The voice of Russell
One of our long-time friends here in the LRK web world is “Laidee Marjorie.” Marjorie has been an enthusiastic part of meet-ups and discussions, and she is the chief puzzler among us, inventor of the diabolically clever Russell puzzles during weeks 3, 5, and 9 of the Fifteen Weeks of Bees.
Social networking is a phrase much bandied about these days, generally indicating a somewhat cool and distant form of human contact. Marjorie is an example of how online contact can take the next step, into the formation of a community: LRK readers may be wide-spread in their interests, background, and location, but when they meet in person, an extraordinary alchemy takes place, and friendship results.
In planning a meet-up in New York next week, Marjorie took it into her head to contact the actor who reads the Russell books on tape for Recorded Books, and see if she might like to come along. Because Jenny is part of the family as well: When you’ve spent as many hours with a woman’s voice in your ears as some of my readers have—soon to be nine books, of 12 to 15 hours each—you feel you know that woman pretty well.
If you’re interested in the Manhattan Meetup (or those in Richmond, or SF, or Detroit…) check the thread on the Virtual Book Club, but in the meantime, here is an interview about the audio books that Marjorie and Jenny did.
Two women who humble a mere writer with their greatness.
Jenny Sterlin, the voice in the audio book recordings of all the Mary Russell books, is an actress, director and the voice on over 70 audio books for both adults and children by many authors. She has appeared on and off Broadway and she is currently directing a play that is part of the BritBits 5 play festival from the Mind the Gap Theatre in New York City from April 26 to May 5, 2009.
Laidee Marjorie: Ms. Sterlin, welcome. You have recorded the audio books of all of the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King including the newest in the series, “The Language of Bees” over a fifteen year period starting with “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”. Can you share with us what kind of preparation you do in advance of the recording for these books? Do you speak with Laurie to get any suggestions from her? Or are the recordings all your own artistic input?
Jenny Sterlin: As with all books that I record I read it carefully from cover to cover making notations of characters as they appear on the page and any particular aspects that are included, particularly any accent stated or where they live or originate from, noting how long they have now been in the present environment. All other aspects like, like how old they are, whether they are fat, thin, tall, short, kind, mean, happy, sad, their social status, profession, if they are self possessed, nervous, arrogant, humble etc. are all noted and a picture emerges in my mind of each person and a ‘voice’ developes to impersonate that character. Obviously with recurring characters when I am doing a series those stay the same apart from aging or as relationships develop, subtle changes of playing take place. With Laurie King’s series I do go back and listen to the last book I recorded to keep the integrity of the characterizations as they go from one adventure into the next. At the time of the first book “Beekeeper…” was going to be recorded the Jeremy Brett series had been shown and loved by many and was the latest Sherlock Holmes to be in the readers minds and it was suggested by Claudia Howard the director of Recorded Books Inc. that I bear him in mind when I was preparing the book. I had had the good fortune to be Jeremy Brett’s dresser when I was at drama school and adored him and I did feel this wonderful link with him to the books and so I also watch my videos of that series. The night before I am going to a recording session I reread and rehearse those pages that I will record the next day. I have never spoken to Laurie King about my interpretation of my recording of her books. Before the beginning of a new recording our research department is in contact with her about pronunciation of names and places. I had the good fortune to meet her briefly when she came to the studios to do an interview.
LM: Can you give us an idea what the actual recording process involves?
JS: I go into a studio and sit in a booth and my voice is tested for sound quality and then I begin to read. I may stop to redo something that doesn’t sound right to my ear or the engineer/monitor/director may stop me if to his/her ear something is not right. I will have a short break after 2-3 hours and then back into the booth. For some projects I work a seven hour session for others a four hour session depending on the studio.
LM: How much time does it take to record an entire novel?
JS: It depends on the length of the book but a rough estimate is it takes 2 minutes of recording for each page. For The Language of Bees the end result is 16 hours of recording which took about 24 hours of studio time.
LM: And how does the director of an audio book assist you?
JS: Their job is to monitor my work to make sure it is clear vocally and correct to the text. He or she is the outside ear artistically.
LM: What is the biggest challenge in doing the recordings?
JS: Bringing the words to life orally and with clarification.
LM: I would imagine that a group scene with many characters speaking in the same scene would be difficult.
JS: Sometimes but not if one has the different characters fully fledged in one’s mind, in fact that is often the fun part
LM: What is the hardest part of bringing a book to life?
JS: It’s all a challenge but bad writing or dull writing can present an even bigger challenge.
LM: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.