Piper Goodeve is an Audie award-winning narrator who has recorded over 140 titles for numerous publishers including Blackstone Audio, Podium Publishing, Tantor Media, Audible Studios, and ACX. Her performances have been called “distinct, real and nuanced,” and “a vocal chameleon.” She has taught audiobook narration at The Museum of the Moving Image, NYU Grad Acting, Syracuse University, Marymount Manhattan, Weston Playhouse, CAST Events at Ripley-Grier, ACX University, and she regularly teaches each semester at Stone Street Studios at NYU/Tisch School of the Arts. On the other side of the glass, Piper directed the audiobook #SOBLESSED, read by Broadway stars including Alan Cumming, Keala Settle, Megan Hilty, and Brian Dennehy. As an actress, Piper has performed at regional theaters across the country, London and Canada. She holds an MFA from Brown University/Trinity Rep, and is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA.
How did you get interested in audiobook narration?
I loved listening to books on tape when I was a kid, but didn’t know it was a profession I could do until 2011 when I met Kat Lambrix from Audible. I sat in on her classes in NJ (I was teaching acting at the same studio) and I fell in love with the work right then. The storytelling, the different characters, the different worlds, it’s an actor’s dream. I am also the daughter of a librarian, and did my undergraduate work in dramatic and classic literature, so the blend of those studies and my acting training was/is really exciting to me. It feels like the perfect match and I’m thankful every day to Kat for introducing me to the profession.
You have been acting on stage since the age of 5. How has your theater experience influenced your narration career?
The actor’s job is to put themselves into other people’s shoes and live believably in imaginary circumstances. The same is true for narrating a book; you just have to inhabit 10 to 30 characters instead of just one! There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not using all of my acting training and experience while in the booth. From healthy vocal use, to dialects, to relaxation techniques, to emotional connection. It’s all part of it. Just no one sees me. 😀
You have 102 books listed on Audible. Which of your many books stand out as most memorable to you?
There are a few books that I still think about long after the recording is over. I loved doing Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen. Her navigation of a teen girl’s coming of age in the South while coming out was beautiful. She created such real characters, dialogue, and situations. It was a pleasure to live in that world for a while. I loved doing Women in Clothes for Blackstone over the summer. It is a non-fiction book about, well, women and their clothes! It had a lot of powerhouse female narrators on it including Saskia Maarleveld, Gabra Zackman, and Erin Moon. I was honored to be a part of it. I also just completed Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin, and could barely get through certain chapters without stopping to cry. It’s a middle grade book that follows four kids from different parts of the country in the days leading up to 9/11. It will definitely stay with me for a long time.
What has been your favorite character? What character has given you the most grief?
That’s really hard! I think I have to fall in love with each character with each book to give a good performance, so picking a favorite is difficult. Along those lines, with difficult characters, I try not to judge them since I have to spend so much time with them, and really if they are difficult it is probably for a reason, so I try to find the nugget of truth in each of them and go from there.
You won an Audie in 2015 and were nominated in 2016. What does getting such an award mean to you?
It was a huge honor to be recognized by the audiobook community. So many narrators and producers I respect and admire were there, and to come together and celebrate performances for a night was really wonderful. I definitely don’t do this work for the awards, but the occasional nod from the industry is really nice and I’m very grateful.
Reviews of your work focus on your skill at working with the characters in the books and making them individual and realistic. Do you have a trick for doing that?
I try to put myself into each character’s shoes, just like I would if I were playing them on stage. I try to see the world from their point of view and understand their choices. Their POV will dictate how they speak and sound. I also always have a mental picture of the characters. I find that if I can visualize them and the things they go through vividly, then I can voice them more truthfully.
You are credited with doing good American and British voices. It is rare that I hear someone who can capably do both. The non-native accent comes across as a stereotyped accent. So how did you learn to do a credible British accent?
I’m very thankful that I studied with a wonderful teacher, Thom Jones, at Brown University/Trinity Rep. Thom really instilled in me the approach of looking at the person/character instead of the accent, and letting the point of view and life experiences drive the speech. Of course, you change your vowels and cadence, but those changes come from a real place, not just a put-on way of speaking. I also studied in London for a year and lived there on and off for another three, so I’m sure immersing myself in the dialect and culture while there has helped me with voicing British characters now.
You talk on your website about doing thorough research. What kind of research do you need to do as an audiobook narrator?
It depends on the book, but there is always something to look up and dive into. Part of what I love about this work is that I’m always learning something new. Recent research I’ve done has been on the Scottish Highlands, children’s nursery rhymes, different accents (from Persian to Scottish), as well as the geography of a remote island in Michigan, Isle Royale. I love learning about different places and people. For me, the more I understand and can picture the places and people in the novels, the more fully realized the narration will be.
You teach narration at NYU. What are the most important things you try to convey to your students?
Here’s my Top 4 most important things: 1) This work is difficult and not everyone can do it. That is not to discourage them, but rather to ask them to take it seriously. It is a craft just like singing or playing the violin. 2) Immerse yourself in the world of the book just as you would the world of a play. Do your homework; don’t have an ego about what you know or don’t know; be curious. 3) Listen, listen, listen. And practice, practice practice. You would never say, “I want to work on television, but I don’t watch any tv shows.” Likewise, if you want to do audiobook narration, you need to listen to audiobooks. And 4) Honor the text. At the end of the day, the words on the page are the center of your performance and everything you do should come from the text and serve the story.
Your husband is also an audiobook narrator. Are you able to help each other’s career? Have you ever teamed up in performing a book? Would you?
We’ve actually worked together a lot! We do a lot of dual narration titles together, which is really fun. With the way audiobook recording works, we aren’t ever actually in the studio together, but we collaborate outside of the booth and talk about the story, the different characters, and make sure we are on the same page in terms of tone, voices, and style. Gabe is a wonderful narrator and also really good at the technical side of operating a studio and business. I definitely rely on his expertise a lot in those areas. We make a good team!
What other narrators do you like to listen to for inspiration?
I love Kate Rudd, Bahni Turpin, and Lucy Price-Lewis. I find the way they craft a story with many different levels, distinct characters, and true emotional connection inspiring.
Stay tuned next Tuesday for an interview with Piper’s husband, Gabriel Vaughn!
You can follow Piper further at the following sites: