What do Brad Wolfheart, James Patterson, and Dolly Parton all have in common?
Well, they hung out for a while on Amazon's Hot New Release List in Audiobooks in the Southern U.S. Literature Category!! Pretty cool, huh? Granted, this was a few weeks back, but anytime my name gets close to Dolly Parton's, I'm taking a picture!!
FRIENDS OF HALLIE, y'all are in for a treat today!
The VOICE OF SHADY GULLY, the FABULOUS Kathy Fox Vancil, is this month's featured guest, and I know you're going to love her. She's definitely a Shady Gully FAN FAVORITE, and a pretty cool person as well. I've had the privilege of getting to know her over the last several months, and I'm fascinated by her and her profession.
How about a little peek into the life of an audiobook narrator? Oh, and you won't want to miss the hilarious BLOOPER at the end!
Meet Kathy Fox Vancil
Kathy Fox Vancil loves to tell other people’s stories. As a teenager, she discovered libraries offered recorded books for visually impaired people and realized someone had to read those books. Why not her? She discovered her acting chops in high school, refined her skills in the Ball State University theatre department, dabbled in radio, taught public speaking and performed in community theatre productions. She listened to various audiobook narrators in an attempt to learn how they brought characters and scenes to life using only their voices. Many years later, after “retiring” from being a missionary pastor’s wife, she finally delved into narration and discovered pure joy in playing all the parts. Kathy focuses on Christian and historical fiction, mysteries and non-fiction. She and her husband, Ted, live in northern Minnesota and serve as full-time staff to their elderly cat, Maggie.
HALLIE: First of all, Kathy, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to chat with me. I know my readers are going to be thrilled to get to know you!
Without a doubt, my first question has to be: What the heck? You're not from the south? With that accent? I can't believe you live in Minnesota, which is, BTW, on the opposite side of the country from Shady Gully, Louisiana. Seriously, how did you learn to do such fantastic accents? And master those regional inflections the way you do?
KATHY: Ya, you betcha I live in Minnesota now, but I grew up in Indiana which gave me access to a variety of regional accents around the midwest. My ear has always been especially tuned to the softer sounds of the South. While studying theatre, we acting students would sit around playing with all kinds of accents and dialects just for fun, and the habit stuck with me. Several years ago, I met a man from Georgia and made sure to sit close to him every time I could just to listen to him talk. What a lovely, genteel voice he had! Recently, I embarrassed my husband by recording two elderly Norwegian brothers in our local cafe hoping to capture their incredible pacing, inflection and euphemisms. It's plain fun for me to listen and try to mimic the way different people speak.
HALLIE: I love that! Hilarious. All you need now is an author to write a novel with Norwegian characters. Hmmmmmm. Maybe Dolly, Jesse, and James have some evil cousins from Norway who travel to Shady Gully for a visit. LOL. Stay tuned!
In all seriousness, you're a gifted narrator. It's clear your passion for accents comes into play in your work. As I listen to the Shady Gully books, I find myself holding my breath...even though I know what's coming. Your narration is powerful. What is your process? Do you read the book first and then mull over the characters for a while to determine how you want to portray them?
KATHY: I guess I work on narration the same way I work on a role for a stage play. I do read the book first, but I skim it rather than reading each word. I look for what the characters say about themselves, about each other, and what the narrator of the piece adds to the descriptions. I take notes so that I know sex, age, background, life experiences, where is the character from, etc. Then I consider who the characters are and what kind of voices they have. Here is where I have to be careful. If I give a male voice a really rough edge, I have to make sure I can sustain that voice over the course of the book. For instance, I could not have done Madhawk's voice if he was a main character with whole chapters of his own. My own voice would likely have not lasted. Regarding the things that happen to the characters, well that's voice acting. You, Hallie, write wonderful scenes involving characters that I care about. You've already put them into humorous or dramatic situations that I then get to act out with my voice using the words you've put into their minds and mouths. You make my job so much easier, and I wish you'd write stage plays!
