Andrea Emmes was born in Hollywood, FL and grew up in both Tennessee and Rhode Island, started her career in musical theater. Cutting her teeth at The Trinity Arts Center in Rhode Island, Andrea eventually made her way to Orlando and began her eclectic career singing/dancing in various shows at Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Pirates’ Dinner Adventure, performing as a magician’s assistant, headlining on the Las Vegas Strip and touring Los Angeles as an L.A. Award winning artist with her album, I’m On My Way.
Having worked in tv, film and video games, Andrea, a total Book Nerd, now enjoys narrating audiobooks at her home studio in San Jose, California.
Her wide range of character voices and dynamic/emotionally invested performances has reviewers and listeners alike commenting on how she effortlessly pulls listeners in, and has versatility and charisma.
Fun Facts: Andrea has a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Game Art and Design; was a game designer for Disney Interactive; once interviewed Ernie Cline for his amazing novel Ready Player One as a Gamer Reviewer for ForbiddenPanel.com and gets her gamer-geek on playing games of all kinds with her husband and their cat, Lucy.
“If an author can captivate me with their story, then that allows me to captivate my listeners.” — Andrea Emmes
How did you become interested in narrating audiobooks, and what did you do to realize this dream? You suffer from the painful neurological disorder known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy/ complex regional pain syndrome (RSD/CRPS). How has that affected your career?
I really wish I had come into audiobooks sooner in my career, but I’ve been blessed with so many cool opportunities as a performer over the last 20+ years – singer, dancer, magician’s assistant, Vegas headliner, Ariel to name a few. But in 2006, I was diagnosed with a neurological pain disorder called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD/CRPS) which forced me to retire from everything. I couldn’t stand or walk for very long without being in excruciating pain. It was a very lonely, scary and painful time. After a lot of treatment and struggle, I became more functional and went back to college and got a Bachelor’s Degree in Game Art and Design and was a game designer for Disney Interactive for a couple years and a game reviewer for a few magazines.
However, in 2014, I was laid off and had a hard time finding another gaming job, and I really missed performing. I never know when I’ll have a pain flare which completely debilitates me, so it was very stressful to find a job that I could handle.
My husband, an avid audiobook listener, suggested that I get into audiobooks and I was like “Wow, that’s a genius idea.” I’m a voracious reader, always had been, and this is a job that I could do in which I wouldn’t be limited with because of my disability. So, I started to research and came across ACX.com [Audiobook Creation Exchange] – a platform for Indie authors and narrators to collaborate. After that, I started getting coaching, first with Sean Pratt, which is an incredible place to start when wanting to learn the foundations of audiobook narration which is an art and science. Audiobook narration is a bit of an investment as there’s a lot of equipment, sound booth, training that is involved, but it’s so worth it.
What were your earliest days of recording like?
LOL Cramped in my clothes closet surrounded by a bunch of moving blankets hung on the wall. It took a while to master my sound to make sure that my audio didn’t sound tinny. Sadly, my first books don’t have the clearest of sounds, and I wish I had sorted out the audio booth sound first, but we live and learn. They were all still amazing books, and I’m so grateful to the authors who believed in me and trusted me to bring their stories to life. Audiobook narration is an acting job, which most know is a constant hustle, looking for that next gig. So, there’s also a marketing and network side of this business that I had to learn, as well as the need to understand social media. Thankfully I have been able to use my art degree to create my website and graphics for promotion.
What is your process of preparing to record a book? Do you have any tricks for making the recording easier or more effective?
First, I’ll read the book and make notes as I go. I have a spreadsheet that I use with all of the characters’ names listed and their descriptions that I get from the book or when the author sends a character sheet. If there is an accent, I’ll research that accent, sometimes setting up a session with my dialect coach. Everyone’s process is different, but I also add the character’s goals and secrets on my spreadsheet as a reference and dive deep into motivations. I’m not really sure what “tricks” I use to make recording more effective except to use the technique of Punch and Roll, which is an editing-as-you-go kind of thing that really helps.
You are a finalist for the 2018 Audiobook Listener Awards for your work on the YA novel Digital Horizon by Sherry Ficklin. What did you enjoy (or not?) about this book?
