Interview with a Narrator: Romy Nordlinger

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Romy NordlingerRomy Nordlinger is an NYC based actor and best selling audiobook narrator and has recorded over 200 Audiobooks. She has been recognized in Audio File magazine, Library Journal and Audible amongst many others with critical acclaim. Romy has narrated in every genre including mystery, romance, sci-fi, chick- lit, self-help and non-fiction. She also has a strong command of language and dialects and has recorded titles in a plethora of accents ranging from Russian to Scottish and back around the globe again. Some film credits include featured roles on Law & Order (Officer Talbor), BULL (CBS), All My Children and Real Life and has starred in dozens of productions Off Broadway and regionally. She also just starred in her solo show PLACES (based on the life of Alla Nazimova) Off Broadway at 59E59 and at the Edinburgh Fringe to rave reviews. Romy recently wrapped recording of the featured role of Edna in Florence starring Meryl Streep, directed by Stephen Frears. A passionate bookworm and actress, nothing brings Romy more joy than bringing a book to life by fully embodying its characters and faithfully telling its story with all her heart.

How did you get your start performing audiobooks, and what were your earliest days recording books like?

I auditioned at Audible studios with Mike Charzuk about five and a half years ago. They got me narrating in their studios right away. My first title with them was a long sci-fi book with loads of characters/aliens, so I really hit the ground running. It was pretty challenging but I knew right away that it felt right. I still use every bit of advice/training I was given about narrating from their engineers and producers every time I sit down in front of the mic. They really helped nurture and cultivate my work and I’m very grateful. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to “suggest” character voices but don’t go too overboard with them. This is in close reference to a woman’s playing a man and vice versa. Rather than simply trying to have a low voice and “be” a man, think of who this particular man is and be as specific as possible. I was only working in the Audible studios at that time and did a few contracts with them for a while where I narrated numerous very diverse titles, so it was a real trial by fire and a fabulous experience. Shortly after that time I enlisted some help from one of their excellent sound engineers to help me set up my own home recording studio. I do most of my work from my home studio for many different companies now.

You have a lot of theater and film experience besides narrating 200 or more books. How do the various media compare in your experience?

To me all acting and writing work is about telling a story, whether in film, stage or narration. That’s my job – to tell the story faithfully and portray the characters honestly. I think my work as an audiobook narrator helps me in my camera/stage work and vice versa. It’s all the same thing and I love telling stories and acting. The more you do it, the better you become, so I keep my language and verbal skills (accents, verbal prowess with complex wording, character choices) really sharp by doing as much as I can of all. Audiobook narration is such a challenging skill set and is particularly well suited for actors of course. It’s the ultimate storytelling! A lot of people think if they have a nice voice they might be good at audiobook narrating but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s much more to do with your choices as an actor, your verbal dexterity, your literacy skills and your vocal technique for maintaining your instrument (voice) for really looooong sprints that make you a good fit for narration.

You wrote and starred in your own acclaimed show, PLACES. Did writing your own show give you insight into the works that you narrate?

Writing plays is a very different animal than writing fiction or even non fiction, but I have endless respect for authors! My respect has certainly been enhanced by my work as both an actor and writer. I know that every every single comma, period, exclamation point that’s in the text has been carefully chosen by the author. The script of the book and the play is the holy grail, the blueprint, and serving it to the best of my ability is an honor.

What books have stood out as memorable from your audiobook performing career?

That’s a tough (and great) question! I feel like every time I narrate a book it’s “the only book in the world,” and I only have eyes and ears for that book I’m working on. It’s later that I can dispassionately think about if I liked it or not. Generally, I really love narrating in the first person. To me it’s the most keenly aligned with acting in a play or in a film as you truly “become” the character in real time. I recently narrated a Holocaust fiction and was so moved by it that it made me better understand what the expression “My heart is in my throat” means. I also love mysteries and over the top characters as well as acerbic, comedic titles. I’m loving narrating a fantastic supernatural mystery series for Tantor audio (The Ghost Of Marlow House – Haunting of Danielle Series). It’s wonderful!