HALLIE: I loved your portrayal of Madhawk! He was absolutely wicked! And I also enjoyed your take on Fireman. I don't know how you do it, switching back and forth like that. Sometimes when I'm writing, I try reading my sentences aloud, but after a few paragraphs my voice gets ragged. I can't imagine doing it all day long. How do you take care of your voice? Do you drink honey tea? Or do you have a special potion to soothe your voice before you start recording?
KATHY: The most recording I can do in a day is maybe four hours, and that's with breaks. My voice will get ragged if I am nervous about someting I'm recording. I'll tighten up and that messes up the take. It's so much easier to get a good take if I relax, breathe and maybe sip some hot tea with honey if the vocal cords are really tight. I have no special potion, but I do stay away from dairy when I'm recording. Cream in my coffee will mess up my voice fast. I tend to not eat until I'm done recording for the day because I don't like having to edit out stomach grumbles. Microphones will pick up every single noise you don't want recorded for posterity.
HALLIE: I'm curious about where you record? Do you have a special office or a studio?
KATHY: A couple of years ago I turned a moving trailer into my studio. It's not a perfect solution, but it does give me privacy. I've used sound deadening materials on the walls, floor and desk to create a decent recording studio. Living in northern Minnesota, one challenge is keeping the place heated enough during winter months. I have to turn off the heater in order to record. Then when I'm resting between takes, I turn the heat back on so I don't freeze. I also keep a heating pad under my feet and that helps to keep me warm enough while recording so my teeth don't chatter.
HALLIE: Wow! Simply marching out to your studio on winter mornings takes a lot of will power and discipline! That's dedication!
As many books as you've read, and then narrated, have you ever considered writing one of your own? It's bound to be frustrating at times when an author takes a character in one direction, when you'd have preferred them go in another. Since you are quite literally the voice of the character, you're bound to have an emotional connection with them.
KATHY: It is so true that I become emotionally connected with some of the characters I'm narrating. Your Shady Gully series has several characters I love dearly and am rooting for during the stories. It's also fun to read the "bad guys" too and get to play them. It's interesting to figure out where I think they are going and then have the author take them in a different direction. So far, I've not narrated a book in which I've deeply disagreed with what the author did with the characters. That day may come. Would I want to write my own books? I tried once and found the editing process agonizing. I have written several short stories and some short plays as well. I won't say no to writing, but right now I'm thoroughly enjoying narrating other people's stories.
HALLIE: Lastly, what happens when you mess up? Like if you sneeze or your phone rings or something?
KATHY: Me, mess up? Ha! It is a fact of life that I will mess up or the phone will ring or someone starts the lawn mower. Sometimes I get stuck on a phrase or word and have to do take after take. Editing is essential for what I do. Most listeners might be surprised if they heard raw recordings before editing and mastering takes place. Then there are times when something the author writes cracks me up. That happened in Wolfheart. I had to stop because I was laughing too hard. Another time, this was in Paint Me Fearless, I had to stop because I was crying over something happening to a character and I couldn't talk. If an author ever wants to know if their writing gets to someone, ask the narrator.
HALLIE: Do you have any special BLOOPERS you'd like to share with us?
KATHY: I referred to cracking up during a scene in Wolfheart. Here it is.
HALLIE: Hhahahahahaha!! That's the best! Thank you for sharing. And for being my guest on this month's FRIENDS of HALLIE newsletter! You are a treasure.
If you haven't listened to her audiobooks, check them out on Amazon or Audible by searching: Kathy Fox Vancil.
Her amazing dramatizations of Paint Me Fearless and Wolfheart are linked below.
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS TAKEN THE TIME TO OFFER ME ENCOURAGEMENT. WRITING IS DIFFICULT, AND I'M SO GRATEFUL WHEN SOMEONE TAKES THE TIME TO REACH OUT TO ME AFTER THEY'VE READ ONE OF MY BOOKS.
CONGRATS to new FRIENDS of HALLIE subscriber, Amy Deville, who won this month's drawing. Remember, all new FRIENDS of HALLIE subscribers are automatically entered in the drawing! And if they win, and YOU referred them, you'll win a FREE ebook or audiobook as well!
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