Q and A with Narrator Patricia Ricketts
- What made you decide to become a narrator for audiobooks?
This is the question I am asked most often. The answer is somewhat long, so I will make it more concise. It all started one day when I was lying on an air mattress in a furniture less room that the Lord had just provided for me after being displaced for some while. Although we are saved by Grace and not by works, I was filled with so much love and thankfulness for the provisions and protections that my heavenly father was providing left and right, I just felt compelled to give back to him what he gave to me in service of his kingdom. I as looking online and I happened to come across an article of a woman who was a book narrator. I had always thought that was so interesting, so I clicked on the article and by the end of it, felt the Holy Spirit leading me to use my voice, which I have always been complemented on to do Christian audio books! This talent is from God, given by grace for the intent of Gods purposes, pleasure and to bring him glory. So the research to begin in this service began, and it has been so rewarding, exciting, fulfilling and yet another way the Lord provides. He is so good!
- Do you need special training to become a narrator? What specific things in your background do you feel help you to do this job? Why?
- I picture maybe using a microphone. I’m sure it’s a little more complicated than that. What does the process look like?
- I’ve heard it takes 1-3 hours to produce a finished hour of narration. Is this true for you? When you make a mistake do you have to start over?
- I’ve wondered how much of the book is recorded in a segment? Is it a chapter? Is it by a specified time, such as 15 or 30 minutes at a time? How many “takes” do they typically read for each segment?
I put Questions 2-5 in one answer.
There are some voice talents who have undergone acting classes, and/or voice coaching. For the majority of voice actors the training is usually from a voice coach, who also helps you to manage how you market and audition for jobs. It typically takes 4-6 hrs to do 1 finished hour of production, most of that time is spent in the post production, editing and mastering the audio file to make the sound more polished and remove any distracting noises. Because of the time it takes to record and edit one finished hour we as voice artists use a few recording tactics to cut down and eliminate mistakes during recording, such as the Roll and Stop method and also postproduction by using DAW software plug-ins. Every voice actors recording session methods may vary. I find it beneficial for me to record, edit and master one chapter at a time, this keeps me more organized, allows me to see what is already completed and what needs to be done, helps to make sure that my tone and volume are the same because this can be altered based on just changing your position in the chair. So stopping in the middle of a chapter one day and then going back the next it will be difficult to reproduce my seating position exactly the same and this messes with the continuity of sound for the chapter.
- And if they do character voices, how do they remember the voices for the entire book, of if a series, for the entire series?I admire that talent. The listener knows immediately which character is speaking.
This is a good question I have also wondered. Lol. I myself have recorded characters that don’t require too much change in my voice, from the extent of softer and deeper, as it relates to women, male and children voices.
- What type of preparation do you do? Do you have a specific process? Does it vary from book to book?
First I read a portion of the book, to get an understating of what message the author is trying to convey, the feel of a character/s and some of their personality. This is particularly important to do before recording because if you don’t have some familiarity of the character the read that you give can be inappropriate and doesn’t capture the characters essence. For example, doing a serious read for a character whom later in the chapter turns out to actually be sarcastic, that is good info to know a head of time.
- Where do you work? Do you have a special room? What type of equipment do you use. (Pictures of your equipment would be fun for listeners, I’m sure, especially if you have a picture of you working.)
Now a day’s majority of voice talents actually work from home. I have a home studio ( closet) that I have well treated with insulation to help with room noise and ambience. By Gods Grace, he has provided for me some very good equipment; Samsung laptop computer that has my recording software and that is hooked to my interface which is Focusrite Scarlett that connects to my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Condenser Microphone and Focusrite headphones and a tablet attached to my microphone stand that displays my script.
- What is the most difficult thing about your job? What is the easiest?
Mastering postproduction can be very time consuming, until I had a precision microphone picking up all my sounds when I recorded, I had no idea how much unintended noise my mouth actually made! Lol
- What do you love the most about your job? What is the worst thing about being a narrator?
What I love the most is the freedom freelance provides, I can choose what projects I do and who I work with. In particular with Voice work, when I am doing a Christian project I feel connected with other believers all over the world and feel blessed that God is using me to further his kingdom. He is so good.
- Are there specific types/genre of books that you just love to narrate? Any type of book that you will refuse? If you could record any book, which one would it be and why?
I love to record Christian related books. I will not record, anything Torrid, sexually explicit, profane or ungodly (witch craft, tarot card reading, anything blasphemous to God, etc).
- Are there any specific incidents that you draw on when you need a certain emotion for a scene?
Honestly, any emotion of depth that I convey in my recording is in acknowledgement of God’s grace and mercy in my life. I remember at my lowest, the feelings I had and how Love and Grace brought me through. I draw on that recognition and the Holy Spirit that gives me, strength, confidence and peace.
- I love writing fun banter and scenes where my heroine and hero are goofing off with each other. Those scenes just flow out. Other scenes, especially scenes that are emotionally charged, and scenes that involve a lot of people, go very slow and make me tired. Are there any type of scenes that are fun and flow easily for you? Why? Are there any types of scenes that are difficult for you to do? Why? What do you do to help yourself get through them?
I love to laugh so any scene or character that does something unexpected is always enjoyable to read, but as a narrator I have to make sure that I capture the cadence as well for the reader. But those types of scenes are really fun! I am ambiguous about the types of scenes that are somewhat difficult for me to do, lovey dovey scenes can be difficult because sometimes an author can portray a scene so beautifully written and capture the essence of a romantic and sweet moment so well, that I’m like…..I’m so lonely, lol!! But on the other hand it paints the picture of the type of husband God can and will provide for me, so that charges me through the scene, hope and trust in God to provide the Godly men portrayed in those stories.
- What types of books do you read in your spare time?
Anything biblical, thought provoking and doctrinal teaching. I love to learn and immerse myself in the Word of God, it is the living word and thus I am excited each morning to see what God has to teach, comfort, reproof or encourage me with each day.
- What’s the best book that you’ve ever read? What’s the best book that you’ve read this year?
There have been so many wonderful books some that have taught me, some that have made me laugh, inspired me, but the one I would have to say was the best book I read grew me spiritually. That book is Woman of Grace: Volume 1 by Elizabeth Romans. It was so relatable that at times I had to stop recording because I was filled with so much emotion. I know God is intentional and I am happy that he placed that author and me together, at that particular time in my life. God is good.
- Is there any specific thing you do to prepare yourself before you start to record?
I make sure that all electronics have amply battery life. I make sure I have eaten to prevent stomach grumbles being picked up from the microphone, sometimes I take a swig of apple cider vinegar , I usually have a bottle of water with me and have a had a cup of warm green tea. I have my scripts pulled up on my tablet and the recording session pulled up on my laptop. Before recording I always do a test recording to make sure there are no frequency issues.
- I homeschool. When the kids were younger, we spent a lot of time in the winter sitting around the living room with me reading aloud to them. My voice got tired! It’s also exhausting doing all the voices and reading with expression. Is there anything specific you do to protect your voice? Is there a limit on the amount of time you can spend recording in a day?
I drink plenty of water, rest and warm (not too hot) green tea! I try not to record past 4-5 hours daily, after that the words start dancing around the screen, Lol.
- I’ve never fallen asleep while I was reading to my children, but I know homeschool moms who have! Have you ever fallen asleep while recording?
Ha! No I have not, fortunately. If I feel myself getting tired I take a walk and sit on my patio or do a different activity, but if it’s close to 9pm I just go to bed because that is my internal clock saying carry your behind to sleep, isn’t it almost past your bedtime……I live an exciting life.
- We enjoy listening to non-fiction while we work. The Great Bridge by David McCullough was one of our favorites. Fiction and non-fiction seem to take a very different skill set. Is this true? In my opinion, fiction seems to be easier for readers to read but harder to narrate than non-fiction. Is this correct?
Yes Yes and Yes. Narrators run the very real risk of portraying a character’s voice how theyenvision the character sounding like, but the author might have already had a different way they interpreted the characters’ voice sounded like in their mind. This can lead to frustration and a lot of time in rerecording, to try and imitate the way the author wants the fictional character to sound like to them. Non-fiction is easier; in my opinion because there aren’t too many if any character voices, typically the author is looking for the voice they heard reading their script for the audition, throughout the whole project. In that case it’s hard messing up your own voice. Lol.
- What was the hardest book you’ve recorded? What made it hard? Which book was the most fun? Why?
Which ironically leads me to the book which was the most fun for me to record, which was a romance book. That book was actually the first romance audio book I had recorded and was so good. That book was by an author you might have heard of, Jessie Gussman, the book; What He Wants (Baxter Boys Book 1). I had only done non fiction books before that so, this wonderful book gave me a different change of pace and some anticipation, romance tends to do that, and Jessie didn’t disappoint! Now on to the hardest book I ever had to record was a book on codependency in relationships and it was more clinical than chalked with testimonials. I will refer back to question 18…..lol.
- You are so easy to work with, taking suggestions and corrections seriously, and meet every deadline. I’ve often thought this whole process could be a nightmare if one got a narrator who was difficult, wouldn’t work or wouldn’t make corrections. I suppose the opposite is true. This could be a very difficult process for a narrator if they are working for an author who is never satisfied or who has impossible expectations. Without naming names, of course, has this happened to you? Do you vet an author before you agree to work with them? You didn’t require references from me. Is this something you would consider doing in the future? Do you have a nightmare experience in this area you could share? Any really great experiences?
- What, in your opinion, makes a great narrator/author relationship? What is important to have to make the finished product as high quality as possible?
I choose to start with the positive review first which is you Jessie! Thank you so much for your kind words and working with you has been a dream; I will detail more what the opposite is like below. You have been thoughtful, respectful of my time, appreciative of my efforts, managed expectations, generous and considerate with deadlines and ABOVE ALL understanding of any corrections and ASSISTING in helping to correct them. Take it from a voice talent that is above and beyond the most gracious and helpful attitude that makes the working relationship seamless, fruitful, productive and yet do I dare say ENJOYABLE. I guess I do dare say, ENJOYABLE. In terms of vetting I do normally review the book on Amazon, drop the authors name in a Google search and if possible read the reviews. I also look at the job description if it isn’t very detailed this can spell trouble, because it can mean that the author is not really clear on the direction, which makes for a difficult record. Also if it is too detailed this can be an indication of impossible expectations. In your case you had mentioned another author I did work for and because of the type of work that I did for them I knew you would be familiar with what sort of works I do. Also in your proposal you were cognizant of the type of work I did and I trusted your work was Christian based, from the assurance you gave in the detail that your book was wholesome. I have only had one nightmare experience, although to be honest I still learned and was encouraged by the books’ material. God is still good. This particular author wanted 7 different voices (non-fictional), so nothing animated but somehow to change my voice to sound like 7 DIFFERENT actual people. After realizing this might be unreasonable, we decided on one. As it turns out there were 7 different voices because there were 7 different people who contributed to the making of the audio book. So that turned out to be 7 different inputs, which caused so much lapses in time, waiting on responses. Many difficult name pronunciations which caused more time in rerecording. All in all what should have taken 3 weeks to complete and be paid for, took 3 months because of all the back and forth. When the audio was completed to all satisfactions…..she ‘stiffed’ me. Lol. I never heard from her again.
- I know readers would love to know any details from your personal life that you would like to share. If you’re comfortable telling us where you live, what parts of the world you’ve lived in, family, job, schooling, anything that we can relate to. I live near Penn State (I went to Penn State, Altoona) and I know to avoid Happy Valley on Saturday afternoons in the fall. It is more beautiful in person that it is on TV. 😊Readers particularly love pet stories. Bonus points for pet pictures. 😊
I was born in and currently reside in Texas, but as you might notice I have no southern accent. That is probably attributed to the fact that I spent half my childhood living in Jamaica. My dad is Jamaican and my mom Virginian. So we all moved to Jamaica when I was 9. To be better understood by the wonderful people of Jamaica I adapted a very neutral accent, which developed over time. I have a Bachelors of Science form the University of Houston in Economics. My dad really fostered a love of math in me, I am grateful to him for that. I played soccer for one of the national coaches in Jamaica with the loving support of my mother. I was not so fast or keen on running, hence, my long soccer career as a goalkeeper, which I played up until College. I do not own a horse, I thought that was important to mention since I said I am from Texas. However I do have access to a cowboy hat courtesy of, the best little sister in the world. Lol. I hope that is helpful.
- When I was a senior in high school, I won an award from the local paper for a non-fiction Valentin’s Day romance I wrote about the aquaculture project our school had gotten a grant for. It started off with a line that included, “could there be love lurking beneath the murky depths?” Are there any quirky or interesting things that you’ve done or have happened to you in your life?
As I mentioned I had a pretty long soccer career starting from elementary school. So, when I was in high school I played goal keeper on my high school soccer team as well as a club team in my neighborhood near my home. One year BOTH teams had a complete no win season. My high school competed with other high schools and my club team played other club teams. So that year both coaches thought it would be nice to play each other since the teams were located close in proximity. I had to choose which team to play on as I was the Goal keeper for both teams so I chose to play for my High School team. So in that game I was able to experience the ONLY win I had all season, while simultaneously experiencing the final losing game for my other team.
- As a writer, I’m constantly reading, not just books in my genre (romance) but I love non-fiction, particular adventure stories, like Endurance and Into Thin Air. Reading widely is one of the things I do to improve my writing. What do you do to improve your narration?
I am constantly on YouTube, looking at coaching videos and hearing tips from veteran and successful voice over artists. I manipulate my interface to try and get better and better voice sounding quality from produced materials. I try to stay in tuned to the Holy Spirit who leads and guides me on what projects to take and what not to take and that is a great help to me.
- If anyone would like to contact you regarding work collaboration how can they contact you?
Please feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will gladly respond and provide some demos and be more than happy to discuss your project and see if we can benefit from working together. Blessings, Patricia.