This is the coolest thing and I’m so honored to be a finalist! It’s my first accolade in audiobooks and I love that it’s for this book. Plus, it’s a Listener’s Choice award, which makes it even more thrilling because the listeners get to choose. Sherry Ficklin is incredible and really understands how to dig into her characters, so they have substance. I’m a mega gamer geek, so I loved that Farris (the main character) is a hacker, but I also appreciate that she is also flawed, strong, super smart and has moxey. I think it’s important that we see young women as more than just love-struck-dreamy-eyed girls who are waiting on a man to save them. Not that those stories aren’t enjoyable, because who doesn’t love a “princess in a tower” story, but women – girls – are much more than that. And Farris is quite an incredible young woman!
Vote daily! Digital Horizon –ABR Award Finalist until May 31st. Award show is June 8th at the HearNow Festival in Kansas City, MO.
You performed the Audible best seller of the great children’s classic Little Women. Was it daunting to approach such a famous and popular book?
This was the hardest book I’ve ever narrated. It’s such a classic. It was one of my favorites growing up so, yes, I was extremely nervous about recording this book as I wanted to do right by its legacy. I was blown away that it became a best seller and am just so humbled.
You state on your Facebook page that you love cozy mystery. Since that’s the genre I especially love, I have to ask what about cozies makes you like them.
I’ve always loved a good mystery to solve. I’m currently reading the Complete Collection of Sherlock Holmes for fun, so it’s really fun to be able to put my voice to a cozy mystery and be a part of the twists and turns, having a strong heroine who must figure who did it! They’re just fast paced fun that surprises me every time. I’m recording an awesome cozy mystery series right now by Emily James, called The Maple Syrup Series. I’m having a blast.
As a result of your RSD/CRPS, you created a Christian musical album. Can you tell us about that?
Writing my album, I’m On My Way, was a therapeutic release that was not only essential for my mental and emotional state as I was invalid with RSD/CRPS for almost a year, but it was also spiritually healing for me. Dealing with a chronic pain disorder is difficult. Not just because of the constant and varying pain that comes, but also because it’s so hard to treat, test for or “see,” and it takes a lot out of you.
People don’t believe that you’re hurting or disabled because you don’t “look” hurt. I’ve been bullied, called a liar and lost a lot of friends when I was diagnosed because people didn’t believe that from a sprained ankle, I could be this hurt for this long. (I was injured during a performance when a stunt went wrong.)
When I was first diagnosed, many of the doctors and physical therapists didn’t know what RSD was. It was a long, hard, dark road. I was dealing with severe depression and was losing all hope. It felt like a huge part of me had died, and I didn’t know who I was or where I was going. I had a visceral “come to Jesus” moment and felt the Holy Spirit speak to me so emphatically that I needed to learn to accept this path, this pain and lean on God so that I could find myself again. I’ve been writing poems and songs since I was 12, so I got my journal out and began to write. Then God sent me some angels to help me write the music, friends whom I worked with in previous shows and their collaboration. Recording and publishing this album saved me and healed me within. I won an LA Music Award in 2008 and toured around to different youth groups and churches sharing the message that I was given for a couple of years. — Though we might be broken, we are beautiful, and we cannot let our challenges define us. There is hope. We are worthy. We are “Beautifully Broken, Perfectly Made,” as one of my songs states.
What was the most valuable piece of advice that you were given when you started performing audiobooks that you like to share with new narrators now?
Audiobook Narration is a marathon, not a sprint. There is a lot to learn to become an audiobook narrator. Acting techniques, recording/editing process, marketing, networking. Take the time to learn. There will be a ton of rejection, but this is a job that requires us to be fastidious, tenacious, patient and gracious. Jeep working hard and learning. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.
What is your favorite part of performing audiobooks?
Becoming part of the story. I’ve always loved reading books and getting lost in the journey and adventure, but now I get to be an active part of it, and it’s exciting, fulfilling and fun!
Check out Andrea further at the following sites:
Andrea’s next book: A Sticky Inheritance by Emily James.