Caroline McLaughlin is a versatile narrator who enjoys narrating fiction and non-fiction. She has a smooth voice with a touch of a rasp. Caroline has always loved storytelling and decided to put it to good use while recording audiobooks for people with visual and learning disabilities, and now commercially.
Caroline began her career working in the television industry, and her credits include announcer, spokesperson, voice actor and her favorite, audiobook narrator.
When she is not recording in her home studio, or chasing her dog Cooper, Caroline is usually watching movies (horror being her favorite genre). She’s also a pretty good cook!
How did you become interested in audiobook narration?
I’ve been interested in audiobooks for years; since they were on tape. . . oops, I’m aging myself! I just fell in love with the intimate experience of being totally immersed by hearing it through the narrator’s voice, making the world come alive. The connection between the storyteller and listener is a powerful one, and it brings a completely different experience than just reading it by yourself. The emotions are much more real and I was hooked after the first audiobook. That experience is the same when I narrate. Yes, I am addicted!
What did you do to realize that dream?
A friend of mine told me about Learning Ally after discovering my love of audiobooks. So, I called them up and volunteered regularly. I didn’t know anything about recording audiobooks. Luckily for me, they gave me some training and put me in front of a microphone and hit record, and that’s what launched me into the audiobook world. Being there also gave me the confidence to pursue this as a career. But there was so much more to learn, from setting up a recording space to editing to learning how to use the right recording software (thank you Don Baarns and George Whittam), not to mention learning to act in front of a microphone. I was very fortunate to work with some of the best audiobook coaches – Sean Pratt, Paul Alan Ruben, Pat Fraley and Johnny Heller. Audiobook narration is a nuanced art form, and I’m always discovering something new.
On Audible, you have 41 books with 15 genres listed right now. Does your approach to the various genres vary depending upon what you are narrating?
Not really. All books in all genres have a story. A beginning, middle and end. I approach each as a storyteller, even non-fiction. That’s my job. The only thing that may changes is the tone. My tone is going to be much more serious for a police procedural book than a sweet southern romance where it’s going to be warmer. But in the end, I tell the story.
How do you prepare to narrate a book before you start recording?
I start by reading the book from my iPad in iAnnotate. I’ll highlight each character the first time they appear in the book. Then, make notes in a separate chart of their characteristics, physical appearance, what my impressions are, where they’re coming from, where they’ve been and I might even give them a face of a favorite actor. Later, I’ll record one file that has all the voices of the characters and mark them by name and the first chapter they appear. This saves so much time if you need a quick refresher of how a side character sounds. For non-fiction, I highlight words I’m not familiar with or those that I need to check for pronunciation or concept.
In my past year and a half of interviewing audiobook narrators, you are the first Chinese American I’ve come across. Actually, you’re the first Asian I’ve come across. Why do you think so few Asians are in performing, in particular audiobooks?
I had to really think about this question. There are Asian actors in the audiobook world. But they are in the minority just as they are in the entertainment industry as a whole. Why there are so few is most likely because there are so few roles for Asian actors. And, if you grew up in a traditional Chinese family like I did, the buzzwords for careers were “doctor, lawyer or accountant.” But I think things are changing in the entertainment industry as our society is becoming increasingly diverse. Asian actors aren’t cast for just traditional “Asian” roles anymore. They’re beginning to be cast for mainstream characters as well. I’m sure there will be more and more actors of ranging ethnicities coming to audiobooks as its growth and popularity continues to rise.
You seem to have done several books related to Asia. Do you find yourself pigeonholed into Asian books or do you openly solicit them?
I don’t find myself “type-cast” at all. That’s the beauty of audiobooks. My voice is my voice and it can tell a story in any genre, but I do love recording books related to Asia because it’s part of who I am. I think I get offered Asian books because I have a particular skill set (OMG I sound like Liam Neeson). I speak Mandarin. Having not only the correct pronunciation but also the correct tone in Chinese gives a bit of authenticity to a book, especially if written by an Asian author. I’m happy when offered an Asian book and I’ve auditioned for a few on my own.
What piece of advice that you were given when you started your audiobook career do you like to pass on to new narrators?
Gosh, there are so many. But one that rings so true is that this business in a marathon. Not a sprint. Work at your own pace. Your goals and when you reach those goals are not going to be same as other narrators. Develop your own style. Be YOU.
What narrators do you like to listen to for inspiration?
If I need inspiration for the mystery/suspense genre, my go-to narrators are Julia Whelan and January LaVoy. In Romance it’s Anne Flosnik and Andi Arndt. For non-fiction it’s Sean Pratt. And, Will Patton because he’s just a darn good storyteller!
What books from your audiobook career stand out to you as the most memorable?
It has to be one of my earlier narrations, the Earth Reclaimed series by Ann Gimpel. It’s a sci-fi fantasy and I loved the characters. The fact that there were over 35 in the entire series, four of which were Celtic Gods, dozens of dragons, and a few aliens made it memorable on so many levels. It was one wild ride!
You can learn more about Caroline at the following sites: