children’s Center. She moved to Atlanta in 2008 to focus on working in TV and film. She started working as a voice artist a few years later and began recording audiobooks. She has recorded over 40 titles to date.
How did you become interested in being a narrator of audiobooks?
I got into audiobooks the same way I got into voiceover in general – by luck! I’ve been an actress for theatre for a long time and was looking to expand my skill set several years ago when I took a voiceover workshop and found a new creative outlet! A few short years after that, a friend introduced me to a casting director for a local audiobook production company. I’ve loved telling stories since I was a little kid, and it turns out I have a knack for it! Now I’ve narrated over 40 titles, under my name and under a pseudonym.
What did you do to accomplish that goal?
I am a life-long learner. I’m in my late thirties and I still take acting classes – auditioning, acting technique, and improv. It’s important to be able to create a whole world with just your voice – acting training can help with that.
You narrate Duffy Brown’s book Lethal in Old Lace with so much energy. Does it get tiring to put that much energy into a book?
It definitely can! But that’s also where my acting training helps me in maintaining my stamina. I also value staying healthy – I exercise, drink a TON of water, and try to stay away from sweets (…I try to). The big one is getting enough sleep – I can’t over emphasize how important that is. If you’re looking for a “life hack”, getting more sleep is a good one!
In addition to narrating audiobooks, you have participated in many media, including film, TV, commercials, and theater. How does the experience of performing in the different media vary?
It doesn’t vary as much as you might think – it all requires a similar skill set of knowing how to create characters and understanding what’s going on in a particular scene. I’d say the biggest difference is visual – if I show up to a narration session in sweats and no makeup, no one bats an eye!
You wrote, co-directed, and co-produced, as well as acted in, the short film You Want Me to What? What was that experience like?
It was amazing. I thought of the idea after a friend, who appears in the film, and I had a conversation about actors’ fears during the casting process. We realized performers often have these overblown anxious thoughts about why they may or may not be chosen to be in a project. Sometimes it has NOTHING to do with talent. The film turned out great because I cheated and cast a bunch of my friends who are AMAZING performers! I gave the actors a lot of freedom to improvise and they made that film look so good! I’m currently writing a web series and I can’t wait to have it finished and get started shooting.
Tell us about your process of preparing and then narrating a book.
I always make sure to block out as much time in my schedule as I can to prep the book. I sit down and read it – sometimes skimming if I’m pressed for time – using my iPad and Adobe Reader. I make notes right in the PDF pages – pronunciations, character voices, any information I might need to use while narrating. I use that same iPad during the actual recording session, where I can see all of the notes as I’m narrating. It speeds up recording sessions and streamlines the whole process.
You co-narrate Dear Catastrophe Waitress with Jef Holbrook. What unique challenges do you face in team narrating a book?
The nice thing is, audiences are pretty forgiving if a character’s voice sounds a little different coming through me than it does with the other narrator – after all, our natural voices are vastly different! But I often have an email conversation with my co-narrator before recording so that we can collaborate on ideas. We make sure that we’re pronouncing certain character’s names the same way and that if one of us is using a very distinct voice for a particular character, the other one of us emulates it as best we can. It is strange though – I often never see the other narrator!
What advice did you find especially helpful as you started out performing audiobooks that you like to share with new narrators now?
The big one is don’t let your mind wander. It sounds strange, but you can kind of go on autopilot when narrating. If you lose your focus while narrating, that’s when the listener will lose focus.
Take the time to read the book, even if you just skim it. I know narrators who don’t and I have no idea how they do that! Be gentle with your voice – take breaks when you need to, adjust your recording levels so that you can speak quietly for most of the book, and avoid dairy on recording days!
What characteristics are necessary for a person to have in order to make that person an effective audiobook narrator?
Patience, a love of storytelling, and excellent reading comprehension!
What is your favorite part about narrating audiobooks?
Getting lost in the story! That’s always my favorite part about reading books and it’s the same with narrating them – you can get so absorbed in the events and grow to really care about the characters.
You can connect further with Amy at the following sites: