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Narrator Spotlight: Elizabeth Wiley

Lissa: Welcome to our first Narrator Spotlight. Elizabeth was super excited to be part of it and we are super excited to bring you into the mind of an amazing Narrator!

From Elizabeth Wiley: First of all – a huge thank you to Lissa and Sara for suggesting this interview. It really makes the work personal to connect with bloggers, reviewers, authors and listeners!

Sara: How did you get into the business of Narrating?

Wiley: Well, I’ve been an actor forever, and I’ve been teaching acting and voice/speech/dialects for almost ever, so my background has prepared me well in terms of characterization, script analysis, basic acting, and so on. I had done a nice handful of voiceover jobs, including for Rosetta Stone and Colonial Williamsburg, and then when I decided I wanted to try narration, I took an audiobook workshop with Patrick Fraley and Scott Brick, which led to my entry into recording audiobooks. I became a member of Audio Publishers Association and started attending their annual conference, which introduced me to many people in the industry, which is key for success in any business. And it’s especially important when working in a part of the country outside of NYC or LA! (I work out ofmy home studio in Williamsburg, VA.) Since then, I continue to improve on my own skills through workshops, webinars and conferences. And of course, self­marketing and outreach is an essential aspect of working as a freelance artist. You can be an awesome artist – in whatever field – but you must be your own best salesperson if you want your work to get out there. It’s an ever­evolving and challenging part of the job!

Sara: What is your process when you start narrating a book?

Wiley: Well, I read the entire book through first. If it is a work of fiction, I read it for story line, for characterization, for overall flow. Even for non­fiction, I read it through for a sense of the author’s viewpoint. I must find the author’s sense of investment and passion about the subject in order to bestcommunicate their intent. Often, I’m also looking up historical or cultural references to enhance my understanding of what the author gives me, when applicable. I use an app on my iPad called iAnnotate in which I can highlight, annotate, and otherwise mark up a text, as well as access dictionary apps, Wikipedia, and other online resources. This allows me to demark one character from another, identify character traits and vocal qualities about characters, look up pronunciations ofwords, names, and foreign phrases, meanings of unfamiliar words, images that might prove helpful, and so forth. Each time I encounter a new character while recording, I record a sample of the vocal choices for that character, so that the next time they come up in the narrative, I can access that sample in order to remember and match the voice I’m using for them. It’s an intricate and fascinating dance.

Sara: Do you read the book beforehand or do you wing it?

Wiley: I always* read the book all the way through at least once first.

*Okay. Sometimes, I might find myself in such a rush for deadlines, that I’m only one chapter ahead. However, I do NOT recommend getting yourself in such a bind. There has been the occasion now and then when an author will reveal something about a character late in the game and it catches me totally unprepared. And no, I won’t tell tales. ;­)

Sara: Do you ever get embarrassed doing the sex scenes? Lord knows I would!

Wiley: As a narrator, I’ve got to embrace the life of the character in each moment. So that means that if a character is having a spicy sex scene, I have to be right there in the moment too. How “emotionally involved” the narrator gets becomes a matter of preference or taste. I hope I’m balancing on that fineline with grace and style. Since I’m recording alone in my closet, I’m really not self­conscious. A person has to get past that as an actor, in theory. Lord knows, I was totally aware of the fact that a romance I passed on to my parents (“hey look what I did!”) included salty sex scenes; but since I didn’t have to be in the room while they were listening to those scenes, I didn’t worry about it much.(I think they actually fast­forwarded past those scenes. LOL!)

Lissa: What is one thing about Narration that you would want readers and authors to know?

Wiley: I would want authors to know that I’m doing my best to make their work vibrant, to make their words live, to honor their intent. I try to voice their characters based on the descriptions they providein the text. I would want wannabe­narrators to know that it isn’t as easy as it seems. I want listeners to know that we the narrators are wanting to do the story service for their enjoyment and edification. I also want listeners to realize (as I am an avid listener myself!) that although they may not love every narrator they listen to, there will be countless narrators that they come to count on and admire.

Lissa: What book are you currently or have just recently narrated?

Wiley: I have four books in the queue currently: 2 fiction and 2 non­fiction ­­

Ravaged: An Eternal Guardians Novella by Elisabeth Naughton

I have narrated 11 of her books previously. This follows a 7­ book Eternal Guardians series in the paranormal Romance sub­genre.

In the Land of the Armadillos by Helen Mayles Shankman

“A radiant debut collection of linked stories from a two­time Pushcart Prize nominee, set in a German­occupied town in Poland, where mythic tales of Jewish folklore meet the real­life monsters of the Nazi invasion.” I’ve done a few other WWII books this year, so now the publishers have realized that I have an ease with French, German, Polish, and other dialects, so that brings me to mind when they’re casting.

Strange Gods by Susan Jacoby

“Strange Gods takes on the question of why the freedom to choose a religion—or to reject religion altogether—is a fundamental human rights issue that remains a breeding ground for violence in areasof the world that never experienced an Enlightenment.” Sounds like a book I would be curious to read even if I weren’t narrating it! (Did I say, I love my job?)

The Great Departure by Tara Zahra

I’m looking forward to this very topical non­fiction book about immigrants to America. “Between 1846 and 1940, more than 50 million Europeans moved to the Americas. Tara Zahra explores the deeper story of this astonishing movement of people―one of the largest in human history.”

Lissa: What is your favorite book in the last year?

Wiley: That would have to be DaVinci’s Tiger by L.M. Elliott, released earlier in November. It’s the story of “the girl in the portrait;” the painting of Ginevra De’ Benci, an early work of DaVinci’s, is the only one of his in North America, housed in the National Portrait Gallery in D.C. Laura Elliott pulls us right into the middle of Renaissance Florence, its burgeoning world of art, politics and the Medicifamily. I love that she writes the women with intelligence and agency, so that today’s reader (or listener!) can view history through a more enlightened 21st­century lens. For a young adult audience and up!

*Plus – I narrated one other title by L.M. Elliott: Under a War­Torn Sky, about a bomber pilot during WWII. This has become a regular item on middle and high school reading lists, and a favorite.

I’m proud to say my narration for this title earned a nomination for a 2015 Voice Arts Award by the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences.

Lissa: Thank you so much for your time

Wiley: Thank you so much for reaching out to me!


Elizabeth Wiley is a voiceover artist, seasoned actor, dialect coach, and theatre professor at the College of William & Mary. Elizabeth has brought to life numerous women from history in The Idea of America, Colonial Williamsburg/Pearson’s virtual learning curriculum; she gives voice to Lady Macbeth in Paul Meier’s eTextbook Speaking Shakespeare, and her voice travels the world, modeling US-English on Rosetta Stone e-learning products. She is crazy delighted that her 25-plus-year journey in the performing arts has lead her to AUDIOBOOK NARRATION, now her passion and focus!

Keep up to date with Elizabeth!




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