*Name: Dean Robertson
*Tell us a bit about yourself: I am a 69-year-old retired English teacher, first-time author, and first-time grandmother (as of Shakespeare’s birthday 2015). I grew up on 200 acres of woods in North Georgia, have lived and taught in California, Kentucky, Michigan, and Virginia, and live currently in a 1928 co-op building in an urban neighbourhood in Norfolk, Virginia.
How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? When I lived in Michigan, I read out loud to several friends, one of whom saw an article in the local paper about recording audiobooks. She called me and said, “You should do this.” I had another friend with a recording studio, so I made a demo tape which I sent off to The Brilliance Corporation. I didn’t hear anything for a long time and had forgotten about it when they called to ask if they could submit my tape to Barbara Kingsolver for her novel, The Poisonwood Bible. She approved, and I did the job. I narrated several other books for them that year.
I haven’t narrated audiobooks for many years; my life and passion became increasingly involved with teaching.
*Tell us about your process for narrating? (Be as elaborate as you like.) I’m going to describe my process for narrating The Poisonwood Bible, because that was the longest book I narrated and also the first, the finest, and a model for the others. It would still be the model if I did this work again. The work came up fast. They sent me a manuscript, which was dauntingly thick and, unlike my usual meticulous preparation for anything I do, I decided I just didn’t want to read it. So, the narration was my first reading. It was exactly the right thing. I went to the studio’s headquarters on Lake Michigan and checked into a motel. Every morning at 8:00 I drove to “work,” entered the small room, lined with egg carton foam, pulled on the huge earphones, opened the manuscript, and started reading. We broke for lunch, then worked until around 4:00. After that, I went back to my motel, walked on the beach, then went to bed. It took five days. I guess my process, looking back on it, just happened and involved somehow being in what people later came to call “the zone.” I sat perfectly still, spoke into the large microphone, and could hear nothing but the sound of my own voice and Kingsolver’s words, echoing through my brain from one ear to the other. I find, with years enough behind me to consider it, that it’s the way I have done everything-teaching, narrating, writing.
What aspects do you find most enjoyable? The absolute immersion in a piece of literature—the music of the words bringing you into the book more intensely than I could have imagined.
Do you listen to audiobooks? Nope—not mine nor anyone else’s.
*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? I certainly hope not. I continue to sit down, rock my grandson, and read aloud to him from whatever I happen to be reading. I did that from his first day. I did the same with my son—nursing, rocking, reading. Complete intimacy. MP3 players, and all their ilk, are cold and distancing and offer very little in the way of human connection. There’s still the voice, but I don’t believe much in the power of disembodied voices.
Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? People are rushed and incapable of the kind of stillness required to sit down to read a book. And we have created a culture in which reading isn’t valued at all. I hope the human need for stories will keep them alive in at least some form, but I am not hopeful. We have already moved into the world of graphic novels, i.e., comic books.
Can you remember the first audiobook you owned? I am old. I have never owned an audio book except the free ones I got for narrating.
Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? No; I loved every minute of it.
Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. Having famously said of owning llamas, “Once you’ve kissed something with three lips, there’s no going back.”
Where can we learn more about you? My website and my author page on Koehler Books.
One thought on “Audiobook Narrator Interview Number Four – Dean Robertson”
Thanks for this interview. I am listening to Poisonwood Bible right now and was curious about the narrator. But I don’t think I agree with her explanation of the popularity of audiobooks. I read a lot of artifact books and eBooks, but I listen to books in the car and at the gym. It’s a great way to make that time move faster.
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