is an Asian American actress who started out as an opera singer, and is just bonkers for audiobooks. She brings a passion for stories and characters, and her language training provides great accents and convincing foreign language dialogue. She excels at unique character voices and passionate storytelling.
You studied opera at the University of North Texas and vocal performance at George Mason University. You’ve spent most of your life focusing on music and indeed are even now the music director at a church. How did you go from this intense focus on music to narrating audiobooks?
The professional answer is that my training as an opera singer prepared me uniquely for audiobooks in regards to my acting, language and vocal training.
The honest answer is that I trained very long and hard to be an opera singer, and I just wasn’t finding the success I’d dreamed I would have. I was singing but barely getting paid, sometimes spending 20+ hours a week driving to rehearsals for shows, questioning my life choices and listening to audiobooks constantly. Something finally clicked. I wasn’t happy with the path I was on, and with the encouragement of my husband I dove headfirst into audiobooks. It was hard to leave behind what I thought was my dream, but I’m amazed at how well my training prepared me for my new career. Becoming an audiobook narrator has changed my life. I get to perform every day, I get to play all the characters (instead of just one!), I get to tell stories that make me laugh and cry and fall in love, and I still get to see my beautiful husband and daughters every day. This career fits me perfectly and I’m incredibly thankful.
Does your music background give you a special ear for hearing how books should be read or maybe help you in other ways?
I always took text study really seriously as a singer, and that love of words helps me delight in the text I’m narrating. I also think the years I spent singing and coaching rep give me a good ear for how to shift my voice to create different ideas and characters.
How do you prepare before recording a book? Do you have any special tricks you use in the booth to make it easier or require less time editing?
I prep each book carefully before I being recording. I keep a list of every character, make notes about what is said about their voice, personality, appearance etc, and start forming that character voice. I also look up locations, brand names, anything that I’m not 100% sure how to pronounce. I’m doing a book right now with a lot of Chinese words and locations which isn’t too hard for me since I’m half Chinese and grew up going to Chinese school every week, but I still want to make sure everything is as accurate as I can possibly make it!
How do you determine the voices that you use with your characters? And then how do you remember them?
I try to get a sense for the character, their attitude, what motivates them, combined with what the author says about their voice. Sometimes I have to make choices based on whom they dialogue with or how much they talk. For example, two twin brothers conversing need enough distinction to keep it clear for the listener. I’m prepping a book with first person chapters from 5 different characters, and I have to pick voices that are not only distinct and reflect their personality, but are also something that I can physically sustain without tiring my voice. As far as remembering their voice, I’ll often grab an audio clip of their voice and save it so I can easily find it later. I especially make sure to do this when I’m recording a series and want to make sure that a vampire who shows up in book one sounds the same when he reappears in book three.
You have experience narrating different genres, including romance, cozy mystery, vampire books, YA, psychological thriller/horror, and general fiction. Does your approach to a book change depending upon the genre?
I prep everything the same way, but the writing itself influences the tone and pace of the book. A cozy mystery with a cute main character is going to be brisker and friendlier than a slowly building psychological thriller. It’s all rooted in the text!
What is your favorite genre to perform?
I try to make my current project my favorite, but I’m always partial to a good mystery!
What of your recording achievements has made you most proud?
I haven’t won any awards (yet!), but I’m really thrilled and proud to be doing this, and in such talented and excellent company. I went to VO Atlanta this year, and I must say that meeting my fellow mellow book nerds has been a delight. These are my kind of people! While I try not to fixate on reviews, it always feels great when a listener loves my voice and how I told a story. Because I really am telling the story with the listener in mind!