I’m also a huge fan of Marla Cooper’s mystery series and had a blast narrating Terror In Taffeta and Dying On The Vine for Dreamscape Audio. She finds the perfect amount of reality, suspense and quirky humor and her female lead character is really relateable.

How do you prepare to perform a book before you start the recording process? What kinds of notes do you take as you prepare?

Before I read the book I like to try and read reviews about the book, loglines, synopses, what people have said about the book and what the authors said about it themselves. Then when I read the book I make a note about each character. What are the characters said to sound like? What are their speech patterns? Are they slow/fast? What is their temperament? How are they described? How do the other characters treat them? Do they have an accent? I like to have a mental image of every character I narrate even if they’re minor characters. When I can imagine what they look like, it’s much easier and possible to embody the voices of each character. The more specific you are in your imagination, the clearer the character will be in your mind and to the listener.

How do you determine what voices to give each character, and how do you keep them all straight as you narrate the books?

A lot of times I’ll have to go back to a sound file (I keep a sound clip of all my characters) or the written notes about the character failing that – particularly if I’m working on a series, and a character from four books prior suddenly returns.

You specialize in several accents, listing on your website “Brooklyn, NY Latina, Long Island, Southern, Russian, British/Cockney, Irish, Italian.” How did you pick up and become an expert in so many accents, including some very specific ones?

I’m originally from the South, so that accent comes really naturally to me. I also have a Russian heritage and a British husband so I’m in touch with those aspects of myself more keenly on a day to day basis. Ultimately though, by keeping my ears open and senses aware, I am always hearing accents, idioms, voices unlike my own. It is my job as an artist/performer to be constantly listening and open to receiving and storing them away. They are there to reach in and polish up whenever they are called for. If I’m focusing on an accent that is new to me or that I haven’t been exposed to in a long time, I find it really helpful to start with watching movies where that accent is prevalent. I also keep a word or a phrase handy that I can repeat that gets me into the ‘flavor’ of the accent or character. I can feel my face and expression/tone change when I say the phrase, and that helps to propel the accent. I think most Audiobook Narrators will confess that they do a lot of gesticulating and gesturing while they narrate. Whether you’re alone in your sound booth or on the stage or in front of a camera, the more you’re in character, the better your performance will be. It also makes it a lot more fun!

You are active with the League of Professional Women. What do you do with that group?

The League is a wonderfully vibrant group comprised of professional female theatre artists from every aspect of production: Directors, actors, stage managers, producers, critics, set designers, sound engineers, playwrights and so on. The great women I have met in this amazing organization is boundless! I’m collaborating with one of them now with my solo show and have constantly worked with and been inspired by these women. It’s not a social club, it’s a place where professionals can meet, cultivate relationships, and support one another. Men are welcome by the way! I think the men who have joined have been very smart to do so, as there are such powerhouse women they’ve met by being a part of it.

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?

I always remember in acting school the famous teaching that proclaimed something like “There are no real bad guys, only bad actors.” Basically, even if you’re playing Iago or the world’s worst villain, there’s always something likeable about them, and they certainly don’t think of themselves as “the bad guy.” The same goes with scripts. I try not to judge the characters but to find the best in all of them. There’s always something wonderful to be found in a book. Always a surprise frailty in a character. Always a color, a nuance, a shade.

What is your favorite part about narrating audiobooks?

I love that you can play any character you want without your casting being predicated upon your ‘type’. I love that you can play men, women, aliens, black, white, young, old, middle and in between all of those things! I love that I can work in my pajamas. I love that I’m working with words and characters – my two greatest loves.

To learn more about Romy, visit her at the following sites:

http://www.romynordlinger.com
Romy’s Audible list
http://www.twitter.com/romynordlinger
http://placestheplay.com/
http://www.lancelot-the-film.com/

Check out my review of Romy’s narration of Dying on the Vine.
Check out my review of Romy’s narration of Terror in Taffeta.

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Interview with a Narrator: Romy Nordlinger
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Interview with a Narrator: Romy Nordlinger
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Romy Nordlinger has narrated over 200 audiobooks, and today she shares with us about her experiences and narration processes.
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Fangirl Nation
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